Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Travels with the Doctor

The mission interior at Santa Barbara.
The fountain outside the mission.
Front of the mission, rebuilt in the 20th century.
Famous theatre in Downtown Santa Barbara
State Street Santa Barbara in November.
We took a holiday in Santa Barbara this year for Thanksgiving. This year, there were no new fires or hillsides with homes that were sliding down the mountain. It's a beautiful city, on the water or inland. The Doctor recommends a trip to Santa Barbara by train, as you can walk nearly everywhere, or take a bus once you get there. And the traffic from freeways will be well behind you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Travels with Dr. Travelbest












San Diego Harbor has so many things to see. Dr. Travelbest recently took a cruise there. Here are just a few. Top (a big picture view of downtown from the bay). Next, San Diego downtown Hilton, opened in 2009, followed by Coronado Bay Bridge. The fourth photo is the downtown Convention Center and lastly, a military ship, surrounded by markings to "stay away".



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mexico Orphanage Volunteer, Jack McCabe guest bloogger




Jack and Dolly McCabe after a recent visit to Mexico by Jack to volunteer at an orphanage south of Rosarito, Baja California. Here is Jack's report.


DOOR OF FAITH ORPHANAGE VISIT

Prologue 1

Whatsoever I do to the least of my brethren that I do unto Him.
Faith without good works is meritless. James and my conscience.
However, biblical Paul and I have been free riding and relying more on the concept of faith.

Prologue 2

A few folks have asked me (Guest Blogger, my dad, Jack McCabe) to write this report describing my brief encounter with an environment quite different from the stateside to which most of us are accustomed.

HISTORY

The background of Door of Faith (DOFO.org) is professionally detailed below from a recent trip by Jack McCabe, P.E.
Based on Prologue 1, I decided to volunteer a week of my manual services, in August 2009 to the group at La Mision, Mexico.

Tourist guides and word of mouth tell of an early mission in the area, of which two walls remain. Having seen walls before, I passed on viewing these two.

PEOPLE

Children
Technically the children at DOFO are not orphans. They have families in Mexico who visit them very infrequently. For various reasons, the government has sequestered these children from their families and given them to the many orphanages in the country, without any funds for their upkeep. I have volunteered at two orphanages (both Catholic) 10 years ago when we lived in the San Diego area.
Children range in age from newborns to highschoolers. Certificates of Achievement for those completing various levels of education adorn the chow hall walls. Locals leave school at about 13-14 yrs of age because of economic conditions. However, according to newsletters, some DOFO alumni have gone on to much more schooling.
While we couldn’t converse because of the language barrier my favorites are a rule-breaking 7 year old named Mickey who was fascinated by my thighs as I sat reading and a pre school, straight haired girl with bangs. Apparently inter-national adoption is difficult, if not impossible.


DJ Schuetze
He is the man in charge. Despite his casual manner he has his mind working in many different fields. He has set up the system in which the day to day DOFO chores are delegated down a very effective chain of command through caring people and he knows the name of each of the hundred odd children for whom he is responsible.
When he is not traveling he presides at an 8 A.M meeting of the missionaries and the local Mexican official overseeing DOFO.
DJ refers to himself as the Bank of DJ. I witnessed him giving cash to the missionaries but he apparently has receipts for everything.
There is a Board of Advisors or Directors which functions as needed.
DJ considers his highest priorities now to be fund raising and training others in nearby and remote orphanage to avoid the mistakes he claims to have made through many years of growth at DOFO.
He is the husband of Lynette. She, with him, is having a home built for them a few very bumpy miles from DOFO.

Lynette Schuetze
She accompanies DJ but, from my limited experience has a background role. For all the DOFO family she bakes and decorates birthday cakes for everyone beautifully.
During my visit she seemed to manage the photography during annual back to school photo to be broadcast to refrigerator doors of caring people around the world.

