Bored And Lonely . . .

Nothing noteworthy happened at work today, and Karma and I are already bored out of our minds with Jan gone, so today you to check out more of our good memories.

Another One From Jan’s Bucket List


May 2, 2010

Hearst Castle…

We left the rig about 9 am heading for San Simeon and Hearst Castle about 180 miles away. We stopped for lunch about noon in Paso Robles at Big Bubba’s Bad BBQ. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. The real problem is that we didn’t think their sauce was very good.

Famous Dave’s BBQ is much better, as well as Sonny’s BBQ, a restaurant chain in the Southeast. And, of course, Central Texas BBQ in Pearland, TX, and Rudy’s BBQ is Austin, and…well, I guess we just like southern BBQ better than California BBQ.

And don’t forget Big Daddy’s Northernmost Southern BBQ in Fairbanks, AK. Man, it was good! Even in Alaska, it’s still southern BBQ, so it counts.

We got to Hearst Castle about 1:15 pm for our 2 pm tour. We’d made reservations on the Internet to be sure we wouldn’t have any problems getting in after that long drive.

While we waiting for our bus ride up to the Castle, I took some pictures from the Observation Deck in back of the Visitor’s Center.

This is what it looked like at 18X mag.

Hearst Castle

And this is how far it actually is from the road. That’s it at the top of the hill in the very center of the picture.

Hearst Castle LV

And this is what the hills look like in the area.

Hearst Castle2

The driveway leading up to the Castle is 5 miles long and takes about 15 minutes. You go from about 50 feet elevation to 1700 feet at the top of the hill.

This is the entrance we saw as we got off the bus. Pretty impressive.

Hearst Entrance

And looking back from the front this is what we saw. You can see part of the road here.

Castle View

They even have their own cellphone tower up here. This is the first one I’ve seen where the camouflage actually seems to work. That’s it in the center with the thick trunk.

Cell Tower

We were real impressed by this entrance until we found out this is the entrance to one of the three guest houses. Wow!

GuestHouse

And here’s two of the four bedrooms in this guest house.

GuestHouse1

GuestHouse2

And here’s another view down the mountain from the guest house. Our tour guide said “it’s one thing to have a great view. It’s another thing to OWN the view.”

At one time William Randolph Hearst owned 50 miles of coastline along here. Now they only own 19 miles. Bummer!

Castle View3

There are gardens and fruit trees everywhere.

Rose

Next we saw the Outdoor Pool, one of two on the estate. This was really incredible!

You can rent this pool for a pool party for you and 49 friends for two hours for the small sum of $2500.00

OutdoorPool

Walking toward the entrance to the main house we saw this Egyptian statue. It’s the oldest piece of artwork on the estate. It’s from the 18th dynasty, or about 3500 years old. That’s older than King Tut, or older than Moses.

Egyptian

This is the beautiful front of the “Casa Grande” or Great House, along with another beauty.

GrandEntrance

And here are the towers on top. The place is so big it’s hard to get it all in one picture.

Towers

Here’s the living room.

LivingRoom

Here’s a close up of the wooden panels in the in living room ceiling. They’re from a Italian castle and are over 600 year old.

HearstCeiling

Next was the dining room. Looks like something out of King Arthur.

DiningRoom

The main house has over 12,000 sq.ft of… closets. There is a total of 73,000 sq.ft. of usable space in the house. This is the parlor.

Parlour
The last stop on our tour was the indoor pool.

IndoorPool

IndoorPool2

And yes, that’s 22 kt gold fused into every tile, on the walls, the ceiling, and the bottom of the pool.

GoldTile

Leaving the indoor pool area, we boarded our bus and headed back down the hill. On the way we couldn’t help but compare the Hearst Castle with the Biltmore in Asheville, NC that we visited last year.

To me, the biggest difference was that at the Biltmore, we were not allowed to take any photos at all, of any kind. So we really have no record of our visit, except for the outside of the house. At Hearst Castle, as long as we didn’t use flash, there was no problem.

After we got back down the hill to the Visitor’s Center, we watched a 40 minute movie about the design and construction of Hearst Castle. One surprising fact was that the entire place was designed by a woman, Julia Morgan, who also supervised the construction.

Leaving the movie theater we headed over to the gift shop for a quick walk-thru. On the way there we passed the sales booth for Hearst Ranch Beef. The Hearst family still runs one of the largest beef ranches in California, and sells their beef around the world.

HearstBeef

Leaving Hearst Castle we traveled about 5 miles north to the Elephant Seal viewing area. Parking and walking over to the fence and looking down, we saw this.

