Adios Amigos?

by Bob Sparrow

Here’s us relaxing on our Mexican cruise

Last week the wife says, “Hey, Bob, wanna go . . . .”, and before she could finish the sentence, I say, “Sure”.  And then ask, where are we going and with whom?  “Mexico, with no one else” she replies.  Then I wondered, ‘Is she just sending me to Mexico with a one-way ticket’?”  She says, “It’s a cruise and we’re both going and it leaves on Monday!”

So, I say, “Let me get this straight, you’ve booked us on a cruise ship, which for the last year-and-a-half has been a germ-infested, floating petri dish and we’re going to a country that is rated ‘HIGH’ in terms of risk level for COVID-19.  Is that correct?”  “Yes, she replies, “but it’s not rated ‘VERY HIGH’ and I got a great deal!”

For Linda, nothing trumps a good deal, apparently not even death.

I Googled ‘Is it safe to travel to Cabo San Lucas?’ and found:

“Because of the current situation in Mexico, all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

Not a good start!  I then found a site that gave me the risk levels of the various aspects of traveling to Cabo.  Regarding the ‘risk level’, I suspect that those who are doing the rating may have received a few pesos to make the levels look better than they actually are, so I took the liberty of moving all the levels ‘up a notch’, however the comments remain unedited.

Cabo San Lucas -a beautiful final resting place!

Transportation: (HIGH) there have been reports of people being robbed by the unlicensed taxis. Also, taxis are not metered, so always negotiate the price before the ride.  The public transport is not safe since theft on buses is common and buses have also been hijacked in conflict areas.

Pickpocket: (HIGH+) There is a high risk of pickpocketing in Cabo San Lucas. The risk is especially high for foreigners because thieves usually target them regarding the fact that they have either money or expensive items with them.

Mugging: (HIGH+) Virtual kidnapping is very common, so it is advisable not to share any personal information while in Cabo San Lucas. Also, criminals tend to kidnap people who wear expensive jewelry or watches and who show off with their latest gadgets.

Terrorism: (MEDIUM) Although Mexico does not report recent attacks, you should always be watchful.

Scams: (HIGH) Be watchful of people who offer you help, since they might ask for money for that.

Women Traveler Risk: (MEDIUM) There have been reports of sexual harassment in bars and nightclubs and assaults when traveling on public transport. Females should take precaution, even in areas close to hotels, especially after dark.

Drug-related violence: (MEDIUM) Drug-related violence is occurring less in Cabo San Lucas as the Mexican government makes a lot of effort to stop the crime and protect major tourist destinations from thieves and other criminals.

Natural disasters: (MEDIUM) hurricanes between July and September, earthquakes and volcanoes.  There are some areas, like Land’s End, the tip of the peninsula, where the beaches are not safe for swimming due to the currents.

So, not only am I going to a country that doesn’t really have the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, I’m captive on a boat with a gang of partying, non-social-distancing drunks.  Sounds like a relaxing get-away to me!!!  But “Look at the beautiful ship”, says Linda.

Grand Princess

So, while you’re reading this blog in the comforts of your own home, having a nice cup of coffee or a shot of tequila – whatever gets you started in the morning – I may be in the Cabo San Lucas hospital, jail, morgue or quarantined, albeit on a beautiful ship, for the next two weeks.  And, wouldn’t you know it, my last hope of missing this cruise was lost when I tested ‘Negative’ for Covid!

If this is my last blog, I’d like to thank all you subscribers for your loyalty over the last ten years, especially those who take the time to respond frequently.  Sister, Suzanne, it’s been a great pleasure to be part of this ‘homage to our father’ with you. I suppose it’s only right that I should succumb to the ‘travel bug’?

Hasta Luego?

