A Tale of Two Sittings – A Fish Story

by Bob Sparrow

Sitka, Alaska

I have readily admitted that I do not understand fishing, not because I’ve failed at it every time I’ve tried it, which I have, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I’m told that fishing is a sport, and if it is, it is one of the very few sports that does not require one to be in shape, unless you consider ‘round’ a shape.  While most athletes consume energy drinks or water during an athletic contest, the main beverage of fishing is beer.  At best, fishing is an activity, not a sport, and I am reluctant to even call it an activity, given that there is not much of that going on either.

It was my love of travel and a trip with my son that had me excited about visiting a place I’d never been before, Sitka, Alaska, even though I’d have to fish there!  Flying into Sitka is breathtaking; as the snow-capped mountain, thickly forested woodlands, and thousands of little islands in the Alaska archipelago unfold below you prior to landing.

So far, so good, maybe fishing here won’t be so bad after all.

Totem Square Hotel & Marina

Captain Mike meets us at the airport and says ‘Hey’ (We’ll learn later that that’s a long conversation for him), throws our gear in the back of his van, and we pile in and head to the Totem Square Hotel & Marina – right on the water.  A quick walk through the quaint little town of Sitka to get something to eat and then it’s early to bed for a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.

As I crawled into bed it was still light outside, but, as I was to learned, it was always going to be light outside . . . it’s Alaska, in the summer!!  As I lye in bed, I  wondered why I was here.  I hate fishing, I’m no good at fishing, fishing is boring – it’s baiting a hook, dropping it in the water and then reeling it back in, mostly with nothing on it.  It’s really mostly sitting; sitting in the van to get to the boat, sitting in the boat for about an hour to get to where the captain thinks the fish are, sitting with your line in the water and sitting around complaining about why the fish aren’t biting.  So, you sit around and have a few beers.

Me, Capt. Mike and the cod I had to throw back because it was too big

Day 1: I understand that a big part of fishing is about the experience – our first day experience had most everyone sea sick, due to the rough seas on a cold and windy morning.  What am I doing here?!!  Some of us, including me, threw their breakfast into the ocean – and not in a good way.  It was extremely rough seas which was apparently occupied by only a few fish.  At one point, after endless rough seas and hours of catching nothing, I looked at my watch assuming that we’d be thankfully headed in shortly – it was 10:30!!!  I had made up my mind right then that I was going to take tomorrow off – I could not see me doing this three days in a row.  I wanted a day where I my breakfast would stay in my stomach.  To add insult to injury, the only fish I caught was a ling cod that was TOO BIG, yes, too big, and I had to throw it back!  So, I learned that there were things about fishing that I hated that I didn’t even know I hated.  Throwing back a fish that was too big was one of them!  At the end of the day, we were all a little green in the gills and had only a couple of fish in the cooler to show for our days’ torture.  A delicious dinner at Mangiare’s, a great Italian restaurant in town, somewhat soothed an otherwise dreadful day.  I was reminded how much I hate fishing!

Day 2: Today we had calm seas, warm weather, little wind and thus a much smoother ocean, plus we all took Dramamine to start the day.  Fishing is really a great sport and I’ve discovered that I’m not that bad at it after all.   By early afternoon we had caught our limit of salmon and ling cod and had also bagged several halibut.  You know, when you feel at one with the ocean and you’re outsmarting the fish, you learn that there is a mental side to fishing.  And anyone who tells you that fishing is not physical, hasn’t spent 15-20 minutes with a fish fighting for its life on the line, trying to make sure you’re pulling and reeling at the right times to make sure you don’t lose him.  Fishing is mental, physical and you can have a beer.    I love fishing!

Day 3:  Day three was thankfully closer to Day 2 than Day 1, just not as fruitful.

