Aboard

Gotta love a commuter jet in Economy!

Next stop Miami and the Hyatt Place Airport East for our last night on land for 14.

Almost time!

We are finishing up our packing today and Mike is at the barber getting his old man faux hawk. Lois is taking us to Greensboro airport tomorrow afternoon for our 6:30 pm flight to Miami.

Monday, we met with the flooring people and they had a sample of wood that matches what is already in the entry, dining, and kitchen. We are going to extend it to the rest of the unit except for the bathrooms which are tiled. We then also met with the painter and after reviewing the paint samples Mike had put on the walls earlier, we selected Sherwin Williams “Crushed Ice”. It’s a white that has a little bit of gray to it, it looks good with the existing builder’s beige tile and white trim. We are hoping that the paint and floor will update the condo from it’s early 2000s!

Yesterday was another long day. With the help of Lois’ Danville fireman friend, we loaded up a rental sprinter van with the few things we had stored here in Danville and unloaded them at our new place in Raleigh. After the firemen left, Mike and I got all the kitchen stuff unpacked, run through the dishwasher and into the cabinets. So we are as unpacked as we can be. Doesn’t take a lot when you don’t have much! LOL

We left the little bit of furniture (bed, chair, dining table) in the center of the dining room and kitchen so that while we are gone, the wood floor can be extended . And so it will be out of the painter’s way. Hopefully when we return in May we will be able find some furniture and get settled into our new home.

May? But wait Clay I thought you were going to be gone until June? We got a notice last week from American that our flight home in June had changed and we both read it as saying our first flight from Bilbao to Madrid was leaving late in the afternoon and we would have to overnight in Madrid. On the same day, all the One World partner’s announced a biz class sale from Paris to various places in the US. So we figured we would use the schedule change to cancel and redeposit the award points for our original flight and come back early.

So we are now booked on the same flights that our niece Madison and her friend Katie are on from Paris to Charleston (RDU wasn’t included in the sale). We will spend a few days with my brother and his wife and then take the train to Raleigh.

Unfortunately, either we read the schedule change wrong or it was a mistake originally-the schedule change was actually on our connection from Philadelphia to RDU and would have gotten us back an hour or two earlier. But since corona is playing havoc with airline schedules, we are keeping our fingers crossed that their is another schedule change that allows us to freely redeposit our points. If not then it will cost us $175 and another wasted $160 for the exit row seats we bought. But given the business class seats were only $1,291 each roundtrip we believe it is still a good exchange.

Yes, that’s right, it means we will be headed back to Paris in November and hopefully catching a deal on a cruise back before Christmas. We think we may spent a week or so and visit some Christmas markets in France and Germany. Time will tell what we end up doing.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll stay tuned as we make our third Viking transatlantic cruise!

Roadtrip

So as noted in my last post, I’m not going to be able to do blog posts on each of our stops between Vegas in late October and Raleigh in February. Instead I’m going to list our itinerary and include some pictures. Above is a map of our general routing.

10/26 Drive to Las Vegas 1 hours go through red rock canyon.

10/27 Las Vegas 10/28 Drive to Hoover Dam


10/29 Drive to Williams 3.5 hours Motel 6 Williams West. Booked with hotels.com $54


10/30 Drive thru Grand Canyon to 2285 Roadrunner Road Sedona. 2 hours via cameron (loose an hour)


10/30-10/31 Sedona


11/1 -11/3 drive to 2401 E Mabel St Tucson (3:45 hours) and stay with Jeff and Ken


11/4 Drive 4 hours to Las Cruices reserved Drury Inn hotels.com $116 cancelable


11/5 Drive 4 hours to Santa Fe Hyatt, booked with Mike’s Promo


11/9 someplace halfway to Arlington

11/10 -11/11 Dallas

Houston 11/12-11/28 Houston 1100 Augusta Drive 28, Houston, TX 77057,

11/29 Baton Rouge


11/30 Biloxi with Chris and Jen

12/1 Tallahassee

12/2 Winter Park with Barry

12/3 Fort Lauderdale

12/4 – 12/11 Hollan American Veendam

12/12-12/13 Greenville, SC

12/14-12/27 Danville, VA (Mike’s Family) and a weekend in Raleigh

12/27-12/30 Ladson, SC (Clay’s family)

