The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

by Bob Sparrow

Chuck inspects a propeller blade

It was windy, very windy, but that was to be expected, we were in the middle of a ‘wind farm’.  Yes, after years of driving by all those windmills on our way to Palm Desert, we finally stopped to take the tour and learn exactly what was going on with all these giant propellers.  Perhaps you wondered as well, well wonder no more.  Also, in case you’re hungry after your tour of the wind farm, I’ll give you three good recommendations for restaurants that we tried for the first time and found to be quite good.

First, why are these windmills where they are?  The Gorgonio Pass, which not only has a lot of wind going through it, but also a waterway, a railroad, an Interstate freeway and the San Andreas Fault, sits between the  two largest mountains in Southern California, Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto, both stretching over 11,000 feet.  Those mountains create weather patterns that help make California one of the top three windiest states in the US, trailing only Texas and Iowa.

Notice the ‘bus’ behind the propeller

The first windmill was put in place there in 1982 and there are now over 1,200 windmills of various sizes, some are taller than the Empire State building and some have propeller blades over 200 feet in length!  To put their size in perspective, if you’re driving on the freeway, at the top the windmills you’ll see a ‘little box’ behind the propeller blades, that ‘little box’ is the size of a bus!  This wind farm supplies a year of electricity for 250,000 homes.  These things are huge, and the ones that are out in the ocean, are MUCH bigger!

As we were wending our way around and through several of the windmills in a six-passenger golf cart, our guide pointed to a large building in the distance and told us that that building held the largest pot farm in North America.  So, I guess when the wind is blowing just right, Palm Springs gets a little high!

Walt & Patty enjoying the evening

The three restaurants I’d recommend, two for food and one for entertainment are, for food, Waldo’s Ristorante & Bar; where’s Waldo’s?  The corner of Country Club and Cook; it has great Italian food in a comfortable setting, indoor-outdoor seating and a cute bar – call many days in advance, it’s packed!  The second restaurant is La Brasserie Bistro & Bar, a French restaurant in La Quinta, with a diverse menu and excellent French Onion Soup.  For great entertainment, we were turned on to this next place by Patty & Walt Schwartz, who live in the area and know how to have a good time as well as where to find one.  We met them at the Paseo Hotel, off El Paseo across from Tommy Bahama’s, the restaurant in the hotel is called the Larkspur Grill, and the food is good, but the music on Thursday nights is awesome, provided by ‘Fun With Dick & Jane’ – a great band that plays all the great hits from the 70s & 80s. You could go just for the ‘people watching’,  – it is truly a show!!

Linda’s sister, Starlet and her husband Donnie, drove out from Arizona to join us for three nights, and our son, Jeff came out and played a round of golf with us.  So it was another great week an hour and a half away from home, but in a whole different world.



Water Falls & Banana Pancakes

by Bob Sparrow

Akaka Falls

I have just returned from the Big Island of Hawaii.  As always, it was great friends, great golf, great cocktails, great weather . . . great time!  Those who read last year’s blog about our trip to the Big Island may remember that I had planned a ‘Water Falls Tour’ to the Hilo or wet, side of the island, but no one else was interested in going, so the trip was aborted.  I made a similar offer this year, and again, no one signed up, but a car was available this time and the group encouraged me to go by myself; apparently, they were looking for a way to get rid of me for half a day.  So, please come join me on this mini adventure, so I don’t get too lonely.

It’s about an hour and a half drive from where we’re staying at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club timeshare in Waikoloa on the west side of the island (Kona), to Hilo, on the east side of the island, where most of the big waterfalls are.  The drive takes you through the historic Parker Ranch, which at one time, with 130,000 acres, was the largest cattle ranch in, not just Hawaii, but the U.S.  Yes, bigger than anything in Texas, but that’s another interesting story, maybe for my next visit to the Big Island.

