California Dreaming – Days 2 & 3 on to West Memphis, Arkansas, then to Clinton, Oklahoma

Sat Feb 23 & Sun Feb 24, 2020

Not much to say except we drove, and drove, and drove! On Saturday after a quick bite at the hotel we were on the road by 8:15am. A quick fill-up stop at Wendy’s for a salad and gas for the car we pushed on to West Memphis, Arkansas just over the border from Memphis Tennessee. Our only screw up of the day was using Hotel Tonight to book a hotel which incorrectly was marked as being in West Memphis but in fact was in Texas. They do not make it easy to resolve incorrect bookings on their website – no human interaction is intended! After much frustrating communication which was compounded by our sh*!#$ phone card, I was finally able to get the phone number for the booking site from the hotel staff. I could not get a refund, but managed to at least get a credit for a future booking. In the meantime we landed at a Quality Inn which was not great but just fine. Had dinner at a local Mexican chain where the meals were also quite fine. The $0.99 Marguerites certainly helped.

Sunday was another drive day with a quick breakfast and we were on the road by 7:30am. More drive thru’s at Wendy’s and McD’s along with gas stops filled the day. We did pass a few interesting sites including out of commission oil rig and many cattle, not to mention a surplus of casinos on native lands. The day wrapped up with another Mexican meal which was very good and very affordable.

Our phone frustrations continued. It was quite ‘fun’ to start receiving US election spam as soon as we crossed borders though (check out the photo)! After endless drops from Michael’s 6 year old phone, we switched the phone card to my phone which improved reception marginally.

By end of Sunday we had travelled 1,670 miles (2,688 km).

California Dreaming – Day 1 travel to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky

So one year later, I am going to attempt to post our truncated vacation experience to Joshua Tree. I started to create the postings upon our return, but never did get it done for many reasons. So time to get down to it!

We were unable to complete our wish list of sites to see, and hope to return someday to experience it all. But as this article describes, even if we return, it may never be the same. Just as Canadians are flocking out of the cities with the pandemic, so are the Hollywood crowd to Joshua Tree and surrounds.

So here it is, one year on.

Friday February 21, 2020

Little did we know this would turn out to be a less than routine vacation! We could not have dreamt this type of Californication! But that all happens later….

Our journey actually started on day 0 with the 276 km drive to Burlington for a pre-trip visit with Mike’s parents and a birthday book delivery to Dan (finally!!). We rose early on Friday, Feb 21 (day 1) and were out the door before 7 am, without even waking George & Marucia. As was to become our pattern, Michael drove the first couple of hours, then we switched drivers. I crossed the border smoothly into Michigan which took about 10 – 15 minutes. It was a perfect driving day with lots of sun and light traffic. We did manage to hit Cincinnati about 3:30 pm for Friday rush hour but even that was mild.

We purchased a ROAM mobility card for use in the states – and it seemed to suck! We had very poor reception using Michael’s One-plus (which is now 6 years old, so that is a bit suspect). Unfortunately despite my research, the reception was quite spotty. I’m not sure what provider may be better??? At this point it was ‘ok’ for navigation, and luckily our route was straight forward. But internet communication is not dependable. Wifi at accommodations will be necessary!

We lunched in Dayton, Ohio just past Toledo where we found a great Pho spot. We filled up with diesel and after another driver swap we were on to Cinci’ where we swapped again. We almost stopped at the Armstrong Space Museum there (Neil Armstrong’s home town), but it was 3pm so we decided to skip as the museum would likely close and we wanted to push on.

Our ‘in flight entertainment’ consisted mostly of podcasts which we had previously downloaded. I had selected ‘Habitat’ the Mars simulation in Hawaii, and Michael ‘The Office Girls’ re-watch podcast by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. Both were engaging and entertaining. Our driving did take us through some weather with interesting skies including rainbow entertainment also (see next post for the photos).

We used HotelTonight the app Michael had found for last minute hotel bookings to book our first night. It was $100 Cdn+tax for a King room with breakfast, so reasonable – but the same price as other sites. The staff were great and very helpful – especially in picking our dinner spot.

We went to the local favourite, Greyhound Tavern which was a splurge. The onion rings were insane! 5 inches around and 2 inches thick monsters! The pecan crusted chicken was excellent and the spinach salad was well done. We added a couple of local draft beers which were also very good. It was a nice dinner binge, but we can’t keep this up for both the waistline and the pocketbook!

Heading back to the hotel, we decided to skip a stop at the PEECOX bar across the street and opted instead for some TV time with cookies from the lobby.

757km under our tires today…. more tomorrow so early rise on the alarm.

Fall of 2019-2020 (Covid 19 year) – Photo Club Collection (Bonus Challenges)

This posting is part three of my recent club photos and it consists of images taken for our “bonus challenges”. This collection of photo assignments were given to club members as a replacement activity to the missed monthly club meetings due to the pandemic. These bonus assignments gave club members a chance to stretch their creative abilities as well a their digital processing skills. Not all of the images were taken this year, although processing was done in 2020. Bonus assignments included “Bingo Card” (a variety of photographic subjects), “D&D” (a variety of specific post processing methods), “Double of Nothing” (more post processing examples), “Reworked 3 times” (taking a photo and manipulating it 3 different ways) and finally “Snakes and Ladders” (a photo scavenger hunt).