Jeff with big salmon catch  and fishermen, Matt, Mark, Larry, Jeff & Chase

     

All in all this trip provided some great memories of spending time with son, Jeff and friends Mark, Chase, Larry and Matt, catching some great fish (we each brought home 27 lbs. of fileted salmon, halibut and ling cod) along with having a few beers and experiencing enough fish stories to last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Road to Utopia

by Bob Sparrow

Me at the Giggling Marlin

You might not have noticed, but over the past eleven years of writing about my experiences, you’ve not heard a lot of ‘fish stories’.  Just one in fact, which sort of sums up my fishing acumen – my trip to Cabo back in July 2012.  Here’s the link in case you’re in need of a good laugh!

https://fromabirdseyeview.com/?p=712

Yes, that’s me hanging upside down at the Giggling Marlin in Cabo, the penalty for being ‘skunked’.  And in a ‘father-like-son’ moment, Jeff experienced the same fate.

Jeff at the Giggling Marlin

Now, 10 years later, we’re off to try fishing again, this time to Alaska with neighbors, Mark Johnson, Larry Affentranger and our three sons/sons-in-law, Jeff Sparrow, Chase Johnson and Matt Paul.  Mark and Larry are experienced fishermen, why they invited us along, I’m not sure – other than comic relief.  Or maybe they just didn’t believe how bad a fisherman we were and wanted to witness it firsthand.

When Jeff was growing up, I felt obligated to take him fishing. Isn’t that what dads and sons do?  So, I took him to Big Bear Lake – we caught a boot, Mammoth’s Lake Mary – we caught a lady’s undergarment, Lake Tahoe – we caught a cold.  We’ve NEVER caught a fish!  When I sent Jeff the flyer about this Alaska fishing trip which ‘GUARANTEED’ us to catch fish, he called me after he’d read the brochure and said, “They may have to change their guarantee after the Sparrow boys’ visit!”

We’re headed to Sitka, Alaska, which is on the ‘Alaskan Panhandle’ on the island of Baranof in the Gulf of Alaska between Juneau and Ketchikan– I’m not sure if we can see Russia from there or not.  I’ll let you know.  Sitka was actually under Russian rule from 1799 – 1867.  So, it may be on Russia’s list to re-take at some point – hopefully not this week!

While Sitka is the 5th largest city in Alaska, it has only a population of about 8,500.  If you want to get a real ‘feel’ for the city, you can watch the Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal, which was shot there.

On my ‘check the box’ list, I can tell you that Alaska is one of only five of the United States that I’ve never visited.  Additionally, I’m getting another check the box – some of you more senior, seniors will remember the old Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour ‘Road movies’, which took them to various exotic locations around the world.  Even though, as my wife continually reminds me, the movies were shot in the back lot of Paramount Studios in Hollywood, I still credit them for giving me the ’travel lust’ that keeps we wanting to visit more and more places.  The seven ‘road movies’ included the following destinations: Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Bali, Hong Kong, Rio and Utopia (Utopia in the movie is Alaska).  So, this will be the first ‘road movie’ destination that I’ve visited.  I want to visit them all and I’m not getting any younger!

Sitka, Alaska

Back to Alaska, the plan is to fly up there on Saturday, fish on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and fly back on Wednesday.  I’m sure Mark, Chase, Larry and Matt will be bringing back large packages of flash-frozen Halibut, Salmon and whatever else is swimming around up there.  Jeff’s and my bag will be filled with dirty laundry, Band-Aids to cover hook gashes and soggy shoes.  The weather prediction as of now is ‘rain’ every day!   So, it will be cold, wet and probably fishless, but I’m still guessing we will have a good time!

I’ll let you know.

 

The Bubble Machine is Still Wondaful ah Wonderful

by Bob Sparrow

The name Lawrence Welk calls up one of two thoughts:  If you’re of a certain age, you’re thinking, bandleader, who had an accent, a TV variety show, a ‘bubble machine’ and played ‘champagne’ music (Because his music was smooth yet bubbly, like champagne); and everything was always “Wondaful ah Wondaful”.  If you’re not of a certain age, you’re thinking, “Who the heck is Lawrence Welk, and why are we even talking about him?”

Because Linda and I spent last week at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido, CA, now, just called the Welk Resort, as Lawrence has passed, but not without living the quintessential American dream.  He was born in the German-speaking community of Strasburg, North Dakota, to parents who had emigrated from Odessa, Ukraine.  He left school while a 4th grader, to help work on the family farm and did not learn to speak English until he was 21.  He loved music from an early age and convinced his parents to buy him an accordion for what would be today between $5 – $6,000!  His love of music, business acumen and focused drive, got him on the radio, then television, then into creating resort destinations – the one in Escondido, his first.  In all, he ended up creating eight, up-scale resorts in places like Lake Tahoe, Cabo San Lucas, Palm Springs and Branson, Missouri.  He ultimately sold them to Marriott for $430,000,000.  Not bad for a guy with less than a 4th-grade grade education!