And we’re thinking “Neat. Elephant Seals”

ElephantSeals

Then we turn our heads and look north a little further up the beach and it’s “OMG! It’s wall-to-wall elephant seals as far as the eye can see. They look like they’re dead, but they’re just heavy sleepers.

ElephantSeals2

These guys are big, and surprisingly fast. And they bite too!

ElephantSeal

Also, flying overhead, was a flight of pelicans, one of Jan’s favorite animals.

Pelicans

Leaving the seals, we drove 30 miles south to Morro Bay to spend the night. We checked into the Pacific Shores Inn and then went to dinner right on the bay at The Galley Seafood Restaurant. Jan said it was probably the best fried shrimp she had ever had. And I had a salad that was delicious.

This is the view from the restaurant.

MorroBay

Seagull

And this is Morro Rock that rests right out in the middle of the bay. It’s 581 feet tall and was first charted by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. It’s actually a volcanic plug that was formed when lava hardened in the vent of an ancient volcano about 20 million years ago.

Morro_Rock_1
After dinner we stopped next door at Crills II for cinnamon buns for breakfast. A friend had recommended them and we had to give them a try.

Then it was back to the motel for the night. Tomorrow we’re going to drive down the coast a little further, maybe as far as Santa Barbara, before heading back home.

Another Day In The Life Of A Gate Guard


May 2, 2012

Sales Day . . .

Apparently at this Marathon site, Monday is Sales Day. At our earlier gate, it was Tuesday and Thursday. Don’t know yet if they have more than one day a week here yet.

Sale Day is when all the sales people come into the site to try and sell their products and services to the “Company Man”. He’s the head guy over the entire site, in this cases, from Marathon Oil. At our last site it was Petrohawk.

Anyway, they seem to have a better class of sales people here, or at least cuter. All we got for sales people with Petrohawk was grizzled old oil guys. But here, like in the pharmaceutical industry, a number of cute young women called on the Company Man on Monday.

Don’t know if they sold anything, but the view was certainly better. BTW I get to talk about the cute sales women since Jan gets to talk about the cute guy oilfield workers. Turnabout is fair play.

FWIW, there’s a day Company Man and a night Company Man, but both of them live onsite. They seem to only leave to get groceries and the like.

Since this is a 24 hour gate we’re working longer hours, but not 12 in a row. I work from 2pm to 6pm and Jan works from 6pm to 11pm. Then I take over at 11pm and work till 7am. Then Jan finishes up with a 7am to 2pm shift.

So I work an 8 hour shift and a 4 hour shift, and Jan works a 7 and a 5.

The work is certainly not hard, and kind of entertaining in a way, watching the drilling rig operate and all the different trucks come in. All we do is write down the name, company, license plate number, and time when a vehicle enters. Then when they leave, we write down the time and if they were injured on site while here. This is something that we didn’t have to do with Petrohawk.

For all this hard work we make $1000 every 8 days ($125/day).

And we do have a nice view.

Petrohawk Sunset 1

The last few nights it’s been kind of cool here, cool enough to make me put on a jacket. The temp has been in the low 70’s, but with the constant wind, the wind chill makes it much cooler.

Last night they must have had a problem on the rig because alarms started going off and guys came running out of the trailers and up the tall stairs to the rig control room.

Marathon Rig Closeup

But after a few minutes, the alarm stopped and everyone went back to bed.

That’s about it for today, Another wonderful day in the life of an oilfield gate guard.

Again With Las Vegas


May 2, 2013

No, We Won’t . . .

Stubborn-men

It sounds strange, but it looks like we came to Las Vegas to cool off. The low last night was 54 and it barely made it to 80 today, about 20 degrees cooler than it was in Apache Junction last week. By Monday we’re supposed to get some rain with a high of 73. Very nice.

And it was cool enough last night to turn off the AC and open the windows, so it made for nice sleeping weather.

After coffee and a quiet morning, Jan and I headed out for the afternoon about 2pm. Our first stop was a nearby CVS for some things, and then it was on to our ultimate destination, Lindo Michoacan, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas.

Lindo Michochan 1

We discovered it in 2010, came back in 2011, and it was our very first place to eat on this trip. It’s been voted Best Mexican Food in Las Vegas since 2004. And it’s a well-deserved award.

Located on a hill in Henderson, the wall-to-wall windows give you a great view of the Vegas skyline.

Lindo Michochan Skyline

Jan tried their Shrimp Chili Rellenos, and I had my usual Pork Carnitas a la Coca-Cola. You can’t believe how good this is.

Lindo Pork Carnitas a la Coca-Cola

The Coke gives it a little bit of a caramel taste that combined with the pork chunks makes for a great taste.

