Category Archives: Travel Journal

The Latest: Wayfarers Travels

Wedding in Mazatlan, Mexico

A few months ago I posted about the chaotic season of travel into which Wendy and I were entering. Don’t get me wrong. It’s all good stuff! Nevertheless, the coming and going have left us grasping for even a few nuggets of normalcy and routine. We are on the downhill side of our gauntlet of travels. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. So, away we go…

Two weeks after our daughter, Madison’s, wedding weekend in South Carolina, Wendy and I flew to Mazatlan, Mexico. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, got married to Emmanuel (a.k.a. Chino) in a gorgeous sunset wedding right on the shore of the Pacific. It was an amazing, multi-cultural event. Chino’s family speaks little or no English. Our family speaks very little Spanish. Nevertheless, there was no shortage of love, laughter, and warmth as we celebrated their wedding.

Not a bad view from our condo balcony.

Our family rented a large condo right on the beach with lots of bedrooms and living space. I will say that the accommodations were in desperate need of updating, but it was still very comfortable. There was a lovely view of the ocean and the sounds of the surf resonated non-stop. When we opened both the doors to the condo and the patio doors to the balcony there was a constant ocean breeze that blew through the living area. It was really lovely.

Chino and Suzanna welcome everyone to their rehearsal and dinner.

On Friday evening we hosted the wedding rehearsal in our condo. A large contingent of both family and friends from Suzanna and Chino’s YWAM (Youth With A Mission) base gathered. Chino’s mother made an amazing, authentic Mexican meal for everyone. There was lots of love, laughter, and joy as Suzanna and Chino blended their worlds and prepared for their big day.

“I don’t think that’s heavy cream. I really want heavy cream.”

One of my favorite memories of the weekend was making multiple Walmart runs with my father-in-law. He desperately wanted some heavy cream for his coffee, but how do you say “heavy cream” in Spanish? We were shown the shelves of Coffee-Mate creamers (sorry, that’s not it) and found several cream products in the dairy case, but which one is the right one? It was a hoot.

The wedding day dawned and the condo was overrun with females. Cakes, flowers, dresses, and various other wedding accouterments were being baked, decorated, assembled, judged, revised, and improvised (rinse and repeat). I slipped onto the balcony with a cup of coffee and stayed out of the way.

Wedding chaos inside, but it’s quiet on the balcony!

The wedding venue was the courtyard of a home along the pacific shore north of Mazatlan. Wendy had joined Suzanna and the wedding party in getting their early. I joined my in-laws, including Aunt Barb, in a YWAM people mover with lots of young people (some of them holding cakes on their laps). As the people mover took off my mother-in-law pointed to the driver and asked me, “Does he know where he’s going?” I remember thinking, “I certainly hope so because I definitely don’t know where we’re going and I don’t speak Spanish!” All was well.

The outdoor venue was beautiful and the wedding began as the sun was setting in the Pacific Ocean behind the wedding couple. I had very little do to with anything, but Suzanna did ask me for suggestions of music to play as the bridesmaids and groomsmen entered. Suzanna asked me for something kind of moody and bluesy. I immediately suggested a song which she immediately loved. What she didn’t realize was that the song (I am Yours by Tracy Chapman) was one of the songs Wendy and played at our wedding. Suzanna was in our wedding, but I forgive her for not remembering. She was, like, ten years old. Anyway, it was awesome that the song began just as Wendy and her groomsman escort started towards the front. I got some nice looks from Wendy. She and I enjoyed the moment, for sure.

After the ceremony, we enjoyed a lovely catered meal as the sunset behind the wedding party. Wendy gave her sister a lovely toast (by that time she needed a little iPhone flashlight to see her notes). The dance was really a lot of fun. There may be cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico, but everyone loves a wedding dance whether the music is Tejano or R&B. I even was blessed to get in a step or two with the beautiful bride that I’ll always treasure.

