Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Brothers and I: Then 'n Now

Then is 1968 and now is 2012. We're not in the same order, so who's who? Sorry bros, I couldn't resist. It's difficult to accept, but here we are, at the doorsteps of retirement.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Death Valley Trip Video

Video presentation of our trip to Death Valley National Park.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is definitely worth a visit; but if you can't, here's a look at one of the highlights.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Small Wheel Society takes on Death Valley

It has been more than 20 years since I last visited Death Valley National Park. I can only say that I loved it then and still love it today. In other words, I see beauty where as Kay might only see brown dirt and rocks. Geno, Mike and I spend 4 days during the first week of December exploring the park by bike and feet. For this trip, we decided to bring our small wheeled bikes by Bike Friday. Being a slow time of year for tourism, the timing was great for us to visit and the weather was very pleasant compared to home. It was back to short sleeves and shorts, at least for four days. For the Shutterbugs, the low angle of the winter sun casted a wonderful warm yellow glow upon the valleys and surrounding mountains from about 2:00 to 4:00pm. At night we were treated to a truly dark sky devoid of light pollution but for the glow of Las Vegas low on the horizon about 130 miles away. The Milky Way stretching across the night sky was a stunning sight, a real treat for city dwellers, and the closest galaxy to ours, Andromeda, could be seen with the naked eye. Wow! Over our 4-day stay, we squeezed in as much activity as our old bodies could handle and more. Use the link below to see all the pictures in Picasa.
Link to Photo Album: Death Valley 2012

Pictures from Our Trip to Tokyo and South Korea

It has been more than a month since our return from Tokyo and South Korea and I'm finally posting some more pictures thanks to Kay's efforts. This trip left a lasting impression, especially South Korea since it was our first trip to that country. Tokyo was familiar and comfortable while South Korea was new and exciting. Both countries are modern and easy to navigate. Tokyo and Seoul should be on every travelers' list. I have a new found appreciation for Korean food and now enjoy trying the local Korean restaurants whenever we can. There are 8 pictures below, covering various themes, with links to the Picasa Albums after each picture. As usual, there are a lot of pictures. Enjoy!

Tokyo, Japan - Oct 8 - 16

Link to Photo Album Tokyo, Japan - Oct 8 - 16, 2012

Tokyo Food and Markets

Link to Photo Album Tokyo Food and Markets

Seoul, Korea Oct 16 - Nov 2

Link to Photo Album Seoul, Korea Oct 16 - Nov 2, 2012

Our Seoul Living Quarters

Link to Photo Album Our Seoul Living Quarters

Jeju Island, Korea - Oct 20 - 23

Link to Photo Album Jeju Island, Korea - Oct 20 - 23

Daeju, Korea - Oct 28 - 30

Link to Photo Album Daeju, Korea - Oct 28 - 30

Wedding In Seoul- Oct 27

Link to Photo Album Brandon & Lauren's Wedding In Seoul- Oct 27

Korea Food and Markets

Link to Photo Album Korea Food and Markets

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wide Angle and Panoramics

Here's some wide-angle and panoramic views of Tokyo and South Korea. Now that I'm home, after traveling 30 plus hours, I have some time to stitch some photographs together to create these pictures. I do want to mention that South Korea can be a bargain when eating out if you are willing to try the smaller eateries off main streets or to eat at the open markets. Your meals can easily be under $10 for two if you look for it. Use the link below to see all the wide-angle and panoramic pictures in Picasa.
Link to Photo Album Wide Angle and Panoramics: Tokyo and South Korea

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our Last Hurrah in Seoul

If you ever travel to Seoul, you need to wander the streets so you can see, hear, feel and smell it. The old buildings, congested narrow streets and crowded markets are a delightful contrast from contemporary Seoul with its sleek architectural structures of cement, metal, and glass. Go underground and you will find shops and shoppers, and more than enough variety of eateries to fulfill your hunger. Kay and I spent our final day exploring an area south of the Hangang River, then return to the Insadong area, where we began our trip, for a final evening walk back to our apartment. Fall has definitely arrived with changing colors in the trees and a cold north wind. Daytime temperature were predicted in the low 50's but it felt colder due to the wind. Use the link below to go to my pictures in Picasa. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as we enjoyed this trip. Seoul will definitely linger within my senses for a while.
Link to Photo Album Our Last Hurrah in Seoul

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

High-Speed Train to Seoul

Kay and I caught the high-speed train, the KTX, from Daegu to Seoul. Travel time is estimated to be 1 hour and 54 minutes while our drive to Daegu with Brandon and Wonny was nearly 4 hours. How fast is the KTX? See for yourselves. The rocking is just me being unsteady and the noise in the background is the food cart.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Off to Daegu