The difference in weather between the two sides of the island is night and day, or rather I should say, dry and wet.  Except for the lush environs of the hotels and golf courses on the west side, the terrain there is mostly dark, rocky unhospitable lava.  Conversely, the Hilo side is incredibly lush green, as it gets lots of rain, averaging about142 inches per year!  The reason for the vast difference in climate in such a small distance, I’m told, has to do with the trade winds and the two huge mountains in the middle of the island, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, both above 13,000 feet and spectacularly snow capped at this time of year.

Snow-capped Mauna Loa

OK, we’ve got the geography and meteorology details taken care of, let’s move on to why I made this trek – water falls!  I’m not sure where or when I became enthralled with waterfalls, but I’m guessing vacationing in Yosemite growing up might have had something to do with it, but they’ve always intrigued me.  To think that a waterfall starts out as a small drop of water, either from rain or melted snow, then unites with other drops of water as they journey to wherever gravity takes them; and when they reach a cliff, they joyously and beautifully cascade over it. What’s mind-boggling to me is that it just keeps going, never seeming to run out of little drops of water!

Rainbow Falls, complete with rainbow

I headed out to the other side of the island around 7:00 am for my solo ‘Waterfall Tour’ which focused on three main waterfalls, Umauma Falls, Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls.  But I must say, when I got to the eastern coast of the Big Island, the views were breath-takingly beautiful of a rugged shoreline and spectacular foliage, the likes of which I’ve never seen – just amazing!  Every time I saw a ‘Scenic Route’ This Way sign taking me off the main road, I took it.  I’d be hard pressed to find anything more scenic than my diversions on these ‘scenic routes’!  I stopped just outside of Hilo at a small, out of the way café, where I had the best banana pancakes sprinkled with macadamia nuts ever.  I heard Jack Johnson singing “Banana Pancakes” the whole time.

I’ll spare those who aren’t interested in waterfalls, which apparently is the vast majority based on my travel group, by just saying that Umauma Falls is in a great recreation area where you can ride horses and do a zip line over the falls.  At Rainbow Falls, I actually witnessed a rainbow created by the fall, and Akaka Falls, the Big Kahuna of waterfalls, is in a Hawaiian State Park and provides a scenic circular trail through the rain forest to the falls, which are spectacular . . . if you’re into waterfalls.

I was back on the ‘dry side’ by noon, and enjoying that, but with a head full of amazing images.  Thanks for joining me, for your efforts please enjoy this eye-full of banana pancakes, sprinkled with macadamia nut!

The California Landmark Surprise

by Bob Sparrow

Yosemite’s Fire Fall

Most of us who live in the ‘Golden State’ have visited many of our famous landmarks.  As a native Californian with a severe case of wanderlust, I assumed I’ve visited most, if not all, of them.  So, I turned to Google to see the list of what was classified as ‘famous landmarks’.

Golden Gate Bridge – Since I was born 28 miles north of this landmark, I probably went across this bridge before I was able to walk – CHECK.  Yosemite’s Half Dome – as a kid, our family vacationed here every summer; I was even able to see the amazing ‘Fire Falls’ over Glacier Point many times; and much later in life I was able to hike to the top of Half Dome for that spectacular view – CHECK.  Alcatraz – No, not as a resident!  I took the tour several years ago, barely escaped – CHECK.  Fisherman’s Wharf – of course, and had many great bowls of clam chowder – CHECK.  Lake Tahoe – grew up there – CHECK.  Napa Valley – been over-served there . . . many times – CHECK.  Let’s get to the southern part of the state.  Oh, first let’s cruise on down Big Sur in central California to see that spectacular coastline landmark – CHECK. And I’ve toured Hearst Castle on my way south – CHECK.

Griffith Observatory

OK, so let’s get to some landmarks on the list here in southern California: Griffith Conservatory/ Hollywood Sign – I did those on the same trip a few years back, but they don’t let you near the HOLLYWOOD sign anymore – too many people turning it into HOLLYWEIRD – CHECK.  Santa Monica Pier, Getty Museum, Death Valley, Randy’s Donuts, Disneyland, CHECK, CHECK, CH . . . wait a minute, Randy’s Donuts???!!!  Yes, it’s on the list of famous California landmarks!!  Not only have I not been there, but I’ve never heard of it. I asked Linda if she’s ever heard of it; yes, she had, as she had taught school in intercity LA and later, her work took her to many LA destinations, including Randy’s Donuts.  I came to the realization that my life’s ‘travel check list’ was not complete until I’d been to this ‘famous California Landmark’, Randy’s Donuts.  So, I checked the Internet for the history and locations of Randy’s Donuts.

