Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024
Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Via - Saturday, April 25, 2015

VIA Metropolitan Transit

Okay, I admit I couldn't think of a "V" word I hadn't written about in the last three A-to-Z Blogging Challenges. Bob suggested I write about Via, our transit system in San Antonio. First I thought, no way, who would care about that. When I got to thinking about it, it made sense to cover the subject, being that it has to do with travel. Travel is what I love. So, here is your tutorial on Via, San Antonio's transit system.

 We love Via here at the RV Park. Our park is 3-1/2 miles from downtown San Antonio. People who stay at the RV park are from all over the world. Most want to see the famous River Walk, the Alamo, missions, the Spanish Governor's Palace, Tower of the Americas, museums and marketplaces for which our city is known. Via transit system provides an inexpensive, convenient way for people to travel downtown without paying for parking lots or garages.

One-way fare is $1.20 for adults, $0.60 for seniors (with a free pass) and youth. A transfer good for two hours is an additional $0.15. A $4 Day Pass is also available for unlimited rides on all regular buses and streetcars for the day indicated on the pass.

The bus picks picks up passengers directly across the street from our RV park and drops them off downtown close to the Alamo and River Walk about 15-20 minutes later. When they are finished downtown they can catch the bus back to the RV park. Bus Route 42 which picks up at the RV park runs about every half hour, seven days per week.

Once downtown, you can transfer to streetcars which go to many of the downtown sites, or Route 7 the Sightseer. The Sightseer Route goes to the Sunken Garden at Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio Art Museum, and San Antonio Botanical Gardens.

If you want to walk or ride your bike downtown, you can catch the bus back. Via buses are equipped with bike racks on the front of their buses.

It should be noted that parking in downtown San Antonio runs from $5-$10 for surface lots a few blocks from downtown, to upwards of $20 at a parking garage. Special event parking is even more expensive. For example, surface lots close to the Night in Old San Antonio (NIOSA) event were $30.

The bus ride south from Travelers World takes you to Mission San Jose and across the street from Walmart.

Think of all the other cities that have transit systems. If you're willing to be adventurous, take the bus. Think of all the money you will save. You can read or look around while someone else drives, save wear and tear on your vehicle, avoid driving in heavy traffic, and let someone else drive through construction areas.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Up - Friday, April 24, 2015

Who knew that an animated film could have such a profound impact on my psyche? Have you seen "Up," a movie about childhood friends who fell in love, got married, dreamed of going on a trip of a lifetime, then had setbacks?

If you haven't seen it, forget about it being a cartoon. Within the first 15 minutes, you will need tissues because it will touch your heart. Profoundly.

My funny bone was tickled, heartstrings were tugged, and my eyes cried a waterfall. The movie made me realize what a treasure it is to be married to my best friend, that a life shared requires sacrifices, things don't always go the way you plan, do what you want while you're young enough to enjoy it, live life with no regrets (limit your "coulda, woulda, shoulda's"), and always express your love for each other.

In the beginning of the movie we meet two young kids, Carl and Ellie, exploring an old house which becomes their fort. Over the years they fall in love, buy the old house, restore it, live there for years, and save for their trip to Paradise Falls.

However, Ellie dies before they take their trip of a lifetime. New construction is going on around the house. Carl accidentally injures a construction worker and a court orders him to move into a retirement home. Carl does not want to go to a retirement home so he plans a way to move his house to South America to be near Paradise Falls. His plan involves lots and lots of helium balloons.

As his house is lifting off from its foundations, a Wilderness Explorer Scout is trying to help the old man. The scout lifts off into the clouds and is trapped with Carl in the floating house. They make it to South America, but are a distance away from Paradise Falls. They start to "walk" the floating house to the cliff overlooking the falls.

Their adventure takes some crazy turns, but it is enjoyable cinema with many laughs. Dug the dog and "Kevin" the bird provide many crazy antics. If you haven't seen this movie, take time to watch it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Temperature - Thursday, April 23, 2015

Temperature has been a seductive temptress this winter and spring. Parts of the U.S. have had wild temperature swings with bouts of very cold weather, including South Texas. Our temperatures can change 30-40 degrees in a 12-hour period.

We have had Polar Vortices and Arctic air masses drop down on us bringing colder than normal air, more rain, more thunder and lightning. This winter in South Texas I have used my heavy coat more than any other time since we lived in Oregon eight years ago.

But we weren't alone, the Northeast and Midwest had blizzards, snow and ice. Even into late April, the northern states are having snow.

The areas that have had very unusual cold weather are Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina. Some have had to shovel snow. In addition to snow, Kentucky has had floods.

Meanwhile, the West Coast has had above-normal temperatures and the snow pack in the Cascade Range, Siskiyous and Sierras is below normal. This will lead to water rationing in the West.

