Sunday Morning June 30…
My twin sister and I head to O’hare to catch our plane to California to meet everyone else in the immediate family that is already there. We are expecting to be in +95F temperatures in less than 12 hours from now. I will not have a bad attitude. I will not have a bad attitude.
Arrive 11am at SNA. Picked up by my brother-in-law/Tiff’s husband. Melissa/wife chooses to not greet me at airport. Guess I have to wait another hour.
Lunch at Baha Sanora
Leave house for Bakersfield around 2pm. 45 seconds later we have to turn around because garage door is not down.
Walkie-talkies prove useful. Where is dad going?!
Traffic on the 5 freeway…of course.
Sierra car sick. Pulled off for a break.
4:15pm and 109F in Bakersfield. Black Angus restaurant down the street though! Wagon wheel sampler!
Family decided to go to P.F. Changs and then we walked over to B.J’s for a pazookie. A super sized pazookie. Cooked in a large pizza dish. 4700 calories + 8 people + 5 minutes = gone
9:15am departure from Bakersfield. Plan to stop in Fresno.
11:45am Stop in Fresno for lunch at In-n-out. I dislike In-n-out but everyone else likes it, so I don’t complain. Temps are not too bad actually.
3pm Made the tunnel overlook for group photos. Rain storms in the high country off in the distance. Very bad Verizon signal. Can barely get a voice call to work and data is almost non-existent.
5:15pm Quick trip over to the valley market to fill out the bear boxes full of provisions. Summer and I picked out a bottle of wine for later in the evening/week.
6:15pm a quick drizzle has cooled off the park. Dinner of hot dogs, beans, chips and 2 Dr.Peppers.
7:20pm talks of an evening hike are happening. Most of the adults are in bad moods so kids are getting in trouble every few minutes. A hike is probably a good thing.
A quick hike around the camp ground and back to the fire ring to build a small fire. Just enough to make s’mores.
Day Three – July 2
6:30am Up and walking around. Cell data looks to be working. So obviously the problem during the day is overloading of the cell tower(s)
10:00am Short walk up to Yosemite Falls for the morning. Temperature is rising, but plans are for river floating later in the afternoon.
Noon Lunch of PBJ, chips and a Dr.Pepper. Considering going to the high country tomorrow for the day. It’s my favorite part of the park after looking at the valley for 35 years.
First rafting trip of the week. Joe and George went under. Water is cold but not too bad given the ambient air temperature.
This is why people come to the valley. Beauty in nature.
Dinner of tostadas. Cherry cake cooked in a dutch oven for evening nom-noms.
Day Three – July 3rd
7:30am – Up and helping with breakfast
9:20am – Heading to the high country!
11:45am – Lunch in the high country at the “twin bridges” way point on the John Muir trail. This was the first way point in the failed Yosemite backpacking trip my wife and I took a few years back. We are looking forward to returning for another adventure, maybe next year.
“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” – John Muir
1:15pm Heading back down to the valley.
3:00pm floating down the Merced river for about an hour.
6:00pm Dinner of marinated chicken skewers cooked in a fire pit, grilled veggies, dutch oven biscuits and rice.
Popcorn and s’mores for evening snacks.
Day Four – July 4th
8:15am Breakfast of cereal, toast and peanut butter and hash browns.
9:15am Sierra, Melissa and I are heading to the bridge at the base of Vernal falls.
11am Holy cow! We made the top of Vernal falls. We had only planned on going to the bridge at the base but Sierra wanted to go on. So we let her lead and she took off and made it to the top.
1:15pm – 7.74 miles/147 flights of stairs/15,000 steps (according to my FitBit) and we made it back down to the valley. We took the long way back to avoid the stairs going down. Sierra was amazing. No complaints and she was singing and telling jokes the entire time. I think she might join us next year for a high country hiking trip. She’s a trooper.
Light lunch at Degman’s deli. We are all too tired to eat.
1:24pm My Dad just txt me and said he and my twin sister are heading up the same trail. I’ve asked them to at least stop at the bridge. If it wasn’t for Sierra I would have stopped at the bridge myself.
2:05pm They made Vernal falls. I assume they mean the bridge. Can’t get a response due to poor cell service. (NPS..idea for you. Put up wifi around the valley and charge $20/day. You’ll make a killing.)
3:15pm They are back down and headed back to camp.
4:00pm A quick walk around the Ansel Adams Gallery. Every time I see photographic work of this caliber it reminds me to just give up and go back to working with computers. I have the artistic eye, but not the talent.