Enjoying the 400 Calorie Crondy

Randy’s Donuts, which originated in Inglewood, CA, is celebrating it’s 50th year in business this year and out front most stores sport their big, famous donut sign, maybe biggest in the world.  This famous donut sign has appeared in over 18 movies and TV shows as well as Randy Newman’s music video, I Love L.A. The store closest to me that features the ‘famous donut sign’ on top of the building, is in Downey, about a 30-minute drive.  So, last Saturday morning I jumped in my car and headed up the 5 freeway to check off Randy’s Donuts on my list.

My research determined that the piece de resistance at Randy’s is the ‘Crondy’, a cross between a croissant and a donut, weighing in at around 400 calories!  Yep, had to try it – you’re welcome.  It was spectacular!!!

What I don’t do for you guys!!!


An Ozark Odyssey

by Bob Sparrow

First, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to go to Amazon and order Pat Miles’ & Suzanne’s book, Before All is Said and Done.  I have read it and it is truly something that I think every couple should read and follow.

Sunset at Top of the Rock

For this blog, the alcohol is bootleg moonshine, and the music is from the Dillards, my favorite bluegrass band from Salem, Missouri.

We got a taste, literally, of the Ozarks, on our way from the Springfield airport to Branson when we stopped for dinner at Lambert’s Café, an institution in the Ozarks since 1942, where you get your hot dinner rolls from the server standing on the other side of the dining room and throwing them to you!  A good thing we could catch, or part of our dinner would have ended up on the floor, maybe that would have been better, the food was not that great!

The ’Great Eight’s’ (the Budds, Sagers, VanBoxmeers and Sparrows) first full day in Branson brought us to the historic Table Top Golf Course – a par three course that one can only walk, no carts, and it has only 13 holes!  They surely didn’t run out of real estate, so I’m guessing no one was counting the holes when they were building the course.  After the round we stopped at the ‘14th hole’ for cocktails.  It was a perfect weather day and for some reason our scores were much lower!

Heading out on Table Top Lake

The next day was spent on a rented outboard pontoon boat, cruising Table Rock Lake and having lunch on the lake on another picturesque day.  I suppose the weather gods were making it up to me for that lousy Alaskan weather!

Day Three was back to The Top of the Rock for another round of golf at Ozarks National, the score doesn’t matter, it was another perfect weather day.  After golf we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening experiencing the picturesque golf cart tour which included a cave, with a drive-up bar in it, amazing rock and waterfall features and spectacular views of the valley and lake below.  That was followed by a beautiful sunset ceremony at Big Cedar Lodge including the firing of a cannon and the playing of bag pipes and a splendid dinner.  Oh yeah, the Table Top/Top of the Rock complex is the creation of Johnny Morris, a billionaire businessman, from Springfield, who started Bass Pro Shops and then created the golf complex here.  Linda ran into him on our visit and I’ve not seen her since!  I wasn’t aware that she even liked bass fishing!

Johnny Morris & Linda

Two more rounds of golf, one at Buffalo Ridge (our favorite) where there were actually buffalo on the ridge, and our last round at Branson Hills, both very good golf courses on very nice days.

One evening we saw The Baldknobbers show, funny name, but great show of singing (country, rock and gospel) and comedy.  It is the longest running show in Branson, it’s been playing for 63 years!  The grandson of the original creator of the show is now the lead singer.

My overall impression of Branson is very different than what I had imagined; I imagined a fairly small town with a main street lined with lots of theaters, like Andy Williams, Tony Orlando, Dick Clark, etc.  Those theaters are there, and there is a downtown area where you can buy tee shirts and coffee mugs, but the theaters are spread out all over the countryside.  And there are lots of things for kids to do from miniature golf to Ferris wheels to zip lines and much more.  While the food was generally just OK, the people were the nicest I’ve seen in the US, and I’ve been to Minnesota!

