Black Bears and Gray Squirrels . . .

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Today was our monthly get-together with our Alvin Opry friends, this time at the Black Bear Diner down near us.

Jan and I have been eating at Black Bear Diners since 2011 when we discovered them out west. So we were real happy when they started to show up in Texas.

Opry Group - Black Bear 20220428

And as with our past visits, everything was delicious.

Jan and I both got the Bacon Cheeseburger Salad,

Black Bear Diner Bacon Cheeseburger Salad 2

with their really good, homemade, Bacon Ranch.

Then after getting our hugs and saying our goodbyes, Jan and I headed across the Interstate to pick up a few things at WalMart.

But of course, before we split up, we scheduled our get-together for next month.

More from our first visit to the Park of the Sierras in Coursegold, CA, at the entrance to Yosemite National Park.

April 28, 2010

Sitting out the bad weather . . .

It was supposed to be cold and rainy today so we decided to wait until tomorrow before visiting Yosemite National Park, and although we saw one burst of sunlight, the forecast turned out to be pretty accurate.

So about 12:30 we headed out to get some lunch and some groceries afterwards.

As we were leaving the park we saw a squirrel standing sentry on a rock right outside the gate. We tried to get a picture but he spooked before we could get the camera out.

Maybe when we come back.

We ended up going back to El Cid because we liked it so much last night. I wanted to have another bowl of their albondigas, Mexican meatball soup. We had some last night as an appetizer to our combo platters, but it was so good I decided to have just a bowl of it for lunch. And we got some more cactus pictures while we were there.


We also saw a pair of woodpeckers that, at first glance, I thought were red-headed woodpeckers. But after looking closer at the pictures, I realized they were something I hadn’t seen before. It turns out they are Acorn Woodpeckers.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker2

Heading back home we stopped off at Von’s to pick up some groceries.

Coming back into the park, we found our squirrel standing guard on his rock again.

GraySquirrel 1

GraySquirrel 2

Although it looks kind of brown in this picture, it’s a Western Gray Squirrel. And he was there almost every time we left or entered the park. Don’t know if he was the lookout, or just watching the traffic.

Tomorrow we’re going to drive up into Yosemite National Park. If we make the entire loop, it will be about a 200 mile trip.

And more Grand Canyon

April 29, 2011

Grand Canyon – Part II . . .

Here’s Part II of our Grand Canyon visit yesterday.

Today we visited the Bearizona Wildlife Park here in Williams, but I’ll save it for tomorrow’s blog since we’ll be traveling and won’t have much that is blog-worthy.

We walked further along the rim, just taking in the fantastic scenery.

Canyon Rock Face

This is a view of the legendary El Tovar Hotel looking back from Fred Harvey’s Lookout Studio.

El Tovar

More great views.

Canyon 10

Canyon Lookout 2

Around 1 pm we headed back around the rim to the Bright Angel Dining Room to have lunch. Unfortunately, the place was busy so we didn’t get a table by the window overlooking the canyon, but in consolation, the food was delicious.

Bright Angel Dining Rm

I had the BBQ Sampler Plate with chicken, ribs, and pulled pork, with two very tasty BBQ sauces, including a Prickly Pear Honey sauce.

Bright Angel Diner

Jan had a Pistachio Chicken Salad Sandwich on Ciabatta bread.

Bright Angel Diner 2

These people are heading down one of the many hiking trails. They start out along the rim,

Canyon Trail 1

then work their way thru the tunnel.

Canyon Trail 2

You can take the trail all the way to the bottom of the Canyon and on to the fabled Phantom Ranch

Canyon Trail 3

Phantom Ranch 1

The beginning of the bright green strip is where the Phantom Ranch is located.

Canyon Trail Full 2

Up close, it looks like this. It’s a 12 mile hike down here.

Phantom Ranch 2

And then another 4 miles along here, out to the edge of the bottom canyon.

Canyon Trail 14

I was really surprised Jan was able to do this. She has a real fear of heights so this was a feat for her. I’m really proud of her.

Canyon Rim Jan

I, on the other hand, am more like this guy. The higher, the scarier, the better. Jan calls it ‘riding that ragged edge”

I call it fun.

My Kind of Guy

Canyon 11

Canyon 12

Canyon 13

Heading back to the train depot, we took a quick detour into the El Tovar Hotel. While Jan was checking out the gift shop, I stuck my head in the main dining room. Talk about nice!