Missionaries
About half a dozen young men and women self-called missionaries have each committed to spend a minimum of six months at DOFO. Some that I met have prolonged their stay for up to another 6 months.
Each has his or her own source of support from friends, churches and others. On the job, each could be considered an independent proprietor running their own spiritual business, including all the US, IRS paperwork and the Mexican counterpart.
Some unmarried young missionary girls wear a plain metal ring on their ring finger for a reason they would not volunteer. Some young ladies are fairly recently tattooed.
Chris
She is the wife of Nick, and a native of Dubuque, Iowa. She attended college at Illinois Wesleyan at Bloomington, Illinois. She is very well spoken. After almost a year at DOFO both she and Nick plan to leave in mid-September 2009 for possible temporary non-missionary work in western Canada. As she Nick, and I last parted, she asked permission to hug me. She got a fatherly hug from me.
Nick
An out of place logo for the Edmonton Oilers hockey team decorates a front window of the large DOFO home he and Chris share. He is a green card holder from Canada, whose resume includes varied construction work there. He and Chris are apparently assigned to be the DOFO liaison with large groups of visitors. There weren’t many groups this year. There aren’t many solo visitors like me any year.
Lauren
She is from Ohio and wants to be a nurse. In addition to her missionary work at DOFO she volunteers twice weekly at a local Mexican hospital. She looks to me like my attractive cousin Maryann Scott McGahey did in her early twenties.
Site workers
House mothers and fathers
With hugs these Mexican house mothers maintain order among about 100 residents. I saw minimal punishment of children who tried to enter the chow hall with dirty hands.

Laundry ladies
They wash the children’s clothing in about 8 machines. The children transport it from their quarters, hang and take down the clothes from the banks of almost always sunny and breezy wires.
Kitchen ladies
They spend the day preparing three tasty and nourishing meals for older children with outside jobs, half-day school children with varying hours and others.
Handymen
Landscapers keep the main area vegetation looking good. From time to time someone repairs the pile of many broken bicycles. The repaired bikes are well used and really broken by hard use.
Local Mexican Official
At the morning meetings that I attended, he conversed in Spanish with the Mexican chief DOFO honcho and minimally with DJ.

ENVIRONMENT
Geography
DOFO is 2-3 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, about midway between Rosarito Beach to the North and Encinata to the South. It is just off the well designed Mexican version of the US Interstate
I was told that the population of La Mision is 6,000 souls and that their homes are all visible from a high point on the north rim of the well defined valley. Having viewed the valley from that point at night, I would think the population is less. Many retired and vacationing Americans live full or part-time and own (through locals) or rent in the community. Some commute to their jobs in the US of A.
Climate
The climate at DOFO is idyllic, much like San Diego, about 150 miles to the north. The year-round temperatures seem to remain between about 50 and 80 degrees, moderated by the Pacific Ocean.

Rumors of crime
During the 1970’s, while living in suburban in Chicago, my late mentor, W.C. Pete Kimbrough, explained that the high crime rate in Atlanta was due to incidents among drug traffickers. I liken that to present conditions in Mexico.
Although D J had never ridden the Mexican inter-city cabs, as I often had, he advised against traveling that way on my planned visit. Instead I rode with Christy and Nick on two of their routine frequent international car trips
Sequestered for a week at DOFO I heard of no criminal activity.
Christy told me that she sometimes carried a stick during her frequent solo 3-4 mile jogs to the ocean and back. She used it to fend off the local canines protecting their turf.

Land
DOFO is on what I shall call North Road, on a piedmont a short way up the north slope of the well formed east-west River Valley. As I crossed the river, it was dry. Apparently this is not unusual. A long straight concrete bridge carries the perpendicular coast road over the west end of the river which is tidal at the Pacific Ocean.
The main north-south highway then takes a long, steep west-east route diagonally up the valley side to the south of DOFO . The resultant shifting of the truck transmission gears routinely creates a pervading noise throughout the valley.
Soil
As the ground rises slowly northward from the currently dry river. It seem to pass through an area of semi-moist soil, which, together with pumped irrigation and nutrient feeding tend to produce a condition in which corn, peppers and other crops for DOFO adjacent land owners. Swabbing the tile of my quarters twice during the week produced evidence of gritty material that had not been swept up by previous brooming.
Electric Power
DOFO’s own transformer taps off the adjacent commercial power lines. Power use is minimized using energy saving bulbs, light sensors and other devices. The monthly power bill averages $10,000/month. DJ tells me that the capital cost for solar power would have a 30 year payback period. Joe McCabe has offered to look into the economics of power there with me, if I send him copies of the power company invoices.

Water
The children and guests of DOFO are provided with bottled water and there is local well water which other residents use for other purposes. A large municipal main serves to irrigate farms across the road closer to the ocean.