We are off to Daegu, where Brandon and Wonny are living, a 3 to 4 hour drive, depending upon traffic, through the mountains southeast of Seoul, or it's a 2 hour train ride. We plan to stay in their high rise apartment for 3 night then return to Seoul for one full day before flying home. I'll have to admit that despite enjoying our visit to South Korea immensely, I'm starting to yearn for home and the familiar, the primary reason being the language barrier. If I were here any longer, I would definitely take a language course for travelers. Google and the others still have a lot of work to do on their translation App's. I'm looking forward to a 'Star Trek' style translator. Well, enough of that, lets see what's in Daegu. Use the link below to go to all the pictures in Picasa.
Link to Photo Album Off to Daegu

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wedding Day in Seoul

This day belongs to Brandon and Wonny and pictures are worth a thousand words. Use the link below to go to the picture album in Picasa.
Link to Photo Album Wedding Day in Seoul

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seoul Man

Call me the "Seoul Man" because it feels so good to be back in Seoul after three days on Jeju Island. The busy streets of Seoul are energizing and alive with lights, noise, traffic, people, storefronts and open markets. At times, it seems that all of Seoul is out and about on the streets. Catch a vendors eyes and they'll solicit you to buy their goods. Just about anything you need can be found at the marketplace. Keep an eye out for motorbikes though, because riders use them to maneuver through the slow moving traffic so they can be seen riding the wrong way in traffic or often using the sidewalks with the hordes of pedestrians. The street activity envelopes people and compels me to often wander late into the evening. Our new apartment in Seoul is on 11th floor overlooking a busy intersection. It offers great views of the cityscape, but traffic noise is a constant background sound that never sleeps. Use the link below to go to the photo album in Picasa.
Link to Photo Album Seoul Man

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jeju Island

Jeju Island has been a nice break from the business of the big cities, but it is a lot more touristy than I had realized. There are many interesting formations, big and small, on the island due to its volcanic beginnings along with numerous other attractions, both natural and man made, and this all draws Korean and foreign tourist by the bus loads. One of the major products of Jeju is tangerines and there are farms everywhere. The big surprise to Kay and I is number English speaking travelers we have encountered with Jejueco Tours. Haven't heard so much English since leaving home. The travelers we met are Indian from the U.S., Singaporean, Malaysian, and Phillippino. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know other travelers. Kay and I were on our own yesterday so we wandered into a market in Jungmun city. Pictured below are some of the things we found at the market. Use the link below to see all my pictures in Picasa.
Link to Photo Album Goodbye Seoul, Hello Jeju

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Goodbye Seoul, Hello Jeju

Brandon and Wonny, our nephew and niece, picked us up from the Bukchon Guest House for brunch on the south side of the Hangang River near the area of Seoul where Wonny once lived, then we were off to Jeju Island on an early afternoon flight. Brandon and Wonny, thanks a bunch for brunch and for driving us to the Gimpo Intl Airport. Now is a good time to mention that one of the reasons we are traveling in this region is to attend their long belated formal wedding, which will occur in Seoul several days after our return from Jeju. While on the island, we'll be traveling to sights with Jejueco Tours which Kay found through the Internet. I've posted some pictures on Picasa and will post more from Jeju in a few days. Use the link below to go to my photo album.
Link to Photo Album Goodbye Seoul, Hello Jeju

Friday, October 19, 2012

Exploring Seoul

The timing of our departure for Jeju Island, off the southern shores of South Korea, couldn't be better as Kay has had enough of our small traditional style room at the Bukchon Quest House. Hopefully this means we're back into some western conveniences such as tables and chairs. After an initial afternoon getting acquainted with Seoul, our comfort level was back and we explored as much as we could over the next 3 days, visiting the sights and wandering the streets well into the night. Using the subway worked out great after we got use to their conventions for signage which differ from Tokyo. I was actually feeling fairly good about ourselves at getting around our area and seeing Seoul until today. This afternoon, we visited Seoul Tower for an aerial view and saw how big this city truly is. Nothing compares with seeing things with your own eyes! The reality is that we've only seen a small, and I mean very small faction of this city so far. Even if you lived here, you may not see all of Seoul useless you worked at it. I hope you enjoy the Pics. Use the link below to go to all of the pictures in Picasa.
Link to Picasa Photos Waking Up in Seoul

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Waking Up in Seoul

Our departure out of Tokyo was a late one so it was well after sunset when we landed at Incheon Airport. The taxi ride into Seoul, at night, was a somewhat surreal experience. Nothing was familiar and I was disoriented to say the least. Once in the city, there were numerous successions of right and left turns through brightly lite crowded streets and dark quiet ones. It all left my head spinning and me wondering if the driver was taking us for a ride. We finally arrived at our place on a narrow quiet street where a not so friendly host ushered us through an old courtyard to a small room barely twice the size of a small tool shed. That was our place for the next four nights. What have we gotten ourselves into? I'm again uncomfortable with the uncomfortable. Nothing more to do then but sleep. Hopefully things will look better in daylight. Use the link below to go to my pictures in Picasa as we explore Seoul.
Link to Photo Album Waking Up in Seoul

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sayonara Tokyo

It has been great here in Tokyo and we feel very comfortable out and about even though language is a barrier toward getting to know any of the locals. Today is our last full day so we'll check out another place or so, perhaps the Shinjuku area, but focus on getting things ready for departure. Here's some facts about Tokyo according to me.

