Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello again from Nadi, Fiji

Hello again from Nadi, Fiji

Blog posted:  Tuesday afternoon   April 30, 2013  Fiji time (Second travelogue of this trip).

Tourism is a big part of the Fiji economy and they really make sure that you feel welcome.  When we arrived at the Nadi airport and stood in line to clear customs, there was a great group playing music that is native to the country and it sounded great.  Stampin' Up! had arranged for a bus to pick us up.  Our group had arranged to come a day early, but the bus was nearly full.  At the meeting area, they had bottles of chilled water.  That was great, given the very dry atmosphere we had experienced on the plane.

When we got to the hotel, they greeted us with neat shell leis, and a wonderful fruit type drink.  We had been pre-registered, and the check-in took almost no time.  We then went to the free breakfast that is a part of the hotel charge.  It is a smorgasbord that is  among the very best we have had.  They have an omelet bar and a huge assortment of meats, fruits, breads, and even stir fried vegetables/noddles.  Then to top it off they had individual french press coffee pots!!!

The view from our patio - that is the Pacific in the background

We went again today and it was a zoo, as the folks who arrived today all showed up at one time.  We skipped the long omelet bar line and still had a wonderful breakfast.  I made a European type breakfast sandwich (cold cuts, cheese and wonderful European style loaves of bread that you cut to your preference).  It really brought back fun memories of our European travel. 

The weather here has been quite rainy.  The storms come in fast and leave fast.  Hasn't really stopped us from enjoying the resort.

Yesterday we walked down to the Denarau Marina.  It is mainly a small shopping area with many restaurants (including a Hard Rock Cafe).  I had a beer at one of the pubs, and Pat ordered mineral water – the water was about 50% more costly than the beer.  We ate dinner at what we think was a locally owned Italian restaurant.

One of the reasons for going to the marina was to look for diving companies, but I was sorely disappointed.  We ran into a couple of women who had just dived that day and had arranged the dive at our hotel.  Today, at the hotel, I booked a dive for Friday.  It was hugely expensive but I can't not dive in Fiji {grin}.  The weather was bad enough today that they canceled the dive.  You get to the dive area on a small boat and seas were to rough for safe travel.

Tonight we have a reception and general meeting.  Lots of fun for Pat and OK for me {another grin}.  There really is not all that much planned company activities. 

That is all for now.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hello from Nadi, Fiji

Hello from Nadi, Fiji

Blog started:  Saturday evening   April 27, 2013   (First travelogue of this trip).
Blog posted :  Monday morning April 29, 2013 (Fiji time)

I am starting this blog in the Los Angeles Airport.  This morning we flew from Denver and arrived at about 2:30 LA time.  We then had to get our luggage and transfer to the International terminal.  We had to kill a lot of time, as the check-in counter did not open until 6:35.  Our flight to Fiji leaves at 11:30.

As has been the case in several previous occasions, Stampin' Up!  is paying for the trip.  As some of you know, Pat has earned several trips over the years.  We have been on eight cruises and this will be our second resort stay.  The demonstrators have to work very hard for these trips, but what trips they are!!!

It has been an interesting couple of days getting ready for the trip.  One of the items that cropped up at the last minute – I discovered my dive computer/watch batteries were dead.  Normally the watch has to be returned to the manufacturer to get serviced (no time for that!!!).  I did a search and found that, with a special tool, you can replace the battery.  I found an Ebay ad for the tool and battery (plus new O-ring) for a very reasonable fee.  The seller is located in the LA area.  After a bunch of communication, I arranged to buy the tool, battery, and O-ring and have a courier deliver it to the airport.  The kit was cheap, but the courier was not {frown}.  In any case, I have everything to get the dive computer/watch running again.  I really wanted to have it for the dives I plan to do.  It does a wonderful job of documenting the dive.

Fortunately, travel to Fiji does not require significant medical preparation.  Your Tetanus shots need to be  current, have current hepatitis A protection and we needed to get typhoid protection.  In my case, I could take oral typhoid vaccine, but Pat had to have a shot, since the oral has live virus and she can not have that with her compromised immune system.  

OK, now I can update this blog, as we are in our hotel room in Fiji.  We are at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa (map).  I will post a couple of quick pictures that give a hint of how beautiful this place is and will follow up in later posts.

Jim and Pat with pool area in the background
(sorry about picture quality)

Our room with ocean in background

We departed LAX at about 11:30 PM on Saturday and arrived in Nadi at 5:10 AM on Monday.  While a quick glace would say that that is a hell of a long flight, or that Jim screwed up again, it really reflects that we crossed the date line and are one day ahead of the USA.  So, I guess you could say we missed Sunday this week.  I texted the girls and said that it was 6:30 AM on Monday in Fiji and 12:30 PM on Sunday in Denver – to give you a better understanding of the time relationship.

The flight was just a bit short of 11 hours.  Almost every seat was full and we had three people crammed together in our row.  That is the makings for a miserable trip – well, not when you have chemistry on your side.  Our doctor prescribed a sleep medication for the trip – generic Ambien.  It did the trick and we slept pretty well.  Sure made the trip bearable.