Public Works
The roads on the south side of the valley, in the older and eastern part of La Mision are probably better asphalt paved and maintained than the hard soil, deeply grooved roads within 3 miles of DOFO.
Local crops
Adjacent, irrigated downhill farms downhill and across the road from DOFO produce many acres of corn, peppers and other crops.
DOFO site crops
An employee of DOFO is involved in the production of prickly pears for eating on site, not the variety used to make tequila.
Onions- Irrigated conditions for the growth of onions are excellent halfway up the hill. Conditions for growth of previously un-weeded growth adjacent to the onions are equally good, based on my unrewarding experience trying to remove them.
Ornamentals-There is about ½ acre on which are grown small palms and other plants.

Three hillside levels of activity
The higher elevation, accessible by steep path, the minor overgrowth of which I pruned, displays a white cross which is sometimes illuminated at night.
The middle elevation, accessible by steep grooved concrete road, has housing and facilities for visiting groups. I collected heavy, skull sized rocks, wheel barrowed and placed them along the washed out shoulder of the road to prevent further scouring of the soil under the concrete slab.
The lower elevation, at main road level, has the older buildings, the new nursery and pens for chickens, ducks, a swan, pigs, sheep, goats and horses.
The common area is well planned with wide concrete walks and pea-graveled areas. It is usually populated by residents careening around on roller blades and bicycles. No training wheels here. During school hours the house-mothers read to and otherwise cajole the younger children.
Arrows pointing to the functions of various buildings around the common area are black on white, lettered in English for the benefit of American visitors. While I was there DJ met at length with a California couple who would like to help DOFO.

ATMOSPHERE

With a fairly flexible timetable meals are served after a school type bell is sounded and the children wash their hands at a community circular sink with sprayed water. No evidence of H1N1 flu here.
While the kids are normally fractious, there is a no urgency atmosphere
Nobody up-tight, even when minor injuries occur and the hurt cry
The ]pace is not slower but no urgency is apparent except for the careening children on wheels.
The needs continue to be met routinely as the lives of the children continue unabated.
As a passenger between DOFO and California I was reminded of the 1990’s when the economy was sluggish. Current construction shows evidence of the international boom and bust. Many new hotels, subdivisions and houses have been built. However many hotels, subdivisions and homes have been half built. They stand unoccupied with no sign of the investments needed to complete them.

FOOD
Eggs were often served fresh or as leftovers. Ham often accompanied the eggs.
Soft tacos are a staple. The children have learned many ways to eat them.
About once a day each child had about a half glass of milk at his or her assigned eating place in addition children could dip out various mealtime beverages from a community vessel.
At each meal, the adults were presented with a tumbler full of either forks or spoons, never both, and never knives. I saw no knives during my visit.
Meal clean-up
As each diner finished, they took their soiled plastic plate and dumped any residue into a bowl. They took their plastic tumbler and dumped plastic plate to the initial cleaning station where they were rinsed and stacked. Thorough cleaning was done later in the kitchen.
After a recited religious prayer in unison and exit by most children, the clean-up crew cleaned the 10 tables and put the twenty benches on the tables They then swabbed the floor well and washed out the swabs well outside.
While I saw no chores lists I was assured that they hang in each building housing children.

Library for books
I was told that there is a room devoted to books and that it is in need of organization. I thought better of offering to straighten books with Spanish titles.

Shop for keeping tools
Missionaries use the washing machine there to do their wash and apparently the wires outside to dry the wash. My guess is that it was used at one time as housing for a handyman/vehicle mechanic. It seems to have become a storage area for pharmaceuticals, vehicle liquids and other stuff. The shelves could be organized to provide more room for more stuff.

New Nursery construction
The new nursery should be available by the end of this year.

Religion
DOFO is Christian, non denominational. Evidence of religion that I observed includes the following:.
Chanting of a verse before meals
Chanting of a wall mounted bible verse (changed weekly) after meals
Bible reading after dinner led by Nick and attended by 8-10 girls
Bussing of all children to church on Sunday
Sayings nailed to trees around the site by Nick.


What I Did There
Knowing only my age (81) and health condition(good), the folks at DOFO had no Work List A for me when I arrived. After a few hours with a little help, I prepared Work List B which included the following activities:
Finding, wheel barrowing and placing large rocks to replace sand scoured from under the side hill concrete road shoulders.
Work List C included the following
Cleaning dust from long, heavy wooden benches around the common area and then painting them a special color selected by Lauren.
Finding suitable ply-wood, sanding it down, drilling screw holes in and test staining two pew supports to replace those missing from the Meeting Room.
Pruning the steep path between the middle level and the white cross on the top of the hill.
Weeding around many onions, cactus and other plants.