ON THE LONELY ROAD TO SUN VALLEY

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Highway 95

”I’ve forgotten how to pack!”  Those were the words I muttered as I prepared for our first long vacation in over two years.  While my husband concerned himself with his clothes and golf equipment, I fretted over snacks for the trip, food and bedding for Dash the Wonder Dog, some staples for our stay at the condo, my clothes, knitting projects and, last but not least, golf equipment.  It’s little wonder he thought prepping for the trip was a snap.  But it was all for a good cause, our first trip back to Sun Valley in three years.  We have been visiting there almost every year since 1988, and although we’d heard that the pandemic has changed its small-town feel, we were excited to go back.  Getting there, however, was part of the challenge.  I am all for taking interstates.  Call my crazy but I like a plethora of eating options, bathrooms, and good cell service.  My husband, who insists on doing all the driving, loves the solitude of the smaller highways.  Since prerogative goes to the driver, we drove up to Idaho on Nevada’s Highway 95.  You would be hard pressed to find a more desolate road in the United States.  It is two lanes the whole way, with only four passing lanes in over 400 miles.  Which means everyone is going about 100 miles per hour and passing with great frequency.  As an added attraction, there are hundreds of miles where there is no cell service. I had visions of our car breaking down and the bleached bones of our bodies being found weeks later.  But we made it to our stopover for the night, Ely, Nevada, which is smack dab in the middle of … nothing.  Here’s how remote it is: there is no Starbucks in Ely.

The following morning, having safely survived the trek through Nevada (and no coffee) we made our way up to Sun Valley.  It felt like coming home, a place so familiar that we both breathed a sigh of relief that we were finally back in our “happy place”.   Not everything was perfect.  Normally after Labor Day you can shoot a cannon down  Main Street and not hit anyone.  This year, there was traffic and people everywhere.  We had heard that both bicyclists and drivers were out of control and sure enough, on our first day we witnessed a bicyclist being hauled off in an ambulance.  On the walking path to town the city has painted on the sidewalk,  “If you’re on a bike and you want to wave, make sure you use all your fingers”.  One of our friends, who has lived in Sun Valley for over 30 years, says the vibe has changed in the past year.  “Everyone is more on edge.  People feel entitled and gripe about everything,” she told us.  Still, the mountain and the trees are magnificent, so we chose to look at nature rather than rude people from California and Seattle.  This time of year the trees are beginning to turn and there is nothing more magnificent than quaking Aspen trees, with their full complement of fall colors, framed against the dark green pines.

So we spent the first few days taking in the beautiful views, playing some golf, and drinking Guinness.  And the our first weekend something wonderful happened – it snowed!  It wasn’t much but it contributed to a perfect Sunday – 48 degrees at the peak of the day, a roaring fire, and football on TV.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  As a bonus, the cold weather seemed to weed out the faint of heart.  On Monday morning, as we ventured into town, we noticed that it had cleared out.  Sun Valley was as we’d always remembered it in late September – quiet. Just the way we like it.

Next time: we venture further north and then wend our way home – on the interstate.

On the Road Again . . . Finally!

by Bob Sparrow

Kona Country Club

“It is not a good time to travel to the islands.  We know that the visitors who choose to come to the islands will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect when they visit Hawaii.” Hawaii governor, David Ige   Aug 24, ‘21

Given that there are a lot of places that I’m not welcome, Governor Ige’s admonishment meant little to me, and as I parsed his statement more closely, it was clear he was saying that we shouldn’t come, not that we couldn’t come.  We had already cancelled one trip to Hawaii last year, not again – Aloha Big Island!

Getting There is Half the Fun

I’m here to tell you that, in today’s world of travel, getting there is not ‘half the fun’ – it’s not even a small percentage of the fun.  We wore masks from the minute we stepped into the airport in Long Beach, until we reach the Big Island in Hawaii. We kept it on while we waited for our luggage, kept it on as we waited for the bus to take us to the car rental location, wore it on the bus, wore it while we waited in line for the rental car agent and the car.  Finally, in the car . . . mask off – whew!!  I felt like I was holding my breath that whole time!  But . . 

The gang (minus Linda Sparrow who took the photo) at the Malasada truck

It was all worth it as we (the ‘we’ on this trip was Chuck & Linda Sager, Ed & Stacie Hunter, John & Judy VanBoxmeer and Linda & me) finally inhaled that heavenly tropical air, saw the palm trees swaying in a gentle breeze, and actually had the feeling that . . . we had escaped.  There was one drawback, and that was that everyone in Hawaii had to wear a mask, inside and out – it’s was one of the only things that Governor Ige could still control.  But . . .

