Category Archives: Travel

Things are a little quiet around here…

Finally… getting back to writing something! Trust me, it is not that nothing has been going on… it is just that for some reason, I have simply not felt inspired. Might also be because, embarrassingly, I have not touched the boatbuilding project since May! Maybe I’ll do some catching up later. But for now, I’ll stick with more recent events…

The big news is, we just got back from taking Brian to college at Yale. He seems to be jumping right in, as I expected he would. He’s taking a pretty demanding workload, including the next level of calculus and a pretty advanced chemistry class. Living on the fifth floor of a dorm built in the 1920’s with no elevator and no air conditioning, so he is still adjusting to East Coast heat and humidity.

After dropping Brian off, we decided to console ourselves by spending several days at Lake George, up in the Adirondacks. It’s hard to imagine anything that could be a better consolation! We spent a few days with my Aunt Julie and a few days with my cousin Ginger, and took a one-day side trip to Vermont. A little kayaking, a little boating, a little driving around, some lovely meals, great weather… all this took our minds off the fact that we would be returning to an empty house.

We concluded our trip by heading down to Rhode Island for a couple days to visit with my dad, John Sr., and his wife Ann. Got to celebrate an 83rd birthday while we were there, and saw the sights of Bristol and Newport.

We are back home now, and getting used to the quiet house. Not so much of an adjustment, really, since once the boys got drivers licenses they were often out doing stuff. But, still, it can be a little eerie at times. But, to be honest, we are adjusting and enjoying it. After all, having the kids eventually grow up and move out is the idea, isn’t it?

Journey’s End – The Road Trip Concludes

Tuesday morning we hit the road promptly; we were headed to New Orleans, had a lot of miles to cover, and wanted to arrive at a reasonable hour. We still wanted to get a feel for the Texas countryside, however, so we kept to US and State highways rather than the interstates. While Tyler drove, I got on the web and booked a room in the French Quarter.

There’s really not too much to say about the drive. The distances were long, the highways lightly travelled. We found a great little BBQ place in Lufkin; really good brisket and sausages, and signed pictures on the wall ranging from Larry Hagman to Sarah Palin to pretty much the entire country music world. Super friendly, too… all in all a perfect respite!

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We continued driving, and arrived in New Orleans around seven or so. We drove into the French Quarter, and found our hotel. Checked in, cleaned up, and went out to walk around and check the place out. It was hot and humid, and the sweat started to flow pretty much right away.

The French Quarter was interesting; parts of it were charming and parts of it were not. I found that the amount of “charm” was inversely proportional to the proximity of Bourbon Street. The distant side streets had beautiful architecture, quaint shops, and friendly people. Bourbon Streen, on the other hand, reminded me of a cross between 1970’s Times Square and Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Mostly strip joints, packed with loud, drunk, overweight tourists stumbling around carrying cheesy plastic hurricane drinks. Nothing against any of those things per se, but I think it is a shame that the most famous site in such an iconic city is so debased in this way.

After our walking tour, we had dinner at Arnaud’s, which was a bit tourist-oriented (no surprise I suppose), and the food was good but not great. Walked around some more, and decided to call it a night. The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, took a walk around the Garden District, and got on the road.

Our destination for Wednesday was The Elms, an antebellum plantation house in Coosada, Alabama, just north of Montgomery. I have a boatload of cousins that live there, and we were stopping in for dinner and a night of accommodations. Not such an aggressive driving day, so we chose a backroads route through southern rural Mississippi and Alabama. Another day of stress-free, traffic-free, and truck-free driving on the rural highways, complete with another BBQ lunch!

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As always, our visit to The Elms was a beautiful time, lovely dinner with my aunt and uncle, my cousin Peter and his wife Janet (who so kindly hosted us!), as well as a half dozen other relations. We had a splendid dinner and breakfast and were lulled peacefully to sleep by the music made by the cicadas in the trees.

The destination for our final evening was Charleston, South Carolina. Again, we took the smaller roads, which was slow going at times due to construction, frequent towns, and inconveniently placed rivers and creeks. We arrived in Charleston in time for a late dinner. I had asked Karen to make a dinner reservation for us, as she had been looking at Charleston restaurants recently. She booked us a table at McCrady’s, a 200-year-old location with an excellent restaurant. As we had now officially made it from coast to coast, it was great to celebrate with a fantastic meal and delicious wines!