Deer weed

Growing wild at DOFO is a plant named deer weed. The habitat for this shrub is similar to that of the Torrey Pine; a strip adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.
I have researched the plant in the past and was pleased to encounter it again.

DOF store
One room in a building is dedicated to retail selling of baseball caps, tee shirts etc to visitors. The material is also for sale on the internet at Door of Faith. http://www.dofo.org/index.php

CLOTHING
Think San Diego for weather. Think dozens of red sweaters worn by local school children having their group picture taken.

SHELTER

On the relatively newly built mid-level there are constructed about a dozen 40’ square stucco buildings with architecture continuing that of the original buildings on the lower level. Each building has about 25 bunk beds, and there is a separate kitchen and eating area . Visiting groups from various churches are encouraged to live in this area to pursue expansion projects for Door of Faith.
A multi-bridged gully runs through the original, lower level of the orphanage area.
On the east side there is a common area, separate original buildings for the boy and girl residents, the kitchen and eating area, and housing for the various adult permanent and transient personnel.
On the west side of the often dry waterway are well constructed, stucco painted separate buildings serving as quarters for the volunteers and for on-site Mexican workers.




Jack McCabe
9-5-09





Friday, September 4, 2009

Pat Brown takes you on trips near and far







I have traveled with Pat Brown. She's one of my favorite travel companions.



If you'd like to go with Dr. Travelbest's friend on a trip to a nearby place or one far away, here's your chance.



I went to Oregon in June 09 and that blog is here, too. It's quite a wonderful place to visit. These are picture of Southern Oregon, near and on the Rogue River.




You can travel the Columbia River Voyage of Discovery with Pat Brown


Join TV personality, Pat Brown, next spring and experience the intimacy and luxury of a small-ship as you journey along the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River. You’ll marvel at the sheer magnitude of the geologic forces that shaped this region, from the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge to the golden coulees of the east; the history of Lewis & Clark, the early pioneers and Native Americans; the tremendous engineering feat of the 8 locks and dams that tamed this mighty river. You’ll cruise round trip from Portland, Oregon aboard Cruise West’s 96-passenger Spirit of ‘98, which has the flexibility and spontaneity to explore nature’s unplanned events. Your 7-night cruise includes all taxes and port charges, gratuities and shore activities.

Dates: Cruise departs Portland, Oregon Sat. June 12, 2010 and ends in Portland, Sat., June 19, 2010.
Fare: $3,399 per person based on double occupancy in category A cabin. Price does not include air to Portland.
See number below for a complete itinerary and details.




Save $1000 per couple when you book your cruise by Sept. 30th


In addition, Pat is leading several day trips to interesting places closer to San Diego. DayTripper Tours 619-299-5777 (contact #) If you book one of her day trips by 9/15 and give them the "Pat Brown discount code" PB135, they'll take another $5.00 off subject to availability. This is not the cruise, but local day trips around San Diego.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Free and almost free travel ideas




Want to save money but still travel well? Bargains are all around you like never before. You say "everything costs" but when you think about it, the best travel bargains are still free. Like going to the beach in many states of the US is still free. Like going for a bike ride. Free. How about a trip to your local, or not so local park. Free.
It just takes your imagination, some time, and energy. Those cost nothing. And if not, well, there are some cruises I've seen advertised for under $300. That's cheaper than staying home. We may not find another time for travel like now.



Dr. Travelbest says that staying on a budget is key,



but much of your travel can be free.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Monterey Bay






























Have you ever visited the Monterrey Bay Aquarium? If you have kids and like the ocean, it's a natural fit. They have hundreds of hands on exhibits for children of all ages. We took our four children a few years ago and it was easy for them to spend a full three days in the museum. Sounds like a lot of time, but it went fast. They all have developed a love for nature and sea as a result. We went back two years later and the younger kids got a second chance to see the ocean up close from a scientific view. From our hometown that has Sea World, this is still a great value and experience for the younger children.
Monterrey has a great park in town to play in called, "Dennis the Menace Park." That's another great find in the city. Easy to navigate, easy to get around in their free trolley system and parking is not a problem, either. Dr. Travelbest ranks this city high for travel with children.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Camp Conrad Chinook












The campfire is always the place where people remember their summer vacations best. Diabetes Camp is no different. The leader tells a story that warms the hearts and minds and makes people savor the moment. The wood cackles in the fireplace and it’s dark beneath a thousand pine and oak trees on this hill near Redlands, in Southern California in the early part of the summer of 2008.