Great trip, but if I had to do it over, I’d play less golf and see more shows.  Oh yeah, I do kind of wonder what ever happened to Linda.




North to Alaska – Part 3: The Final Days and Some Observations

by Bob Sparrow

Another ‘no-photo’ of Mt. Denali

After our seventh day at sea, not seeing whales, dolphins or sea lions, we pull into Whittier, which is the port for Anchorage, for our three days on land where we won’t see moose, but will see a bear and some eagles.  Actually, I enjoyed the land portion of our trip more than our time at sea.  The three days on land gave us a real sense of what Alaska is all about.  The cruise part visited three coastal ports, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway which are all fairly similar – tourist towns filled with bars and gift shops; and the rain in every port didn’t help! Perhaps being able to take the scenic train ride out of Skagway might have made a difference, but for now my YouTube train experience will have to do.

The two-day, 417-mile trip from Whittier to Fairbanks starts with a train ride to about the halfway point at McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.  From there we take a bus on a four-hour ‘wilderness tour’ that the driver/guide made really interesting and informative.  This is where we saw a bear fairly close up as well as several caribou and a few bald eagles.  We stopped along the way and had a native Athabaskan give us a lecture on all the plants that surrounded us and how each was used for a different medicinal purpose.  The next day we were on a bus through Denali National Park, staying at Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge.  That evening we went to a dinner with a show that describes the climbing of Mt. Denali in song – it was quite good.

Sled dog farm along the river

The next day we went on a riverboat, which was probably the highlight of the trip for me, as we stopped to visit a sled dog farm and heard from the trainer and watched a demonstration of the dogs pulling a sled on wheels – they are truly amazing dogs!! On land we stopped at an Athabaskan village where we heard a presentation about life amongst this native tribe – very interesting!

We then move on to Fairbanks and on our last night of the tour we are told that, if the clouds go away, the ‘Northern Lights’ would be visible around midnight, so we asked the front desk clerk to give us a call if they were visible . . . big surprise, no call.

Some observations

  • Princess ships are beautiful, the staff is gracious, the entertainment is great, but the quality of food, or lack thereof, will keep me from sailing on Princess again.
  • We discovered, too late, that in Alaska, August is considered ‘fall’ and the rainy season – we can definitely confirm that. I’d recommend traveling in late May to early June
  • In August the sun sets just before 10:00 pm, which for us meant that we got to actually see the rain until almost midnight
  • The highest mountain on the north American continent, Mt. McKinley, had its name changed to Mt. Denali in 2017, we

    We’re told this is what Mt. Denali looks like

    were hoping to catch a glimpse of it at some point, but we were to learn that only about 25-30% of people spending a week or two in Alaska, will see Mt. Denali. So here’s a photo, not taken by me, so we all can see what it really looks like.

  • I asked almost every one of our servers or workers that I came in contact with, where they came from and how long they’d been working in Alaska. People come from all over the world to work in Alaska for the summer, very few stay there through the winters, where temperatures can get to 60 to 70 below zero.
  • If you’re thinking about a similar trip to Alaska that we just did, I’d recommend doing it in reverse order – do the land portion first as I think it gives you a better sense of Alaska, then relax and do the cruise – preferably not on Princess, if you like food.

Some random photos

The bear we saw

The Pacellis, singer, Sarah Shelton, the Sparrows

Native Athabaskan dress

Iditarod dog in training

North to Alaska – Park 2: The Hits Just Keep on Comin’

by Bob Sparrow

Beautiful Skagway, Alaska

Skagway when we arrived

Next stop is Skagway and from the ship it’s hard to tell Skagway from Juneau or Ketchikan as the accompanying photos would indicate.   There is no deep-water port next to Skagway, so we must anchor off-shore and take ‘tenders’ into port.  Unfortunately, it’s windy and rainy and the seas are too rough to run the tenders the morning we arrive.  We are concerned about getting ashore, as we have a very cool excursion planned on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, which was established during the 1890s Yukon Gold Rush – the scenery is said to be spectacular!