After checking into the Welk Resort on Saturday, I took Linda up to the Temecula Creek Inn on Sunday, to meet up with daughters, Stephanie and Dana to do a wine tasting that they had given her for Mother’s Day.  Dana brought daughter, Addison, with her so I could babysit her for the next 24 hours.

Addison and I drove directly from the Temecula Creek Inn to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (the old Lion Country Safari), which I hadn’t been to in many, many years, and was pleasantly surprised at what a great facility it had turned into.  But before we could see the elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, apes, birds, etc., Addison had to have her face painted and visit a few of the gift shops.  After 3-4 very fun hours with the animals, we then went back to the Welk and found the pool with the giant water slide that Addison showed no fear in going down – feet first and head first!  After a full day of zoo and pool, we drove to the city of Vista for Addison’s favorite dinner – sushi!  And on the way home we saw the ‘Blood Moon’ and I explained to Addison what an eclipse was.  I asked her the next morning if she remembered what it was and she told me that this was a lunar eclipse where the earth passed between the sun and the moon – so the lesson was learned, as I imagined it would be!  We met the girls in the morning for breakfast back at the Temecula Creek Inn – as I gave Addison back to Dana, I told her it wasn’t really like babysitting, it was like hanging out with a very fun young lady!

For the next several days, Linda and I played three rounds of golf, two on the Welks property, one at the Oaks Course, a short par 3 course (not recommended), one at the Welks Fountains Executive Course (recommended), and one round about 30 minutes away at Mt. Woodson, or what I’ve renamed it, “Mt. Bring-A-Lot-Of-Balls”.  It’s a beautiful course in the hills of Ramona and I would highly recommend this one – just bring plenty of balls!  On our way home from Mt. Woodson, we just happened to go by Harrah’s Casino (I should have known that if I left the navigating to Linda that we’d end up at a casino!)  We had a great dinner in the casino at Fieri’s Steak House and felt good about the contributions we gave to our Native American friends at the casino.

The night before we checked out, we went to the great little theatre (seats about 350) on the Welk property to see a performance by Fortunate Son, a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band – great songs, great show!!

Excellent facility, fun time, and close by – good enough that it could be on our ‘annual trip’ list.  Perhaps Addison will want to join us for a day or two!!

 

 

 

A New Sign of the Times

by Bob Sparrow

The age-old sign of insolent ill will

No, not a remake of the Harry Styles hit, ‘Sign of the Times’, and, no, I’m not going to pontificate on how times have changed, how we’ve become so polarized or why people don’t want to go to work anymore.  This is much more important than all of that.  As you regular readers know, and even those who aren’t regular (Sorry, they have medication for that), I mostly like writing about travel, and struggle with blog topics when I’m not preparing for a trip or on one.  With Covid and unrest in various parts of the world, my travel has been a bit restricted.  Oh yeah, I still work, so sometimes that gets in the way too.  Given the environment we are currently in, I look to find travel stories wherever I can. This one takes place less than a mile from my home – so technically it’s a ‘travel story’.

I’m driving my car and I do something that I don’t normally do, something we’ve all done, but try to avoid; I cut off a person as I was making a turn.  It was a two-lane, right turn and I was in the right-most lane and as I turned, I didn’t see the car to my left, also making a right turn, and I drifted into his lane and cut him off.  He saw me, honked, swerved and sped by me, as I’m sure he was thinking he wanted to get as far away as possible from this idiot.

As he drove by and gave me that ‘Where’d you get your license, K-Mart?’ look, I wanted to apologize and tell him that I was genuinely sorry; while I knew I couldn’t speak to him, I wondered if there was some gesture I could make that would convey an apology.

Several gestures came to mind:

  1. A wave and smile – It kind of says, “Hi, not sure who you are, thanks for letting me borrow your lane for a while.  Have a nice day.  I’m an idiot!”