12/31 Richmond,VA – New Years Eve with Frances and Larry

1/1/20-1/27/20 Arlington, Va -Visit with Yost and Sam

1/27-2/23 Raleigh, NC

2/23-3/5 Danville, VA

Beautiful but windy and freezing day at the Grand Canyon
Incredible to see the cave houses on our drive from Sedona to Tucson
Great stay (and desert sunset) in Tucson with Jeff and Ken
Beautiful downtown Santa Fe
The 48oz steak challenge at Big Texan. We elected to watch rather than compete!
Cadillac Ranch on the way to Dallas
Texas BBQ with Karen in Dallas
Visits with Houston friends and a haircut!

Short visit in Beaumont to visit Clay’s aunt and meet her great grandchild
Overnight with Mike’s brother and family in Biloxi
So glad to get some south in our mouth!
Overnight with Clay’s college chum Barry and his family in their just renovated mid century house in Winter Park, Florida
Lunch with Clay’s coworker from our Key West days, Verlie (and her boytoy Sam) on the way to the cruise
Holland America Veendam, our home for a cheap week
Fun in Greenville with longtime friends Klase and Claudia
After 15,466 road miles, 7,986 air miles, 921 train miles and 7,647 nautical miles on ships, we made it back to Danville, Virginia
It was great to have a real kitchen to do some Christmas baking
Visit with Jane at her new place in Raleigh-hard to believe a year ago we spent time with her before Christmas in Kentucky
Fun time seeing a Christmas play in Raleigh
Christmas dinner at Mike’s mom’s
Fun times with Clay’s brother and family after Christmas
New Years Eve in Richmond with Frances (and Larry)
Fun times in the DC area with friends, former coworkers and museums
Great reconnecting with George and Doug in Raleigh
Clay enjoyed Galentines with former Heery coworkers
Fun lunch with Linda while in Raleigh
Cheered the Carolina Hurricanes (hockey) to victory one night
And the perfect snow….Beautiful one day, gone the next!

Just finished packing so once we move our few things into our new place on Tuesday we should be ready to go on Thursday. Hope you’ll tag along. I’ll be trying to post as we go.

News!

So first of all, I am not going to get finished blogging about the finish of our roadtrip. While I hate that as we visited some beautiful places and had a great time that I would love to share, there just isn’t enough time to do it justice between now (Sunday, March 1) and Thursday when we fly to Miami. Instead immediately following this post I am going to do one last post that will show our route and thank those friends we met along the way. If you have any questions about any of our stops, feel free to ask in the blog.

So the main reason I haven’t gotten done is we have bought a condo! While in Raleigh last month we decided it would be prudent to re-familiarize ourselves with the real estate market there. It is a very hot market particularly in the under $250,000 price range. Most places stay on the market less than a day. Some are sold before they are listed. Our thought had been we would be able to remove potential condominiums from consideration and be ready to make a purchase when we return from Europe later in the spring.

However, a unit became available at a good price that ticked all our boxes-well almost-we can’t grill and it’s in the Country Club which is an expense we really don’t think will serve us much. But otherwise it’s pretty perfect-or will be after some paint and hopefully a little more matching wood floor.

So, after two years of looking around the world, we end up back in Raleigh. While we loved almost everywhere we visited, it was just that a visit…the call of being close to family and friends won out over the excitement and adventure of becoming Ex-pats. We hope to still travel a good bit though I suspect until the stock market recovers from the Corona Recession, it won’t be quite as much as we like.