Here’s a gallery of photos from Mazatlan (Keep scrolling! There’s MORE afterwards!)

Christmas in London, New Year’s in Dublin

It seemed that we had no sooner gotten home than we were packing again. This time we were heading across the pond for Christmas with Taylor, Clayton, and our grandson, Milo. Taylor’s friend, who lives in London, offered her flat to us for the holidays. Wendy and I flew out of Des Moines on the 23rd (DSM-ORD-DUB-LHR) and arrived in London early on the 24th.

It was really a wonderful week together. We went to the annual Christmas concert at Royal Albert Hall and Milo was transfixed… for about ten minutes. It really was a cool event. We made it just past intermission before Milo throwing his cars at fellow concert-goers prompted us to beat the rush and head home.

Milo was mesmerized by the Christmas lights and music (for about ten minutes)

We went for walks. We played in the park. Taylor made a wonderful Christmas meal complete with figgy pudding (ugh!) and brandy butter (yum!). We played Christmas games (balance an orange on your forehead for a minute), and binged the second season of Fleabag.

Christmas lights at Kew Gardens! Amazing!

A lot of the week was simply spent enjoying one another’s company, but Taylor did a nice job of planning an itinerary that included about one event per day. We went to see the Christmas lights at Kew Gardens (spectacular). The adults got away for the Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Brothers (fantastic), and also got away for a show on the West End (The Play that Goes Wrong). Wendy and I found a pub that was playing the Iowa State vs. Notre Dame bowl game (depressing). It was a great week of just getting to spend time together with this trio that we miss so much.

The Westin Hotel, Dublin

Wendy and I flew out of London City airport on the 30th and made the short flight to Dublin. Our anniversary is New Year’s Eve, so we figured it would be a lot of fun to celebrate our 14th year of wedding bliss with a pint o’ Guinness on the Emerald Isle. Regretfully, our time there was far too short. We were blessed to have a room at the Westin, which is an old bank building. The hotel bar was in the old bank vaults in the basement. It was really pretty cool.

We didn’t arrive until late afternoon on the 30th. After settling in we took a stroll up Grafton Street and stopped to buy Wendy a charm for her bracelet to mark the occasion. We enjoyed a pint at the Stag’s Head pub, a place I’d enjoyed when I was in Dublin twenty years ago. We had dinner at the Exchequer before making our way back to the hotel for a night cap.

Waiting for the Hop-On Bus

On New Year’s Eve day we took a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Dublin which allowed us to get a good overview of the sites. It also allowed Wendy to start planning our next trip to Dublin (“We are coming back here,” she informed me). We ate lunch at the Brazen Head Pub (which opened for business in the year 1098… that’s not a typo). We ended up back in the old bank vaults for a nibble and great conversation with the eclectic patrons sitting with us.

Happy New Year from Dublin. A kiss over the River Liffey!

Just before midnight, we walked the block or two up to the River Liffey where thousands of revelers crowded the streets and we kissed in the year 2020 as fireworks exploded overhead.

Then we quickly high-tailed it back to the hotel and went to bed.

We flew home on New Year’s Day.

Here’s a gallery of photos from the UK:

The travels are not done! Stay tuned….

The Latest 05-06-2019

Oh my, it’s been a while since I’ve given a little update on what’s happening in our journey. Here’s a brief summary from this spring:

A New Member of the Family

Garrett proposing to Madison on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Madison and her boyfriend, Garrett, were in Scotland this past week paying a visit to Taylor, Clayton, and Milo. A day trip to the Isle of Skye provided a ridiculously stunning setting for Garrett to pop the question to Madison. We’re excited to welcome Garrett into our wonderfully messy family. An autumn wedding in South Carolina is planned.