5:00pm River floating!!
6:30pm Dinner of spaghetti, Italian sausage, garlic bread and broccoli.
8:00pm Walk to the village store for ice cream. Then over to the Ahwahnee to show the girls what a 4 star “lodge” looks like. I realized I was wearing my “Smoke’m if you got em” Tshirt I mow the lawn in when a well dressed man, his dressed up wife and young son with a tie on asked me to take their picture in the grand ball room….Dang. Back to the lower south side in housekeeping for me.
The girls now want to stay at the Ahwahnee next time we come. Walgreens stock better double so I can afford it.
Day Five – July 5th
9:30am Leaving the park on-time and on schedule
11:30am Made Oakhurst for gas. The Yosemite entrance gate had a line of at least a few hundred cars. Was nearly to fish camp.
Day Six – July 6th
Nothing particularly special. Lunch with the family. Trip to “shell shop” in Seal Beach. I got a replacement “your bait sucks and your boat is ugly” Tshirt. Date night with my sister and brother-in-law: Superman movie.
Day Seven – July 7th
Nothing particularly special. Kids and us watched Despicable Me 2.
Day Eight – July 8th
Nothing particularly special. Beach trip for an hour.
Day Nine – July 9th
Order of rides…
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain
…Bengal BBQ for lunch…
- Jungle Cruise
- Astro Blasters
- It’s a small world
- Hall of Innovations
…Mint Julip & Binnets
- Tiki room
- Pirates of the Caribbean
…Tyler realizes he has lost his FitBit..
…Teagan realizes she left her pin lanyard full of $100 worth of pins on a ride…
- Peter Pan
…Corn Dog for dinner…
- Space Mountain
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Space Mountain
- Space Mountain
Smoke Ring’z in Wheaton is most definitely the best BBQ joint around….and possibly the best BBQ joint in all of Chicago. Located on Geneva road in Wheaton in the old Butler BBQ location (he had some of the best pulled pork)…it’s in a small strip mall. But as soon as you walk in you can see the smoker and wood that is being used. Every time I’ve eaten here they have been friendly, attentive and always asking how we liked the food.
A few nights ago I came in to order ribs (see below), because it was “fend for yourself” night in our house, and was told they would not be ready for another hour. They offered to check on them while I waited so I walked over to the smoker and they opened the doors on the most beautiful site I’ve seen in a while. Ribs rotating and cooked to a honey brown color. He checked a few of them and turned around and said “nope..not ready..need another 60 minutes”. Now…I’m standing here with cash in my hand and he could have simply sold me the ribs. But no. They weren’t ready..so no..you can’t have them. I love this place. Now, fries are fries basically…but they have garlic fries (I’ve seen them cook them and it’s just fries with some mega-store garlic salt shook on them…but I don’t care) that are the perfect complement to the ribs. A little serving of proper “creamy” slaw on the side to cut the tiny bit of heat in the sauce and….oh my…I could just eat here every night.
I’ve eaten BBQ all over the United States, including some of the best (and world famous) joints in Texas. I once eat at 4 different world famous brisket places in the same day. This place can match them all and beat most of them. I’m sure there are individual BBQ masters that don’t have a store front restaurant that cook at competitions that claim they are better…but I can’t drive to their place and pick up ribs whenever I want. And these guys do it right…day after day. Every day.
Smoke Ringz in Wheaton, IL puts the rest of the local places to shame. (And don’t get me started on the “Smoke House” down the street. If you run your ribs through a churro cooker/belt cooker to reheat them and then dunk them in sauce in front of me…I may…I…I’m just speechless. They should take your BBQ card away.)
Lots of things where accomplished in 2012 and I’m pretty happy with how things turned out on the whole. Items completed in 2012 are in strike-thru. The others were never accomplished and I’m not real happy about that…especially the trips. Tent camping should always be a must, and will be rectified in 2013.
Trip away with only the wife
Trip to California for family wedding
- Storm Chasing with Dad
- Tent Camping with kids
- Raspberry picking
- Cranberry picking (Oct 5-7)
- New weather station with ground moisture sensor
Full redo of front yard planting
- Rebuild vegetable garden
Finish remaining drywall in the house
My new list for 2013 is below…
- Trip away with only the wife
- Storm Chasing or I’m going to go bat crap crazy..it’s been nearly 19 months since I’ve felt wind in my face and smelled newly wet grass lands.
