2009 Journal Archive
June, 2009: Seattle, Washington
Jamie and I retired again at the end of May, and have set out to live in our 19 foot long Scamp 5th-wheel trailer. We had a garage sale on the 30th of May, and sold everything we owned in an hour and a half. We moved into the Scamp on the 31st, and headed north for the summer.
We spent the first week of June in Ashland, Oregon. We attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, seeing 5 plays in 6 days. We especially enjoyed "Equivocation", about the difficulties Shakespeare might have had writing plays that satisfied the monarchy without becoming simple propaganda. We also had a great time watching "The Servant of Two Masters" in the New Theater. It is a comedy set in Italy several centuries ago. The theater is small, the actors were great, and we laughed a lot. "The Music Man" was also very entertaining. Although the weather was overcast and threatening, it only rained on us during one of the outdoor plays we saw in the Elizabethan theater.
Next we spent a few days visiting Eunice, Jim's 93-year old mother, in Roseburg, Oregon. Then on to the Oregon Coast to begin our life as retired tourists. Next, some time in Eugene to finish up some last minute business, then a week or so in Portland, and finally a visit to Mt. Saint Helens in Washington.
July, 2009: Spokane, Washington
During the last week of June and the first week of July, we visited Alaska as part of a tour group. We were on the "Hidden Alaska" tour which we booked through Natural Habitat Adventures (www.nathab.com). Our group leader, Andrea Reynolds always kept us on the right path and we had a wonderful time. During our travels, we rode on many buses, the Alaska Railroad, aircraft of all sizes, boats, and rafts. We stayed in rustic cottages and at the world class Alyeska Hotel. All together, it was an amazing experience.
Our first adventure was a visit to Denali National Park. We were lucky to find Denali Mountain (Mt. McKinley) clearly visible for much of our visit; many people come here several times before getting their first clear view. We next rode on the Alaska Railroad to the town of Talkeetna for a short river float trip, then on to the Alyeska Hotel. We rode the tram to the Seven Glaciers Restaurant, named for the many glaciers visibile on the surrounding mountains. During the winter months, the tram and several chairlifts serve a ski resort with seriously steep ski runs. During the summer, many people use the steep slopes for paragliding.
We next rode a bus to Seward and the Kenai Fjords National Park. Although the big events on our trip were focused on the National Parks, the bus and train rides between Parks were also amazing. The trip to Seward was no exception. The scenery was beautiful. As was the National Park. After several days of boats, and islands, and whales, and glaciers, we returned to Seward.
Next we rode a bus to Anchorage, a small plane to King Salmon, and a really small float plane to Katmai National Park. Our experience at Brooks Lodge in Katmai National Park was the highlight of our trip. And then it was over, and our new friends went back to their lives, and we have gone back to ours. We hope we can meet them again sometime.
Next, we spent a week at Mt Rainier National Park in the State of Washington. Again, we were lucky to find the mountain "out" rather than concealed behind clouds and fog. While at Mt. Rainier, we rode on a small excursion rail line that was originally built to haul timber out of the area. Now it provides tourists with rides through forests that are no longer being cut. The highlight of the tour was crossing a long, high timber trestle in the forest.
August, 2009: Wellington, Kansas
We are currently in Wellington, Kansas. This is Jamie's home town and we are visiting two of her brothers who still live in the area..
During the last week of July, Jim attended a week-long photography class at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography (www.rmsp.com) in Missoula, Montana. Although the schedule was grueling, with early mornings and late evenings, hurried lunches, and photos to be processed after each shoot, he learned a lot, and got some great photos. Here are just a few of Jim's pictures from Montana:
For two weeks in August, we traveled through Zambia and Botswana, staying in tent camps and viewing the African wildlife. Our tour guide was David Luck. Andrea (Andi) Staltmeier was our hostess. Between them, they took great care of us. We had a wonderful time, met some very nice people, and got some great photos.
Our first stop was in Livingstone, Zambia. We stayed at The River Club and visited Victoria Falls. We got our first view of the falls from the air, on a chartered helicopter flight. We then traveled by van to the top of the falls, on the Zambia side of the Zambezi River (Zimbabwe is on the opposite side). Everywhere we went along the falls, the rising mists created rainbows in the sunlight. Here is another view of the Falls from just above the edge where the water drops into the gorge. We were there during the dry season, so the amount of water flowing over the Falls is much reduced. During the wet season there is so much spray that you can barely see the Falls at all.
The highlight of our trip, and the reason we went, was to spend time traveling through northern Botswana to view the wildlife. We spent 2-3 days in each of four tent camps. The camps were very remote, but far from primitive, with attractive lounges, friendly staff, and excellent food. We spent most of our time on game drives, traveling in four-wheel drive vehicles to find the animals. We stayed in "tents", although they were very elegant tents, to be sure. This is the classic African Safari. For many years these safaris were mostly for hunters, but today the emphasis is changing and there are more people coming just to see the animals and photograph them. We started in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve and then flew on to the Okavango Delta, an area of seasonal wetlands amid islands of varying sizes.
Here is the report of our Botswana safari.
September, 2009: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
We left Colorado at the end of August and traveled east and south through Kansas to visit two of Jamie's brothers in Wellington, KS. Jamie grew up in Wellington, and it was a great treat for her to see her old home town. Then we went south through Oklahoma and northern Texas to Livingston, TX. We are members of the Escapees, an organization of full-timers which is headquartered there. We get our mail in Livingston, and went through the process of becoming Texas residents. Now our ID will match our mailing address. While in Texas, we visited Jamie's third brother in Silsbee, TX.