As we wait in the morning mist and rain, the wind finally dies down and we get word that the tenders are now running.  We are excited and among the first to get ferried ashore.  We find the train and are escorted to our car and as we’re reading the brochure on what an awesome adventure we’re about to go on, the conductor comes on board and tells us that there has been a rockslide up ahead that has covered the track and that there will be no tour today!   The Alaska gods seem to not be shinning on us this trip!  I later watched the train trip on YouTube – looks fun!  I’ll never know!!  We walk the main street of town and have lunch at the Red Onion, a bar that was formerly a brothel (I think every bar was a brothel back in the day), and head back to the ship.

Glacier Bay on a good day

Glacier Bay for us

Our next two days are at sea as we cruise in Glacier Bay and College Fjord, working our way north to Whittier, the coastal port for Anchorage.   In spite of the low cloud cover and rain, we do see a number of glaciers and in fact, see a couple of calvings.  I have to say that I wasn’t as impressed, as I thought I would be surrounded by white and looking up at massive glaciers.  Our ship put us at eye-level or above the glacier and the glaciers lost some of their majesty, perhaps because the mist and clouds covered the surrounding mountains, it seemed less grand.  As I read the history of Glacier Bay, I discovered that in the 1700s the whole bay used to be a glacier.  So, looking at the where the glacier was in certain years, made it a bit sad, as it’s gradually receding and will eventually be gone!

Mt. Denali

Mt. Denali is rumored to be there

Once in Whittier, we board a train and head to Denali National Park in hopes of seeing Mt. Denali.  If Mt. Denali sounds foreign to you, you may remember this mountain as Mt. McKinley.  It is the tallest mountain on the north American continent at 20,310 feet in altitude.  The name was changed by President Obama who asserted that the name should go back to its original Athabaskan name meaning ‘the great one’.  But none of the local refer to it as either Denali or McKinley, they just refer to it as ‘The Mountain’.   Of course, it was never visible to us at any point during our trip, as we find out that only about 25-30% of tourists get to see it, the rest of us see nothing but clouds.

Christmas in August

One of the first things we notice when we check into the Denali Wilderness Lodge is a Christmas tree in the foyer – fully decorated and other yule time trimmings around the hotel.  Those of you who have traveled to a National Park in August, know why the tree is there.  For those who haven’t, and previous to this, I was one of them, I’ll explain.

On August 24th, 1912, a sudden, unexpected snowstorm stranded a group of travelers in Yellowstone National Park. The travelers, making the best of the situation, decided to celebrate Christmas by singing carols and preparing a sumptuous Christmas feast. They enjoyed the celebration so much that a tradition was born.

Next time: North to Alaska Part 3: The Final Days and Some Alaska Dos and Don’ts

North to Alaska!

by Bob Sparrow

Part 1 – Nowadays Getting There is Not Half the Fun!

At a time when Covid is still dictating travel protocols, we chose to further complicate our cruise to Alaska by picking up our ship in Vancouver, Canada; thus making us enter a foreign country in order to get on a ship to sail to the United States!  So, we ran the risk of not only having to be Covid-free to enter Canada and Covid-free to re-enter the United States, but having to be Covid-free to get on board the ship.  Fortunately, the four of us, Bob & Jeannie Pacelli and Linda and I, studied diligently and passed all our requisite tests.

The travelers

We spent the night in Vancouver and had an easy 15-minute walk to the ship the next day.  It was a pleasant day, as it turned out one of the few days of our trip where rain was not a factor.  On board, we spend those first several hours exploring our magnificent ship, the Majestic Princess, with a capacity of 3,560 passengers.  Alaska is often referred to as the “Land of the Midnight Sun” because it can get up to 22 hours of sunlight a day, however, as we were to learn, sometimes it gets no sun at all – like our first full day at sea – we got liquid sunshine, the kind for which this part of the world is known.  I’ve attached a photo from our first full day at sea that shows the visibility from our balcony – about 100 yards.  But we weren’t worried . . . yet; we had seven days on board and another three day of land tours, so we figured the clouds, fog and rain would eventually move along and we’d be able to take in those amazing views that matched all the photos in the brochure.  And besides, we had a whole ship to explore.