In South Texas, where we rely on the Edwards Aquifer for our water, the aquifer rose over six feet this week. With the rain we've had, we hope that our rivers and lakes will have more water in them this summer.

How has the weather been where you are?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Simplicity - Wed., April 22, 2015

When I think of simplicity, I think of the words to Elder Joseph Brackett Jr.'s 1848 Shaker folk dance...
Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
Our lives used to be complicated by medium-to-large-sized homes on up to a 1/2-acre lot. These large homes with their yards required lots of upkeep: cleaning a large house, landscaping, watering, weeding, mowing the yard, putting in enough furniture along with patio and yard equipment, maintaining hot tubs, staining and reinforcing decks, painting interiors and exteriors, new siding, new windows, remodeling; the list goes on and on.

When we both lost our jobs in Hawaii due to company downsizing in 2011 and we made the decision to sell everything and buy a 5th wheel to travel, there was a huge sigh of relief. Our lives became simpler.

Is there still maintenance on a 5th wheel? Of course, but nothing like a 2,400 to 3,200 sf home. Hot water heater elements go out, black tank valve handles break (rather regularly, I might add), leaks develop, carpet needs to be shampooed or even replaced, the 5th wheel needs washing and waxing, slide seals need lubricating, rooftop air conditioning units need to be cleaned, plus all the usual: vacuuming, dusting, washing windows, doing dishes and polishing wood cupboards. I'll tell you what, though, it takes a lot less time when you're dealing with only 300 sf!

Other parts of my life are more simple now too. I was president a group of 100 medical transcriptionists for a year when I was in my 30s. In my 40s, I was co-president, then president of a Kiwanis Club (1-1/2 years). Now I am in charge of publicity for our local Volksmarch Club (much less stress than being president).

Now a simple life means having time to hang out with Bob, travel, read, bird watch, play Scrabble, visit botanic gardens, take a drive to see wildflowers, visit with friends, see movies, snuggle with my two cats, listen to music, and go to festivals.

It's not only a simpler life, it's fun and can be quite relaxing.

I'll leave you with the words to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Life" off the "God & Guns" album, lyrics copyrighted by BMG Rights Management US, LLC, The Bicycle Music Company:

Simple Life

Hey, when was the last time
You sat down and had dinner with your kids?
Talked about what's going on in their lives?

Hey, when was the last time you just stopped
And helped somebody out?
I bet you can't remember

Well, a lot of people are saying
We're changing for the better
But that don't interest me

I like the simple life, the way it used to be
We left our doors wide open, we didn't need no key
I been around the world, seen all there is to see
I'd trade all those memories for one more day how it used to be
I like the simple life

I wanna get up Sunday morning
And go fishing with my boy
Watch the sunset, kick back in my yard
Take my Harley on a real long lazy Sunday drive
And do a little more nothing once in a while

Yeah, maybe kick my feet up
Watch a little re-run on TV
Laughing with ol' Barney, Andy, and Aunt Bee

I like the simple life, the way it used to be
We left our doors wide open, we didn't need no key
I been around the world, seen all there is to see
I'd trade all those memories for one more day how it used to be
I like the simple life

Yeah, everything's moving by so fast
I swear sometimes we just can't see
So caught up in where we're trying to get
Life as we know it could be gone in a minute

I want the simple life, the way it used to be
We left our doors wide open, didn't need no key
I been around the world, seen all there is to see
I'd trade all those memories for one more day

I like the simple life, I like the simple life
I want the simple life, yeah


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rodeos - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fiesta is a big celebration every April in San Antonio, Texas. One of the events that occurs during the 12-day celebration is "A Day in Old Mexico and Charreada." Basically the event is a big family celebration capped off with a rodeo (Charreria).

From the website:
"The Asociación de Charros de San Antonio has been carrying on the tradition of Charrería for more than 60 years. Charrería originated in the 19th century as a way for the landed gentry to prepare horses and riders for war. It later evolved into an equestrian competition featuring horse reining, bull riding and artistic roping skills. Today's charros wear the traditional clothes and use horse equipment as required by the Federation of Charros in Mexico"
Bob and I decided to attend and had a wonderful time. The first three photos below are  entertainment before the rodeo begins.

Then came the grand entrance of riders and presenting of the colors.

U.S. and Mexican flags presented

The national anthems of both countries were played. Then the rodeo began.

Queen, Emcee, and King of the rodeo

Riding club
Demonstration of riding
Steer riding
Two riders demonstrating how to bring down a bull for branding
Steer riding
Bareback riding
Bareback riding troupe
Bronc riding
That's one feisty horse!
A girl in her beautiful fiesta dress
El Paso de Muerto

We had a wonderful afternoon at the Charro Ranch. Even though the day was hot, most of the seating was in the shade and there was a breeze that cooled us a little bit.