Then it was on to New Orleans for some sightseeing. We took a guided tour that included all of the usual sights around the French Quarter, the Garden District, etc. Today, tours of New Orleans also include the areas that were flooded during Katrina (actually that includes most of the City). We were pleasantly surprised to see how much of New Orleans has been rebuilt or restored. Many of the areas that were under water no longer show any apparant damage. (The worst hit areas are not as well rebuilt.) We learned just how much the residents have come to hate FEMA. As one man said, "It's just another four letter word that begins with F." The insurance companies are equally hated.
The French Quarter was interesting, although much of the attraction seems to be the bars and strip clubs. Neither appealed to us, so we did not spend any time there after dark. Just walking down Bourbon Street about 8 p.m. was a surrealistic experience. It rained much of the time we were in New Orleans, so Jim did not take many photos. He did get some pictures of one of the famous above-ground cemeteries:
We next traveled to Vicksburg, Mississippi. At the time of the Civil War, Vicksburg was an important transportation center that controlled traffic on the Mississippi River. Today, it is a small town of about 27,000 people that depends on tourism for much of its economy. The seige of Vicksburg was one of the most important battles of the Civil War, and after the war ended, hundreds of monuments were installed throughout the battlefield to commemorate those who fought and died here. Today, the battlefield contains one of the largest displays of 19th century sculpture you will find anywhere.
The States put up major monuments. Most are tall columns, but a few are more individual. Illinois put up the most impressive monument, listing every soldier who served here. Individual units are also honored with monuments or plaques, often placed where the unit was located during the seige. And many individual officers are honored with memorials, bronze busts, or plaques. About 8,000 men died during the siege of Vicksburg, split fairly evenly between North and South. Here are some photos of the battlefield today:
October, 2009: Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
Our first stop in Florida was Pensacola, where Jamie was born during World War II. Here father was a pilot instructor at the Naval Air Station, and she was born in the base hospital. We were able to find a photo of her father in the library of the Naval Aviation Museum, which is located on the base.
The Museum is very impressive. It includes many aircraft, of course, but also has full-size portions of aircraft carriers, dioramas, flight simulators, engines, etc. It is a fascinating place, and free of charge. We spent 2 days there. Here are just a few of the many photos that Jim took during our visit:
While in Pensacola, we also visited Fort Barancas. This is one of a series of coastal forts that were built around the United States prior to the Civil War. None of the forts was ever used for its intended purpose, defending the US against foreign attack. Several of the southern forts, however, were involved in the Civil War, including Fort Barancas. In this fort, the guns were mounted on top the fort, with no protection from enemy fire. The walls of the fort were intended to protect against attack by land forces.
Infantry were stationed inside the walls on both sides of a ditch which surrounded the fort. Any enemy that tried to attack the fort had to travel through the ditch, with gunfire coming from both sides.
Our big news, of course, is that we have arrived at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We checked into our space in the Fort Wilderness campground on October 12th. We plan to stay here for 4 months and will then begin exploring the east coast of the US. For now, we are having a great time. We are visiting the parks, enjoying the many great restaurants, and just relaxing in the happiest place on earth. Jim hasn't been taking too many photos yet, as he has many months to do so. We are mostly just enjoying ourselves. He did take a few photos in Harare Village in the Africa portion of the Animal Kingdom:
One special treat we've found at Fort Wilderness is that many of the people who come here are long-time Disney fans. They really get into the spirit of the place. It is now Halloween, and every campsite is decorated with a Halloween theme. Many people drive golf carts to get around this very large facility, and those are also highly decorated. We understand that Christmas will be even better.
November, 2009: Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
We have been in Walt Disney World for over a month now, and are having a spectacular time. We have been to all of the theme parks many times, attended special events like the "Wilderness Back Trail Adventure", which involved riding Segways around the Fort Wilderness grounds and through the forests around Bay Lake. We spent many days in Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival, tasting foods from around the world. We also attended lectures on food preparation, including samples of the finished dishes.
We have also been eating out about once a week. Thus far, our favorite restaurants are Jiko, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the Flying Fish Café at the Boardwalk Resort. Our most enjoyable meal was "Dining with a Disney Imagineer" at the Brown Derby restaurant at the Hollywood Studios theme park. We joined 8 other guests for lunch with the art director for the Magic Kingcom. We had a wonderful meal and learned a lot about Walt Disney World.
Jim is working on a project to photograph all of the many resort hotels at Walt Disney World. He is just getting started, but has posted some photos of the first few resorts in our Photo Gallery. We hope you enjoy them.
December, 2009: Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
During the month of December, the Magic Kingdom hosts special evenings called "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party". For us, the best part of each Party is the holiday parade and the fireworks display which follows. Here are some photos from this year's parade:
We spent some time taking pictures in Tomorrowland, in the Magic Kingdom. We were there on a very busy day, and did not want to stand in the long lines to get on the most popular rides. Instead, Jim took just a few photos of the futuristic landscape that Disney has created to "set the scene" for visitors:
The most impressive landmark in the Magic Kingdom is Cinderella Castle. It seems to take on a different appearance with each change of light. Daylight to darkness, cloudy to sunny — each change in light creates a different castle. Here are three photos of the Castle in some of its many characters:
Jim has completed his project to photograph all of the many resort hotels at Walt Disney World. (There are a total of 21 Disney resorts.) It took quite a while to get to each resort, and we went back to a few of them more than once. Jim's goal was to capture the look and feel of each resort, without necessarily documenting all of their features. You can see the results of his work in our Photo Gallery. We hope you enjoy his photos.
Well, that's it for this year. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and look forward to seeing you here again next year.