 

 

 

 

 

2. Thumbs up – this sort of acknowledges that you understand what happen, but a thumbs up is a ‘positive’                                 gesture’, so you’re really saying, “Pretty cool that I cut you off, huh?  I’m OK!”

 

 

 

 

 

3. Peace sign – This really says ‘peace’, don’t kick my ass, ‘you lived, I lived, it’s all good, brother’

4. Hang loose sign – this says, ‘Don’t sweat it man, this happens all the time, just relax and accept it – chill.’

5. I even thought about saying I’m sorry in sign language, which is a fist rubbing circularly on your chest over your              heart. Aside from the fact that he couldn’t see that, the odds are he wouldn’t have understood what it meant                          anyway.

He sped away pissed off, and I continued on my journey, frustrated, a bit more cognizant of the boundaries of my lane, and wondering if there was a hand signal that says ‘I’m sorry’.

I Googled it.  No such animal.  So, I saw this as an opportunity to invent one.   It’s got to be a hand gesture, something easy to do and visible to a passing car.  It’s got to be the opposite of the middle finger or the shaking fist.  I’ve got it! Open the hand up and spread the fingers.  The open hand is the opposite of the fist and all five fingers is not the single middle finger.  The five fingers could stand for five words, like:

I’M SORRY!

1. I’m the one to blame

2. Sorry I cut you off

3. My mistake, I’m so sorry

4. Thank you for being alert

5. Please accept my sincere apology

 

 

Now it will be up to you as one of our readers to get the word, or the hand, out.  This could be a movement and you could say you were on the ground floor.

OK, I’m traveling this week, we’ll see if my travels are blog-worthy, although this one probably lowered the blog bar!

 

 

Diamonds in the Desert

by Bob Sparrow

Diamonds in the Desert

Before desert temperatures reached the triple digits, we made two last treks to two different deserts in March to visit our diamonds in the deserts.

Our mid-March trip took us to some old haunts surrounding our Marriott Desert Springs Palm Desert timeshare.  Yes, there was plenty of golf, dining, and stories with the ‘Great Eight’ – the Budds, the Sagers and the VanBoxmeers (Linda and I would make eight in case you were wondering about the math!), but it was the other people we met, that live there, (at least part-time) that turned the trip from great to awesome!

Ed & Stacy Hunter at Indian Ridge

Diamond One!  We were invited to dinner at the home of Ed & Stacy Hunter, who live, during the winter, at Indian Ridge Country Club, a private golf club that has two magnificent golf courses and beautiful and immaculately kept grounds.  The Hunter’s home sits on a ridge with an amazing view of the golf course (the attached photo doesn’t do it justice).  Ed collects wine and whiskeys, and suffice it to say that we certainly consumed more than our share, but didn’t put a dent in his stash.  Stacy is the consummate hostess, serving an exquisite tray of charcuterie followed by a delicious dinner.

Diamond Two!  Two days later, we were invited for dinner at the home of Walt & Patty Schwartz, at Trilogy at the Polo Club in Indio, next to the Plantation Golf Club, which could be the subject of a future blog.  And while the view may not have been as grand, with Walt playing the consummate ‘straight man’ for Patty’s razor-sharp wit, the evening was filled with many stories and much laughter.  Oh yeah, and a magnificent charcuterie tray and another delicious dinner with plenty of wine.

Patty & Walt Schwartz

Linda & Starlet petting a dinosaur

Diamond Three!  Three days after returning from Palm Desert we set out for the Sonoran Desert, which includes much of Arizona.  Our first stop was Apache Junction, and a visit with Linda’s sister and husband, Starlet & Donnie Brummer.  Starlet’s daughter, Denise and her husband, Gene Cobb were also visiting from Minnesota and are always great to be around.  Friends, Bill & Kay Pompei, from Minnesota, who also spend the winter in Arizona stopped by for dinner and cards.  Kay provided me with several subjects for future blogs – thank you!  The following day, Starlet, Linda and I played one of the best golf courses I’ve ever played, Dinosaur Mountain at Gold Canyon.  Not only was the golf course magnificent, but the surrounding mountains and spectacular homes on the course were jaw-dropping.  A picture-perfect day made it the most enjoyable round of golf in a long time.  If you have a chance, play this course, you’ll love it!