So, while sailing to our first stop, Ketchikan, we found lots of things to do, lots of shows, lots of interesting lectures, lots of games, both in the casino and out, and fortunately, lots of bars to ensure we got our money’s worth on our ‘unlimited drink package’ – a perk we thought we’d be denied based on our predilection for alcohol consumption on previous cruises!

Chamber of Commerce photo of Ketchikan

Ketchikan the day we arrived

We woke up on Sunday morning docked in Ketchikan, a town of 13,000 that can only be reached by sea or air, no roads coming in or out.  We schedule a morning tour of the city, which was quite interesting.  Our guide was a young lady who was a native Alaskan of the Tlingit tribe, she was born and raised in Ketchikan and did a great job of walking us through the small downtown area and explaining everything we saw from the totem poles to the brothels.  After our walk we stopped and had a beer at a local pub on the water and ran into the lead female singer from the show we saw on the boat the previous night.  She sat and had a couple of beers with us and was most delightful.  A mid-afternoon departure dictated that we get back on board early, so back on board we went and embarked for Juneau.

Juneau Chamber of Commerce photo

Juneau the day we arrived

‘Geared up’ for the Mendenhall float trip

We woke up Tuesday morning as we cruised into downtown Juneau.  We did a quick walk through town, to make sure we could locate the famous ‘Red Dog Saloon’ for a cold one after our day at Mendenhall Glacier.  We signed up for the Mendenhall Glacier float trip – assuming that we were going to ‘float’ up to, or at least in the vicinity of, Mendenhall Glacier.  Not so fast, we did, indeed, see Mendenhall Glacier across Mendenhall Lake, but we were then told to ‘gear up’ and get in our raft.  ‘Gearing up’ included putting on rain pants, rain boots, rain jacket, life preserver and getting in a rubber raft for 12 and float on Mendenhall Lake, AWAY from the Mendenhall Glacier to Mendenhall River and shoot the rapid (more of a float than a shoot) taking us further away from the Mendenhall Glacier.  The float trip lasted for 15 hours . . . or so it seemed, while we froze our Mendenhall’s off.  Travel tip: Don’t do the Mendenhall Glacier Float trip.

When we were mercifully finished, we went back into town and hit the ‘Red Dog Saloon’ and the ‘Lucky Lady’ Irish Pub, trying to wash the taste of that float ride from our minds.  Thankfully we find that a few cocktails have us laughing at our river rafting experience.  The only mediocre show in the ship’s theater we’ve seen, caps off our day to forget.

Next time: Part 2 – And the Hits Just Keep on Coming!

In Memorial – Namaste!

by Bob Sparrow

Patrick’s Memorial Hike

A week ago Sunday I had the pleasure of going on a ‘Memoria Hike’ for our dearly departed friend, Patrick Michael.  It was his birthday and he had passed a year ago April at 62; he is still missed every day, not just by his family, but by our entire neighborhood and a whole host of friends and co-workers.  The hike took place at Peter’s Canyon in Orange and was attended by 20+ neighbors and family, and several dogs!

Like I’m sure most of his friends think, my relationship with Patrick was special – he always had time for everyone, could make or fix anything, although sometimes it cost him a finger or two, lost via his table saw, and he always had a great attitude and a good sense of humor – especially the ability to laugh at himself.

Whitney hikers

After moving into the neighborhood, for years I didn’t really get to know him, or rather knew him as the guy who sang “There once was a man from Nantucket” on a co-ed party bus during the holidays.   At another neighborhood holiday party in 2007, Patrick told us that he had just returned from climbing Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States at 14,505 feet.  This intrigued several of us at the party, so we asked him if he was interested in helping us train and lead another assent of Whitney.  He, of course, agreed – and thus was born, The Trail Boss.