The flames danced and so did the staff, as well as the audience. And did we ever laugh and smile and have a few tears as well this weekend. We are among 150 people at Camp Conrad Chinnock, a camp specifically created for kids with Type I diabetes.

I have two children with Type I diabetes, and we are here to bond with other families who have Type I as well as to learn the latest in diabetes research. But mostly, we’re here to have the kids feel “normal” when they do strange things like test their blood sugars up to ten times a day and give themselves insulin injections via pumps or shots.

Tonite at the campfire, we sang songs and made skits. The humor belonged to us, who have experienced the past three days together. The jokes and pokes were to ourselves and we had a few good laughs.

My boys are in bed now, almost asleep in our log cabin, with three sets of bunk beds on each half of the room, and a toilet that has not yet been opened due to permits not yet issued. Maybe next year they’ll be working, but if not, that’s ok, too.

The people who work here have created and instilled in our families a feeling of almost happiness at the chronic disease diabetes. Only those with this disease are allowed here. A special badge, of sorts.

Today, we learned from many sessions with “the doctor” and we hiked, canoed, fished, swam, shot pool and played foosball. We moms had a good cry or two. The dads did too, we were told. We learned to play with our kids, something we don’t always have time for at home. We learned that we can help each other deal with this disease, and offer ideas and advice that is truly helpful.

How do I deal with sports and my child was a topic on the mind of most of the parents? What are the current research studies on transplants learning? What hope do we have of a cure and when? When do I stop waking up in the middle of the night to check my son’s blood sugar? When is it ok to tell the child to take responsibility for their own shots? How can I let go?

The doctor addressed hundreds of questions posed by parents on topics from hormones to types of insulin and when and what amounts should be delivered and by what method?
More questions than answers, but the answers that were given were overall good ones.

We learned to get as much joy from today as possible and to concentrate on that. The kids learned to juggle, to create toys and to focus on the possibilities, not the restrictions of having the disease. They learned about juggling fire, and not to do it at home. They learned about animals, about astronomy, and about being kind to others. They made lanyards and other crafts. They climbed a wall, trees, did archery, basketball, swam and dove in the pool, rode bikes, learned about science in the nature center and made friends with other kids, staff and parents. While doing this, they learned more about how to take care of their disease. And for siblings of those with diabetes, they were “abnormal” for these three days, and enjoyed that feeling as it was a turn-around from the norm.

We leave tomorrow, stimulated and satisfied. We leave footprints and a legacy for our children that we are living day to day to day.

Thanks for the great experience at camp and we look forward to another great one ahead next year.

Grand Canyon travel tips from Ellen

Here are some travel tips for the Grand Canyon, AZ, for those who want to see the majestic glory of the United States from the rim of the widest canyon around.
The buses are the way to get around. The traffic can be frustrating and the buses are free and you won't have to wait more than 15 minutes for one to arrive. There are a lot of visitors from foreign countries, so the drivers are very good at answering questions and making announcements.

Take your time and watch your step. Most of the spills, etc. we saw were from people who were not paying attention. There are a lot of rocks to trip on; be careful.

Sunscreen and hats are called for. My baseball cap was not providing enough protection from the sun and now I have a wide brim hat that covers my face and neck. We did avoid getting burned with waterproof/sweat proof SPF 30 and finding shade whenever we could.

We did not go below the rim on foot or mule. People who do are advised to do so as early in the day as possible to avoid the heat and lack of shade. People I saw returning from the mule rides looked pretty weary.

We did laundry at Camper Services and they had $2 showers for 5 minutes. Complete grocery store at the Market Place. Most camping appeared to be full, so if you are going to camp I'd suggest looking into reseervations.

Try to take in a sunset and/or sunrise. Try to attend a ranger program.

Eastern Sierra Mountains

We’re on Hwy 15 heading home after a week in the Eastern Sierras, including Reno, Carson City, Virginia City, and Sparks.