The Scotland Crew

We are missing Tay, Clay, and Milo terribly. Thank God for FaceTime. Though, no matter how hard we try, we can’t reach through the screen and hug them. Clayton’s academic work is going well. He’s publishing on multiple fronts, has facilitated both undergraduate and graduate classes, and is trying to work on his dissertation in between everything else. Taylor has gone full-time working for Storii and is traveling around the UK conducting on-boarding training for different care facilities. Milo is cuter than ever and he melts my heart every time he looks and me on FaceTime and says, “Papa!” We’re still working on “Yaya.”

Little Milo in his red jacket exploring Scotland.

A Week in So-Cal

Enjoyed exploring the Gaslamp District in San Diego.

Our Spring Break was spent in Southern California this year. Wendy and I jetted to the west coast for a few days in San Diego followed by  a few days (and St. Patrick’s Day!) in Palm Springs with our friends Kevin and Linda. The agenda for the week was simple. We walked, explored, enjoyed good food, good drink, and a wonderful time with friends. We were excited when our friend, Ann, drove up to Palm Springs from Yuma, to spend an afternoon with us.

April Birthdays

Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.

Our friends Kevin and Beck both have April birthdays, and so do I. Over the past few years we’ve made it a point of celebrating all three birthdays together. This year was a little tough to fit it in with four very busy schedules, but we managed to steal a few hours at one of our favorite places. Wendy provided the party favors and, as always, a good time was had by all.

Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.

Tulip Time 2019

We just finished Pella’s annual Tulip Festival this past weekend. Once again Wendy and I portrayed our town’s founding couple. We greeted tourists, had our picture taken a million times, and were in five of the festival’s six parades. We also hosted Aunt Linda, Uncle Gary & Aunt Fern, Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb, Mom Hall here at the house for various nights.

Our participation in Tulip Time was limited this year because we found ourselves making a movie and hosting a couple of the members of the film crew, but more about that in a subsequent post.

The weekend was perfect this year. The tulips and trees were all blooming and peaking at the same time. The weather was a little overcast on Thursday and Friday, but pleasant. Saturday was sunny and warm.

Reprising a Few Roles

The Herzog Crew from “Stage” 2019

Wendy and I have not been actively involved in community theatre the last few years as we’ve transitioned our time and energy to work and other endeavors. We were asked, however, to reprise a couple of pieces for a variety show at the end of March. We performed one of our scenes (Getting it Back) from Almost, Maine. I also performed Green Stuff from the musical The Christmas Post.

A Quick Trip to “The Springs”

Wendy and I have greatly missed our friends, Kevin and Linda, who packed up their possessions in Pella and moved out to Palm Springs, California a few months ago. So, when Wendy happened to see that our airline had some super-saver deals we jumped at the chance to fly out to spend a few days with the snowbirds this past week. And, as the weather has been unseasonably cold, windy, and snowy in Iowa, it came at a great time.

 

We were supposed to arrive mid-day on Tuesday, but travel delays meant we got rerouted and spent much more time in airports than planned. Nevertheless, we arrived at 7:45 pm and enjoyed dinner with Kevin and Linda. We enjoyed playing with Linda’s dog, Ginsberg, and talking way too late into the evening, or wee hours of the morning as was the reality for our midwest bodies.

It was a gorgeous day on Wednesday. So much fun to sit in on the deck and look out at the sun on the mountains as I got a little work done. Once everyone was up and going we walked the mile from their condo to the main strip in Palm Springs, taking time to browse through some shops. The chorizo queso at Maracas has become a favorite of ours, so we had lunch there. Kevin and I picked up cigars to enjoy after dinner that evening. We walked back and napped in the afternoon. Dinner was on the patio at another Palm Springs favorite, Tropicale. We enjoyed cigars around the pool in the evening and even dipped our feet in the hot tub.

This is NOT an example of mid-century modern architecture.

Thursday was unseasonably cold and rainy for Palm Springs, but we didn’t let it dampen our day. Our friends gave us a tour of mid-century modern architecture around Palm Springs and we grabbed a burger at a local grill. The afternoon was spent visiting, napping, and reading. We took in the Palm Spring Art Museum in the evening for dining at Kaiser Grill.