He trained us on local mountains, climbing Mt. San Antonio (Baldy) many times and Mt. San Jacinto out in the desert.  By June 2008 we were ready.

The night before our hike, we camped at Whitney Portal (altitude around 8,400 feet) at the trailhead to Whitney to get acclimated to the altitude. The next day about two-thirds of the way to the summit, one of our hikers, who is diabetic, could go no further due to a blood-sugar imbalanced, typical of Patrick, rather than continue the hike to the summit, he turned around to accompany the hiker back down the mountain, while the rest of us continued on.

Half Dome cables to the top

Me, Kirin, Dom, Patrick in Nepal

Patrick had reintroduced me to hiking and I loved it, so I wanted to do more.  We planned to hike Yosemite’s Half Dome, but the first time we tried, the cables that get you to the very top of the dome, were down, so our hike ended at the base of the final assent.  In 2012, we returned, and with the cables up, we were able to reach the top and take in that spectacular view. After hikes in Joshua Tree National Park and neighboring Ladder’s Canyon, in 2013, Linda had given me a 70th birthday present of a hike in the Himalayas in Nepal (I checked to see if it was a one-way ticket!)  The trip was for two and she thought that my brother, Jack would accompany me, but he was not really into hiking, so my obvious choice was to ask Patrick – I did and he happily agreed.  So, in June of 2014 I enjoyed my favorite hike of all time with one of my best friends of all time.  On that 12-day journey, Patrick and I enjoyed the people and the culture of the Himalayas and shared many amazing experiences.  It’s where we learned the meaning of the original Sanskrit greeting, Namaste – “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.”  As a reminder of Patrick, a Namaste plaque and Buddhist prayer flags from Kathmandu, hang in my patio. As an aside, I still stay in contact with, Dom Tamang, our Nepalese guide for that hike.

A year later, Patrick and I, and a childhood friend of Patrick and the friend’s son, did a four-day hike on the Inca Trail to

Patrick at my mirror

Machu Picchu – another spectacular experience that Patrick’s enthusiasm and curiosity made even more special.

After returning from Machu Picchu, we discussed where our ‘next big hike’ should be; I suggested Kilimanjaro, which Patrick, for whatever reasons, wasn’t too keen on initially, but some time later he came to me and said, “Let’s do Kilimanjaro”.  Unfortunately, that box will remain unchecked.

I keep the program from Patrick’s memorial service next to my bathroom mirror, so I see him every morning and am reminded of three things, 1) I was fortunate to have Patrick in my life, 2) I should strive to be more like him, and 3) no one is guaranteed tomorrow – live life to the fullest.







We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

by Bob Sparrow

Sagers, Budds, VanBoxmeers, Sparrows

The sky was deep blue and the air was clean and thin, very thin – the mountains, still with some snow on their peaks, rose up beautifully before us.  I knew I wasn’t in Kansas or even in southern California anymore – it wasn’t air I could get my teeth into.  I was in the ski mecca of the mountain west, Park City, Utah.  But this time of year, the hills are not covered with “The Greatest Snow on Earth”, but rather we see green ski runs cut out of the mountains, with lift chairs spanning over them, and cutting through stands of pine, fir and quaking aspen.  Summer is indeed a great time of year to visit this magnificent place.

Canyons Golf driving range

The gift of a timeshare week brought the Budds, Sagers, VanBoxmeers and us to this home of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which has done nothing but grow since then.  Our main activity, other than eating and drinking, was playing golf – some good and some bad, both score-wise and course-wise.  We played four rounds of golf; we tried to get on a few private courses, but they must have been forewarned about our golf acumen, so all our rounds were on public courses.  Three of them were south of Park City in the Heber–Midway area, the best of which was Homestead, a good course that they say new ownership is going to make great!  The one I would not recommend is next to Olympic Village in Park City called Canyons Golf.  I see online that it got a 4 out of 5 rating, but trust me, all this course needed was a windmill and a couple of clowns’ mouths to putt into to make it a completely hideous experience.  There was one hole with a 250 yard drop in elevation from tee to green.  The gas, instead of electric, golf carts made it extra special.  See the photo of their driving range – we should have known before we started that this wasn’t going to be Pebble Beach.

