Monday, March 31, 2008

Hello from King's Wharf, Bermuda.

Jim and Pat on Bermuda Cruise

Monday evening; March 31, 2008 (third post of this trip)

We are located here.

As you can see from the satellite view, we are at the east end of the island.

First, let me make a few general observations related to this trip:

  1. The weather has been a bit brisk (with the humidity, that translates to cold) on most of the trip. This includes our first day here in Bermuda. While not really cold, it is quite windy and certainly not shorts weather

  2. NY is expensive. As we noted, we paid over $200 per night for our hotel, and at the Sheraton where Stampin' Up! put folks up, the cost was over $300 per night. Meals were about twice what you would expect in Denver.

  3. Taxi rides are almost always a white knuckle experience! Unlike meals, taxi rides seem to be reasonably priced (less than $20 to go several miles in Manhattan).

  4. Side walks and streets are in generally poor condition, with lots of uneven surfaces. Most of the sidewalks have steel plates next to the building that cover basement storage access. These plates often have raised edges that make walking a challenge.

  5. Traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian, is generally very heavy. It is hard to walk on sidewalks because of all of the obstructions and people. In spite of crowded sidewalks, people seem to get around very well.

Getting on the ship was mostly painless. We took a taxi from the hotel, and were able to handle the luggage pretty well. We got to the dock early, so we were able to get to the sign-in area without having to wait in line. However, the person checking us in did not have a clue. She got our records so messed up that we had to be shuttled off to the supervisor area to have them get things squared away. We just discovered that my picture appears Pat's ship record and vice versa. It will be a real challenge to get on and off the ship. Tomorrow we will try to use each others card and see if that works.

Our room is on the stern (back) of the boat. Our balcony looks out the back (see photo below). This is kind of neat. The balcony is longer than normal, and we can see on both sides of the ship.

View from our balcony

We sailed from Pier 90. The route takes you down the Hudson River and past the Statue of Liberty (see Photo).

Sunday was our day at sea. Stampin' Up! had a general meeting, but the rest of the time, we were on our own. I went to the Spa and Pat did some Stampin stuff. Today we went to the Spa early and then walked around King's Wharf for a couple of hours. We decided not to do any formal paid excursions, and that helped us justify the cost of the Spa for the week. The Spa has a very large hydrotherapy pool, several steam rooms, a sauna, and luxurious heated ceramic lounges. It is very relaxing and we feel pampered.

I hope to do a dive later this week (we are here for four days). The ship does not offer a diving excursion, so I will have to book one on my own. We got some information today and it lists only one dive shop, in spite of the fact that this is supposed to be a great diving area (lots of ship wrecks from several centuries ago).

We are the first ship into Bermuda for the season. It appears that the island may not be fully geared up for tourists yet. On the positive side, we are the only ship in this port, so it is not crowded.

That is all for this post.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Second report from the Holiday Inn in New York City.

Friday Evening; March 28, 2008 (second travelogue of this trip)

Wednesday was our walking tour. We walked about a mile to the World Trade Center site. On the way we passed a political protest in City Hall Park. Several TV stations were there and we briefly saw Pat on the local NBC nightly news.

The World Trade Center site in undergoing full construction of the new buildings. Everything is still at below-ground-level. We are not sure what we expected to see, but we still got a feeling for the immensity of the tragedy.

Construction at Ground Zero (World Trade Center Site)

From there we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. This is an historic bridge. Construction started in 1869. The main span is just short of 1600 feet and the total bridge is over one mile long. The walk across the bridge is fun, and quite picturesque. You can see Manhattan on one side and Brooklyn on the other, with the Statue of Liberty off in the distance. Our goal was to have Pizza in another famous NY pizza restaurant: Grimaldi's ( The pizza, was again great and the small crowded restaurant was quite an experience. We had walked over three miles, and decided to take the subway back to our hotel.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

Yesterday was our day to be in the Today show audience outside the studio. We got there about 6:15 AM and ended up getting a great spot. As most of you know Matt Lauer and, in this case Ann Curry (in Meredith's absence), come out and do part of the show in the square. The weather person (usually Al Roker) also does his report in the same area. The highlights of the event were Ann Curry coming over to Pat and giving her a kiss on the hand (I got a picture of the lipstick marks) AND the weather person briefly “interviewed” Pat and asked her about the picture of our family (we are told that they had a full screen shot of the photo!). We also go to see Hoda Cotb (not spelled the way you would think from the pronunciation), Natalie Morales, Donald Trump and Trace Adkins. We spent over two and a half hours in some pretty cold weather, but it was worth it.

At the Today Show (note Donald Trump and Trace Adkins at the far left)

We then did a walking touring of the Rockefeller Center and Times Square area and had lunch in a great NY style deli. One of the highlights of our tour, was a fun stop at the huge M&M candy store. We then took the subway back to the hotel.