- Tent Camping with family, maybe down by Springfield, MO
- Out to California/Disneyland and Yosemite camping (already scheduled)
- Apple picking
- Cranberry picking (Oct 5-7)
- Golfing with Ryan and/or Joe
- Rebuild vegetable garden
- New raised bed configuration
- Water pipe to garden beds with timer
- Rebuild drip irrigation
- Finish front closet remodel (already scheduled)
- Redo flooring in the entire house
- Do side or rear landscaping, choice is up to wife
After nearly 15 years of marriage my wife and I have learned a lot about each other. We were discussing this topic a few nights ago and decided that had we lived together prior to getting married we may not have gotten married. Here’s the list of things we now know…that we are glad we didn’t know before…
Tyler Complaint / Melissa Response
- She doesn’t like to cuddle / He never told me cuddling involved smothering and harassment
- Her side of the bed is her side. No changes. No excuses. / There’s a reason we got a California king. “stop touching me!”
- She never takes the trash out / That’s a man’s job. I ask so little
- She doesn’t do anything spontaneous / He wants to be spontaneous at the most inopportune time.
- He never takes the dog out / The dog doesn’t need me to watch it go poop
- Showers are my refuge of peace, they are not an invitation to join me / The shower fits two, therefor it must have two. it’s a rule.
- He never gets up when the kids yell “mom” at night / They yelled “mom”, not “dad”. Why should both of us be awake? It took me a long time for me to train them to say “mom”.
- “Cleaning the house” for him involves moving one pile to another / I know where my piles are. They arn’t bothering me.
Was cruising around Pinterest and found a list of 101 things to do with your husband…written by a woman…of course. My thoughts on a few of the really stupid ones. Yes. I said Pinterest. Yes. I’m married. No. I think scrap booking is still stupid.
Go to the gym together
Are you nuts? Unless both of you are in perfect shape, this is a bad idea. A very bad idea.
Could you pick a less manly game? At least make it lawn darts!
Match socks together – believe it or not, this can be nice to just sit and chat while doing this mindless chore
Maybe for you. Your husband wants to kill himself with one of the extra socks to stop the babbling.
Go see a play at a local theatre
Seriously, this is still in the cultural belief system of the married female?! Your man doesn’t want to go to a play. He’s doing it because _you_ like it. He’d rather slit his wrists. At best he’s going just to see you all dressed up.
Paint a room in your house that you’ve been meaning to re-do
Shoot me now. It will just end up with “Is that how you are going to paint it?”
Unless your husband is an English major. Uhhh…no. He’ll be looking for that lost sock again to end the misery.
I ain’t there for the meditation, so you better be wearing something other than an old Tshirt.
Run a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon, marathon together
One of you will hate the other for running too slow or too fast. Better yet…how about I drive you there and then pick you up when you are done?
you’ve clearly never meet my wife. Blood has been spilt over lesser games. I value the remaining stumps I use to call limbs.
Redo your bedroom together – new sheets, new arrangement of furniture, hang photos, etc
Hahahaha!!! It stopped being my room 6 months after we got married. I think my Star Wars figures got melted down to make candles.
Make your own sushi
Sure! And you can visit the ER together later that night.
Take a karate class
Great idea. Give the aggressive one even more skill in causing pain.
You know what’s never on the list? Yeah, you guessed it.
Here’s a realistic list…
- Go for a drive, just because
- Do…you know
- Go camping
- Do more…you know
- Go to a movie, with violence or comedy
- Do some…you know
- Go to a nice dinner
- A little…you know
- Travel anywhere
- A new…you know
- Sleep next to me
- An old…you know
- Listen to me babble about a great new idea I have
- Wear something sexy and do any of the above. Preferably before…you know
Say hello to “Peaches”. A 1 year old female Cairn Terrier / Mix that was picked up as a stray and brought to the Hinsdale Humane Society. She was on the ABC Channel 7 news “Doggie Days” adoption show on June 29th, 2012 with the name “Delilah. We had no idea that was the case, but showed up at the shelter on June 30th and picked her out of the line-up in the kennel. While we were there several other people came in to see her and mentioned the TV show. To late suckers…she’s ours.
She is a happy little thing that loves to play with balls and stuffed toys. During the “get to know the dog” session at the shelter I was able to easily lay her over on her back and rub her belly (shows she has no trust issues) and I could take her ball/toy away with a bit of playful growling but no bitting (shows no toy aggression issues). During vigerous play she even grabbed my hand twice, accidentally, but did not bite.