No masks on the golf course!!  Our first round was at the beautiful Mauna Lani Golf Course, with several holes right on the water – one of the most spectacular being #15 on the South Course, where it is said that more photos are taken there than any other golf hole in Hawaii.  Not sure who’s counting, but in spite of us taking our photo there, you’ll find that it didn’t make the cut for this blog.

In Search of Malasadas

Chuck, who is like a local in Hawaii, had introduced us to Malasadas (which roughly translates to ‘Portuguese Fried Dough’ – basically, they’re fancy doughnuts, but better!) when we were last here and so the next morning the men got up and headed down the road for where the Malasada truck & trailer usually park.  No truck.  We drove a little further with the thought that perhaps the ‘Malasada lady’ parked somewhere else today.  I’m not sure we were looking for her or whether we were just killing time as we visited the resorts of Mauna Kea and Hapuna, then returned to ‘the Malasada spot’, but no Malasada truck, no Malasada trailer, no Malasada lady!  It was a holiday (Labor Day), so maybe she wasn’t laboring this day.  Nonplussed, we drove to the local market and found packaged Malasadas – not bad, but definitely not the same.

Island green at Makani

Dear Diary

What I had written here about our week on the Big Island, sounded too much like a very detailed, boring diary as I reread it.  So, I’ll save you the agony of reading it.  There was lots of golf, eating and drinking – not necessarily in that order

For golf . . .

  • The hidden gem of a mountain golf course that I touted as one of my favorite golf courses of all time, Makani, lived up to all expectations
  • The 15th hole at Mauna Lani is spectacular
  • Another golf course gem, also introduced to us by Chuck Sager, was Kona Country Club, with several scenic oceanfront holes

For eating . . .

Fredricos at Mauna Kea

  • We did eventually find the Malasada truck – which I’m blaming for the several extra pounds gained
  • The ‘Cheeseburger Sliders’ at Tommy Bahama’s in Waikoloa were delicious!
  • Lunch at The Fish Hopper on the water in Kailua-Kona, good food, great view!
  • Dinner at Roy’s – it’s Roy’s!

For drinking . . .

  • Not sure, but . . . Volcanos? Hawaiian Mai Tais?  Pina Coladas? Bikini Blonde Beer? I vaguely remember a Fredrico, a new drink to me – I think it was delicious, but for some reason it all seems a bit fuzzy.

Rainbow Falls – which we didn’t see!

I was hoping to tell you about my adventures to the ‘Five Favorite Waterfalls’ on the Hilo side of the island that I had researched and planned a trip to, but alas that trip got scrapped for either golf, food, drinking or all of the above.

Maybe next time.

In spite of that, Governor Ige, we had the ‘typical kind of holiday we expected’!

 

The Best of Travel, The Worst of Travel

by Bob Sparrow

Best & Worst

For most of us the past two years have been the worst years for travel. Not so much that we went to uninteresting places or ran into people who thought of us as ugly Americans; no, Covid kept us from going anywhere at all. When I can’t travel, I think about traveling, more specifically, I think about places I’ve been, good and bad, and places I want to go.

So, in order to gather information, not just for me, but for all of our readers, you have a job:

Tell us where your best and worst travel destination have been and why they were best or worst. I’ll start by giving mine.

Robben Island with Table Mt. in the background

Best travel destination

I have to honestly say that I have two that are tied for best. South Africa in 2013 – Great tour of Cape Town, a visit to Ernie Els winery, the top of Table Mountain and to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years imprisoned, and a story about how one woman made a difference with ‘tea bags’. The South African people were amazing – so nice and so friendly! We left Cape Town and went to Notten’s Bush Camp in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in Kruger National Park, where we went on several safaris.  We saw the ‘Big 5’ – elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and African buffalo on our first trip into the savanna. Then on to Zimbabwe to see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the WorldVictoria Falls – Spectacular! If you are a new reader, or want to reread the blog that I wrote about that trip, you can access it by copying and pasting these links:

Part 1 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=1702

Part 2 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=1725

Part 3 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=1751

Part 4 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=1803

Funicular up to Montecatini Alto

My other ‘best travel destination’ was to the Tuscany region of Italy – a trip we took in 2019 with a group of our neighbors, along with thirty-some-odd people from around the country. Our base was the great little town of Montecatini Terme, which is located between Florence and Pisa. Aside from visiting those two cities, we hit Siena, San Gemignani and Montecatini Alto – all unique in their own way. Our guide, Sergio, made the trip – he was informative and hilarious! After leaving Montecatini Terme, we spent several days in Cinque Terre – the beautiful Italian town that hangs on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean.  Great people we went with, great people we met, great food, great wine and a great guide. If you want more information on that trip, access the links below:

 

Part 1 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=8425

Part 2 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=8438

Part 3 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=8443

Part 4 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=8461

Part 5 https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=8479

Worst travel destination

“Enjoy shopping”

This one is easy. We were on a Mediterranean cruise in 2008 and made a stop in northern Africa to the city of Tunis in Tunisia. Off the ship we went to an open market where there were guards holding machine guns at the entrance and the exit of the market – I guess that’s in case you were planning of stealing something or a hostile takeover of the market!  We then went to a rug maker, who tried to sell us an ugly ‘magic carpet’ that they promised to ship home for us. Yeah, right!! We decided to stop at a café for a beer, which we ordered and paid for, but when our order came, it was a ‘non-alcoholic beer’! We told our server we wanted (and paid for) real beer and he said that because it was Sunday, they didn’t serve alcohol – something he might have mentioned when we ordered. Couldn’t wait to get back on the ship and on to our next destination.

Fortunately, we weren’t blogging yet, so no links!

OK, it’s your turn to share your travel adventures and misadventures in the ‘comment box’ below, let us know what your BEST and WORST travel destinations are – you don’t have to write a story about them if you don’t want to, you can just list them. Hopefully we can learn about places that should be on our ‘bucket list’ and about places we should make sure to avoid.

Driveways and Donuts

by Bob Sparrow

First, let me thank all those who have sent prayers and good wishes for me in my fight against Sepsis or whatever other infections have decided to take up residence in my body.  Thank you so very much!

Me summiting driveway!

As you might suspect, the scope of my travels have been a bit limited lately, but in my quest to circle the globe for adventure, I felt compelled to start over with baby steps.  I had previously mentioned that my first travel goal was to put together a trip to the end of my driveway.  Well, I’m here to tell you – mission accomplished!  As the attached photo shows, I have indeed summitted my driveway.  How long it took me to overcome some of the obstacles along the way is immaterial.

With the ‘driveway’ box checked, I was looking for further adventures, while realizing my limitations, I was looking for something not too challenging.  I then came across an article in the local newspaper that seemed to have my name all over it.  The headline read, ‘DONUT MUSEUM OFFERS VISITORS A SWEET TIME’.  Yes, that was roughly the kind of adventure I was looking for – a local doughnut museum – nothing too hard, but with a bit of whimsy.  Having never been to a doughnut (I choose to use the proper spelling of the word) museum, I thought, “what an adventure!”  It so happened that we had two of our grandchildren with us, Addison and Macklin, so with the grandkids in tow, Linda and I headed off to the Westminster Mall to visit the ‘Donut Life Museum’.  Not sure where the ‘Life’ comes in, but I suppose it’s better than the Donut Death Museum.  Addison remarked that she had never been to a museum before, and being a fan of doughnuts, she was really looking forward to sharing this adventure with me.

Addison, Linda & Mac giving it the ‘thumbs down’

I related some facts to our group that I had gleaned from the newspaper article that morning, to wit; Kathy Ly, along with cofounders, Alix Luu and Brian Ross “wanted to create an experience that allows visitors of all ages to connect, spend quality time and make memories”.  The goal of the museum is to be uplifting, with exhibits such as the “Donut Forget Life is Limitless” and “Love Makes the World Hole”.  The article also mentioned that at the end of the visitors’ experience, everyone gets a Krispy Kreme donut.

We arrived at the ‘Donut Life Museum’ and I told the girl at the entrance that we’d like to see the museum, as I looked in and saw that it was both empty and cheesy.  She said, “OK, it’s $25 per adult and $17 for each child.”  Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, “So you want $87 for us to wander around in a room with some pictures of donuts hanging off the walls?”  She said, “It’s interactive”.  I didn’t bother to ask her what that meant, as we turned and walked away looking for the closest ice cream parlor.