Wednesday night we went to see Grease at the Brooks Atkinson theater. It was an absolutely great show. The winners of the TV reality show were the stars and they were fabulous. To top things off, were in the front row! The actors were often within two feet of us!

This morning we went to a highly rated Bistro type restaurant: Balthazar ( We had a great breakfast. The rest of today, we kind of cooled our jets.

Tomorrow we board the MS Noordam for our cruise to Bermuda.

That is all for this post.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hello from the Holiday Inn in New York City.

Wednesday Morning; March 26, 2008 (first travelogue of this trip)

We are currently located here. If you “pan” out you will see that we are in the south end of Manhattan. That puts us less than a mile from the World Trade Center site and a bit over 2 miles from Times Square and Rockefeller Center. More about these locations later. The map should show up in the satellite version. If not, you can click on that option, as it has a lot of detail that is fun to play with.

Many of you are aware that Pat has earned several cruises (seven) through her association with Stampin' Up! All of these trips are done in a first class manner with all of the travel/cruise expenses paid (including tips on the ship). The cruise accommodations include balcony rooms!

This trip is a cruise to Bermuda departing from New York. We decided to come to New York a few days early to do some sightseeing. We chose to take a red eye flight (left Denver at 12:35AM) so that we could have an “extra” day in NY. Seemed like a good idea, since we assumed the flight would not have a full load of passengers (yeah right, every seat was full!) Our plan to sleep on the plane did not work well. Our seats were a part of the emergency exit area and did not recline. I got maybe two hours sleep and Pat did not sleep at all.

We took a taxi from Laguardia airport to the hotel. The taxi trip was the usual “white knuckles” adventure. We got to the Hotel about 8:00 AM and were able to check in.. We used points for two nights and paid for the other two. The hotel rate is about $200 per night! The room only had one desk chair and a king size bed. It was very small with almost no place to put our four suitcases of clothes (plus two carry-ons). Pat did get an extra desk chair, and has it beside her side of the bed (has to crawl around it to get into bed). See photo below

Our tiny room at the Holiday Inn
We had breakfast and then took a two hour nap. In the afternoon, we decided to do some sightseeing around the hotel. The hotel is located near the SOHO area of Manhattan. SOHO is described as one of the most diverse neighborhood in lower Manhattan. The following is pasted from the website

“Today, with stores like Intermix, SoHo is synonymous with trendy shopping, world class art galleries, some of the most sought after real estate ("Finding anything under $1 million in Soho is a job," so says Siim Hanja of Stribling & Associates), the future site of Mr Donald Trump's latest building and of course it's cobblestone streets and cast iron buildings.”

SOHO is centered about Broadway street. We did a little walking along the crowded sidewalks and were amazed at the huge traffic jams in mid-afternoon. I am sure we will do a bit more exploring there.

While watching the Travel Channel a few weeks ago, we watched a show on the best pizza restaurants in New York City (NYC prides itself on having the best pizza in the world). We made a small list of fun ones we wanted to visit. Yesterday we went to Lombardi's (see photos below). Lombardi's ( opened in 1897 and has been rated as having the best pizza in NY several times. After having perhaps the best pizza we have ever tasted, we made a quick stop at Eileen's Cheesecake ( to get a couple of pieces of their great cheesecake (again, NYC prides itself as having the best cheesecake in the world”).

Lombardi's famous pizza resturant

Pat at Lombardi's

That is all for this travelogue. I will make new posts fairly often on this trip.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hello from the Wal Mart in Trinidad, CO

Hello from the Wal Mart in Trinidad, CO

Wednesday evening; March 12, 2008 (Seventh and final travelogue of this trip)

We are currently located here. We have stayed at this Wal Mart several times. One time it got down to one degree, but we were cozy in the bus.

After two 400 plus mile days, we decided to split the final 400 plus mile leg into two parts. That would also let us do some much needed shopping so that we would have food when we get home. Pat also got some Easter goodies for the grandkids.

Some of you are new to our blog and travelogue. On our travels we often stay at Wal Marts. Most permit overnight stays. We always try to get some supplies since it is convenient and it is a nice way to say thanks. Some Wal Marts do not permit overnight stays, but that is generally a local ordinance (often written in behalf of local campgrounds). Tonight there are just two RVs, but often we will see 10-20 rigs. Most are careful not to abuse the privilege, but sometimes we see folks who think they are in a campground with their chairs and awnings out.