She should be a good ball of fire.
She’s currently at the vet getting a check-up, shots and a little nip and tuck (spay).
The girls have already set up the house with a bed in mom/dad’s room, a fluffy pillow area in the family room and she’s got a new food/water dish. Teagan has been asking, “when can we go pick her up?!” every hour for the past 12 hours.
Unfortunately, daddy (me) will be taking on crate training duties starting Monday since the girls are heading to their mom/nanna’s house for the holiday vacation. It will just be me and Peaches every evening after work for a few days.
Let’s be clear. I’m lazy. And my wife hates when I have stubble…with a passion. So I’m in a very bad situation. Usually I have two different types of shaving equipment in my bathroom. An electric Braun shaver and a Mach 3 Turbo. Most of the time I’m using the Braun shaver. I’ve been an electric shaver since I started shaving back when I was a teen. It’s just easier.
But I’m willing to try anything once, and if it only costs $1…so much the better. In comes the $1 Shave Club. Seems like a late night gimmick but I can tell you it isn’t. The $1 shave is really a $3 shave once you add the $2 shipping/handling. But when you compare it to the $16 Mach 3 Turbo blade replacements it’s still 5x cheaper.
When your first package arrives, you get the metal handled shaver and a pack of 5 blades. In theory, I’ll be getting 5 more blades for $5 next month. The Dollar Shave Club model is you shouldn’t be spending $16 on a pack of blades when you can get the same shave quality for $3.
They are right. After my first shave, there was absolutely nothing different between the shave I got with the $1 blade and the $16 blade.
I have an unhealthy relationship with baked beans. No really. If you want to cause an angry discussion, then argue with me about what are proper baked beans. (sorry, you’re wrong if it involves meat, tomatoes, hot peppers or other abominations)
The best commercial beans on the market are from Bush’s….fact. End of story. Stop arguing.
But I’ve always wondered if I could make my own baked beans, but never really put in the effort to find out. Well….that changed just before Christmas. Melissa’s mom was over at the house and she had one of those “Boston Baked Beans” pots and was making up some beans. I made a little girly giggle when I noticed them being made and clapped my hands like the “Hercules” lady in the Nutty Professor movie.
Melissa’s mother proceeded to buy me my own Boston Baked beans pot for Christmas. _SCORE!_
Last night I started the process of making my first batch of Boston Baked Beans. I used a slightly modified (by me to make it easier) version of the “Official Recipe”.
1 package (1 pound) navy beans
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6oz of sliced cured salt pork (comes in a 12 oz package, use about half)
1/2 large onion peeled and broken into large chunks (or one small)
1/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Soak beans overnight in a large bowl/pot in 6 cups of water.
Add baking soda. Heat to boiling and simmer 10 minutes. Drain in colander over large bowl. Save liquid.
Place cooked beans, salt pork and onion in the bean pot. Add molasses and remaining dry ingredients. Add reserved liquid. Stir thoroughly. Cover the bean pot and place in 300 degree oven for 3 hours. Uncover for another 30 minutes to thicken. Remove from oven after 3-1/2 hours of cooking.
I like a slightly more sweet and slightly more bacon flavor, so I may add some brown sugar and cooked bacon pieces about half way through the cooking period. But these beans are very tasty and I’m ecstatic that I found a replacement for Bush’s.
My mother in law rocks!
In mid/late September we spent 11 days in Scotland seeing the sites and being tourists. We worked with McLean Scotland to put the trip together. They also provided us with a driver (the owner of the company, Paul).
Day 1 [ Arrive at Glasgow ]
I didn’t tell Melissa before we left that I had gotten us a Limo to take us to the airport and had paid a couple hundred dollars to get a last minute First Class upgrade. The limo pulled up in the driveway and I pushed Melissa to the door like we needed to leave soon. She called me a nerd and a dork and several other affectionate terms for doing crazy things she would never approve of. While in the O’Hare airport we thought we heard my name over the PA system a couple times but could never hear well enough to be sure. When we arrived at the gate, I heard my name over the PA system and headed to the ticket counter. They informed me the TSA had confiscated the 2 bottles of Rum I was bringing to give to Liz as a gift for doing all the hard work on our trip. Nothing I could do about it now. Otherwise, we had an uneventful trip from O’Hare to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to Glasgow on US Airways.