     Live music is often sung in English even though many do not speak English
     Tokyo is very clean including their subways and public toilets
     Finding public toilets is not an issue and there's no charge
     Don't be surprised to see a cleaning lady in the restroom while you are using it
     Taxi drivers wear suit and ties
     Drive and walk to left like Brits
     You don't hear cars honking in the busy streets
     Many young people appear very style conscious
     People are very orderly, no line cutting or loud talking
     There is no talking on phones in subways
     Very little graffiti anywhere
     Don't see many homeless people
     Bikes are often ridden on the sidewalks so look before you turn
     People act and appear very respectful in public
     Don't see intimate contact between couples in public
     Streets appear to be paved with a material that cuts down tire noise
     Businesses offer very good service with a smile
     Construction site are screened off so people don't see the mess
     Surgical masks are a very common sight
     Use of mobile devices is a common sight everywhere
     Vending machines selling drinks are everywhere throughout the city
     Public trash containers are difficult to find
     No hand towels in restrooms
     Recycling is done everywhere

Again, our smart phones have proved to be invaluable tools in our travels. There are many App's that can perform language translations; either by typing the text, speaking through the microphone, or using the phone camera to read text. They are far from perfect, difficult to use at times, and usually require a data service; but they've come a long ways. Language translators will only get better in the future which will truly open the world for travelers. I can't wait! I've added more pictures to my Picasa Album and will add a few more in the near future. Use the link below.
Link to Photo Album Bikeless in Tokyo

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bikeless in Tokyo

Kay and I are in Tokyo and we've been on the go since landing here just over 4 days ago after nearly 24 hours of travel time. And no, I did not bring a bike. We're slowly getting accustomed to the Japanese way and more comfortable with our uncomfortableness since this country is foreign to us. The Japanese have been very patient with our sign language and gestures so we are managing well enough. The few words I learned from Jay during our 2008 bike trip in Northern Japan, have been helpful in getting us started. I just have to remember that they drive and walk on the left like the Brits and not to be surprised when ever I encounter a cleaning lady in the men's restroom. As for eating, it's helpful to look for places with pictures on their menu. Kay is adapting very well, although she's already tired of noodles. We've seen more than a few of Tokyo's top sights so it's time to slow down and relax a little more. Click on the picture below to go to my photos in Picasa.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Summer 2012 Great Parks Tour

Here are my pictures from our Great Parks Loaded Bike Tour during the summer of 2012. It's called the "Great Parks Tour" because our route goes through seven national parks in two countries beginning in Canada and ending in the States. In total, we rode just over 1,600 miles and had more than 70,000 feet of elevation gain. Our lodging consisted of motels, cabins, youth hostels, and camping and our daily average was 41 miles. These photographs were taken with my Canon S100 and represent a pictorial journal of our tour. While on the road, I stopped posting pictures from the camera due to unsafe (virus) public computers. My pictures are divided into two parts: Jasper to Flathead Lake, and Flathead Lake to Jackson Hole. I tried to capture the scenic beauty of our journey on bicycles along with photographs to help show the chronology of the trip. This is my pictorial journal so expect a lot of pictures. Below are six of my favorite pictures from the tour. To see all of the pictures in Picasa, click on the picture grouping below to go to that photo set in Picasa. Bike touring is still a great passion but perhaps with a few more motel stays.

Jasper to Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake to Jackson Hole

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Moose on the Loose

While biking through the Grand Teton National Park, part of our summer 2012 loaded bike tour from Jasper, Alberta to Jackson, WY; we were fortunate to spot this moose feeding just off Moose Wilson Road. What a treat!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Red Lake Peak Hike

Dick, Geno, Don and I hiked to the top of Red Lake Peak off Highway 88 in the Sierras. We went cross-country to get to the top which added to the difficulty. Otherwise, it was a wonderful day for a hike during the fall with some colors starting to show.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Great Parks Tour

Click on the image below to go to my GPT (Great Parks Tour) pictures on Picasa. I will try to post some photographs within the GPT picture set while we're on the road.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Getting Ready for the Great Parks Bike Tour