Your co-writers

Diamond Four!  Four days into our trip we made our final stop at Scottsdale’s beautiful golf community, Desert Highlands to visit my sister and co-writer, Suzanne and husband, Alan Watson, as well as ‘Dash the Wonder Dog’. While Suzanne and I text, talk or email weekly, we rarely get a chance to see each other, so it’s always special when we get together.  When I explained to her that I was writing this week’s blog about our visits to our ‘Diamonds in the Desert’, and that our visit with them would be number four, she replied, “I hope you don’t label us as the ‘Cubic Zirconium’ visit!”  Not a chance!  We had a great time visiting and then dinner at their beautifully remodeled golf club house, as the sun set beneath a beautiful ‘Arizona red’ sky.  The perfect ending to the many facets of our visit to our Diamonds in the Desert.

 

What Else is There to Do in the Desert?

by Bob Sparrow

Marriott Desert Springs Hotel

As you read this, I’m in ‘The Desert’.  No, my worlds travels have not taken me to the Gobi or the Sahara Desert, but rather the Colorado Desert, more specifically, Palm Desert.  Yes, this week I’m at our timeshare at the beautiful Marriott Desert Springs.  Those who have been following us here for a while, have read about some of our exploits at this timeshare that we have never traded away and never missed spending a week, or two, every year.  It’s a place that is only an hour and a half’s drive from our home, but that drive takes you into a whole different world.

After nearly 30 years of enjoying many of the things that the desert has to offer, I thought it would be interesting to try and discover some things that we have never seen or done.  My search of the Internet provided me with this list of the following attraction options:

Inside Ruddy’s General Store

Ruddy’s General Store

This store is a recreation of a 1930s general store, where proprietor, Jim Ruddy has assembled a collection of nearly a century of Americana.  Items that he’s collected are in their original packaging and a majority of them hold their original contents.  I already hate shopping, but shopping for things you can’t actually buy or use is out of my ‘fun zone’.

Volkswagen Spider

This former auto repair shop has a 28-foot tall, metal spider, made from old Volkswagen Beetle parts.  The property was once the Hole in the Wall Welding Shop, and now is just called the Hole in the Wall.  The structure is adorned with cacti and metal spider webs.  If this is as bad as it looks, I’d have to have a ‘Hole in my Head’ to spend any time looking at a giant, metal Volkswagen spider.

Babies

The Naked Bridge

Also known as the ‘Bridge of Thighs’, it is a 140-foot overpass created in 2003 at a cost of $500,000, so people could walk naked across this bridge.  There are five-foot canvas panels along the bridge to ensure that only the heads of crossing nudists are seen and thus prevent fender benders from happening on the street below.  Yeah, that’s what I really go to the desert for, to see senior citizens walking across a bridge naked!

The Babies

These 10 sculptures of babies appearing to crawl in a sand pit are found in the Palm Springs Museum courtyard.  They are intended to be a statement on the negative influence of big tech and data in our lives.  These babies have no faces, rather a ‘bar code’ appears in place of their face.  With any luck, my GPS won’t be able to find this creepy place.

Shiprock

Where’s the Spanish galleon?

According to tourist information, “Shiprock gained its name from its uncanny resemblance to a Spanish galleon, but no matter what photo I pulled up, and there are plenty, I never saw any resemblance to a Spanish galleon.  It sits at the bottom of a prehistoric tropical sea that existed over 250 million years ago.   ‘Uncanny resemblance’???  No matter how I looked at this heap of rock, I just couldn’t ‘see’ the ship, maybe it’s better in real life – I’ll never know!  What I do know about Spanish galleons, is that when Columbus discovered America, he got over 3,000 miles to the galleon!  Rim shot!!

Romance Theater

Shield’s Date Knight

Floyd and Bess Shields opened the Shields Date Garden in 1924; finding that date competition was very strong in the Coachella Valley, they created a slide show with a recorded sound track and called it, The Romance and Sex Life of a Date’ and put a mammoth Knight in Armor just off Highway 111 to direct people to their date farm.  It’s open all year – don’t miss it!  Sorry, not my idea of a ‘date night’!