We closed last Friday, are moving the little bit of furniture and boxes we have in on Tuesday and leave Thursday afternoon for Miami. We board Viking Sky on Friday and sail to Barcelona disembarking on March 20. From there we will spend about a week in southern Spain including connecting with Elizabeth (we met on our cruise to Japan) in Granada and Malaga before we fly to Budapest for three weeks. Our friends Larry & Doug from outside Chicago will meet us there in early April and after a week there, we are all going to Kraków for a week. They fly back and Mike and I stay until April 21st when we fly to London to meet our niece Madison and her BFF and doubles partner Katie. With them we will stay 5 nights in London and then 5 nights in Paris before we all fly back together on May 2nd. Initially we had planned on staying longer but the One World airlines had a biz class sale yesterday that meant we were able to purchase round trip tickets for under $1,300 each. So we will be making a trip back in November (hopefully with our friends Fraser and Brian) to Spain and/or Portugal. Mike and I are watching a Viking transatlantic that would get us back to states by mid December. So maybe we will have Christmas at our new place this year instead of traveling to others.

Anyhow, sorry again about cutting the roadtrip blog short but hope you understand I’ve been unexpectedly busy the last two weeks. Here are some pictures of our new place, hopefully soon it will be prettier than it is now especially if we can get the wood floor extended to the door to the balcony. And hope you’ll come visit-but wait for us to get a bes for the guestroom please

Las Vegas

This post about our visit last October is being written in February.

Using Mike’s credit card 4th night free we were in Vegas for that many nights…which was at least three too many for us! We aren’t gamblers, the ticket prices for the shows were crazy ($400 for nose bleed seats for GaGa for example), if you can find anyone in the title picture that looks glamorous let me know and apparently Elvis uses a hover-round. So it wasn’t the rat pack atmosphere I guess I expected. I was impressed with the exterior escalators moving the hordes from one casino to another up and over the streets. I was not impressed with the pungent pot odor everywhere. I expected it in Portland and it wasn’t objectionable there. But here it was everywhere. I guess we were the only two folks not high. I also found most of the architecture underwhelming. But I expected that going in, we hadn’t expected to find showgirls in the street asking to have our picture taken with them. I guess they make money by charging you?

We elected to try one buffet for lunch. It was impressive (especially the bone marrow) but not sure it was worth the $45 price tag.

After our buffet lunch we walked up the strip and watched one of the fountain shows at the Bellagio.

And then we tried to win some money on slots using the free money that the casino provided us for joining their loyalty club. Unfortunately, we were not successful.

The most enjoyable things we did in Vegas were a daytrip to Hoover Dam and having a drink with Mike’s cousin Meredith who was in town to lead a panel discussion for a convention.

While the dam itself was incredibly impressive it was the emergency overflow troughs that I found most interesting. They have only been used once or twice when the water level reached too high. You can see the water line on the Rick Wall face beyond-it’s the whiter line against the red clay color.

So, it appears we won’t be making Vegas a regular hangout. Glad we went but for us what happens in Vegas is more than welcome to stay right there! 😂

Death Valley

This post is being written in February long after the events described below which took place in October 2020

For those of you expecting a post about Las Vegas, my apologies. When I closed out the Yosemite entry, I forgot that we went through Death Valley to get to Vegas. So that will be the next post…I promise!

As with our other visits to parks, we stayed at one edge of the park (this time barely inside at Panamit Springs) and after our day in the park on the other side-in this case Pahrump Oasis (poor man’s Vegas!).

On the drive from Oakhurst California where we spent the night of our Yosemite day, we drove through the California green belt-mile after mile of irrigated fruit trees and we even saw the anti Devin Nunes sign that his cow had told me about on Twitter!

Shortly thereafter we noticed a lot of planes parked at an airport and thought perhaps we had found all the 737 Max planes that had been taken out of service. Turns out some of them were there but also lots of other planes in the graveyard and parked here for maintenance.

We then drive cross country through what was about a ghost town which he once served as the processing center for all the borax mined in Death Valley. We also watched our odometer turn over from 9999.9 miles hoping to see 10,000 miles…imagine our disappointment when it flipped to 0.1! So after 161 days, we had driven 10,000 miles

We soon reached Panamit Springs which had some camp sites as well as small cabins. While small and rustic, it was a nice stop for the night and the stars after dark were just incredible. The title picture of this post was taken as the sunset behind us and turned our view of the mountain to a beautiful pink.

We were up early the next morning and started our drive through America’s desert. What a desolate landscape!