Back at home, I wanted to get a clearer picture of exactly what the ‘Donut Life Museum’ had to offer and what we missed out on, so I searched YouTube and found that we made the right decision by opting for ice cream over doughnuts.

Here’s some examples of the adventures one can have at the Donut Life Museum.

You could lay in a bin of plastic donuts and plastic donut holes and cover yourself with them.

You could have a photo taken of you looking through a heart-shaped doughnut hole

Or if you’re really wild and crazy you can have a photo of you sitting in a ‘donut pool’ or with a ‘donut tube’

If, after reading this, you’re getting that ‘doughnut vibe’, save yourself $87 and just go to Krispy Kreme and buy one . . . or more.

On the Road Again – Grand Canyon Part 2

by Bob Sparrow

Aside from the beauty of the red rocks of Sedona, this town has also become known for its spirituality, which manifests itself in several basic ways: crystals, which, to some, are believed to have spiritually healing properties that can help you balance your body, mind and spirit. Another is the vortex, which are locations from which intense energy spirals from certain positions on the earth, where again, some people believe these vortexes have the power to heal as they are thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration; places where the earth seems especially alive with energy.  There were times when I thought I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone.  These vortices reportedly (not sure who’s reporting) bring feelings of peace, harmony, balance and tranquility, personal reflection, deep insight and clear mind . . . and in our case a hankering for a martini.

But if red rocks, crystals or vortexes don’t float your boat, there are also UFO tours (yep, there’s aliens here as well!), psychic readings, aura photography or chakra balancing – don’t ask!

El Tovar restaurant with a . . . view?

With a dizzying spiritual headache, it was time to move on to the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  To understand the complete history of the Grand Canyon, you’d need to go back about 10,000 years – no, we’re not doing that!  Most of you have been there, so you know it’s spectacular, big . . . grand, even!  After checking in at the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, which, by the way isn’t so grand, we readied for our dinner at the El Tovar Hotel restaurant, which boasts that it’s right on the rim of the Grand Canyon with spectacular views.  They don’t mention that there are only two tables in the entire, dimly lit, restaurant that are by the window with a view and, maybe I should tell them that they really don’t light up the Grand Canyon at night, so if you are fortunate enough to get one of those window-tables, your view is of the lighted sidewalk next to the trash bins.

The next morning it was to the free on-off bus, which was a much better value than the dinner, as we alternated walking and riding between bus stops along the rim – truly spectacular.  My travel tip here is, if you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon, go; if you have been, it really hasn’t changed that much in the last several thousand years, it’s still spectacular!  You may have noticed in the group photo of us here, that the Johnsons are missing.  No, they did not fall into the Grand Canyon, they had already seen this Seventh Wonder of the Natural World and opted to head south to Tucson for this part of the trip.

Johnsons Jump?

The next morning we headed home, stopping for breakfast at place I would recommend, Anna’s Place in the city of Williams, about an hour south of the Grand Canyon – great old building (another former house of ill-repute) and a great breakfast.  Not wanting to make the trip home too long and boring, we stopped for the night and had a spectacularly funny dinner (the dinner wasn’t funny, some of us were) at Don Vitos Restaurant at South Point, Las Vegas, where we spent the night, paid our dues and drove home in the morning.

A beautiful trip, with beautiful neighbors, beautiful scenery and lots of tourists, but quite honestly it was good to see people out enjoying themselves again – may normal be with us all.

On the Road Again – Grand Canyon Part 1

by Bob Sparrow

L>R: Pacelli, Sparrow, Johnson, Nelson

No more tomes about the size and shape of the earth or the volatility of cryptocurrency, OK, at least not for a couple of weeks.  I’m happy to report that we recently left the house in the company of three other neighborhood couples, the Johnsons, the Pacellis and the Nelsons on a road trip to visit that big, huge, OK, it’s a grand canyon in Arizona; hitting a few memorable and not-so-memorable spots along the way.