Last night we stayed at the Hollywood Casino in Algodones, NM (here). If you look at the map, it shows that historic route 66 overlays I-25. I was sure that was incorrect, because I had understood that route 66 generally parallels I-40 through NM. After a bit of research, it turns out that prior to 1937 route 66 turned north west of Santa Rosa and went up to close to Las Vegas, NM and then generally followed what is now I-25 south to I-40. From the satellite image, you can clearly see the casino and car race track. We have never been there when they ran the races, unfortunately.

We like to stay at the Hollywood casino. The campground costs $10 and Pat can do her thing (she came out over $100 ahead this time). They have an OK buffet. We can top off the water and dump in preparation for the next trip. We also often fuel up, as it is convenient and the price is competitive.

We will be home tomorrow (3/13). I will probably not post to the blog until our next trip later this month. Check back in about two weeks.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hello from Seligman, AZ

Tuesday early morning; March 11, 2008 (Sixth travelogue of this trip)

We are currently located here. The satellite imagery is not good for this location, so you may have to zoom out a couple of times

We enjoy Seligman. It is a very small town that was once a pretty popular stop along the famous Route 66 (often referred to as “The Mother Road”). The highway (mostly gone now, replaced by the interstate system) went from Chicago to LA and was immortalized in a song and a TV show in the ‘50s/60’s. There are a lot of websites the document the highway. One of the better ones is: There is a crazy little walk up diner that has great malts. It is pretty much as it must have been many years ago. The town has lots of displays dedicated to Route 66 history.

Now that we are writing a blog, and it is more public, I have a few drag racing fans that probably would like a little information about the races we went to, so I will include a bit of detail

The races at Bakersfield (“The March Meet”) were great. It was a huge event with over 25 cars in each of the tow major classes (Top Fuel and Fuel Funny Car). There were over 500 cars at the event. I would say that it was as big as an NHRA national event. This event was a part of NHRA’s Heritage Series: The series was established to bring back drag racing as it was in the ‘60s. The rules for the nitro fuel classes closely define the engine modifications and car specifications to assure the cars are very much like the race cars out of the ‘60s, with the exception of safety updates. The Top Fuel best time was: 5.568 at 263 mph (which was a record) while the Fuel Funny car best time was: 5.836 at 243.63 mph.

The event also had a huge swap meet and car show along with a ton of vendors.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it was always my dream to attend The March Meet in Bakersfield. It was THE drag racing event at the time. It went downhill over the years, but has come full cycle and is now the premiere event of the series. This was the 50th anniversary of the event and there were a large number of famous racers from both the past and present attending the event. Shown below are a couple of pictures.

A couple of Top Fuel Cars

A couple or Fuel Funny Cars

The car in the far lane is owned and tuned by some friends and won the event!

The track is located in the middle of a highly agricultural area. There are orchards and vineyards surrounding the track. When we pulled in we noted a distinct odor. It turns out that there is a huge compost center (several acres) behind where we parked. You can see it from the satellite photo in the previous post. I kind of got used to the smell (not sure Pat did). Saturday night the RV parking area (perhaps 200-300 RVs) was one big party! Someone close to us played very loud music well into the night. However, we slept well anyway.

The downer for the event was a tragic accident where a well know racer was killed ( I was at half track watching the race. I could hear the engine continue to run well beyond the finish line and knew that it was going to be terrible. They think that he developed a medical problem during the run and did not shut off the engine or pull the chutes.

Yesterday we started heading home. We drove a bit over 400 miles. Today we hope to make it to a casino north of Albuquerque where we can dump and fill up with water and Pat can contribute to the economy {grin}.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hello from Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield, CA

Hello from Famoso Raceway near Bakersfield, CA.

Wednesday evening; March 5, 2008 (Fifth travelogue of this trip)

We are currently located here.

We stayed an extra night at the East Shore campground. It has to be one of the best campgrounds/sites we have ever been in. The weather was great and the views spectacular!

View from our site at East Shore RV Park

Today we picked up our new couch in the middle of LA. The trip from Pomona to Bell Gardens just off the I710 and I5 intersection went well considering that is the heart of LA traffic. The factory was on a dead end street and we had to unhook the car. They had to disassemble the couch to get it in, but it sure looks nice and fits well. We then drove to Famoso raceway which is about 20 miles north of Bakersfield, CA.

Our new couch

We are here for the 50th anniversary “March Meet” drag race. As a kid, I always dreamed of going to this very famous race. It is now primarily a nostalgia event. Several of my friends from my blower belt days with Gates will be here and I really look forward to the event. It sounds like the entry list is very large. We put an advertisement in the program, so this is an official business event {grin}.

Since we have converted to a blog format, and notified a bunch of friends, I thought we might catch some of you up on our travels in the bus. We made our first trip starting on March 6, 2006. Since then we have have traveled 38,600 miles and stayed 367 nights in our home away from home. We have traveled through 25 states. That adds up to spending half our life in this crazy vehicle and we love it.