Heading toward home, we made a stop at the Camping World down in Henderson where I was looking for some cabinet latches, and then on to an Albertson’s where Jan was looking for a special salad dressing. Neither of us were successful.

But it did wrap up a very nice day.


Wrapping Up With Jan’s Oncologist


May 2, 2014

We decided to go for Mild Discomfort this time . . .

First off, Jan and I want to thank everyone for their good wishes and prayers. We’re really sorry that we’ll have to miss the upcoming Escapade, and of course, we won’t be able to give our Gate Guarding seminar. But next year’s Escapade will be in Tucson, AZ starting March 8th, 2015, and we plan to be there.

Once again this morning Jan and I, and Mister, of course, sat outside and had our coffee and the last of the Hruska’s kolaches that we got the other night when we had hamburgers there. But it was warming up pretty fast and we finally came in after a short time.

Jan had been waiting for a call from the oncologist to get an appointment for any possible treatment recommendations. And of course they had to call while I was on the phone with my niece Darby, updating her on the Chinese Consulate visa situation.

When Jan did call the oncologist’s office she ended up playing phone tag for a while until they finally called back about 2:30 and set Jan’s appointment for next Friday, May 9th.

Of course this eliminates our last-ditch leave date of Wednesday, May 7th to be able to make the Escapade in Goshen. But it always was a slim chance, anyway.

I checked with Fantastic Fan about the replacement lift motor they were sending me, and found out it was going to be delivered to Brandi’s today. So our delay in leaving means we’ll be able to get the part before we leave, and also we’ll be able pick up the Chinese visas from the Consulate on Wednesday.

About 4:15 Jan and I headed out for dinner. On our way we stopped off at the park office to pay up on my 50 amp fees here at the park. When we checked in we planned on leaving for Elkhart today, so I only paid for 11 days instead of the full 14 we were registered for. So I wanted to stop off and pay for the remaining 3 days.

That done, we headed up to Ellinger to Peters BBQ to have the Friday Night BBQ and Seafood Buffet one last time. Figured since we had to stay here extra days, we might as well enjoy it as much as possible.

Well, I guess ‘enjoy’ is a relative word. Last Friday night we ‘enjoyed’ it so much that we hurt afterwards. So this time we decided to go for just Mild Discomfort and didn’t go back for seconds. But then what’s the use of going to a buffet, if you don’t do seconds.

It’s a real quandary.

Now that things have settled down, I’m probably going to try to install the new slideout shear pin, along with a few other chores around the rig. Though we didn’t head out to Elkhart today, we still have to move back to the Lake Conroe Thousand Trails on Monday, our 3rd visit this year.

Actually when all of this started, I booked us back and forth between Colorado River and Lake Conroe all the way through the end of August, since we didn’t know at the time how this was going to play out. So as soon as we finally hit the road, probably next Saturday or Sunday, I’ll go online and cancel all the rest of the reservations.


Gambling In Vegas


May 2, 2015

Jan Did Good!

Jan had wanted to try out the Breakfast Buffet at Boulder Station so we headed out about 9:45, and as usual, we had about a 30 minute wait to get a table.

I’m still unsure about the business model here. The amount of customers that it takes Boulder Station 30 to 40 minutes to seat, could be handled by Golden Corral or Ryan’s in 10 minutes or less. So what’s up with that?

As you’re standing in line, you can look in at all the tables and see that a third or more of them are empty, with many of them with dirty dishes still on them. It appears that they really don’t have busboys (buspeople?), and the waitresses have to clean them off.

You do see some restaurants who slow down seating people to keep the kitchen from getting overwhelmed.  But that’s not the problem here, because there’s always plenty of room for more people on the buffet, and plenty of food also.

The real holdup is that they seat guests individually, one group at a time, instead of letting everyone find their own table, like at Golden Corral or Ryan’s. And of course, the waitresses have to clean a table so someone can be seated there.

The only advantage that I can see for them to do it this way, is that it allows them to have the separate entrance line set up to give high rollers (people who have the higher grade privilege cards) expedited access to the buffet. So maybe that’s it.

So hire some people bus the tables and let people seat themselves. That’s my solution, but then they didn’t ask me. They never do.

But Boulder Station made up for our frustration by this.

Jan's Slot Win Voucher

Leaving the Buffet Jan decided she wanted to play the Megabucks Slot Machine again. So we put in $21 which would give us 7 $3 plays. When she was down to $12, she won a $30 jackpot, then two $15 ones in a row, and then several more, finally getting her total up to $105.