One of the things we celebrated during our dinner was the fact that we had made it coast-to-coast in a car with 125,000 miles on it, on tough roads with countless potholes, cattle guards, and railroad crossings, with no problems or breakdowns whatsoever. This all changed the next morning in the genteel and civilized confines of Charleston, when we awoke to a flat left-rear tire. So, instead of seeing the Charleston sights, we spent the morning watching Hoda and the Andy Griffith Show in the Firestone waiting room while the TT got a well-earned set of new tires.

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The repair work set us back a bit time-wise, and I had a flight to catch at Raleigh Durham airport in the evening, so we had to hop on I-26 and I-95 to make some tracks. Once we got comfortable with the travel time, we decided we had enough time to stop for one last picturesque Southern lunch, this time at Johnson’s Fish in Manning, South Carolina. After a tasty lunch of fried (and very bony) fish, hushpuppies, blackeyed peas, cabbage, rice with gravy, and sweet tea, we got back on the back roads for the final few hours up to RDU.

We got to the airport in ample time for me to make my flight, which would cover in six hours what we had taken eight days to drive. I hopped out at the curb and cleared my bags out of the car, and Tyler and I gave each other a big hug. With that, I walked off to catch my flight back to Karen and Brian in California, and Tyler drove off to his life as a graduate student, and beyond.

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Travel maps for the last part of the trip follow! Click to enlarge…

Greetings from Plano – The Road Trip Continues

We have traveled a long way since I last posted, let me get y’all caught up!

When I last wrote, we had just reached Grand Junction, Colorado, and the lovely El Palomino motel. We slept well at El Palomino, and had an adequate (and free!) breakfast. Then we were back on the road, headed East.

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Our first diversion was to Aspen. Interesting place, beautiful setting with beautiful people. We followed a Tesla into town, saw a guy running errands in his Ferarri, and other interesting examples of the affluent at play. The weather was OK, not great, and the town was packed with viditors for the big Food and Wine festival.

As it was getting to be time for lunch, we decided to grab something to eat and see some sights. We killed two birds with one stone by taking a gondola ride to the top of Aspen Mountain, and having lunch on the patio there. A bit chilly and breezy, but all in all a great stop.

From Aspen we headed up to Independence Pass, a very high (over 12,000 feet) crossing of the continental divide. We took a walk around, were duly impressed, then got back on the road to Leadville.

Leadville is one of the highest reasonable-sized towns in the USA at over 10,000 feet, and, believe it or not, Karen’s mom was born there. We decided to stop and snap a picture or two to send to her, grabbed a cookie and some coffee, and continued to Denver.

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Looking at the clock, we decided we had time for one more diversion, so we left the freeway at Silverthorne and went north to Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive through the park was pretty amazing, it goes through long stretches well above timberline, with steep drops into deep valleys. As Tyler is not a big fan of heights, he was most comfortable driving avout 15 feet from the edge, well into the oncoming lane! He gladly relinquished the wheel at the earliest convenient opportunity.

I spent the night at the home of some old friends, Carolyn and Cody Sutherland, in Niwot, Colorado. Tyler had dinner with us, then spent the night with his friend Zach, who graduated a year ahead of him at Wake Forest.

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We were on the road by 9AM, headed in the general direction of Santa Fe. While not the most direct route, we decided it would allow us to enjoy some more lovely mountain scenery before spending some quality time on the prairie. We went south to Colorado Springs, where we saw some of my old haunts there, including Garden of the Gods (which looked fairly humble a day after Utah!) and Manitou Springs. We drove by my old house in Chipita Park, then got back on 24 for the drive through South Park.

Our next stop was Great Sand Dunes National Park, a really uniqu place where several miles of sand dunes have piled up against the mountains, completely devoid of vegetation and up to seven hundred feet in height. It was an interesting time to visit; the wind had come up to about forty miles an hour or so, and sand was swirling off the dunes. We wend for a short walk and were thoroughly sandblasted. Peapole were fleeing off of the dunes themselves, staggering through the wind and looking like the walking dead in a zombie movie as the came towards us in the dust and sand.