A couple of the grandsons wanted to know about the planes we took.  The Denver to LAX was a 737-800.  The LAX to Nadi was a 747-400.  I have always loved the 747 planes.  Gates had a project to develop a V-belt conveyor system for the cargo containers.  I made several trips to California to work on the design and testing of the system.  Then I made a trip to Chicago for one of the first commercial flights of that great plane.  When I saw it coming in, I was convinced it was crashing.  The plane is so big that it looks like it is going too slow to fly.  Over the years, I have taken many 747 flights and it is the smoothest flying plane I have been on.  I have been saddened that most of the airlines are phasing them out.  Imagine how delighted I was to fly one again.

Our 747-400 plane from LAX to NADI

That is all for now.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Hello from Evergreen, CO

Sunday morning  April 14, 2013   (Fifth travelogue of this trip).

When we last posted, we were concerned about running into snow on our drive to Iowa.  Turned out that the weather was OK.  It was cool on the drive, but no snow.  We got to Bill and Jeanne's about 2:30 and got situated. 

Friday was really a whirlwind day for me.  I wanted to talk to a company in the Corning area that I need to have make a couple of metal parts for me.  They have done some projects for me in the past and their prices are very fair.  The project involves shearing and bending some rather heavy plate into frame rails that I will use to lengthen my old IHC truck.  I had remembered that they have some really large equipment.  Turns out that they can bend ½ inch thick plate and shear 1 inch thick steel plate!!!!  Far more capacity than I need {grin}.  I also stopped at a tire store to get some prices on drive tires for the bus.  I really like to do business with folks in that area.  They could use the business, their customer attitude is great, and their prices are very good.

Pat and her cousin made several stops and visited Pat's aunt Jarris.

Yesterday, we drove 650 miles in the PT Cruiser from Iowa to our home.  That was a long day, but bearable.  We had decided to leave the bus in Iowa, since we planned to return for what has become our annual Memorial Day visit.

This trip was a bit less than three weeks.  You would think that there would be some leisure time in that period.  That really was not the case.  There were some periods of a few hours that we got to relax, but most of the time we were on the go.  That said, the activities that we participated in were all very enjoyable!  Our original plans called for a more leisurely trip, but NTT confirmed that the class I was scheduled to teach was a go.  When we laid out the trip, it did not look like they had enough students to justify the class.  Because of the class, we had to break up the trip into two parts.

Now, I must spend most of my time over the next couple of days getting ready for a class that I have not taught in about 10 years.  No rest for the wicked.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hello from Arrowhead Point RV Park close to El Dorado, MO

Hello from Arrowhead Point RV Park  close to El Dorado, MO

Wednesday Evening   April 10, 2013   (Fourth travelogue of this trip).

Before we get into this travelogue post, I just had to publish one more picture from the Blytheville rally.  The photo was taken by Stan Holter during the rally.  It is a beautiful photo that could have easily been taken 60 years ago.

Stan Holter's Amazing Photo of the Blytheville Greyhound Terminal

We are at the Arrowhead Point RV park (map).  We chose to stay here for three nights so that we could dump our holding tanks, get water and generally relax and not worry about running the generator.  This location was midway between two activities that we had planned.

The first was a visit with a friend of Pats from her very early days.  Linda and Pat grew up together and have kept in touch all these years.  We drove to Linda and Leonard's house in Roach, MO.  It is a beautiful house right on The Lake of the Ozarks.  We had visited them in the same general area a few years ago, but they have built a new house.  While Linda and Pat caught up on old times, Leonard and I went down to their dock and I got to watch him do some fishing.  We then took his “gator” type ATV for a ride around the area.  Even though the trees are not yet leafed out, it is a beautiful area.   We ended the day with a fun dinner at a local bar/restaurant.  Without question, they are great hosts.

Today was our genealogy day.  Pats Grandfather was born in this general area and a host of his relatives are buried in various cemeteries within about a 60 mile radius of our RV Park.  Last year, after our Eagles International rally, we spent a bit of time in the area, but wanted to do some more research.  We had planned to go the the library in Butler, MO.  Pat had contacted them prior to our trip and the genealogy expert had done some research.  This was her day off, but she left some great material for Pat to review. In addition, the head librarian was of great help in locating additional material and making a couple of contacts for us.

We had also planned to visit three cemeteries.  The weather was very rainy and cold, but we were able to make our planned visits.  One of the cemeteries was the burial location for Pat's grandfather's grandparents.  We also visited another cemetery where her grandfather's parents were born.  Wonder family history.

Tomorrow we head to Iowa – we hope.  They have a prediction of some snow (part of the storm that dumped snow and cold in the Denver area yesterday).  Our bus has not proven to have a great deal of traction in slippery conditions.  We will drive as long as we feel safe and stop if there is any doubt.