So, if this is what I’ve been missing for the past 29 years, I think I’ll continue to play golf, enjoy fine dining and have a rum and coke while I watch the sun sink behind Mt. San Jacinto from the deck of our condo.  But perhaps you’ve found something here to make your next trip to the desert a unique one.

You’re welcome!

 

Here Today, Gone to Maui – Photo Op

by Bob Sparrow

1st Sunset

 

 

Sunday: We arrive on Maui in the afternoon and had made dinner reservations at one of our favorite restaurants on the Kaanapali strip, the Hula Grill – right on the beach, feet in the sand, and one of the best ribeye steaks I’ve ever had.  I know I’m supposed to eat fish here, but this was too good to pass up.

 

 

 

Kaanapali strip

Monday: Stroll the ‘Kaanapali Strip’ seeing who has the best Mai Tais – started small umbrella collection.  Got in front of a TV early enough to watch the Alabama-Georgia championship game.  The game was over by 6:00 Hawaii time, so went to dinner at Monkey Pod, right behind Hula Grill.  Yes, I had fish . . . tacos!

 

 

As promised, a sunset and dinner on our sunset dinner cruise

Tuesday: Golf at the Kaanapali Royal Golf Course on a perfect day then a sunset dinner (fish) cruise – seeing lots of whales and a beautiful sunset.  After the cruise we wandered Front Street in Lahaina and settled in at an upstairs bar called Captain Jack’s.  We sat at the upstairs bar next to two guys from Rhode Island; one of them got up to go to the restroom and while he was gone, a restaurant employee came by and asked if anyone was using his bar stool.  We said yes, but he took the stool anyway.  When the guy returned from the bathroom, he was surprised that his seat was gone and asked what happened.  We told him and he looked around for an empty stool, found one and threw it off the balcony onto the street below and walked out.

 

A Sparrow on the ceiling

 

Wednesday: Free day, no golf, no tours, but still mai tais!  Drove north up to Kapalua and Napili, had liquid lunch at Duke’s.  Back to Lahaina, strolling Front Street, stopped at Cheeseburger in Paradise where I found my name on the ceiling. Continued on for dinner at The Lahaina Fish Company, yes, we had fish!  Then we went to Warren & Annabelle’s Magic Show and saw two great acts – John George, who was a great magician and pretty funny, and Chris Blackmore who was a good magician and very funny.  A very fun evening!

 

 

Sunset at Humu Humu

 

Thursday: Golf at the private course, King Kamehameha Country Club, awesome golf course and another perfect day.  The club house was designed in 1957 by famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, although he originally designed it as a house for Marilyn Monroe (long story).  Today, as the solitary structure on the hill, it looks like the start of a lunar colony.  After golf, we continue south to the Grand Wailea restaurant and my favorite bar in the world, Kumu Kumu (real name Kumukumunukunukuapua’ha – it’s a fish!).  I had a fish with a shorter name, Linda had a $100 ribeye, and said she should have ordered the fish!

 

Bob looking good. No, not me, the parrot’s name is Bob – he kept calling out my name, or was he calling out his name?

King Kamehameha Golf Club House

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast at Mala Ocean Tavern. We were so close to the water we got ocean spray in our coffee

The trip was too short, but sweet – sorta like many of my Mai Tais!

Tahoe – The Rest of the Story

by Bob Sparrow

(Post is a continuation from the post on November 29)

Linda at Emerald Bay

Circumnavigating the Lake

It was another horrible day in paradise – clear blue, cloudless sky on a cool crisp fall morning at the most beautiful alpine lake in the country, where we decided to take the day to drive around the lake and hit some old haunts that we’ve not visited in years.  The minute we walk out of our room we are engulfed in a butterscotch/pine smell that tells us we are not in Kansas anymore.

Going up the ‘west shore’, our first stop is Emerald Bay, where we pull over at an observation turn-out and soaked up the spectacular view.  As we cruised along the lake-side road, just before arriving in Tahoe City we turn up Chinquapin Lane and stop at a cabin that I used to own with my college roommate, Ken Poulsen.  We head up the road less than a mile and come to Sunnyside Restaurant & Lodge, one of the great lakeside restaurants.  We were going to have lunch there, but it is only open for dinner during this time of year (‘this time of year’ is known as ‘the shoulder’ season – the time between the end of summer and the opening of ski season).  We head into Tahoe City and plan to eat at Jake’s on the Lake, but the  ‘shoulder season’ strikes again, only open for dinner.  We stop at the location of brother, Jack’s restaurant, The Off Shore Bar & Grill, which is now office space.