Taos is almost directly south of the sand dunes, so we decided to make a stop there. We were prey disappointed, actually. We both thought that it had the feel of a planned development rather than of an authentic place. We got our of the car in the plaza, took a quick picture, then got back on the road.

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Years ago, Karen and I had been through the area, and we ate lunch at a place in the small town of Chimayo. As I had fond memories of the place, and remembered it as being very authentic, we decided that would be our dinner stop. Rancho de Chimayo did not disappoint, and the margaritas and the food were delicious, and the atmosphere was a welcome relief from all the ersatz adobe of Taos.

As Taos was so disappointing, I was fully expected to experience the same feelings in Santa Fe, and was delighted to find this was not the case. Santa Fe was lively, charming, and authentic. We got a bargain on a room at the Hilton there, and took a walk around town before retiring for the night.

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Since we are both meeting friends in Dallas, we got on the road early on Monday, at 7:30 or so. Knowing that we had reached the end of the scenic portion of the trip, we decided it was time to put some serious mileage behind us, and hopped on 285 South, towards Roswell, and the long drive to the Lone Star State.

Not much to say about the drive, other than it was longer than we calculated. I had it in my mind that it was 570 miles, but I think that must have been as the crow flies. The shortes road route is more like 650 miles, and the route we selected was just over 700 miles.Seven hundred flat, straight miles!

 

We made it to Texas in plenty of time to meet with friends – Tyler with a friend from school, and me with John Little, a good rugby friend who is now a lawyer and bar owner. After a few beers and a delicious burger, it was time to head to Plano, and the opulence of the Fairfield Inn.

By the way, for those who are interested, here are maps of our route so far. Enjoy!

Time for a Road Trip!

Tyler has decided to stay at Wake Forest for one more year to get a Master’s degree. As a grad school student he will need to live off campus, and thus will need a car. Since our old Audi TT is basically gathering dust in the driveway, we decided the thing that made the most sense was for him to take that car out to North Carolina, rather than trying to find a car to buy out there. And what better way to get it there than to drive it ourselves, seeing some sights along the way!

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We left Thursday morning at around 8AM, headed across the Central Valley to Yosemite. We decided to cross the Sierra Nevada at Tioga pass, in the north part of Yosemite National Park. This is a high pass, for California anyway, and traverses Toulomne Meadows and other less crowded parts of the park.

On the way to Yosemite we passed through the site of last year’s Rim Fire, one of the largest forest fires in recent California history. The scope was truly incredible – mile after mile of dead trees, as far as the eye could see at every viewpoint. A bit sobering. The drive through Yosemite was as beautiful as we had hoped – I’ll let the pictures do the talking on this!

After descending from Tioga Pass, we did a quick jaunt past Mono Lake, then headed through the California desert to Nevada. Anyone who has driven across Nevada knows there is not much to see. It is basically known as Basin and Range country, which is exactly what it sounds like – cross over a range of mountains, then descend into a basin, cross it, and climb the next range. We amused ourselves by sighting the road as far ahead as we could see, and estimating the distance to the last visible part before curve or horizon – longest was 16.5 miles. Pretty in its own strange somewhat lunar way – all 300+ miles of it. We ended up stopping finally at the old mining town of Pioche, near the Utah border.

Neither of us slept that well, so we were on the road shortly after 6AM. After a ultra-hearty breakfast in Cedar City, Utah, we headed up into the mountains, bound towards Colorado. The drive across Utah was simply spectacular. We stopped at Bryce National Park and went hiking for about an hour to burn off some of the bacon from earlier. Leaving Bryce, we traversed the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, followed by Capitol Reef National Park.

By  the time we left Capitol Reef, we decided we’d seen enough sculpted red sandstone, so we determined that we would hightail it to Grand Junction, Colorado, in time to catch the minor league baseball game there. We checked into a motel and hustled to the game, making it into the stadium in the middle of the second inning.

For our troubled, we were treated to some of the most comically sloppy baseball we have ever seen! By the fifth inning we couldn’t take it anymore, and headed out to the local brewery to grab dinner and a beer. The beds at the El Palomino provided a lovely night’s sleep, we’ll see how the free breakfast measures up!