Grappa Restaurant

So, my first ‘Don’t’ travel tip is don’t play Canyons Golf.  My second tip might be regarding Park City’s most famous restaurant, Grappa.  The setting is beautiful, an interesting building at the top of Main Street, with lots of deck space for outside dining, which is gorgeous on a summer’s evening . . .HOWEVER, high-priced food is one thing, over-priced, very average food is quite another, and that’s what we got.  So, nice setting, good service, but very average good for a very premium price.  Let’s move on to something more positive.

If you come to this area, I would highly recommend a visit to the Stein Erikson Lodge, which is just over the hill from Park City in Deer Valley.  Stein Erikson was a champion skier and Olympic gold medal winner from Norway, who moved to Park City and built the lodge in 1982 – it earned the prestigious Forbes Five-Star rating and has maintained this rating ever since and is still Utah’s only resort property to have a Forbes Five-Star status.

Alpenglobes on deck of Stein Erikson Lodge

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend staying there, as it is fairly pricey – regular rooms start around $700 a night and goes steeply up from there.  But we just went to look at the facility to see how the ‘rich people’ live – they live very nicely!  We did have a drink on the lodge deck imagining ourselves on a snowy winter evening in one of those ‘bubble tables’ that rotates and keeps you warm while sitting on the deck during snow season – I was to learn later that they are called Alpenglobes.

The other highlight for me was to visit my, and son Jeff’s, college alma mater in Salt Lake City, Westminster College – the campus was quiet, as it was a summer Sunday, but still looked magnificent.  The tour for the rest of the group was not quite as thrilling I’m sure, but they were able to see the brick at the Alumni House that shows the seal for the college that I created.  OK, it wasn’t just me; in my senior year I needed a couple of units in the arts, so I took an art class.  The college board had just come to the art teacher and asked if he could have his students create a new crest for the school.  Two nights before the assignment was due, I invited my football teammate and center, Bruce Takeno to the local pub, The Sugarbowl, to help me create something to turn in.  With the help of a few beers and the lions on the Coors beer bottles, we scratch something out on a bar napkin.  When we had a rough draft, Bruce, who had much greater artistic skills than I, and lived in Salt Lake, said that he would take it home and ‘make it pretty’.  What he handed me the next morning, slightly resembled what was on the napkin, but done

Westminster College crest

My old college girlfriend was still there!

in oil paint on stretched canvas – it looked spectacular!  I turned it in, and the school board voted it the winner.  I did confess to my art teacher that while I contributed to the overall design, Bruce was the artist in the group.  I passed the class!  It has since been replaced.

Another highlight was just walking Main Street in Park City – it is filled with gift shops, bars, restaurants and . . . more gift shops, bars and restaurants!  Great location, great friends, clean air, great trip!


Like a Rolling Stone . . .

by Bob Sparrow

I checked the bottom of my feet at the end of June and there was no moss gathering on them – it was, to say the least, a very busy month!  After returning from the Welk Resort at the end of May; June was filled with a Coach House concert by Desperado, a very good Eagles cover band, then a father-son fishing trip to Alaska, then our bands’, Monday Knights’, show at Yorba Linda Country Club, followed by our annual Margaritaville party at our home, with some 50 guests in attendance.  A fun, but exhausting month.  You’d think that it would be time for me to kick back and smell the coffee, but as you’re reading this, I’m in Park City, Utah looking for my golf ball in the Wasatch Mountains, visiting some old college haunts and trying to recover from our neighborhood July 4th celebration.

So, the rest of this blog is a pictorial of a hectic June.  I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a report from deep within the Wasatch Mountains.

Desperado at the Coach House


Son, Jeff and the Old Man in the Sea

With my two beautiful daughters

One of the Soggy Bottom Boys











Willie, stoned at the mic

Parakeets Sarah, Kristin and Dana at Margaritaville