El Tovar Dining Room

Finally, about 3:15, we boarded our train car for the trip home.

Canyon Train Home

We pulled back into the Williams Train Depot about 5:45 and made our way back to the RV park a few minutes away.

A fantastic day!


April 28, 2014

High Road to China . . .

As we’ve done for the last several days, Jan and I sat outside this morning with our coffee and muffins, but not for very long. The last several mornings have either been partly cloudy or even overcast, but there was not a cloud in the sky today, and the sun was hot. In fact today was our high for the year with 92 degrees.

Time to head north.

On another front, my great nieces, Darby

Darby Calvin 2

and Stahlie Calvin

Stahlie Calvin 2

are going to be traveling to China in the next few weeks. These two beautiful young ladies are going to be volunteering at an American-run Special Needs Orphanage outside of Beijing for the summer, and then spend some time touring the country.

Our part in this comes about because the Chinese Consulate here in Houston is where you go to get your visas, so Jan and I are going to expedite things by handling it on this end.

Darby is overnighting the paperwork that should be here tomorrow. Then on Wednesday, Jan and I will take it down to the Consulate. If we get it in before 11:30, then we should be able to pick it up before 3pm.

One of my chores today was to install an additional support on the rig’s tailpipe. I noticed recently that the tailpipe that comes out of the muffler was loose at the joint. So I got some pipe hanging strap and ran a loop from the chassis down around the pipe and back up. I then put a bolt through the strapping to tighten it down around the pipe.

Tailpipe Hanger 2

The pipe is now solid and doesn’t move anymore, so this should take care of the problem.

Tomorrow we’re going down to the Clear Lake area to take care of some errands and get together with Chris, Linda, and Piper for a last dinner before we hit the road on Friday. Jan and Piper are also going to get mani/pedi’s.


What Happens In Vegas . . .

April 28, 2015

Off To See The Aliens . . .

or It’s A Small World After All.

We did pretty much nothing this morning, until we headed out for the afternoon. As we were leaving about 3pm, we started talking to the couple in 5’ver on our driver’s side. Turns out we knew each other. They were parked next to us at the Colorado River Thousand Trails when we were there with Nick and Terry this past January. It definitely is a small world, at least the RV part of it.

We first drove west on Flamingo over to the High Roller Observation Wheel to pick up our tickets for tomorrow night. They have to be picked up at least one hour before our 8pm ride, and we didn’t want to have to rush our dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville beforehand.

Leaving there we were heading east on Tropicana and overhead we saw an Alien Airlines flight coming in to land at the Las Vegas airport.

Janet Airliner

I didn’t have time to get my camera up so I got this photo off the Web. Officially called a JANET flight, it’s nicknamed Alien Airlines because it’s these planes that shuttle about a thousand workers back and forth to Area 51 every day. Notice there is no name on the plane, jus the red stripe. (Cue the Twilight Zone theme)

Leaving there we stopped off at the Sam’s Club over on Pecos Blvd. to pick up our prescriptions and a few other things. I also got a new set of frames for my eyeglasses. All I needed was a new earpiece, but they don’t sell them separately anymore, but I was able to buy a complete new frame for only $47, and the optometrist transferred my lenses to the new frames for me.

Then we headed back over to the Boulder Station Casino near the RV park for a visit to the buffet. Unfortunately we were running about 30 minutes later than we had planned, so we had a 40 minute wait in line before we got seated. But as usual, both the meal and the service were really good.

Finishing up our meal, and on our way out. we stopped off to put $20 in the Megabuck’s Progressive Slot. That’s our normal gambling limit when we’re here in Vegas, but usually we try out the regular slots. But we figured that if we’re going to blow $20, why not have a chance at megabucks, instead of a few thousand.

Megabucks Slot

In fact, two weeks ago, someone won over $10 million on one of these Megabucks slots here in Las Vegas So why not us?

But unfortunately, it was not to be.

But there’s always next time.


From Budapest, Hungry

April 28, 2019

I Made A Boo-Boo . . .

In preparing for our trip, I’ve been making checklists for months, I.e. what we’re going to take, what we need to buy, what we need to do in the rig right before we leave, etc. And even checklists for what gets packed in carry-on and what gets packed in our checked bags.

However, what I didn’t do was have an item on one of my many checklists that would remind me to grab up my computer bag, containing my laptop, tablet, and Kindle Fire, and my Panasonic Lumix camera that I was just going to carry with me.