The bleachers were full

This rodeo was very different from the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. That is huge and held in the AT&T Center and Freeman Coliseum. This rodeo is much more personal. You feel as if you're part of the experience!

I want to go to another event at the Charro Ranch. It's only about a mile from Travelers World RV Resort.

Q Words in Scrabble - Monday, April 20, 2015

Today's blog is brought to you by Q words used in Scrabble (not a comprehensive list).

1. Physical life force (from Chinese qi, "air, breath"
2. (In Oriental medicine, martial arts, etc.) vital energy believed to circulate round the body in currents. A variant of chi.

A variant of koph, the 19th letter of the Hebrew alphabet transliterated as q.

1. an overly forward, impudent woman; shrew; hussy
2. a prostitute
3. British dialect. a girl or young woman, especially a robust one

1. A set of 24 uniform sheets of paper
2. Bookbinding. A section of printed leaves in proper sequence after folding; gathering 

That's it for today: quick and quintessential.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Parallels and Pelted - Saturday, April 18, 2015

We took a short road trip with our 5th wheel to Brenham and Washington, Texas. (This was actually on Sunday, April 19, but hey, I needed P words on Saturday!) After parking the 5th wheel at Artesian RV Park, we headed up to Washington, Texas. Hunger had us searching for food before we entered the state park. We found R Place inside H.A. Stolz Groceries historic building. For lunch we had chicken salad sandwiches and German potato salad. That hit the spot. I had a Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream cone for dessert.

R Place cafe inside this historic building
R Place interior
Ice cream almost gone!
Thank you to Bob for coming up with the parallels and suggesting this as a topic for today's blog. Washington-on-the-Brazos in Washington, Texas; and Champoeg State Park in Butteville, Oregon. What do they have in common? As it turns out, quite a bit.

Washington, Texas is the birthplace the Republic of Texas, an independent nation. In 1836, 59 representatives of the Texas settlements met in Independence Hall to make a formal declaration of independence from Mexico. Sam Houston was sworn in as the first president of the new Republic in West Columbia, Texas.

Independence Hall, Washington-on-the-Brazos
At the time, Washington was a booming community because it was located on the Brazos River. Steamboats brought goods and people from the Gulf of Mexico; in turn transporting cotton from the plantations to the port in Galveston. Also in town, was one of the only ferries across the deep and swift Brazos River. People came from miles around to use the ferry across the Brazos, waiting up to four days for their turn to cross.

The Brazos River at the old ferry crossing
Washington, Texas, was asked if they wanted a railroad station. Because Washington had recently spent money dredging the river for the steamboats, they had to decline a station for the railroad. The railroad went through Navasota, Texas instead. When railroads became the quick, new way to ship cotton and goods, Washington became a ghost town.

Now, Washington-on-the-Brazos is a State Historic Site.

Seven years later out in Champoeg (pronounced sham-POO-ee), Oregon, a discussion was being held as to who possessed the disputed Oregon Country, the United States or United Kingdom.

In May 1843 a meeting was held at the town to determine whether a provisional government should be established. At the meeting, the measure passed 52 to 50. Nine representatives were named to create a provisional government with Champoeg as the capital. A petition was drafted and sent to the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C.

The petition was presented to Congress in 1845. Possession of the Oregon Country was settled in 1846 with the Oregon Treaty. When the Oregon Territory was organized in 1848, however, Champoeg was not chosen as the capital.

By 1852, Champoeg had a ferry across the Willamette River, a warehouse, a steamboat landing, a granary, a telegraph office, and a major crossroad for the surrounding areas. The town continued to exist after statehood, but in 1861 a flood crested 55 feet over its normal summer stage. The town was covered in seven feet of water and all buildings were destoyed except two saloons.Some of the town was rebuilt, but in 1890 another large flood sealed the town's fate.

Today the area is Champoeg State Heritage Area. When you visit, you can still see the straight rows of trees which had been planted along the avenues. Archeological excavations around the townsite's 10 north-south streets and six east-west streets turn up silverware, pottery and glassware.

The Heritage Area includes a visitor center, 1860's-style garden, Newell House Museum, Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin Museum, and the Butteville General Store, the oldest operating general store in Oregon. (We used to live one-half mile from the general store on the bank of the Willamette River.)

Those are the parallels of two historic cities that eventually became ghost towns.

As we were driving back to Brenham from Washington-on-the-Brazos, the rain pounded down on us. We took a different two-lane road back to the RV park so we could see new scenery.

As we were driving in the pouring rain, we came upon two horseback riders loping along in the middle of our lane, with a pick-up truck escort.