Miscellaneous Springtime Ventures

It has been a really fun Spring so far, and I figured I should document some stuff we have been doing. We started off in early March with a trip down to Scottsdale, Arizona, for Spring Training. This trip was a gift for my mother in law – my kids turned her into a big-time San Francisco Giants fan – and the whole family went along, with Tyler even flying out from North Carolina. Yes, he DOES make me look pretty small…

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We had beautiful weather, and as usual Spring Training was super fun. The baseball games are nice and relaxed, lots of families from all over the country, everyone in friendly spirits with little heckling and smack-talking. Small, intimate stadiums with warm sunshine, cold beer, and close-up views of the action. We saw a couple games, and Tyler and I played a round of golf. I celebrated my 53rd birthday down there, and for my present Karen got me a four-wheeler excursion in the desert with the boys – which was a complete blast. Click on any of the images below for a larger view!

Shortly after we returned, it was time for Corsair’s 20th Anniversary Party at the Ritz in San Francisco. Twenty years… hard to believe. Tyler had just turned one when we started the company, now he is about to graduate from college! Pictures from the party show that Karen and I actually clean up reasonably well, if I say so myself…

In early April we had the opportunity to take a quick trip up to Lake Almanor, to get things cleaned up and ready for summer. Karen and I took a side trip to nearby Domingo Springs, where we used to camp. Doesn’t get much prettier!

Finally, at the end of the month I traveled to the East Coast for the annual Yale Rugby alumni reunion. I decided to spend a few extra days and see some other friends and relatives while I was in the Northeast. In the Philadelphia area I visited the gravesite of my grandparents, Joe Jeanes and Louise Beekley Jeanes. These guys were a huge part of my childhood, and I still think of them often. It was a lovely day, and a lovely spot, and I sat on a bench there for quite a while having happy memories.

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After spending a lovely evening with Pat Reidy and his wife in Wyckoff, NJ, I set out for the Adirondacks. I got to spend some time with my 93-year-old Aunt Dottie, her daughter Ginger, her son Ed who was out from Wyoming, and my mom’s sister Julie and my Uncle Ken. It was really great to see everyone, and Lake George was lovely  and quiet in the off-season. Hoping maybe we will return this summer after we drop Brian off at Yale!

Rugby weekend was a blast, as always. Played a round of so-called golf on Friday at the Yale course, then rugby on Saturday. Banged up my shoulder a bit, but recovering faster than expected. And, from previous experience, I can give myself physical therapy; I know all the exercises!

Now it is time to prepare ourselves, emotionally and logistically, for Tyler’s graduation from Wake Forest on May 19. Oh boy…

NZ Finale – From Christchurch to Marlborough and Abel Tasman

Well, to start off, I will have to be honest and confess that due to poor internet connectivity, I am now finishing this travel log from the comfort (and bandwidth) of the computer in my office at home. So, I will probably keep things fairly brief (since I am tired!) and focus mainly on pictures this time.

We arrived in Christchurch on Wednesday night, and had a lovely dinner with some friends. In the morning, we took a walk around the Christchurch botanical gardens, which were beautiful, and through the city center, which is still quite devastated from the February 2011 earthquake. Quite sobering to see all the damaged and shuttered buildings, and entire city blocks which are completely cleared away. A monumental recovery effort is underway, but there is still a long way to go.

After exploring Christchurch we started our drive up towards the Marlborough wine region, near Blenheim. This drive is said to be one of the most beautiful in New Zealand, but unfortunately for us, there were low clouds most of the way, which obscured not only the sun, but also the mountains which come right up to the sea. Since conditions weren’t great, we pretty much powered through, and made it to Blenheim in time for an afternoon coffee.

Blenheim itself is not much to speak of, but the wine country itself is absolutely stunning. Wine tasting there is really low key, we were usually the only ones in the tasting room. While I am fairly familiar with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Cloudy Bay and other big producers are located in this region) I was very impressed with some of the other wined we tasted, particularly aromatic wines like Pinot Gris and (dry) Reisling. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were also very good, similar in character to Carneros here in California.