The bus is 100% functional. By that I mean that we have all of the best systems (large inverter and battery bank for our 120 volt electrical needs, a great diesel generator, large house type refrigerator with ice dispenser, diesel fired boiler that furnishes great heat on cold nights and domestic hot water, large fresh/gray/black water tanks that let us go for well over a week without hookups, two-way satellite internet, washer and dryer, and air conditioning). We still have a lot of finish work to do including overhead cabinets, exterior paint, etc. The bus will never be done, but it is very comfortable. Our bedroom seems like a cocoon and we sleep very well (well, at least one of us does {grin}). We have full communication on board, including FAX, phone, email, etc.

Now back to the travelogue. We will leave our current location on Monday and start heading home. We will probably have to detour to the Las Vegas area to finish up an installation. We need to be home by Friday (3/14). We left on this trip on 1/5, so we will have been on the road for almost 2 ½ months.

That is all for now.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hello from San Dimas, CA.

Our bus at East Shore RV Park

Hello from San Dimas, CA.

Sunday morning; March 2, 2008 (Fourth travelogue of this trip)

We are currently located here.

I can't believe that it has been almost a month since I updated this travelogue! We have been on the go at full speed since I wrote last.

As has been the case in the past, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Shoshone, a very small quiet community. At one time I found a good website on the town, but I can't find it now. This website has some information:,_California.

On Wednesday some great friends spent the night in the campground. Sean and Louise have a great blog: They have a beautiful, unique bus with the living quarters above the drivers compartment (hard to describe, but their blog has some details). Folks often describe it as a “double decker” bus (not technically correct, but it works. We had planned to have dinner with them at the only cafe in town. However, a terrible windstorm came up and the whole area lost power. We cooked a large pan of frozen lasagna and had a great meal in our bus.

On Friday we made a long trip into Death Valley and visited the very unique “Scotty's Castle”. This is quite a structure and has a ton of history. Some information is contained at:'s_Castle. We took two tours and were absolutely amazed at the structure and history. We had dinner in Furnace Creek in the park. We left our campground around 9:00 AM and got home about 11 hours later. I think the trip was over 200 miles. We continue to be amazed at the beauty and drastic geology variations within the park.

Saturday we went to the Amargosa Opera House. This is a very unique building/hotel in the middle of nowhere. Their website is: A lady by the name of Marta Becket restored the building and painted beautiful murals in the Opera House and motel lobby. She has performed in the facilities since the early 80's. In those days it was a melodrama. Today she is too feeble to perform, so she sits on the stage and tells some great stories and sings a little.

The rest of our stay was filled with trips to Pahrump, swimming, working, and just plain goofing off.

We left Sunday 2/17 and drove to Chino, CA where we were scheduled to do a system install at a company called “The Paint Department”. I was there to train an installer. The person was good at detail work, but I ended up doing a lot of the work, since he did not have any experience and we got way behind schedule. It was a very difficult install and we did not get it done ( I will finish the install in the next couple of days).

From Chino we drove to Hemet, CA where we met up with other members of the Converted Coach group. We ended up missing most of the first day, but we still had a great time and got to see some old friends.

On Saturday (2/23) we caravaned over 60 miles to the Fairplex (Los Angeles County Fairgrounds) for the FMCA International Convention. We parked with the CVC group rather than with the vendors (who often are not friendly to bus conversions that are not “up to their standards”). We set up the booth on Sunday and Monday. The vendor area was open Tuesday through Thursday. The attendance, as has been the case for the past two years, was down considerably from past years. In years past, there would often be 5,000 to 7,000 motorhomes attending. This year there were a bit more than 2,300. Pat did two craft seminars and I did my safety seminar. Her attendance was great, mine was OK.

This was our best show. We had reasonably good sales and booked three of our systems for future delivery (confirmed sales). We also had great interest and one person is having a special handicapped motorhome built and is going to have the factory install the system (the factory engineer came to the booth to get information on the system). If this works out, it could lead to working with OEMs to offer the system as an option.

On this trip we also sold four systems via phone and Estore ( including one to the military). Maybe we are beginning to see the light (headlight?) in the tunnel.

Friday night we tried to be sneaky and stay at the fairgrounds, but the security folks came by and made us move (at 9:30 PM). We moved to a Wal Mart in San Dimas. Yesterday, we got a bunch of critical errands done and moved into a great “campground”:
East Shore RV Park. You will see from the satellite map that we overlook a lake. We have a very panoramic view of the colorful hills, valleys, and distant snow capped mountains. We also overlook Brackett Field, a small airport. We have been watching planes take off as I write this.

I have included one photo that I took yesterday when we moved in. It was foggy and the photo does not show the views. It is clearing today and I will post another picture and some more travelogue in a day or two.

That is all of now.