So they’re still sitting on the passenger seat in the rig, right where I can see them on one of my 3 Wyze security cams that I set up in the rig. And which is why this is the first blog I’ve posted since we left.

This morning after a fantastic (and free) breakfast at the hotel, we took a taxi over to the Mammut Mall. Mammut means ‘Mammoth’, and it is. And it even has one out front.

Mammut Mall Mammoth

It’s made up of two LARGE buildings on opposite sides of the street, and connected by a glass walkway on the 2nd level. And there are about six levels, including the large SPAR grocery store in the basement.

Mammut Mall

Mammut Mall 2

Besides wanting to see the place that everyone was talking about, one of the guys at the Viking Concierge Desk said that was a good place to buy a laptop, and it was, and it’s what I’m typing on now.

I got a good deal on an ASUS model, and the deal got even better when I mentioned that the Viking guy had sent me.

Afterwards we spent a couple of hours walking around, checking the many shops and stores. And it seems KFC and BK translate into any language.

Mammut KFC BK

While got a Strawberry gelato, made with fresh strawberries, I got a Caramel Coffee at Starbucks right next door.

Mammut Starbucks

And over here it seems if your not getting your coffee to go, it comes in a nice porcelain mug. Much more elegant.

So I’ll spend the next couple of days catching up the blog on how we got to this point.

When the bellhop got us a taxi at the hotel, we knew we would be OK, since they’ve vetted by the hotel and know if they gouge the hotel’s guests, they won’t be allowed to pick up passengers there any longer. But at the Mall you’re on your own, and apparently it’s real easy to get screwed on the fare, even to the point of being physically threatened if you don’t pay up.

The taxi service in Hungary has been referred to as ‘Mafia-like’ and has even managed to have ride services like Uber and Lyft completely banned throughout the entire country.

So, coming back to the hotel, we decide to try the bus system. And with Google’s help, we had no real problems, and even got to ride for free, since apparently most people use passes. The website says it costs 450 HUF (about $1.56) for a single ride without a transfer. But when Jan and I held out our 500 HUF notes he just waved us in. Probably didn’t want to fool with making change.

The bus dropped us off right in front of Matthias Church,

Matthias Church

and across from the Fisherman’s Bastion,

Fisherman's Bastion

which is just half a block from our hotel.

Hungary’s money takes a little getting used to. It’s called the Forint, as in Hungarian Forint, or HUF. And the exchange is kind of interesting.

1000 HUF is about $3.46, so you end with some very large numbers in prices. According to placard in our room. it cost 160,000 HUF a night. And if we wanted a view of the Danube, it would be 180,000 a night. And that’s $553 and $622 respectively. Though I doubt Viking is paying that much a night.

But for your $500+ a night you do get a great room,

Hilton Budapest Room

and a fantastic breakfast. And this not some typical hotel fare of do-it-yourself waffles and stale cereal in little boxes. No, this is pretty much every thing you can think of for breakfast, and even more. But I’ll have more on this tomorrow as I catch up.

This evening Jan and I again had dinner at the LANG Bistro & Grill, the hotel’s main restaurant. And not only is the décor very elegant,

Hilton Budapest Grill

but the closeup view of the Fisherman’s Bastion out our window  

Fisherman's Bastion from LANG Bistro

was very picturesque as well.

For dinner Jan had the same Paprika Chicken that I had last night,

Hilton Budapest Grill Jan's Chicken

which is a rolled Chicken Breast in a delicious sauce, on top of gnocchi noodles, all covered in sour cream. It also came with a Cold Pickled Cucumber Salad made with very thinly sliced cucumbers, topped with, what else, Paprika, which seems to the the National Spice of Hungary, since it’s in pretty much everything,

I figured that since I was in Hungary I should try a bowl of Hungarian Goulash.

Greg's Goulash

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was pretty much just Beef Stew, with tender chunks of beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and, I think, parsnips, in a spicy (paprika?) sauce. But very, very good anyway.

For dessert we had coffee, and split a delicious Crème Brule. We felt as much as we had walked today, we deserved it.

Hilton Budapest Grill Creme Brulee

Wrapping up, early tomorrow afternoon we’ll board the Skirnir, our Viking cruise ship,  but we won’t actually sail until Tuesday night, after a day of excursions here. Then our next stop is Vienna, Austria.

Thought For The Day:

Lifehack: you can’t do anything wrong if you don’t do anything at all.



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