We took a taxi from the Glasgow airport to the Millennium Hotel, at George Square. Essentially..it’s the middle of Glasgow. We had the day to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. Paul (our driver) would be joining us in the morning to begin the tour. The reminents of a hurricane was scheduled to hit Glasgow in the afternoon so we did a little shopping and site seeing before the rain and wind hit. Melissa wanted to buy some proper Hunter Wellies which we found a few blocks from the hotel. We headed over to a famous church afterwards and we were at the top of the Glasgow Acropolis looking at the centuries old tombstones when the brunt of the storm hit. We had great fun walking back to the hotel for a nap.
Day 2 [ Travel from Glasgow to Inveraray ]
First day of the road tour. Paul met as at the hotel promptly at 10.00am. We drove north along Lock Lomond to Tarbet where we stopped for a break to stretch the legs and Melissa and I purchased some smokey cheddar cheese, some local honey and some crackers. We had these for a snack in the hotel later in the evening. Very good!! We then went up a zig-zag road to the top of a mountain pass known as “rest and be thankful”. In the light mist the view wasn’t spectacular but it had a “scottish” charm to it. It was here that we got our first look at the gigantic pine forests that have been planted for paper all over Scotland. The scenery reminded us of the Sierra Mountains in California. Very beautiful. The entire day Paul was giving us the history of Clan Campbell according to Clan McLean. For the rest of the tour it was hilarious to hear Paul’s take on the history of the Campbell’s, every day he had a new story about how the Campbell’s were horrible people. We found out later in the day why he was talking about the Campbell’s. We stopped at the castle for Clan Campbell in Inverarary. Paul gave us a coupon so we wouldn’t have to “give any more of your money than you have to to the Campbell’s”. After our quick walk around of the castle, we drove the few minutes to Inverarary and checked into the George Hotel, Inverarary. This was the finest accommodation we would have the entire tour. Several other hotels were more expensive or “higher rated”, but we found the charm of this Pub/Hotel captivating.
We spent the rest of the late afternoon walking around the 10 or so shops in Inverarary, including the famous Loch Fyne Whisky shop. I picked up 2 mini bottles for tasting back at the hotel and Melissa purchased a bottle of their Whisky liqueur that she found surprisingly pleasant. Paul had mentioned a small art gallery/shop down a short alleyway so Melissa and I headed over to take a look. We found Paul in the shop browsing on the upper level. We are not exactly art collectors or connoisseurs by any means, but we found 3 water color pieces done by a local artist that we both thought were fantastic and would look great in the hallway of our house.
Day 3 [ Celtic history ]
Paul met us in the morning and told us that he had been talking with the local truck drivers and found out that the road we wanted to go on had been washed out and so he recommended we take a different route than he had previously planned. We would still be on the Kintyre peninsula and see 13th century history. We spent the rest of the day heading back in time. Paul took us down a one lane road, past a set of locks, to an old fishing port. Something we would never have even known about on our own. Well worth the extra hour. _This_ is what you pay for when you get a private driver/guide. We noticed that every morning Paul had been up much earlier than us and had been talking to folks in town to find out what roads were the best and adjusting the tour accordingly. He also took us to the only bridge over the Atlantic ocean. There’s nothing on the other side really, so we stopped for an Irn-Bru at a small pub. Paul told us that we would be heading to Oban in the morning to catch the ferry, but we would probably not have much time to walk around. So with several hours of the afternoon left, we headed back across the bridge and visited Oban. We took the opportunity to tour the Oban distillery. Not a bad tour, but nothing special. We also stopped at a local chocolate factory/shop that had wonderfully tasty treats. Paul recommended a pub to eat at just out of town so we had a nice meal and then headed back to Inverarary for the night.
Day 4 [ Isle ofMull ]
We headed from Inveraray to Oban to catch the ferry to the Isle of Mull. On the way Paul took us to a little church that if you didn’t know was there you would slip on past. It had the most amazing architecture of any church I have ever seen. Many churches are more spectacular, but the architectural features in this church are simply fantastic. It had been paid for by a local Chief who was later burried in a small crypt off the side. We continued on to Oban.
We visited a ruined fort before getting in line for the ferry. I had forgotten how much I love the ocean. The cool breeze in my face, the smell of salt and the back and forth of the ship. I could get use to living here. Paul informed us that the castle in the distance was “his” castle. Home to the chief of Clan McLean. We left the ferry and headed over to Duart Castle for a quick tour. On the way up to the castle, we got our first look at highland cattle. I made up my mind right there that if we ever achieve our dream of owning a farm I wanted highland cattle. And I’ve refused to even consider cattle until now.