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After the wine region, we headed to the Marlborough Sounds, just a short drive away. The Sounds is a large region of tree-covered islands and peninsulas jutting from the mainland out into the Cook Straight, which is the body of water between the North and South Island. The contrast between the blue of the sea and the green of the hills is spectacular, and the (very small) lodge that we stayed at had a stunning view right down Queen Charlotte Sound. We took a nice hike on the Queen Charlotte Track to burn off some of the excesses of the wine country. Sunset was memorable.

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For the last leg of our trip, we headed West for an hour or so to the town of Nelson. We had arranged a three day sailing trip up to Abel Tasman National Park with a company called Gourmet Sailing. It would be an understatement to say that they lived up to both parts of their name!

During this little expedition we had a little bit of everything. From the sailing side, we started off with unusually powerful winds, gusting up to 35 knots at times, and pushing the boat to 8 or more knots with a reefed jib, and no other sails. We finished the trip with a lovely broad reach for 16 miles across Nelson Bay, with all sails fully deployed and a steady 15 knot breeze. In between, we did some kayaking, some lovely hikes in the national park, slept in some beautiful, peaceful anchorages, and ate tons of really good food. As they would say in NZ, it was absolutely brilliant!

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Once we made it back to the harbor, we went straight from the boat to the airport, hopped on a small turboprop from Nelson up to Auckland, then switched planes to a 747, and flew twelve hours across the Pacific and back to San Francisco.

Really difficult to summarize, other than to say… what a trip! Am awesome combination of otherworldly natural beauty, super friendly people everywhere, more opportunities to do fun things than you could possibly have the time to take advantage of, rugby everywhere, great food and wine, and only a three hour time difference so no jet lag! I suspect we will be back…

A Little Sun, a Little Rain, a Little Doubtful

We woke up Sunday morning to a beautiful sunny day. We started the day right with a lovely French breakfast in town. Then, it was time to see the sights!

The first thing we decided to do was to ride the Shotover jet boat. I had done a jet boat ride on the North island a few years ago, and they are a blast. Shotover is generally known as the first and best, so it was a must-do while in Queenstown.

The jet boat ride was as fun as I remembered. This one went racing through a narrow canyon at 40 mph or so, skimming by the canyon walls and doing 360’s in the wide section. There were Korean grandmas in the row behind us, squealing on each sharp turn. It was a crack up.

After the boat ride we decided to head to Queenstown to ride the gondola up the mountain. We had heard that the view was amazing there, and we figured we would check it out and then head put on a hike.

The top of the gondola seems pretty much to be the extreme sports capital of New Zealand, and therefore the world. From the skydeck, we could watch bungy jumpers, paragliders, downhill mountain bikers in full pads, zipliners flying through the forest, and luge-cart riders on a concrete track. We decided to skip all that stuff, if you can believe it.

We left the madness of the gondola and started our hike up Ben Lomond, the big mountain next to town. It was very clear and very hot. All in all, though, it was a magnificent hike. Check out a few pictures!

After our rigorous and vigorous hiking, we felt justified in returning to our more normal vacation activity; that is, eating,drinking, and generally chilling.

We awoke to rain on Monday morning. It was a driving day, so we checked out of Arrowtown and started heading south to Te Anau. Our plan was to head over the pass to Milford Sound, one of the most beautiful drives in NZ to one of the most beautiful places in NZ. Unfortunately things were attenuated a bit by the misty, cloudy, rainy weather, so while the drive was certainly impressive – dozens of thousand foot waterfalls were cascading off the cliffs due to the rain – it wasn’t exactly stunning.

After this misty journey we had a lovely dinner in Te Anau, headed to our accommodations in Manapouri, and called it a night.

Tuesday dawned a bit brighter, and we packed up for our 12-person overnight boat excursion on the misty and mysterious Doubtful Sound. This trip was awesome, no other way to describe it. We cruised the various as of the sound, did some kayaking, some fishing, and are plenty of seafood. We pulled in a lobster trap filled with enormous creatures, were followed by an albatross for a while, and almost crashed into porpoises while kayaking. All without a boat or human habitation in sight. Truly magical.

 

We had a nice sleep in our very cozy berth, and had an awesome breakfast of lobster legs. We got back to Manapouri around noon, had a leisurely and sunny drive back to Queenstown, and caught our short flight to Christchurch.