Fall of 2019-2020 (Covid 19 year) – Photo Club Collection (Monthly Challenges)

This posting is part two of my recent club photos and it consists of images taken during our “monthly challenges”. When the pandemic hit Canada around March of 2020 in person meetings were put on hold. Social distancing became the norm and for two months the club allowed members to “revisit” photos from previous years to complete these collections. I used a few images from the past for the “Reflection/Distortion” and “Placement is Everything” themed months. Other monthly challenges with recently captured images were : “Autumn Splendor”, “High Key”, “It’s a Small World”, “Past Its Prime”, “People and Pets”, “Round the Bend”, “Spring has Sprung”, “Structure”, “Summer Fun” and “Texture”.

Fall of 2019-2020 (Covid 19 year) – Photo Club Collection (Photo Outings)

It has been almost a year since I have posted any pictures from the photo club activities so I thought I would break this collection into multiple parts. This posting covers photos taken during one of the “club outings.” When the pandemic hit Canada around March of 2020 outings were cancelled from March through till August. These images are from trips before and after that hiatus include Jones Falls, Lamoine Point, Lake on the Mountain, Sandbanks and the Trenton Air Museum.

Austria/Slovakia/Hungary – Day 21/22 – Budapest to Vienna to home

We rose and packed up in Budapest – pretty much our final pack for travel home. We had one last coffee and danish at the Paris coffee shop then headed back to collect our bags and head out for the train. We took the bus to the train station no problem at all. We arrived quite early, so I ventured to the Spar to spend our last few Forints on water, yogurt, beer, goulash spice paste and some treats for Picasso.

The train ride was about 3 hours, then after some fumbling we managed to find the train to our pension. It was quite accurately a 3* as rated – but it was clean and very conveniently located close to the CAT to catch in the morning for our flight home.

Despite our snacks on the train, we were hungry so we wandered out and found a wonderful little cafe and had some ice cream cups . The Chicago ice cream was a great find with dark chocolate, nuts and whiskey. Then to another coffee shop for a coffee and a shared strudel. The area had some lovely shops – a very nice Henkel knife shop and some unique Swiss Army knives.

Back at the room we watched Raonic lose in straight sets – the match was being held broadcast live from right here in Vienna! Then back out for dinner where Michael found a good cheap spot just down the road – thank you to google once again. Back in the room we checked in online and had to force ourselves to stay awake till 9 pm – how can doing nothing get you so tired!

The next morning we rose early. The pension staff were very helpful and even served breakfast 1/2 early in the morning for us as we needed to leave by 7 am. We caught the CAT to the airport no problem, although unfortunately we could not check in at the CAT station and needed to do so at the airport.

And then the flight home, where we again had pre-ordered gluten free meals (highly recommended!) All went smooth until landing when I proceeded to leave my phone on the plane. Luckily I caught myself right at the baggage carousel and the staff were very helpful at returning it – they already had found it by the time I reported it.

The last disappointing note on our trip – all of our Hungarian sausage was confiscated at the border. Until one week prior it would have been fine – but new restrictions went in place banning importing of all meat, even cured meats. In hindsight, we should have eaten it right then!

And that’s it for Europe this year, another trip in the books.

Austria/Slovakia/Hungary – Day 20 – Budapest

Day 20 was Monday October 21 and it was voting day back in Canada! We had precast our vote before we left; so early was our voting that we had to hand write the name of our candidate on the voting card! Given that the polls didn’t close until about 2 am local time, we didn’t get find out the results till Tuesday (no, we didn’t stay up with bated breath!)

We decided to try a new coffee spot which was a bit of a walk, out past the ferris wheel. We had a very good coffee and amazing treats; a unique pecan pie which was dark with ground nuts, a spinach feta croissant with creamy feta, a salted croissant, and best of all a poppy seed/nuts/apple pastry topped with plum jam. Breakfasts here have been a tad decadent! Then off for an end of trip shopping escapade. We found an amazing insect themed shop where I picked up a ‘dung beetle’ bottle opener for Andrea (she does love beetles). The walk back to the market took us past an intriguing tribute to Michael Jackson – no idea why it was there, but clearly there was a fan or two nearby! Back at the market I picked up a Christmas table runner for myself, a doll for Jade and some food for dinner.

After dropping our collection off at the apartment, we were off to the Gellert Spa – one final day of respite before heading home. Here again there were many pools, saunas and steam baths. The indoor pools were beautifully tiled in mosaic domes. Unfortunately as it was so late in the season the wave pool and outdoor fountains were shut down. But that didn’t stop our enjoyment as we did several ‘cycles’ of hot / cold dunks and also enjoyed the non -seasonal weather with some sun bathing. It was 21 C in the shade, 31 C in the sun – amazing.

After another day of decadent indulgence, we used the remaining spa deposit money to pick up some wine and headed back for a home cooked dinner of sausages, sauerkraut, and roasted veggies. We were sure we had over bought, but alas we polished it all off no problem at all. We did manage to resist dessert and after a test run of the a new sitcom “Forever” (from Amazon Prime), we called it a day. And so our last full day in Budapest came to an end.