With an early morning departure and a gourmet breakfast at the ‘Golden Arches’ we headed east and found on the map an off-the-beaten-path place in the Arizona desert to have lunch, the Kirkland Steakhouse & Bar.  It was indeed off-the-beaten-track, but sometimes those are the most interesting places.  Not this time!  We walked into this former ‘house of ill repute’ and found a couple of guys at the bar having a beer and no one behind the bar.  We found a table and sat down; still no one came, except a Camero car club of about 15 people, who poured through the front door.  They immediately went up to the bar and out from the back of the bar came Ma & Pa Kettle, an elderly couple, who were the owners of the place.  We could see that it might be some time before our order was taken much less our food served, so we asked a member of the car club if the wait was worth it.  A young lady turned to us and said, “I have four words for you, DO NOT EAT HERE!”

So, with stomachs growling, it was off to Prescott (it’s PRESS-kit, don’t call me Pres-COTT) for lunch.  Prescott was once the capital of the Arizona Territory, until people kept mispronouncing its name, so they moved it to a place people couldn’t spell – Feenicks.  The Prescott town square was busier that Disneyland on the 4th of July – people were clearly tired of their house arrest and were breaking out!  This was a trend that we would encounter throughout our trip.

Worth a stop on your way from Prescott to Sedona is the ‘ghost town’ of Jerome, where in the 1890 they were mining for copper and found gold.  At its height there was a population of between 10,000 and 15,000, today around 400-500, but there’s making up for it with the number of tourists roaming the streets.  We strolled the main street (there’s only one) and found plenty of tee shirts and coffee mugs for sale – another trend we found repeated throughout the trip.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

After a good night’s rest in Sedona, the day was spent exploring the many facets of this mystic town.  They’ve made seeing the beauty of Sedona easy – you can hike, bike, car, Jeep, train or helicopter to visit the ‘red rocks’, that’s aside from walking the main street and finding lots of coffee mugs and tee shirts.  We opted for a hike with great views of the ‘Bell Rock’, the ‘Courthouse’ and ‘Snoopy’ – red rock formations resembling those items.  We then took a kidney-jarring Pink Jeep ride to some other red rocks –I wouldn’t recommend our particular tour, although I did find out later that we’d scheduled the ‘senior citizen’ tour, so it was a little less adventurous than most.

One of the highlights of the day was a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is carved out of a mountain and features a 90 foot iron cross and a spectacular view of the entire valley.  I lit two candles in the chapel, one was in memory of our recently passed good friend and neighbor, Patrick Michael and the second as a thank you for continued good health of all cancer survivors.

 

Next: Part 2 – on Thursday.  The Mystic Side of Sedona and on to the Canyon

Roads Not Taken

by Bob Sparrow

Two roads diverged in to a wood, and I

Took the one less traveled by ,

And that has made all the difference.

                                                                            Robert Frost

No, this is will not be a dissertation on Robert Frost’s most-misunderstood poem, but rather the musings of this traveler, who has found too many ‘Road Closed’ signs during this pathetic pandemic!  They are all roads not taken!

And while I have thought that I was on this mythical road to nowhere, I discovered that there is indeed a Road to Nowhere; it is in North Carolina, but it actually does go somewhere, it starts in Bryson City and ends at a ‘tunnel to nowhere’ inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

People who were more ambitious than just building a road or a tunnel to nowhere, created a Highway to Nowhere, actually there’s several of them, the most famous is in Baltimore, where one mile of freeway runs through a park.  Not to be confused with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, which it may seem like we’re on right now, but there really is one of those too, in Western Australia, so named for the number of fatal accidents that occur there. What you don’t learn from these blogs!!!

And as we think about ‘things to nowhere’, and what more appropriate time to think about that than now, how can we forget the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, which got a lot of national attention when Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska and the Vice Presidential running mate of John McCain in 2008. The project encountered fierce opposition outside Alaska as a symbol of ‘pork barrel’ spending and was never built.  So apparently  you  still can’t  get  to  nowhere  from  Alaska.