We didn't want to pass because etiquette around horses on roads dictates you don't pass unless you're waved on. We were behind them at least five minutes going 5-10 mph when the guys in the pick-up truck finally waved us on. About a mile farther along the road, we encountered about six more people riding horses and what looked like a float from a parade. A long line of cars was backed up behind them. It was still pouring rain, buckets and buckets of rain!

A number of cars were able to pass the group of horses, riders and float. We were still stuck behind them when it started to hail. Not just little hail, hail the size of peas, marbles and quarters. It pounded so hard on our pick-up truck we yelled at the top of our voices, but couldn't hear each other over the loud hail hitting the truck. The truck was pelted with hail.

The float, horses and riders, had to pull off the road and found a bar's closed parking lot which they quickly entered. The horseback riders all got under the roof of the float. The horses were jumping with every piece of hail that hit them. One smart horse escaped and ran into a shed.
Hail on the hood of the pick up.

There was nowhere to take shelter from the hailstorm, so we were pelted for five minutes. Bob's truck now has small pock marks in the hood and roof from the hail!

Hail on the side of the road
The whole road was covered in hail. It was like driving on ice marbles. Bob drove very carefully. Soon it was over, the sun came out and you'd never know there had been a severe storm.

We headed back to Artesian RV Park. Here's some photos of our site.

Our brains were quite full from the history we learned at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. There is still lots to see there, so we will return tomorrow to see what we missed today.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Outdoors - Friday, April 17, 2015

I love being outdoors! Fresh air, long walks, and wildlife sightings are candy for my heart and soul.

What are my favorite places and outdoor activities?
  • Snorkeling in tropical locations
  • The Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper, Alberta, Canada
  • Hiking to waterfalls everywhere we can find them
  • Walking trails
  • Visiting gardens
  • The Great Ocean Road in Victoria state, Australia
  • Wildflower viewing anywhere
  • Bird watching, especially in Australia
  • River rafting
  • Volksmarching (see
  • National Parks
  • State Parks
  • Mountains with big trees, lakes, and sweeping viewpoints
  • Watching sunsets
  • Zoos
  • Swimming holes (spring-fed or with a waterfall tumbling into the pool)
Here's a poem I wrote in high school. It's true to this day:

Where I'll Be Found

The huge oak tree at the water's side,
The river flowing deep and wide,
The moon's soft shadows on the ground,
This is the place where I'll be found.

I love this natural, wooded scene
Where everything is so serene.
My mind is filled with happiness,
I know I'll never like it less.

It was created for you and me
To go and enjoy every tree;
All the animals, plants and rocks
Nature doesn't have any locks.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

NIght Owl - Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ever since I was old enough to read, I've been a night owl. A good book would have me reading until late. The usual refrain around our childhood home at night was, "Susan, turn off the light and go to sleep."

High school was the same thing, night time was my escape into reading. Unfortunately for my younger sister, we shared a room. The light kept her awake. Sometimes after she fell asleep, I turned on the light and read more. Again, my parents would yell up the stairs, "Susan, turn off the light and go to sleep."

My natural body rhythm wants to be awake and alert from around 11:00 p.m. until about 3:00 a.m. Then I like to sleep until the late morning hours. Don't ask me why. I can't explain it. Just like I can't explain why I'm left-handed.  It's not better or worse than any other body rhythm schedule. It just is. Problem is, it doesn't conform to the majority of people's expectations of a normal sleep-wake cycle.

In my 20s and 30s I was a medical transcriptionist. I worked for major hospitals or private companies and was able to work swing shift which was perfect for me.

To this day, I enjoy staying up late. It's the best time for me to think and write. Just call me night owl.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Memory - Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I forgot what I was going to say! So it took me a few days to remember. Now I'm five days behind in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Age and memory:
When I was little I had a memory like a steel trap. Ask me something and I could answer as fast as the snap of said steel trap.

My memory also seemed to include homing pigeon tendencies. For example, when I was little, maybe six or so, my parents took us to the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, California. If you have ever been to that fair you know how expansive the exhibit halls are. Mom, Dad, my four-year-old sister, my two-year-old brother, and I were going through one of the exhibit halls, I seem to remember it being vegetables. The rest of the family was too slow for me so I took off on my own, examining and digesting all the information on vegetables and farming in California. I remember being fascinated and I just kept on going. Meanwhile, my parents were frantically searching for their "lost" daughter. Maybe 15 minutes later, I walked right back to them, not knowing the concern I had caused.

What I call "the homing pigeon memory" has served me well over the years. If I have been somewhere in my life, I can, in most instances find my way back there, no matter how long it has been.