The temp is 96 degrees and our temperatures inside the air conditioned minivan are heated at times, and relaxed at others. We made two stops since leaving Sparks at 6:30am today, in Bishop, we stopped for sandwiches at the famous Sheepherder’s restaurant and then we stopped in Ridgecrest for gas.

The highlights of the trip were of course seeing our relatives and enjoying each other’s company, a birthday party of 34 people from 10 regions of the US.

The tourist activities were in Virginia City, where we visited the old schoolhouse, and walked the sidewalks where authentic saloons and antique stores abound. We took a tour on a railroad that gave color to the many mining stories of yesteryear, and the tour guide described what life was like in the 1850’s through 1890’s, when this was one of the largest silver mines in the world.

The Comstock Lode was the biggest find, making multiple millionaires of the prospectors lucky enough to stumble on this.
Now, the lucky ones are the shopkeepers who sell their wares and are able to make a few dollars profit from the tourists.

This small town has tourism as its only visible source of revenue.

Carson City, on the other hand, is the state capital of Nevada, and also has lots of museums, but industry and politics seem to spread the economy.

Both of these cities are close to Reno, just fifteen minutes by car, and very accessible to the independent traveler with children.

Stay in the Reno hotels and venture out for the day with your children and coolers. Nothing is very expensive here, except the gold and silver that you may want to take with you!

Winters are different, with skiing in the nearby mountains and you’ll need to bring chains. We passed by some beautiful scenery on our way to and from Sans Diego. Those include, June Lake, Yosemite, and Mono Lake.

If your family is looking for a Western vacation, away from the fires of Big Sur, and close to inexpensive family travel destinations, Reno and the Eastern Sierras may be your best bet.

Cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
























































Cabo San Lucas writing

Day 1

Departing from San Diego, CA to the downtown ship for boarding to Cabo San Lucas was smooth. The seas that evening were not.
We had our group of eight people loaded with gear for the five nights and six days at sea. We were on our way by noon, arriving at the harbor by 12:20pm. We were checked in and on the ship by 1:15pm. Two in wheelchairs (the grandparents) made the trip a bit faster than normal, because they needed to deliver and get the wheelchairs back for more cruisers. Four children, ages 6-12 and their parents in early 50’s along with two grandparents were heading for the high seas with high hopes.
The food was a plenty and the comforts were high for the start of this journey. A practice drill for 3000 plus 900 crew went smoothly; prepared for the dangers at sea we don’t anticipate this week. As we pulled away from the comfort of the B Street Pier and the Port of San Diego, the clouds were still hanging low and solid over us, remnants of a four day deluge of rain and windstorms of January. Once we past the breakwaters, however, the ocean was not our friend. Much swaying of the boat was felt among the guests. In our party, five were popping seasickness pills and three were now confined to their rooms for the night. These were some tough minutes for those no expecting to be tossed around on the boat. Sleep brought some relief to them and hopes for a better tomorrow were on their minds.


Day 2

“Much calmer today,” I overheard a person report to a friend. Yes, that is the weather report. Still cloudy, but not threatening at all.
This was our first full day on the ocean and the sun did come out so we could swim in the pool on the Lido Deck, Deck 10. Carnival Cruises make a big deal of their great service, and keep reminding us of how good it is. With high hopes for a great week, we headed to the spa/exercise area on Deck 12 for some good workouts. That was after getting each child to their respective “Camp Carnival” group. Groups are split by ages, and we have three different groups, over 12, who can come and go as they please, 9-11, who basically can come and go, with a bit of extra parent participation. And the 6-8 year olds, who need to be checked in and out each time.
The workout room was packed with equipment as well as people. They have classes, massages, and plenty of the same equipment seen at our gym at home. It was easy to access, and even had a sauna and a steam room. Later that day, we enjoyed the outdoor Jacuzzi as well, soaking up the Mexican rays and getting warmer as the day progressed. Later that evening, we posed for a photo, had a chance to meet and greet the captain, Giuseppe, from Italy and the food and beverage manager, from India. It was a very well executed meal, and most of us chose the lobster entre. We especially liked the cherries jubilee for desert, too.
After dinner, we enjoyed the “Broadway-themed” musical entertainment in style. The tunes were light and fluid. Fifteen dancers and seven musicians put us in a fantasy, rocked just a bit before bedtime. This was a solid performance of talented young people from all around the globe.