Sunnyside during the summer

Sunnyside last week

Just out of Tahoe City heading east is a condo project, sitting high above the road, called Rocky Ridge, which affords those in the front condos the most spectacular view of the lake I’ve seen.  It is where Suzanne’s and my parents’ ashes rest.  Although it has a guard gate that doesn’t allow anyone in without the gate combination, we were able to talk a maintenance man into letting us in.  We got to pay our respects to my folks.

Finally, lunch at GarWoods

We continued around the lake still looking for lunch and finally found Gar Woods Grill & Pier and sat on the deck overlooking the lake and had a great lunch before we headed into Nevada, where we were first greeted by Cal-Neva.  Well, we weren’t really greeted since it’s been closed for many years now, but still sits above Crystal Bay and was once a great hotel and casino owned in part by Frank Sinatra, unfortunately, the other part was owned by Chicago mobster, Sam Giancana.  Someday it will reopen and I hope to be one of its first guests.

We continued around the lake into Incline Village and stopped at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino to try our hand at some games of chance – some of us were luckier than others.  We completed the last leg of the trip as we were coming down the east side of the lake to South Shore as the sun was just setting behind the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  A spectacular sunset on a fabulous day!!

Genoa Lakes

Linda at Budd’s lot

When packing for this trip we weren’t sure of the weather, so we packed golf clubs and ski jackets and wondered if we’d have to play golf in our ski jackets.  We didn’t, it was shorts and golf shirt weather at Genoa Lakes Golf Club on ‘the other side of the mountain’.  Prior to teeing off, we visited our good friends, Jack & JJ Budd’s, lot on the golf course – awesome view!

After making our donations at Harrah’s, Harvey’s, Hard Rock, and various other casinos around the lake, and having seen all the old haunts, we decided that we had seen everything we wanted to see, done everything we wanted to do and lost all the money we had with us, so . . . we decided to head home on Wednesday, which we did.

It was a beautiful, short and sweet, five-day trip, and it’s always nice to get home into air that we can sink our teeth into!

 

 

 

Tahoe – The Lake, The Ridge and the Tavern

by Bob Sparrow

The Ridge Tahoe

About a month ago I was notified that we had a timeshare week given to us by Interval International during Covid, that was going to expire by December 24th of this year.  We had just returned from our Mexican cruise and with the ‘holidaze’ fast approaching and air travel becoming less and less attractive, it seemed as if the week would be wasted – unless we could find somewhere that we wanted to go, was within driving distance, and was available between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As I surfed Interval’s available online options, I came across The Ridge – Tahoe, which sits on a ridge (I’m guessing that’s where they got the name) above South Lake Tahoe by Heavenly Valley Ski Resort.  Growing up in northern California, I have many fond memories of Lake Tahoe, as my family started weekending and vacationing there when I was about eight years old (Yes, that was back when the earth was still cooling).  I had my first ‘sort of’ date there when I was in junior high and older brother Jack, who was in high school, brought his girlfriend for a stay with our family at ‘The Lake’, and she brought along her younger sister, who was a year younger than me.  We met at Tahoe Tavern and watched a movie.  I don’t remember what movie, and it wasn’t because I was preoccupied with my first date, I was petrified and probably was busy eating popcorn and didn’t even offer her any.  Sorry, Meg Howard, wherever you are.

Tahoe Tavern

Tahoe Tavern was a classic!  It was first opened in 1902 as a luxury hotel just outside of Tahoe City, at the northern end of the lake. It had 225 rooms and a casino – yes, a casino in California.  You could get there by road, rail, or raft and its opulence attracted San Francisco’s high society.    The resort’s dress code for lunch and dinner became so formal that a dress and heels were required for women and a coat and tie for men.  Aside from the very high-end restaurant and theater, there was a bowling alley and a bar with a beautiful view of the lake.  Unfortunately, it burned down in the mid-60s, so I’m glad I got a chance to see this magnificent hotel.  Condos have been built on the property since and it’s not quite the same; no, it’s not even close to the same.