That is all for now.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hello from Mountain Grove, MO

Hello from Mountain Grove, MO

Sunday Evening   April 7, 2013   (Third travelogue of this trip).

We are at the Walmart in Mountain Grove, MO (map)

Well, the rally is over and it was an event that is almost beyond description.  We were parked about 100 feet from the restored Greyhound terminal which was the focus of the rally (map).  The first picture is the terminal at night with Tom McNally's seated GM Scenicruiser parked beside it.

Restored Greyhound Terminal in Blytheville

Probably the highlight of the rally was riding very old seated (not converted to RVs, but restored to the condition of the buses of that era) buses to Graceland in Memphis (about 70 miles each way).  I have included photos of the buses we rode. On the way down we rode in Tom's 1956 Scenicruiser.  Pat thinks it is a very cool bus – a split level bus that really set the bus world on it's ear during that era.

Tom McNally '56 GM Scenicruiser

After Graceland we rode a 1968 Flxible bus a few miles to a catered lunch.  From there we rode a 1960 GM 4104 back to Blytheville.  It was as if we were transported back about 50 years.

Stan Holter's 1968 Flxible
Tom Evan's 1960 GM 4104

On Saturday they had a parade of many of the classic buses down main street.  The town really turned out for the event. Someone post a youtube video of the parade (here).

The rally was “advertized” via a youtube video that was a great assembly of original footage, movie clips and still photography.  Even if you are not a bus nut, it is certainly worth viewing (here).

The weather was very cold and rainy on Tuesday and Wednesday, but cleared up nicely for the event.

By the way, the locals pronounce Blytheville as Blyville.  Took us a while to learn to say it their way.

That is all of now.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hello from Blytheville, AR

Hello from Blytheville, AR

Tuesday afternoon   April 2, 2013   (Second travelogue of this trip).

Well, it has been pointed out that our last post was a bit confusing.  One of my goals in this travelogue/blog is to “benchmark” all of our major stops.  I wanted to make sure that one of the posts was from Moscow Mills, MO.  That said, I knew I would not finish it in time to post it before we had to leave.  Clear as mud?

We are now in Blytheville, AR which will be the site of a very unique bus rally – one that will focus on classic buses out of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  I will talk more about the rally in a future post.   This post will try to catch up on our stay in Moscow Mills.

We had planned to arrange for Pat to spend some time with a good friend in St Louis.  Kay is the wife of a good friend of Jim's from the high school period.  Ken passed away several years ago, but we have kept in contact with Kay.  The friendship history is rather unique.  Ken was an amazing car painter and I used to hang around and help him so that I could learn from a real pro.  He used to paint midget racers in the garage behind the duplex they lived in.  Pat and Kay started to get together when Ken and I were in the garage.  They became very good friends and “Scrabble buddies”.  Ken and Kay had three boys that are somewhat similar in age to our girls.  Pat and Kay used to swap stories about the kids.  Prior to our getting married, they mentioned that they were buying a house.  We made arrangements to move into their duplex after we got married.  It was in a great location not far from where I grew up.

Ken later went to work for PPG as a paint sales person.  First in Omaha and then in St. Louis.  We kept in touch over the years.  Indeed, Ken and I went to many Kustom Car events (yes custom with a K). 

When we told Kay that we might be headed her way, we got an email from one of her sons who offered  for us to stay at his place.  I have attached a photo of Kevin and Ann's beautiful house.  It is in a very rural area and is set on a 3 acre lot.  Kevin and Ann treated us like royalty!  Both are great cooks and they prepared meals for us that were amazing.

The house they bought was a foreclosure and had a huge amount of water damage – mainly in the kitchen area.  When they moved in, the kitchen was bare and all of the drywall had been removed.  They built a kitchen that is absolutely magnificent.  The stove has four gas burners, a large grill and a large griddle.  The double oven has convection and steam capabilities. 

On Saturday night, the three brothers and their families joined us for dinner at Kevin's.  I have attached a picture of Kay and the boys.  As you can tell, the boys are all very tall (6'3 to 6'8).  We had a lot of fun seeing them and catching up on what has been going on in their lives.

Pat and Kay spent about half of two days catching up and working on genealogy.  While they did that, I worked on some issues that had developed in the bus.  We have an issue with the DVR and roof mounted dish.  I have worked on it since we left and we still do not have television.  Our solar system controller would not provide power to the batteries.  That turned out to be a butchered wiring problem (guess who?).  Pretty easy fix once I got it all sorted out.  Now we have better charging that we have had in the past and we will need it because we are dry camping most of this trip.

However, solar only works well when it is sunny out.  Yesterday was great, but today is very overcast and cold.  I think we will have more of this type of weather during the rally.  Guess we will just have to run the generator more.

The rally begins officially on Thursday.  I volunteered to coordinate the parking and that will be a challenge.  There are 60 buses signed up for the rally and we are parking in the middle of the downtown area.  Going to be a tight fit, but I think folks will be understanding and cooperative. 

I suspect I will not have much time to post during the rally, but I will catch up in a few days.

That is all for now.