Day 3

Today we arrived in Cabo by 8. The coast was barren up to the tip of the cape, and the harbor not deep enough for our vessel. So we climbed aboard the smaller tenders which delivered us for our one day adventure on land. Our group wandered around the marina, the shops and the downtown area until we found the well-known beaches near the “Office”. Here we drank margaritas and ate lunch (see photos above). Allen and Katie went to the Glass Factory while the rest of us swam and took a boat ride to the arch(photo above( and to see the seals on the rocks nearby.
Cabo SanLucas was a newer city than most. We didn’t see much heavy traffic on the streets. It was full of tourists. On our next trip to Cabo, we’ll explore further into other regions, including San Jose del Cabo, which I understand has more culture and history to reveal.
By 4 pm, we were back on our ship and getting ready for more of the Carnival activities, kids club, etc. I was tired from a day of sun and alcohol and went to bed by 8pm. Brian fell asleep at 5pm and never woke up til the following morning.

Day 4

We were on the seas today again, this time going back North. The weather became markedly windy and colder. The winds made it impossible to play mini golf on deck as we had planned. By afternoon, the kids were in the pool and big slide, as well as the Jacuzzi. I spent two hours on deck watching the kids enjoy the fun. We had a second cocktail reception by the captain and then a formal dinner that evening. I had the short ribs and for dessert warm chocolate cake.
After dinner, Wanda and I took in the entertainment again. It was hard to stay awake, even though the show was good, I was sleepy.

Day 5
Today we head out to Ensenada, MX for the day. It’s sunny and brisk today from our cabin window. I can see the port activity here as we arrive at 8am. Many working vessels are throughout the harbor. We’ll be visiting the fish market(fish photo above) here and also our favorite winery, Santo Tomas(photo above), a few blocks inside the downtown area. We’ll be doing our shopping here for the most part.
The cruise is going to wind down tomorrow in San Diego. It’s been enjoyable to relax with the kids and the in laws. We’ve kept ourselves busy on ship with exercising and eating. We’ve taken in the locals at the shore excursions as well. We’ve gotten good sleep and will be well rested when we return.
We’ve also kept up on our work through the internet connection on the boat, so we shouldn’t have any surprises when we return to our offices.
One of the best things about Carnival is the Camp Carnival activities for the kids. They always are available and kids like them. On this cruise, there are not very many kids, so they combined some camp activities. For example, they put the 9-14 year olds together for some games. There were less than a dozen in the combined group. Had we been here over the Christmas holiday, or when schools are not in session, the numbers would be much larger, probably tripled.
The truth about cruising is that people eat more than they should. Yes, there are some fat people on this ship, and they are getting fatter.

Cruising is a family activity and it’s something that three or more generations can do together and it’s enjoyable. And it doesn’t cost a lot of money, either.

Dr. Travelbest’s advice for those who want to save money is to watch what your charge carefully. No money is used on board, people just charge on their card.
Cruising deals during a soft economy are worth considering. You can get a lot for your money, but be careful to only spend what you can afford.

Cheap Airfares

If you fly a lot, you may think you've got the best airfares.
Did you ever want to compare prices with the other passengers on the flight?
Airfare wars are already gearing up for the busy fall travel specials. Seems that when school begins, the tourists don't travel as much. October is probably the best month, with the most available seats at the lowest fares. Today, I saw $29 fares on Jet Blue advertised on Kayak. Maybe just a "promotional" fare, but now is the time to shop.
The best days to buy your tickets are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. With gas prices relatively low, people are staying on the ground more.
American Airlines (one of my favorite airlines) just increased their baggage fees. Yes, it will cost you an extra hundred dollars to take two bags both ways! Consider that before booking, too.
May you have good shopping days ahead, and don't forget Priceline, either. Only you won't know your airline or your flight times until after you book. But the price may be worth it!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

California's High Desert







We travelled to beautiful Lancaster, CA and Palmdale, CA for the California Softball All Star Championships mid-July, 2009. Temperatures, as you'd expect, were in the triple digits and 144 teams were sandblasted with dust from 25 mph winds as they played.