Paul paid our entrance fee and told us “You’re not paying to visit my castle”. This was a true and proper castle. It had been restored by Clan McLean and the chief lived here for several months of the year. While on the roof looking out over the sound of Mull, we met the chief. He looked over and shouted a hello to Paul. He asked if we were McLean’s but Paul informed him no. He welcomed us anyway and Paul had a big smile on his face. We would later see a picture of this chief at the Palace of Holyroodhouse standing with the Queen. It was part of a gallery of about 15 pictures at the end of the tour. I literally said to Melissa “Holy crap…that’s the Chief we met a few days ago”.
On the way back from the Castle we stopped at our accomidation for the next few days, the Craignure Inn. We had been reserved one of the 3 rooms in the local pub. The pub down stairs is the only place open to eat after about 7:30pm unless you drive an hour to Tobermory. After checking in, we headed up to Tobermory, the biggest city on the island. I had heard about a fish and chips cart that was famous that I wanted to try and the town is home to the Tobermory distillery. We didn’t do a tour, but I did pick up another mini bottle for sampling. We both tried the fish and chips and I have to say….it really was the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. We headed back to the pub at Craignure Inn for dinner. We noticed several spectacular paintings on the wall. We asked one of the workers in the pub who had made them and she said the retired art teacher from the school in Tobermory. He lived a few miles up the road and had a private studio in his home, but he welcomed visitors. More about that later.
Day 5 [ Isle of Mull ]
With the weather holding off fairly well, we started the morning off with a plan to tour the entire Island. We headed north again along the coast, up past Tobermory. We spent several hours simply driving and looking at the changing scenery. Every turn my eyes were glued to the window. We ended up on the south western tip of Mull and boarded a small ferry to the island of Iona, the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. After an hour or two on Iona touring the abbey we headed back to the ferry crossing. While we waited for a ferry, we watched a father and son row out to their anchored fishing boat and set to work. The weather was turning very bad, but they looked at home on the water. We met up with Paul on the other side of the ferry for our trip back to our Inn. This day was probably the best part of the entire trip. The barren moorlands and wind swept hills on the northern approaches of the Atlantic ocean are rugged and captivating. These are sturdy people that live here. But the land is beautiful and there is a peace that I could feel, even for the short time I was there. I fell in love with Mull. The little island captured my heart and I hope in the future I will be able to return, maybe for a lot longer. Oh yeah…before we got to the Inn we stopped at the home of the artist I mentioned earlier. The wife invited us into her house unannounced and offered us tea. (I thought they only did that in the movies!) She let us look around the house and she and her high school age daughter showed us the various paintings that might be for sale. His wife said he wasn’t home (he was on the mainland waiting for a ferry at Oban) but if we came back in the morning he would be there.
Day 6 [ Mull to Inverness ]
Before heading north a few miles to our ferry back to the mainland, we stopped at the home of John Archbold (the painter from earlier). He was an eccentric, full of life person and spent the next hour or so showing us all his works and bustling around his studio. My wife and I settled on a painting of the small bay on Iona where we had seen the father and son fisherman while waiting for our Ferry. It was instantly recognizable and something we could hang on our wall and remember our trip. John was ecstatic that he had sold a painting at 8:30 in the morning. He had sold 2 paintings the previous evening (after we had left) and mentioned this was his best 2 days ever. Paul offered to take a picture of the three of us that I plan on mounting and displaying next to the painting in our home. This was the first painting he had sold to Americans and made a note to update his website that he now had a painting in Chicago. We encouraged him to figure out how to have an exhibition in Chicago. We put the painting in the back of Paul’s car and off we went to the next ferry to Lochaline on the mainland. From here we drove up to Corran for an even smaller ferry at Loch Linnhe.
From here we visited another ruined castle and the memorial to the special forces of WWII that trained in the area. Then on to probably the most famous ruined castle in Scotland (Urquhart Castle) on the shore of Loch Ness. I did my best not to scowl at the tourists since I was one. Then off to the Columba Hotel in Inverness. We had a spectacular view of the castle out our bedroom window.