Wendy taking in an exhibit at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Somehow, Wendy in a halo of red is just fitting.

The trip was all too quick. It felt like we blinked and it was over. We enjoyed brunch together at Pinocchio’s along with Kevin and Linda’s friend, Michael, who had flown in for a visit late the previous evening. Then, it was back to reality. We met snow in our layover in Denver. Ugh.

Blessed to have gotten a few days of r&r with our friends, however. Can’t wait for the next time.

Palm Springs & and Unintended Sabbatical

…but abide the change of time,
Quake in the present winter’s state, and wish
That warmer days would come.”
– Shakespeare (Cymbeline 2.4)

Even casual readers of my blog will know that my posting has been, at best, haphazard of late. For almost 11 years I’ve managed to average close to one post a day, but I found myself in an unintended sabbatical of late. I’m at a loss to easily say why. Let’s chalk it up to a mixed winter’s tempest of draining musical production, nasty virus that won’t go away, longer than average holidays, seemingly endless activity, year-end responsibilities, new-year responsibilities, awful head cold, then topped off by what feels like endless business travel.

In the midst of it, however, Wendy and I sought to escape the depths of Iowa winter to visit our friends Kevin and Linda in Palm Springs. Our dear neighbors undertook their first adventure as “snowbirds.”  We have greatly missed their good company. So, we snuck out for a relational “fix” while enjoying a week in the sun.

Solving the world's problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).
Solving the world’s problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).

Neither Wendy nor I have spent any time in Palm Springs. I drove through on a business trip many years ago, but did not stay. Kevin and Linda have a lovely little condo with requisite swimming pool. They also had a cute little deck where the four of us could sit and quaff drinks while attempting to solve the world’s problems into the wee hours of multiple mornings. We didn’t solve the world’s problems, and we argued like the Founding Fathers over several issues which kept the neighbors awake. We also found things on which to agree – and in the end we toasted love in both our unity and our diversity (and then we joyfully did it all again the next day).

Our agenda for the week was very simple. We wanted to enjoy the good company of our good friends over good meals and good drink…and do a little reading for pleasure in the sun by the pool. Mission accomplished. We loved the Tropical where cocktails were accompanied with gorgonzola stuffed, bacon-wrapped plums. We also loved Melvyn’s which doesn’t seem to have changed since the days when Frank Sinatra regularly haunted the corner barstool. We had margaritas and chorizo queso on the patio of Maracas not once, but twice. So many great memories were made.

Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.
Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.

We also took the Palms Springs Tramway from the desert floor to the top of the mountains that loom like a giant wall on the town’s western border. A little shopping is always in order and we found two hat shops where we each found a new hat for the lake this summer (actually, I found two). There is a Thursday evening market along the main thoroughfare and we enjoyed an after dinner stroll through the endless rows of vendors and listened to the street musicians.

The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.
The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.

Wendy and I also took the opportunity for a day trip to Arizona where we visited our good friend Ann who has been teaching Theatre there for the past few years. It was a fascinating road trip through the desert for us, along the Salton Sea and through the Sahara-like dunes just west of Yuma. Definitely a departure from cornfields and cattle.

We fought the crowds at "One Dollar Wednesday" at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! ;-)
Kevin and I fought the crowds at “One Dollar Wednesday” at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! 😉

Kevin and I took in a baseball game one gloriously sunny afternoon. The Palm Springs Winter League is for college kids and minor league cast-offs who are are hoping for an invitation to MLB Spring Training. According to the league’s marketing, about half of them will earn one. I was excited to learn that the catcher for one of the teams played for my alma mater, Judson. It was also interesting to watch him catch for a young woman who came into the game to pitch in relief. I can’t wait for baseball season to start.

We returned home having made some great memories, and having enjoyed a nice break to the cold and snow. We are a little less apt to “quake in the present winter’s state.”

Enjoy a few of my photos of the trip.