At that point, knowing when to quit, unlike 99% of the other gamblers here, she hit the “Cash Out” button and she was done.

$84 richer. Neat.

Leaving the Casino, we drove down Boulder Hwy to the Wal-Mart so Jan could get her hair cut. She really liked the finished product and wants to recommend Kayla if you’re in LV and need your hair done.

Getting back to the rig, I decided a nap was in order, which turned out to be a good idea. Later, about 4:30pm we drove down to the Sunset area to have dinner at a Marie Callendar’s we passed the other day. They’ve always been one of our favorite places to eat, but we just don’t find them often enough.

Jan got the Double Shrimp Pasta along with a salad,

Marie Callendar's Shrimp Dish

while I went with my favorite California Chicken Waldorf Salad.

Marie Callendar's Salad

It’s got baby greens and romaine lettuce tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, along with apples, pineapple, strawberries, dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, caramelized pecans, and topped with chicken Waldorf salad.

Delicious.

Our meals were large enough that we both had leftovers, and even that didn’t leave us enough room for pie. So we got it to go.

You can’t go to Marie Callendar’s and not get pie.

Leaving there, it was right down the street for more food. We wanted to stop off at El Pollo Loco and get a couple of dinners to go, This is for meals next week while we’re back at the Verde Valley Thousand Trails for about a week or so.

Which leads me to the fact that today was our last day here in LV. Tomorrow we’ll make the 305 mile trip back to Verde Valley, stopping off to get diesel right down the road before we get out of town.

We always have a great time here, and this visit was no exception. Viva Las Vegas!

More From Vienna, Austria


May 2, 2019

You Probably Shouldn’t Order The Cheesecake…

Vienna 5/2/2019

We docked in Vienna about 6pm last night, so we were all ready to go this morning for our 4 hour excursion of Panoramic Vienna starting at 9am.

Our bus dropped us off in front of the Kunsthistoriches Museum Wien, or the Vienna Art History Museum. All of these excursions are guided by locals, and we have radio headsets that allow us to hear him with no problems.

Panoramic Vienna 1

I wish we’d had more time to just wander from room to room, taking in all the fabulous artwork.

Vienna Natural History Museum 2

But we had to move on, next to the Hofburg Palace, winter residence to the Hapsburgs, the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire from 1438 to 1740.

Panoramic Vienna 2

Panoramic Vienna 3

Panoramic Vienna 4

But the Hofburg Palace has another claim to fame. It’s also the home of the world-famous Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner Stallions.

Lippazaner 1

And below is either one very long horse or two regular ones.

Lippazaner 2

I never was able to get a cogent explanation as to why the ‘world-famous Spanish Riding School’ is located in Vienna, Austria.

Next up on our tour was St. Peter’s Catholic Church, which is right downtown. Built in the Baroque style (sadly enough, we can now tell you the difference between Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque and Baroque architecture, and expound on the cultural differences that gave rise to each style) and consecrated in 1733, it replaced a series of churches on this location that have been built here since the Early Middle Ages, including one dedicated by Charlemagne around 800 A.D.

Panoramic Vienna 5

The main part of our tour finished up in front to the main square and the beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Built in a combination of Gothic and Romanesque styles (see I told you we knew the difference), it was constructed over a period of 200 years, starting around 1150 A.D.

Vienna St Stephens 1

And like other places, there are indications of religious buildings here since Early Roman times. Once they find a place they like, they don’t let go of it.

Vienna St Stephens 2

It’s really hard to imagine that they were building structures like this almost 1000 years ago. Personally I think Ancient Aliens are involved.

Since we now had some free time before the bus picked us, we decided to check out some of the Viennese specialties – pastries, of course. And coffee.

Several people had recommend Aida’s, right across the square from St. Stephen’s, so we thought we give it a try. And since they’ve been right here on this same corner since 1903, they must be doing something right.

Vienna Aida Display

We had so many choices it was hard to decide, but we finally went with a Cremeschnitte,

Vienna Aida Cremeschnitte

and the Viennese specialty, Sacher Torte. Probably the most famous of Viennese pastries, it’s made with Chocolate Sponge Cake, Apricot Jam Filling, and Dark Chocolate Icing, along with a serving of unsweetened Whipped Cream.

Vienna Aida Sacher

Delicious.

Of course it wouldn’t be complete with a cup of Viennese coffee, in this case a Mélange,

Vienna Aida Melange Coffee

made with an espresso shot served in a large coffee cup topped with steamed milk and milk foam. Very strong and very good.

Looking through the multi-page menu, I came across this ad for cheesecake.