Day 7 [ Around Inverness ]
Paul picked us up in the morning and told us that tomorrow looked like a better chance of rain than today so he recommended we head north towards to visit a Carn Liath, a sort of bronze age fort. We then stopped and took a tour of Dunrobin Castle. Holy cow! It was never designed to be a defensible castle, but more a mansion. The building itself is frankly, not that impressive on the inside (although Melissa disagrees, the library was gorgeous with wood all around and the view of the gardens and ocean from each window was breathtaking)…though the history and artwork was very interesting. What is absolutely amazing is the formal gardens of the castle. Also, adjacent to the castle is a small building that houses what I can only describe as one of the most impressive collections of natural history artifacts. The building is no larger than a small garage, but would rival any of the natural history museums in America. Though smaller, the collection was far more impressive.
The rest of the day was spent looking and driving through beautiful scenery of the northern highlands.
We invited Paul to dinner with us in hopes of showing our gratitude for his fantastic job on our trip. He grudgingly agreed, but only if we allowed him to pay for the drinks. At dinner Paul proceeded to force Melissa and I to drink several bottles of wine, until his wine bill far exceeded our meal bill. So our plan backfired. But we otherwise spent several hours having a great time with a new friend.
Day 8 [ Around Inverness ]
Prior to going on this trip I had promised Melissa that this would not be a Whisky only trip. As you can tell from the previous 7 days, I only took a few occasions to visit a distillery when I really had no choice…they happened to be right in our way. But this day…this was going to be Whisky day. Paul took us to the heart of Scotch Whisky production, Speyside. First on our trip was a stop at the Speyside Cooperage for a quick tour. It was very impressive to see the guys breaking down and rebuilding barrels at break neck speed. They even had a baby barrel off to one side where tourist could try and put the staves inside the rings and have it stand up on its own. I failed on all attempts, until finally Melissa decided she couldn’t stand it anymore and took her turn next to me. She beat me easily on her first try…I never did finish.
We then stopped in at one of the mega distilleries, Glenfiddich. Their tour starts with one of the most impressive and artistic advertisements for a company I have ever seen. No more than a few words were spoken over a 10 minute period as they showed the history of the building of the distillery. As we left the small theater Melissa said, “just watching that made me want to drink whisky! And I don’t even like whisky.” Truly impressive. Oh..and they had a heather garden. I had to stop and get my picture taken.
Paul still had our painting from our time on Mull in the back of his car and he suggested we stop in Dufftown at a small whisky shop he liked and he thought there was a post office in the town. While Paul scouted for the post office I picked up a selection of mini whisky bottles to bring home and sample. Paul returned and told us that the post office would take our painting and they had packing material. We spent the next 30 minutes on the floor of the small post office wrapping the painting as best we could. (It arrived safely a few days after we returned home).
Earlier in the tour I had asked Paul if he could get us a tour of a large distillery and a small distillery so I could see the differences. We had seen the mega huge one, now on to Glen Moray…the small one. This was by far the best tour of the entire trip. The guide was particularly knowledgeable and was clearly passionate about what the distillery did. Unlike the tour guides at the other facilities who seemed to simply be reading a script developed by some guy in the back office. An interesting twist was the two casks that had see thru ends so you could see the difference in color from the difference in age. They also had 6 different casks to nose. Then when we returned to the gift shop we were permitted to sample from any or all of their range, including their 30 year old expression.
We returned back to our hotel and bid goodbye to Paul as this was the end of our time with him. If you ever need a tour company or guide in Scotland (or Ireland), we would not hesitate to recommend or use him again!
Day 9 [ Edinburgh ]
We spent a lazy morning getting packed up and walking over to the train depot in Inverness. We grabbed our train with limited hassle, and had a leisurely trip down to Edinburgh. I spent the majority of the trip reading a book/memoir on “crofting” in the Scottish Highlands and looking at the landscape going by. Yes, yes…the train had a food trolly like in the Harry Potter films. Melissa and I had a good laugh. We departed the train at Edinburgh and immediately felt like we had stepped into Union Station in Chicago. Very similar setup. I stopped at the information booth and asked about using our pre-paid ticket and best train to catch to go to Glasgow in a few days.
Instead of taking a taxi, Melissa and I decided to walk with our rolling luggage. I had already mapped out the hotel and knew it was only a few blocks away. Though Edinburgh is a hilly city, it was not difficult to travel from the train depot to our hotel on foot. I figured we would look like the odd tourist not using a taxi, but soon realized many tourists were walking. In fact, we arrived at our hotel (Royal Scots Club) at the same time as another couple dragging their luggage.