Personally, I can’t think of roads to anywhere without thinking of the ‘Road to . . pictures;’ yes, that what they called movies back in the day.  The ‘road pictures’ starred Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, who were always in some far-off country, fighting for the affections of Dorothy Lamour.  And even though I knew that these movies were filmed on the back lot of the Paramount studio in Hollywood, using blackface ‘natives’ and phony sets, they gave me the travel bug and the desire to create my own ‘Road Pictures’, which I subsequently did when I traveled to a number of exotic destinations like Kathmandu, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. But, ironically, I have never been to any of the seven destinations depicted in those ‘road movies’, but they’re on my bucket list!  For the record, they are, Road to Singapore (Year made: 1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Zanzibar is a city on an island off the east coast of Tanzania, Africa.  Who doesn’t want to go there?!!  Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (Alaska) (1946), Road to Rio (de Janeiro 1947), Road to Bali (1952) and Road to Hong Kong (1962). In the movies, Hope was constantly breaking the ‘forth wall’ to address the audience directly, such as when Crosby was getting ready to sing, Hope would turn to the camera and say, “He’s going to sing folks, now is the time to go out and get some popcorn”. There was actually an eighth picture that was going to be made in 1977, called Road to the Fountain of Youth, ironically, Crosby died of a heart attack that year – if he could have only gotten to that Fountain of Youth!  Little-known-and-less-cared-about-fact: Two of the very top singers of their generation, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley, died in the same year within a couple of months of each other.

Critically, these movies probably get a grade of C-, and perhaps that’s even being a bit generous,  The plot lines were rather thin and predictable, but Bob Hope was funny, especially when he’s adlibbing, Bing Crosby could sing and Dorothy Lamour was certainly worth the boys fighting over.

OK, sorry for droning on about movies that were made some 70 years ago.  Forgive me, my cabin fever is beginning to boil over – there have been just too many roads not taken!  I can’t wait to get on the ‘Road to Anywhere’!

 

 

 

 

Mama, Please Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (and Cowgirls)

by Bob Sparrow

Mama’s Wranglers

Brother, Capt. Jack Sparrow and I, principals in the Sparrow Brothers Fine School of Football Forecasting, along with our wives, made a trip to Vegas to test the analytics we’d gathered since the beginning of the season, on both college and pro football betting.  We headed to our favorite hotel/casino there, South Point on Saturday morning. (Note: we never travel to Vegas on a Friday, or come home on a Sunday)

We arrived in time to place some bets on the afternoon college games.

I knew we didn’t want to spend all of our time in the casino (or couldn’t afford to), so I looked for things to do in Vegas.  Due to ‘that thing going around’, there was not much happening in the way of entertainment.  I was hoping to get in to see my old friend, Wayne Newton, but his show, like most others, was shuttered.  Undaunted, I continued my search and eventually found:

Mama’s Wranglers at the Firelight Barn Dinner Theater

Hummmm, looked interesting.  It was in Henderson, about a 20-minute drive east of Vegas and the price was right, $38 per person for BBQ dinner and a show!  Or maybe it wasn’t right – $38 for dinner and a show?!  What’s wrong with the dinner or the show?  But there was not much else going on, so I booked it for the four of us.  A dinner and show in a barn sounded very fun, although the price made us a bit leery, so we figured it might be a bit cheesy, but it kept us away from the sports book where we had lost every college game we had bet on earlier in the day.  So, $38 for dinner and a show was sounding better all the time.

Halloween Dessert Face

We drove to Henderson looking for a barn, but the address took us to a strip mall off a main road.  OK, we were prepared for cheesy.  We were greeted and seated by ‘the family’, Mama and her two daughters and her son.  The room was decorated in a western motif which was a bit cheesy, but created a nice atmosphere.  We asked for the  wine list and Mama said, we normally serve wine and beer, but because they had carpeted floors, due to Covid, they could not have alcohol in the room.  Wow, I thought about all the wine and beer I drank at home on a carpeted floor!  Then I imagined her saying, as she looked around the room furtively, that there was a liquor store across the street and if we kept the bottles under the table, she would give us some red solo cups from which to drink.  Wink Wink. I immediately went to the liquor store and bought some wine.  I returned just in time to be served our dinner.