Another type of memory I have is called "having a touchstone in your brain," which allows me to remember an exact shade of a color. For example, if I'm sewing with a fabric of a particular color, I can go to a fabric store and pick out thread and a zipper that exactly match the fabric (without having the fabric there as a reference point). The closest I could come to finding a reference to this on the internet was in "The Free Dictionary" under "touchstone."
touchstone - a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated
Not exactly the same thing, but close. Has anyone else ever heard of "having a touchstone in your brain"? I don't know where the person who told me that had heard it.

As I've been aging, I also notice that I have a hard time remembering a word or where I put something. In reading articles, it seems this is a normal occurrence. Now if I can just remember where I put Bob. LOL.

Sleep and memory from my own experience:
I am a late-night owl, staying up until 2:00 or 3:00 am on nights I don't have to work the next day. On those days, I sleep in until 10:00 or 11:00 am and feel great. However, if I stay up too late on a night before I work, I notice a definite decrease in memory at work. Note to self: You MUST get more sleep on a night before a work day!

In addition to our memory, we have memories of family, friends, strangers, childhood, pets, places, events, travels, novels, movies, foods, smells, sights, and music.

I know a certain piece of music can transport me to a different time in my life. Mantovani music makes me think of our farm house in Newberg, Oregon. Mom and Dad loved listening to the Mantovani Orchestra.

The Beatles remind me of life from age 10 to 25. The song for our high school graduation was "Here Comes the Sun."

Other important music while I was growing up was dancing the twist, and listening to surf music, especially in surf movies like "Beach Blanket Bingo."

When I was 16, my sister and I saw The Hermans Hermits, Blues Magoos, and The Who playing in one concert at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. What a concert! The Hermans Hermits were the headliners, but The Who stole the show with their black capes with red spider webs and smashing their guitars on stage.

There are memories of family camping vacations during which I developed a love for travel and hiking that I have to this day. Memories of our children growing up and becoming the adults they are today come flooding back when I think of all the waterfall hikes we took, all the museums we visited, and car trips to visit faraway places.

We have family history and family stories both from our lives in our parents' homes, our lives as singles, and our lives as parents of our children. Many precious memories and a few memories of things we could have done better or changed.

Our brain is a big memory warehouse and we choose what to use, what to shelve and what to discard. Memory plays a big role in how we perceive ourselves, our life, and those around us.

I hope I never lose my memory.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Libraries - Tues., April 14, 2015

Since this is National Library Week, it's appropriate to use the "L" word to honor libraries and librarians. On a personal note, I love libraries.

San Antonio Public Library
When we were kids, my mom took us to the library in La Mirada, California. It wasn't a big, fancy library, but it opened up a whole new world of reading and using my imagination. I graduated pretty quickly from reading all the Nancy Drew books I could get my hands on, to reading Daphne du Maurier and Gothic romantic-suspense novelist, Mary Stewart, who died last year.

Mary Stewart made the biggest impression on me and I read Gothic romance novels for years. I especially enjoyed "Wildfire at Midnight," "The Moon Spinners" (which was made into a movie starring Hayley Mills), and "Airs Above the Ground," (about the Lipizzaner stallions).

In high school and college, I worked in the libraries, mostly as a page (shelving books), but also was responsible for creating the window exhibits each month. In college, I was responsible for sending periodicals out to be bound. At one point, I wanted to become a librarian. Unfortunately, I did not. I would have enjoyed it immensely.

Libraries in general have been a mainstay in the free lending of books, music and movies. Now, most libraries offer free internet connectivity as well. A wealth of knowledge, entertainment and education awaits at the public library.

While it's true that a majority of people have the internet, that is not always free. It's great to have libraries as an alternative choice for online browsing.

Libraries usually have many newspapers, magazines and reference materials available to read while you're there. Most libraries offer free adult lectures and children's programs as well.

It remains to be seen how libraries will fare with so many Kindles and e-readers in use. I have not had a library card since we lived in Hawaii. Bob has a San Antonio library card and uses it regularly to check out audio books he can listen to while he drives to and from work.

Our local library is in charge of "drive-in movies," at a refurbished, historic drive-in movie theater. Only thing is, at this drive in, you walk in with your lawn chairs, snacks, drinks and a blanket. The ground is now grassy lawn, but the movie is still projected up onto the drive-in movie theater screen. The movies are shown monthly in spring, summer and fall.

In honor of National Library Week, kudos to all the librarians who make learning such an enjoyable experience.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kirk, Captain James T. - Earth date: Mon., April 13, 2015

Captain's log, Stardate 11504.13. Earth. An away team headed by Mister Spock has taken Shuttlecraft Galileo to the planet surface. Their mission: gather data on 21st century climate. Orders include no interaction with humans. Data gathering must take place in remote areas around the planet, including volcanic zones, ice sheets, snow packs, reservoirs, and oceans. Fresh water supplies are in danger and fresh water is critical to the survival of Earth's humans, plants and animals.