We stopped at what is left of one of the Borax mines. Interesting that something that was once such an important commodity is now difficult to find and hardly ever used.

Our next stop was Badwater Basin, Death Valley’s salt flats. This was the first place we first felt real heat. It got up into the 90s, I can’t imagine what it is like in the middle of summer! I guess that is part of what packs the salt so hard.

Badwater Basin is located 282 feet (855 meters) below sea level. The white circle below is around a sign up the mountains marking sea level.

On our way from the salt flats we took a couple of mile (roundtrip) hike to see Death Valley’s natural bridge. Amazing to see the path water created.

Our last stop inside Death Valley was to see Artists Palette-a scientifically explainable phenomenon which creates colored terrain along this drive near the bottom of the mountains.

After leaving the park, we drove to Pahrump Oasis where we stayed at our cheapest hotel accommodations to date-$35 at a Casino Hotel. We even ate their buffet. It was nothing special (and certainly not a feast!) but after a long day in the car and the tiring hike in the heat, we enjoyed the cheap evening and went to bed early. Next post will be about our four day stay in Las Vegas-our first! Will it be our last?

Federal Way to Yosemite

This post is being written in February about our roadtrip last October)

After a great two days in Federal Way with Andy (including a delicious prime rib dinner, great conversation and Autumn leaves), Mike and I found ourselves back in the car headed south and then east.

Among our stops, we will finish out our visits to the big National Parks with stops at Yosemite, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon. We also will also visit Las Vegas, Sedona, Tucson, Santa Fe and Dallas before getting to Houston in November for doctor and friend visits. From there we will continue East towards Florida for a cheap early December cruise and then back to Danville for Christmas and to Charleston just afterwards.

In order to get the blog caught up before we leave in less than two weeks, I’m only going to hit the highlights. If you see someplace we have been that you’d like to know more about, drop me a comment and I’ll be glad to answer any questions.

After a lovely night in the Anchor Inn and RV Park in Oakridge Oregon, we made a stop at Crater Lake where we saw snow for the first time in awhile.

Amazing how tall the edge of road markers have to be!

We drove through mile after mile of fruit trees fruit fields and stopped and bought some along the way. We soon entered California and were taken aback by the high price of gasoline! Thankfully we filled up in Oregon and only had to buy one tank of gas while in the state.

We spent a night in Lee Vining as our entrance point to Yosemite. It is on the dry side of the Sierra Range and is located on a huge lakebed that is slowly drying up. Los Angeles used to take water from here but a relatively recent lawsuit stopped that so they are hopeful that someday there will be a wet period and it will fill back up.

We got up early (very!) the next morning and headed into Yosemite through Tioga Pass. This steep (also very!) road up to the Yosemite High Country was a beautiful drive.

The sun rising behind our backs as we headed up the Tioga Road

Our first view of Yosemite from Olmsted (yes that Olmsted and his son) Point.

We continued through the park and stopped to take in the beauty. Unfortunately, many of the waterfalls had finished for the season and those that were running were a trickle of what they do in the spring and early summer. Will just have to go back sometime!

After our ride through the valley and a short hike across the grasslands, we stopped at the Ahwahnee. Like the places in Yellowstone it is beautiful, unlike them it’s on a more intimate scale. I would love to stay here sometime.

From the lodge we headed uphill (way uphill!) to Glacier Point to get an overview of the park from this high point on the opposite side of the park from Olmsted. Beautiful views of Half Dome but boy is it a long way down! Hard to believe those folks back in the olden days not only hiked up but then climbed out on the cantilevered rock.

After getting our breath back, we headed for our last stop of the day, Mariposa Grove to see the Giant Sequoias. Wow, just wow. Not much else I can say!

We left Yosemite just before dark after a long but great day. Yosemite is beautiful but did not impress us as much as Yellowstone. Perhaps we have become jaded? Perhaps the lack of wildlife? Or maybe if we had of been there in the spring when the waterfalls were at full power? I guess we will just have to go back. But first, Las Vegas! Our first time there…will it be our last? Stay tuned to find out.