When I think BBQ dinner, I think chicken, ribs, brisket or tri-tip; nope, dinner consisted of pulled pork on a hamburger bun, a helping of Mac & Cheese and some coleslaw.  Not what was expected, but rather tasty!  The coup de gras was the ‘Halloween’ dessert on a red paper plate, where we were asked to make a creative face out of two Oreo cookies, 6 pretzel sticks, 4 mini marshmallows and 2 candy corns.  I was hoping to win a prize with my entry, but apparently others were more creative.

After dessert was served, Mama and kids disappeared to get into their ‘performance outfits’, the lights dimmed and the show started. This is a very talented family, between the four of them they played guitar, banjo, bass, keyboard, fiddle, drums, accordion, spoons and sang great harmony. They sang mostly country, with some pop as well as yodeled and clogged.  We clapped and sang along to the many familiar songs and walked out of there with big smiles on our faces.  For a very fun evening, I highly recommend heading out to the Fire Light Barn and taking in this show, if you don’t expect steak & lobster, cover charges and expensive drinks, you won’t be sorry.

PS: We didn’t do that well on Sunday, betting on the Pros either, like not winning a single bet!  Son, Jeff wanted to get in on the ‘Sparrow Brothers’ action and sent me money to bet on some games . . . lost every one!  Jack has suggested that we go into making and selling Shepard Pies.  Couldn’t do worse!

 

Golf on the Surface of the Sun

by Bob Sparrow

At Entrada, Utah

It seemed like a good idea at the time – getting out of the house and playing golf at some spectacular golf courses not too far away.  We thought our timing was perfect as it was just starting to cool down in ‘The OC’.  Unfortunately, it was heating up in places like Las Vegas and southern Utah, where we were headed to play.

So, the usual suspects, John & Judy VanBoxmeer, Jack and JJ Budd, Chuck & Linda Sager and Linda and I headed to Las Vegas, the first leg of our trip.  A lot of golfers brag about ‘shooting their age’, and that’s quite an accomplishment, but I’m going to brag about ‘shooting the temperature’ – which is not such a great accomplishment, especially when the temperature is in triple digits, but I did it!

There were only four of the eight that wanted to stop at an old haunt from our ‘Cinco de Mayo-Kentucky Derby’ weekend days, at the less-than-luxurious Primm Valley Resort.  Since moving from that venue to the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa and Rhodes Ranch Golf  Club, most of us had not been back to Primm Valley Golf Club in many years, so we decided to stop there for an 18-hole waltz down memory lane.  As it turned out, it was more of a waltz into the scrub brush and rocky desert terrain under a blistering sun on a less-than-pristine Primm Valley Golf Course.

Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas

The following day we played at Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas, a development that began just before the 2008 recession and has never quite recovered. A lake in Las Vegas is an oxymoron – I was just a moron when I played it.  It was still very warm, no, it was hot, but I was able to ‘shoot my temperature’ although I was feeling a bit feverish at the time!  While I thought I had not been very lucky at golf, that actually turned out to be the luckiest part of my day, as I lost at black jack, craps, the slots and a bet I placed at the sports book on the New Orleans Saints – a quinella of loses.  Vegas did offer to will fly me out there for free any time I want to go!

Next stop, Wolf Creek, a course carved out of the rocky, rugged landscape of Mesquite, Nevada.  It is certainly one of the most spectacularly beautiful golf layouts in the country.  While it was still very hot, I kept reminding myself to enjoy the scenery which I did while again managing to shoot the temperature on a hot three-digit day.  We had a delicious dinner at Katherine’s, a great old-time restaurant in the Casa Blanca Hotel, a property originally owned by Merv Griffin.

Wolf Creek Golf Club

The next morning, we drove to St. George, Utah and stayed in condos at the golf course at Entrada.  It’s a very interesting course, on the front nine it feels like you’re in Sedona, as is surrounded by lots of beautiful red rock formations.  On the back nine it feels like you flew over to the Big Island of Hawaii, as it is carved out of a huge lava field, but the temperature reminded us that we were still playing golf on the surface of the sun!

We journeyed back to South Point in Vegas for the night, just to break up our trip around the sun, as well as provide me with an opportunity to visit my money.  Actually, the sun finally shone brightly on my craps game that evening, as opposed to beating down on my crappy golf game throughout the trip.  If you haven’t already learned anything from this blog, and you’re looking to do a similar trip – go in the winter!