Okay, no Star Trek show really had that Captain's log. But I loved the show. Even though the original Star Trek was so cheesy and hokey, I liked the creativity that went into each episode.

My younger brother, Frank, is the one who originally told me I should watch the show when I was in high school. I told him I wasn't interested, but he said I should watch an episode and then decide. So I did watch and I have been watching ever since: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager, plus the movies those spawned.

Hey, Frank, I don't know if you've been into all the Star Trek iterations or not. But thank you for getting me started on watching. It added another dimension to my life.

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt - Saturday, April 11, 2015

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt...Where did that come from?

With "J" as our letter in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge, this is what popped into my head. Once there, I could not get rid of it. So I decided to write about it.

For those of you who grew up in a vacuum, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt is a fictional character in a traditional children's song, typically sung at a summer camp or scout camp. This is one of many songs we sang around a campfire in the evening, at Scout meetings (I was a Boy Scout leader and a Campfire Girls leader), or hiking on trails.

Other songs included in our camp repertoire included:
  1. "Ears Hung Low," 
  2. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (sung as a round), 
  3. "Dem Bones," 
  4. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," 
  5. "On Top of Spaghetti," 
  6. "This Land is Your Land," 
  7. "If You're Happy and You Know It," 
  8. "Head and Shoulders (Knees and Toes)," 
  9. "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" (alternate sitting and standing every time you come to a word that starts with the letter "b",
  10. "Happy Wanderer,"
  11. "Vive L'Amour,"
  12. "We're Here Because We're Here,"
  13. "Hokey Pokey,"
  14. "Grand Old Duke of York,"
  15. "Green Grass Grew All Around,"
  16. "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain,"
  17. "B-I-N-G-O'"
  18. "Ants Go Marching Song,"
  19. "Goin' on a Lion Hunt,"
  20. "My Boy Scout Hat,"
  21. "There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza,"
  22. "What Did Delaware Boys?"
  23. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,"
  24. "Ravioli" (sung to Alouette),
  25. "Shaving Cream,"
  26. "Taps,"
  27. "Kum Ba Yah" (usually the last song as the campfire embers died down) 
As a camper, Boy Scout leader, then later Scoutmaster and Scoutmaster trainer, I sang these songs many times in my life. They were great fun and I remember most of them to this day.

Do any of them ring a bell with you? What other songs did you sing in camp or in Scouts?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Independent or Interdependent? - Friday, April 10, 2015

"All mankind...being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions."
 ~John Locke

Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it reaches the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which we live. Man's life is independent. He is not born for the development of society alone, but for the development of his self."
 ~B. R. Ambedkar

"Every human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change."
 ~Stephen Covey

"Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost."
 ~Chauncey Depew
As humans we like to think we're independent of others, that we choose our own path. But do we really?

Our society is composed of colonies that we call cities. Much like ant colonies or bee colonies, we work together to build, to create families, to find our way. Construction companies have CEOs, CFOs, COOs, managers, supervisors, superintendents and laborers. They work together to create a building or mall or home where others can go about their lives.

Families are a combination of individuals who communicate and compromise, work and play, argue, plan, support each other, and evolve together...or not. If any element of a family relationship crumbles and the communication and support are not there, with the inability to find common ground, a divorce may ensue.

While I like to imagine I'm an independent thinker, I know my life has been fashioned from many different sources: family, books, movies, culture, friends, enemies, politics, marriage, divorce, accidents, poverty, wealth, travels, music, classes, religion, speakers, and places I've lived. So how independent am I really.

My blog started out being about how independent I am, but upon thinking it over, I realize how interdependent I am. How about you?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hamburgers - Thursday, April 9, 2015

"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
 ~ J. Wellington Wimpy from Popeye cartoons
Hamburger Hamlet in Westwood, California, is where I fell in love with gourmet hamburgers when I was in my 20s. My friends and I used to go to Hamburger Hamlet before or after a movie in Westwood. The food and service were always top-notch. We considered our meals there a grand treat. Their menu let you choose your toppings individually or you could order one of their combinations. One of my favorites was a teriyaki burger.

Homemade burgers are also a favorite: thick, juicy beef cooked medium well, topped with lettuce, tomato, avocado, bread-and-butter pickles, ketchup, mustard, relish, easy on the mayo, NO onions. A drippy, messy burger can't be beat.