We spent the rest of the early evening scoping out the high street for tomorrow and bouncing in and out of the shops. We ended up eating in a back alley 4-star seafood restaurant (Wildfire) that I had heard about on the web. They happened to have Langostino on their specials, which I had been hoping to try since I can never find them in the US. Though well prepared (I figure), I found them under whelming. I finished with an excellent scottish cheese plate.
Day 10 [ Edinburgh ]
Today was our exploration day in Edinburgh. With rain in the forecast we quickly headed to the Palace of Hollyroodhouse. In the process, passing the new Scottish Parliament building…absolutely atrocious architecture (and I spent 3 years in the USC School of Architecture, you’d think I’d appreciate it). We paid our entry fee, grabbed our ear pieces and headed in as the rain began to fall. After entering the 2nd room of the tour we were approached by some kind of Public Relations person and asked if we would be interested in posing for “official” PR photos for the new Royal Collection website (under development). We said sure, signed a few forms and spent the next 20 minutes with them doing random poses in the various exhibits. If you end up seeing us on their website in the future, you’ll know why. The palace was impressive and well worth the time spent.
With light mist falling, we headed back up the High Street and encountered an antique map store, not something I’d ever seen before in the United States. Since we had no particular plans, we stopped in. Oh. My. Word. Good thing I don’t have a library and smoke pipes with a wolf hound at my feet…yet. They had some seriously beautiful maps. The rain began to fall in buckets so I attempted to kill a few more minutes and asked if they had any maps of the Isle of Mull. The owner of the shop came up out of the basement and took me over to one of the storage tables and began pulling out nautical charts. After going through about 60 charts, we found one of nearly all of Mull. An original British Navy chart of the western approaches to Mull including all of the area we had seen previously in our trip. I immediately fell in love and purchased it on the spot. I had it framed when we returned to the US and it hangs in my office. Every time I look at it I can remember each location and the time we spent on that beautiful Isle.
With the rain still falling, but lighter, we headed up the High Street and decided to take a detour to the National Museum of Scotland. Melissa had been complaining that all the history was getting messed up in her head and she needed something more structured. We got a little lost on the way there and ended up walking through the University of Edinburgh campus. I commented to Melissa on the schools significance in history and how it would have been interesting to have attended an international school of it’s caliber. That thought quickly faded as we became drowned rats. We scampered into the Museum and spent the next few hours delving back into history.
As late afternoon approached we headed back to the High Street to do a bit of nick-nack shopping. With the sun setting we decided to head back to our hotel and stop in at the Bank of Scotland museum and the National Galleries of Scotland on the way. The “museum on the mound” was small but informative and the national galleries were impressive. We headed back towards our hotel and ate at a Mexican restaurant we had seen the day before. Good food was had and we collapsed in our hotel room.
Day 11 [ Glasgow ]
Ramada Hotel, Glasgow Airport
Our train was not scheduled to leave for Glasgow until early afternoon so we headed back up to the High Street for lunch. Melissa wanted to make one more attempt at finding some small items for the kids before heading home. After lunch in one of the local pubs, we headed up the street to Edinburgh Castle, but decided to pass on entering due to the nearly $60 ($30 a piece) it would have cost. We killed a few more hours and then headed back to our hotel for our luggage. We walked back to the Edinburgh train station and got a little confused with their signage, but ended up on the right train. We stepped off the train in Glasgow (back where we first arrived in Glasgow city center) and grabbed a taxi for the hotel.
We spent the remaining few hours before dinner in our hotel room relaxing. With no other choice (other than to head back into town), we ate in the hotel restaurant and went to sleep.
Day 12 [ Fly Home ]
A 2 minute shuttle from the hotel to the airport and we were headed home. Not much to say about the trip home, other than realizing that First Class was not worth the extra money (Melissa disagrees, at least for the eastbound direction if you want to sleep). Coach class from Scotland, to the US East coast, is not painful or cramped. Pop for a Bose noise canceling head phone and you’ll be good to go.
Hive #1 is the strongest this year with 2 full honey supers already and probably another super expected. Today I added a comb honey unit to this hive. Never done comb honey before.
Hive #2 did not look strong 20 days ago. There was evidence that the hive had split. With continued diminished performance I’m positive the hive has split. This hive will need to be killed prior to winter (they won’t survive) and restarted next year.
Hive #3 is a 2nd year queen and doing acceptable. I will be “requeening” the hive in early September after the last honey flow.