Getting ready for our Great Parks Tour this summer which starts in Jasper, Alberta, Canada and ends in Jackson Hole, Montana, about six weeks of travel time overall. There will be 7 riders on this self-supported fully loaded bike tour. Five members will be traveling to Jasper via the train while Jay and I plan to fly to Edmonton and catch a bus to Jasper. We plan to cycle about 1,500 miles with a daily average of under 50 miles. Experience, as well as age, has taught us to keep the mileage down during our tours so we can enjoy our surroundings more completely, plus, there is plenty of time for rest days, about one every five days. Our route along the Canadian Rocky Mountains to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park will be quite scenic so there's no need to rush. I plan to use my Bike Friday which is pictured below during a final test ride before it was taken apart and packed in boxes. My initial concerns will be that the bike and all the equipment arrives at our destination, and in good condition. You know airlines, the outcome is not a sure bet. During our trip last summer, my friend's luggage was missing for two days and only arrived just hours before our planned departure. Thus, I won't be at ease until I see my equipment in Edmonton. Wish us luck!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ione Weekend

What a wonderful weekend getaway with long time friends from the Stockton/Lodi area whom we met in the early 1990's while riding the California Tour North, a 5-day supported bike tour organized by Imagine Tours. My thanks to Kev for pulling us together for a weekend adventure. We rode from the outskirts of Stockton to Ione and back, with respective mileages of 44 and 48, staying overnight at the historic Ione Hotel. Lucky for us, we had a coolish weekend with temps in the 70's, perfect for riding and much better than the 100's we endured the previous weekend. A benefit of so many vineyards and wineries scattered about the foothills these days is that they also make great rest stops. The historic Ione Hotel was the only place with rooms in this small town of 7,900 people with several eateries and bars, including their own steakhouse where we dined. The place was old, as expected, but clean and comfortable with very hospitable staff and owner. We just didn't anticipate the loud, and I mean very loud, punk rock music which played until midnight vibrating through the floors of our upstairs rooms, but the unexpected is what makes things fun. It was a great weekend. Click on the picture below to go to my photos in Picasa.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Half Moon Bay

For a quick change of scenery and a break from the valley heat wave, Kay and I decide to take a drive, via the Golden Gate Bridge, to Half Moon Bay located on the coast just south of San Francisco for an overnighter. Click on the image below to go to the pictures in Google's Picasa.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A beautiful day for a ride; the gang at the top of Cantelow Rd.:

Picture from Geno's Iphone

The Nursery

Ten days after my first sighting of the two chicks, there is now just an empty nest since they have become fledglings, which means the chicks have developed enough feathers to take flight into nearby trees, however, they will still be dependent upon the parents for their feedings, at least for another two weeks or so. It was a phenomenal window view while it lasted. Click on the image below to see additional pictures, which are maintained in Picasa.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Goodbye Mrs. Look

Goodbye to my mother-in-law, the dearest of our family, who passed away within our arms on June 3, 2012 at 10:05 p.m., 6 days after a stroke ended her miraculous recovery from a fall and broken femur 22 days ago. The ups and downs of our end of life journey with Kay's mother at home under Hospice Care was not an easy road to travel as we witnessed her physical struggle, in spite of her mental willingness for closure, but it was a necessary sojourn that was very much a part of her life. I am glad I was there. May she rest in peace.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

First Sighting

It has been just over two weeks since the Mourning Doves started incubation and I get my first sighting of the chicks. Yes, there are two chicks, which is the norm for these doves. The nesting period should also be about 2 weeks. Click on the picture below to see a series of photographs of the chicks feeding.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Chime

An old salvaged heavy gauge four by four steel fence post, makes an excellent chime producing a haunting solitary ring that resonates as if from afar, be it somewhere in the Himalayan mountains, or perhaps Shangri-La since it's just my imagination. Under gentle delta breezes which are prevalent around our neighborhood, it's solitary ring is a singular hollow metal old world sound. Unlike more refined musical chimes or the deep rich dong of a heavy bell, it's metallic sounds harken of distance landscapes, real or imagined, bringing tranquility if you yield to its resonances.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Good News

Cautiously speaking, it looks like good news for the family. Although Kay's mother is still under hospice care, it's more about rehabilitation as she has made remarkable progress from a week ago. Perhaps being home is the difference maker. Amazingly, she has been up out of bed sitting and taking some steps, initially with assistance but more independently with each passing day. Once she decided to give life another chance, her progress has been phenomenal despite her rod repaired femur. She still has a weak heart and may not achieve the same independence she had before, but for now, things are looking better and we'll see what her new normal might be. Below is a photo of mother and daughter from a few years back. Matters of health, whether they involve family, friends, or someone you read about, remind me to enjoy life to the fullest and not sweat the little things.