Stanich's in Portland, Oregon, earned their reputation on AOL Cityguide's 2007 list of the "15 Burgers to Try Before You Die." Stanich's was on the list at number 11 in the nation. Here's the whole list:
  1. All-American Drive-In, Massapequa, New York
  2. Chris Madrid's, San Antonio
  3. CityGrille, Denver
  4. Dick's Drive-In, Seattle
  5. Goldyburgers, Chicago
  6. In-N-Out Burgers, Los Angeles
  7. Jack's Old Fashion Hamburger, Oakland Park, Florida
  8. O'Connell's Pub, Saint Louis
  9. Peter Luger, New York
  10. Roaring Fork, Phoenix
  11. Stanich's, Portland, Oregon
  12. Tessaro's, Pittsburgh
  13. Thurman Cafe, Columbus, Ohio
  14. Val's Burgers, San Francisco
  15. 96th Street Steakburgers, Indianapolis
What makes Stanich's burger so wonderful? To me it was a feast on a bun, complete with a fried egg, over medium. Never before had I thought to put a fried egg on a burger. Genius combination! The burger was a menace to wrap your mouth around, but oh, so delicious!

One chain restaurant that makes this list for their burger selection is Red Robin. I love quite a few of their burger choices. You can substitute a leaner turkey burger on most of their burgers too. Now that they've added sweet potato fries to their menu, I'll be heading that way more often.

Even fast food burgers make my list, but with a lowered expectation. Dairy Queen has a decent burger; I love their special sauce. In Rice Hill, Oregon, on the west side of Interstate-5, is K&R Drive-In where our family stopped to eat whenever we traveled in the area. Their large and very tasty burgers are served with Tater Tots, which I find to be a nice change from French fries or potato chips. The piece de resistance, though, at K&R Drive-In would be the Umpqua Ice Cream cones in a rainbow of flavors.

We have been in San Antonio for three years, and have found some new burger places to satisfy my burger craving. Whataburger makes a decent fast food burger that will do in a pinch.

If I want a sensational burger in San Antonio, The Cove is my restaurant of choice. The Cove's motto is "sustainable, organic, local." I am in love with their Real Burger: grass-fed beef with American cheese, no onion for me, tomato, pickle, mayo and mustard. The flavor of the beef is what makes this burger stand out.

Last but not least is Mad Mack's Burger Company which opened three weeks ago just down the street from our RV Resort. Last night Bob and I had dinner there. It was very good. The menu is simple, but that's okay. There are plenty of yummy choices. The decor is straight out of a 50s diner. Having dinner there on our "h" word day in the blogging challenge made it easy to choose my word for the day: hamburger.

Interior of Mad Mack's Burger Company
Mad Mack's Burger Co.

Here's a look at what we ordered. I had an All-American Burger; Bob chose the fish sandwich.
All-American Burger
The fish sandwich is made with pollock. They hand bread the fish just before they cook it.
Be very hungry if you're going to eat this, or split it with someone else.

Fish sandwich
Where have you found good hamburgers?

Gardens - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Peaceful, serene, beautiful, fragrant, charming, exotic, tropical, lovely, experiential -- all describe how I feel about gardens. We have seen our share of gardens in locations around the world.

It's spring here in the Northern Hemisphere. Let's get in the mood for spring and summer flowers with a look at these beautiful places. You'll have to indulge my inclusion of so many Pacific Northwest gardens...they are world class! We did live in the area for over 30 years.  (I do not have photos at some of the gardens as we were there before I had a digital camera. Links have been included for you to view the awesomeness at those gardens.)

The Pacific Bonsai Museum, 2515 S. 336th St., Federal Way, WA 98003
This beautiful garden with museum has 100 bonsai in its collection, about 60 of which are on display at any given time. The bonsai come from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States. The collection was started by Weyerhauser Corporation in 1989. Even though the garden is small, its uniqueness and the artful shapes of the trees make up for the lack of size. A Domoto Trident Maple is a featured bonsai tree which is 100 years old in 2015. This garden is a gem south of the Emerald City. The Bonsai Museum is free and donations are accepted. Next door is the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden which charges a $5 admission. All of this is about 20 minutes south of Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle.

Butchart Gardens, 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8M 1J8, Canada
Butchart Gardens is the granddaddy of rock quarries turned into gardens. From the first time we set eyes on this grand old garden, we were hooked. Over a century ago Jennie Butchart started building one of the world's premier floral show gardens. My personal favorite garden here is the Sunken Garden. Other gardens include The Italian Garden, The Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, and Mediterranean Garden. 
Portland International Rose Test Garden, 850 SW Rose Garden Way, Portland, OR 97205 
Drive up a hill through elegant old homes to Washington Park overlooking downtown Portland, Oregon. There you will find a world-class rose test garden. On a clear day Mt. Hood can be seen standing proudly in the distance. Do your best to visit in June or July when the roses are blooming in their full glory. You can sniff your way to heaven on the scents emanating from roses in full bloom. The primary purpose of this garden is to serve as a testing ground for new rose varieties. Different sections are the Gold Medal Garden, International Rose Test Garden, Miniature Rose Test Garden, and the Shakespeare Test Garden. While you are in Washington Park, be sure to visit the Portland Japanese Garden a short drive up the hill.
The Oregon Garden, 879 W Main St, Silverton, OR 97381  Below is a write-up from their website:
"We are an 80-acre botanical garden, featuring more than 20 specialty gardens showcasing the diverse botanical beauty that can be found in the Willamette Valley and throughout the Pacific Northwest. We have educational specialty gardens for everyone, from the Sensory Garden and Rose Garden to the Children’s Garden and Pet-Friendly Garden, or the Silverton Market Garden and Amazing Water Garden. We also offer a complimentary narrated tram tour April– October, and we are pet-friendly."
Here are some photos from our cold, windy, rainy autumn visit to The Oregon Garden.