Elevation here is around 3,000 feet and you're midway between Highway 5 and 15. It's on the way to somewhere. I'd like to visit in the winter and see the change of seasons here. I have been skiing at the local slopes, and that's an intermediate skiers delight.
The indoor photo here shows teams practicing at Frozen Ropes/San Diego, where the best trainers and players practice and learn the skills needed to improve.
The second photo is of Kiley Robinson, age 12, on North Shore Gold, who was part of the girls fastpitch team who took Third Place at State, and will be playing at the end of July in Salem, Oregon, at Nationals. Kiley and her dad, Adam, a fifth generation San Diegan, practice hitting wiffle balls twice a week in front of their home in San Diego. Her dad checked with the coach and confirmed her batting average. “It’s .550 with 28 RBI’s,” he said. Ms. Robinson inspires others to play and get involved, too. Softball has helped her learn how to communicate with other people and develop teamwork, she claims. Kiley won the North Shore Heavy Hitter award in 2009, qualifying her for a free week of camp and a month of unlimited batting cages at Frozen Ropes, San Diego.
The third photo shows the U14's practicing. They "overachieved" by winning game one and showing they belonged at this tourney, too.
A highlight of the tournament was a parade of teams, where each team chose a theme, dressed for it, and then at the end of the procession, they all traded team pins with each other. Each girl was given a dozen pins to share and trade. This was a great way to build team spirit and communication with other teams, too.
We may be back next year.



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

San Francisco


When you drive south into San Francisco on Highway 101, here's what you'll see. How can you not be impressed, when you see hundreds of locals walking, running and biking on the bridge?
They call it Golden, but these photos prove it's red.
San Francisco has been voted, "most romantic city" and "most popular travel destination" numerous times. Architecture and style, history and technology drive the many diverse social and cultural patterns that are seen in this thriving metropolis. Home to the 49ers, Giants, and hundreds of local wineries, SF entertains and celebrates everything green, and is environmentally conservative.
Do plan ahead if you want to get on Alcatraz Island. We were told reservations were running two weeks ahead of time last summer.
Like any big city, SF has their share of crime, traffic and inclement weather, plus crime. However, the parks are beautiful, shopping is tremendous, and people watching is unmatched.



Alcatraz Island

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oregon Coast




















When you cross the border into Oregon from California, something happens. You get a feeling of relaxation and restfulness, especially if you're on vacation. You'll notice the price of gas is much lower, and they pump it for you. You'll really notice there's no sales tax. None. And you'll notice that the people who live there talk to each other as if they care.


Even the parks there are clean and well cared for in other ways. We stayed in Harris Beach State Park for nine days and recommend this to singles as well as families like ours. You'll love the hot showers, the laundry facilities, the playgrounds, and walk to the ocean for great wildlife and experience the power of nature.











One thing on your list should be fishing. We found the Sporthaven Marina in Brookings Harbor to be our "hangout" where we found a charter who would take us out and we caught our limit in two hours. We caught Vermillion (orange colored fish), sea bass, rockfish, ling cod, and snapper. The fish jumped on our hooks. Seriously. We cooked and ate our fill of fish, and froze the rest and brought it home to San Diego. Nightly, we had smores and ranger education. One especially good tour by Park "Interpretive Guide" Angela was on "What's edible and what's not" in our campground.


We also visited Brookings Harbor daily for the best ice cream in Oregon, Slugs and Stones and Ice Cream Cones. No kidding. And talk to Phyllis nextdoor at the Book Dock there about summer reading choices; she recommended the Potato Peel Pie Society book which was on the mark.





If you like fresh crab, you need to see John Terebesi at Dock 'O' as he catches the best. And if you can't cook it yourself, you can bring it to the Onion Grill in town and they'll cook it for you in their special Chinese ginger flavors. The best you'll find anywhere. And the prices can't be beat either.

One special "touristy" item is to ride the Rogue River on the Mail Boats. We made our reservations in advance and arrived early for the best seating (second or third rows best) on a 104 mile river cruise. The driver takes you for a ride, literally. He spins the boat around and you will get wet. Not drenched, just comfortably refreshed. Along the way you'll see a dozen types of wildlife, including bald eagles, osprey, deer, turtles, salmon, vultures, and sometimes bear. You'll also see kayakers and some even will squirt you with their water guns. They stop for lunch in Agness and it's an all day affair.

Other things not to miss, tidepool walks on the beach, redwoods in Jedidiah National Park, Trees of Mystery south of Crescent City, and going 100 miles north of Brookings you'll find the best fresh grilled seafood ever at Portside Restaurant in Coos Bay. Drive through Coos Bay, turn left, and take the five mile drive to the beautiful gardens, sea lions, and lighthouse. It's worth it.

Let Dr. Travelbest know if you're heading up there anytime soon.