But I digress.  Linda and I left this past Saturday afternoon to drive up picturesque Highway 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  We spent the night in beautiful Bishop so we could drive up to the lake and be in front of a television by Sunday afternoon so we could watch her Vikings play my 49ers.

Creekside Inn

We got to Bishop and had a great dinner at Whiskey Creek restaurant, which has been there since 1924.  We stayed at the Creekside Inn in Bishop, which I would definitely recommend, although I have no complements for their complementary breakfast – go next door to the famous Schat’s Bakery & Restaurant.

The Sunday morning drive from Bishop to South Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful in the state, particularly on a crisp cloudless morning which shows the spectacular snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains.  We arrived in time for the Viking-49er game, which I was a little happier about the results than Linda.

Our time at Tahoe next time

Crusin’ Through the Pandemic

by Bob Sparrow

To misquote Samuel Clemens, “The reports of my possible death have been greatly exaggerated” . . . by me.  Yes, I’m happy to report that cruising and Mexico were both safe and fun as we arrived home alive and well, albeit a few pounds heavier.  OK, maybe more than a few!

Our cruise started in the Port of San Pedro, which, as mentioned by Suzanne in last week’s blog, the docks are filled with hundreds of thousands of shipping containers, yes, hundreds of thousands; while over 150 ships wait off shore to off-load more.  Reminding me that this Christmas could be the one that the Grinch actually steals.  But we’re not worrying about Christmas yet, Linda and I are headed to Cabo San Lucas, if we can navigate through all the ships anchored in the harbor, on a five-day cruise aboard the Grand Princess.  I’m guessing that Linda is thinking “24/7” or 5 with no other couples, only my spouse – yikes”!!  Oh, maybe that was me thinking that.  She was thinking about the casino!

As we set sail, (There really aren’t any sails) we see that we are far from the ship’s passenger capacity, which is 2800; in fact we are less than 25% full at 650 passengers! The crew numbered 1,150!

Aside from nearly a two-to-one crew-to-passenger ratio and a staff, from all parts of the world, that was friendly, accommodating and professional, here’s a few more things that made this cruise a success:

  • DSB (Don’t Stop Believin’)

    Great entertainment –a British Invasion group that was awesome, a Journey tribute band, DSB, a Hall & Oats tribute band, another 80s cover band (in case you’re wondering, the theme of the cruise was ‘The 80s’, which had me wondering if that wasn’t the average age of the passengers). It was close.

  • There were so many bars on board that, one day at sea, we decided we’d do a ‘Pub Crawl’ and count them.  We only got to seven . . . I think; we lost count, but we were proud to have maxed out our ‘unlimited’ drink package, which led me to wonder, how do you max out an unlimited drink package?  Well, we did and the only ‘crawling’ we ended up doing was back to our room.
  • We met some great people – including a couple that own a dinner theater in the Inland Empire where they perform. We’ll be hitting one of their shows soon.  We also met several awesome Veterans when we attended a Veterans-only gathering on board – one Vet was 99 years old and fought in World War II.  Thank you for your service!!!
  • Because of the small number of passengers, we never had to wait for anything or worry about getting a dinner reservation or a good seat for a show.
  • There were various classes on board, we both took a ‘line dancing’ class and then we followed our passions as I took a cooking class and Linda headed for the casino.

Our one complaint would be about the food – it was marginal at best, with the exceptions of a couple of good steak & lobster dinners at the Crown Room, and the pizza, that was good enough to have for breakfast!

Oh yeah, about our stop in Cabo San Lucas. We spent a couple of hours there walking through the harbor, where we were bombarded by vendors selling everything from sombreros to their sister, and then took a water taxi to ‘The Office’ a restaurant/bar around the corner from the harbor and right on the sand.  We had a ‘good day at the office’, then headed back to the boat.

All in all, a very fun experience that further whet our appetite for more cruising. We do have an Alaska cruise on the Majestic Princess next summer, so we’ll just have to remember to eat before we go.