Vienna Aida Cheesecake

At least I think that’s what they’re advertising. They certainly don’t have any ads using scantily-clad young women.

Getting back to the ship and grabbing a quick bite for lunch, we went forward to sit out on the Aquavit Terrace that overhangs the bow of the ship,

Vienna Aquavit Terrace

giving us a view like this.

Vienna Jan on Aquavit Terrace

Dinner is served at 7pm, with only one ‘seating’, and no assigned tables. We’ve accumulated a group of 6 or 7 couples that we all kind of rotate through. And a pretty diverse group it is.

Vienna Skirnir Dinner Group 2

Starting on the left, Rob and Marie are from Perth, Australia, Jim and Deborah are from San Francisco, Larry and Artis are from Illinois, and of course Jan is from wherever we’re parked.

Jan and I both had the Caesar Salad, (lucky me, I got her anchovies since she doesn’t like them),

Vienna Skirnir Caesar Salad

and the Stir-Fried Beef Tenderloin with rice.

Vienna Stir-Fry Beef Tenderloin

For dessert, Jan got the Raspberry Sorbet,

Vienna Skirnir Raspberry Sorbet

while I got the Chocolate Bombe.

Vienna Skirnir Chocolate Bombe

Sometimes these desserts are almost too pretty to eat. But just almost.


A few notes to wrap up.

Smoking here is about 20 years behind the US. It seems like about 50% of the people smoke, though many businesses are no smoking. There are still cigarette vending machines out on the streets and in restaurants.

So far I’ve not had any trouble using my debit/credit cards over here, whether for purchases or getting Forints or Euros from an ATM. Hope it holds true the rest of the trip.

I’ve only had one small emergency at work, that luckily I was able to fix remotely. Our online website order processing system decided to lock everyone out, but I always have a backdoor to get in and reset all the passwords. Crossing my fingers that that is the only problem I have in the next few weeks.

It takes me about 90 minutes to upload a blog post due to all the photos and the slow connection. And it’s not helped by the fact that every time we go through a lock, our satellite data connection is lost and the signal drops out.

So I have to keep trying until it all makes it through.


May 2, 2021

They Lied . . . Again!

Friday and Saturday, The Weather Channel said we were looking at heavy rains all weekend, and even into next week. So that’s why we cancelled our Sous Vide steak cookout today.]

But, after raining all night, this morning dawned bright, clear, and sunny. And stayed that way all day. And it looks like the rain is mostly gone for the rest of the week, too.

So they can’t tell us what the weather is going to be next four days, but they’re trying to tell us what the ‘weather’ will be in the next 10, 20, 30 years. Or even next century.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

So, as we had planned due to the previous weather forecast, we headed out to have lunch about 1:30, at Gator’s Bar & Grill once again. And it was just as delicious as our previous two visits.

Jan had the same sandwich she did on our very first visit, the Fried Chicken Sandwich, with Sweet Potato Waffle Fries.

Gator's Fried Chicken Sandwich

She said that the Coleslaw is so good, it makes the sandwich.

I went right back with the same thing I had last visit, the Blackened Chicken Sandwich with Pepper Jack Cheese, Bacon, and Texas Toothpicks (fried strips of onions and jalapenos). Also with the Sweet Potato Waffle Fries.

Gator's Blackened Chicken Sandwich

But what was different this time was that we decided to split one of their desserts, in this case, the Brown Butter Cake.

Gator's Brown Butter Cake

It’s a rich brown butter cake topped with bourbon glazed peaches, salted caramel and whipped cream. And it’s really, really good.

We also spent some time talking to Margie, the owner, about her time working in Las Vegas at the Excalibur Casino as head of catering from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s.

Though she was there before Jan and I started going there in 2008, and I think, every every year after through 2017, except for 2009, we still knew a lot of the same places.

It looks like we have a winner in the Drug War . . . or at least the Prescription Drug War.

And, as I suspected, it’s Kroger’s.

In my case, my 3 prescriptions for 3 months total $75.34 with WalMart, $66.00 with Sam’s, but only $16.00 with Kroger’s

Jan’s prescriptions for 3 months total $213.66 with WalMart, $194 with Sam’s, but only $82.82 with Kroger’s.

That’s a big difference.

Now, the cost of the Kroger’s Plan membership is $72/year, which prorated for the 3 month period adds $18 to the total. But then I can drop the Plus Card $55 extra cost from our Sam’s Club membership, leaving us an increase of $17 in total.

So about $1.42 a month extra. Inconsequential compared to the total savings.


Thought For The Day:

Have you ever noticed that the people who tell you to calm down are the ones that ticked you off in the first place?

  

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