I see a sea monster!
Dancing trees
Split by lightning a few days before we arrived
Reflecting ponds
Hunter Valley Gardens, 2090 Broke Road, Pokolbin NSW (New South Wales) 2320, Australia  This is Australia's largest display garden. Below is a description of the garden from their website.
"Nestled at the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges, in the heart of the Hunter vineyards, you will find ... Hunter Valley Gardens - over 60 acres of spectacular international display gardens ... will amaze you with sensational sights, colours, fragrances and adventures. Exploring over 8 kilometres of walking paths, visitors are able to experience each of the ten individual feature gardens with a range of statuary and superb feature gardens, all of a standard you won’t see elsewhere in Australia."
Here are our photos from Hunter Valley Gardens taken in November 2012.

Bob in Indian Tea House
Moongate Garden

Male Superb Fairy-wren
Fashionably late!
Huge hedge around Border Garden
Border Garden
Bob standing under hedge
Red-browed Firetail

Skinks, methinks!

Cape Chestnut - native to Africa
Water lilies
Willie Wagtail bird
Booderee Botanic Gardens, Booderee National Park, Village Rd, Jervis Bay Territory ACT 2540, Australia

From the website is the following information about Boodaree Botanic Gardens:
"Booderee Botanic Gardens are the only Aboriginal-owned botanic gardens in Australia. Here visitors can learn about bush tucker and medicinal uses of plants and the long association that Koori people have with the area and the plants of south eastern Australia."
Bob is not much of a botanic garden kind of guy. But he is a good sport. He told me to go ahead and explore Booderee Botanic Gardens while he took a nap in the car. Jolly good.

Off I went armed with a map of the gardens, my camera and a bottle of water. As I set out on a rather deserted track through brush, my imagination and worries kicked in. What if I fell? What if I got lost? What if a poisonous snake or spider bit me? But I pressed on and quelled the demons. Come along, take a look at what I found...
Delicate flowers all over this tree
Booderee Botanic Garden trail
Turpentine tree
Broad-leafed paperbark
If you were a 'roo wouldn't you want to live here?

Walking through the botanic garden all alone, feeling like the only person experiencing it, is great. However, it's disconcerting when you feel you're being watched! 'Roos and wallabies have perfected the art of standing stock still in the forest and watching. If you don't look closely, you'll miss them. I enlarged the photo below so you could see what I mean. If one of them hadn't been in the sun, I would have missed them all together.

Can you find two 'roos?
Echidna (small hedgehog-like animal)

Japanese Tea Garden, Brackenridge Park, 3875 N St Mary's St, San Antonio, TX 78212
San Antonio's Japanese Tea Garden was built in the abandoned Alamo Cement Company quarry over 90 years ago. The sunken garden showcases koi ponds, stone arch bridges, a waterfall, an island, exotic plants, and a two-story, stone, open-air pagoda overlooking the garden. The Jinghu House Cafe is at the entrance to the garden. This garden is a delightful find and is located next to the San Antonio Zoo.
Entry gate
Under the pagoda
Going into the sunken garden
Water lily seed pod
Exotic sunken garden landscape
Pagoda with downtown San Antonio in the background
Portland Cement Company ruins
Koi pond
Jerusalem sage (phlomis fruticosa)
Waterfall in sunken garden
Pond and bridges
San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston Pl, San Antonio, TX 78209 
This 38-acre botanic garden showcases Texas landscapes and habitats. The towers of the indoor pavilions housing the fern grotto, palm and cycad collection, tropical collection, and desert pavilion are often photographed for their space-age appearance. The garden is divided into a number of areas: South Texas, East Texas Piney Woods, Hill Country, Rose Garden, Old-Fashioned Garden, Sensory Garden, Wisteria Arbor, Children's Garden, and Kumamoto En (Japanese Garden) [not to be confused with the Japanese Sunken Garden above].
 The following photos are mine:

Botanic garden pavilions

That's enough gardens for this blog. I do want to mention one more: Mother Nature's Garden. Here in South Texas we are currently getting a wonderful wildflower display. Enjoy the flora wherever you may be.