 

Kauai: Day 9

kauai-day-9-1-1

Our last full day on Kauai started a bit later than usual. Wendy and I rose just after sunrise and enjoyed a cup of coffee together. We got ready early and headed out to explore the west side of the island. We stopped for a light pastry breakfast and drove around the southern side of the island. It’s a bit of a strange experience because one minute you are driving through tropical rain forest, then you cross into an arid plain that reminded us a lot of eastern Colorado.

We headed up the highway along Waimea Canyon which climbs in 18 miles from sea level to about 4,000 ft. Along the long and winding road (sorry, pun intended) we stopped for breathtaking views of Waimea Canyon which is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The 800′ Waipo’o Falls and then up to the Kalalau lookout overlooking the Na Pali coast which was the end of the road.

Wendy displayed an unusual case of the heebie-jeebies as we climbed up the canyon road. The combination of having nothing but a sheer drop off outside her car window and not being in control of the car tested her nerve a good part of the ascent. Nevertheless, we loved the views, the exploration, and the adventure of it.

kauai-day-9-20
Old Town Hanapepe has a nice little art district.

We descended back the canyon road and stopped for a stroll in the old downtown market area of Hanapepe which boasts a number of art galleries. We wandered in and out of the shops. There was some beautiful artwork and photography and it was a quaint little area. They have an “art stroll” every Friday evening. We wished we’d have known about it last week.

We made our way back to the room. Becky, Court and Lydia were off on an adventure of their own. Wendy and I made a light lunch and got cleaned up. We are all going out to eat this evening to celebrate our last night on the island.

We strolled down the ocean walk to Sam’s Ocean View for Happy Hour. We were welcomed back by our friends behind the bar and enjoyed some great conversation as we peered out at the surf and the motley cast of characters who walked past. We will truly miss Sam’s, and will always have fond memories of the place. It was sad to say good bye. We walked back to the resort where the rest of the crew were ready for dinner.

kauai-day-9-24

We drove to Lihue and dined at a nice Italian restaurant called Kauai Pasta. It was an enjoyable meal, though the room was amazingly loud (hard for me). It was a great way to end our time together with the Oakes clan. Tomorrow, it’s time to start the journey home.

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2
Kauai Day 3
Kauai Day 4
Kauai Day 5
Kauai Days 6 & 7
Kauai Day 8

Kauai: Day 8

Tom, my friend, you are a man of routines.
– Sam Duregger

I know. Put in me in one place for a week and my life will settle into a routine. It’s just the way I am.

So, Wendy and I woke to watch the sunrise (see video above) and then made our daily pilgrimage to Java Kai coffee for a little Java, a chocolate chip muffin, and a perusal of the Wall Street Journal. We read about and discussed the sadness of the events in Charlotte, NC and then walked back to the resort. We walked to the pool and each had a 15 minute massage. The whole crew of us then climbed into the car and drove north to enjoy a few hours at Anini Beach on the north short of Kauai.

We waded in the surf, bathed in the sun, and enjoyed a few hours of relaxation together. On our way back to Kapa’a we stopped at a burger joint we’d read good things about. Duane’s Ono Char-Burger was an old fashioned burger stand on Kauai. We ordered burgers, fries, and chocolate shakes. The food was as good as advertised and we enjoyed filling ourselves.

kauai-day-8-1

After returning to the resort, Wendy and I headed up to the ABC store for supplies. After depositing them in the fridge we walked up the ocean path to Sam’s Ocean View for a happy hour drink (or two). We returned to the room, showered, and settled in for a quiet evening with the family.

kauai-day-8-6
I asked for a “Long Island” and our amazing bartender suggested a “Long Beach” (Long Island ice tea, just substitute Cranberry Juice for the cola … and the fresh Star Fruit doesn’t hurt). Lovely.

 

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2
Kauai Day 3
Kauai Day 4
Kauai Day 5
Kauai Days 6 & 7 

Kauai: Days 6 & 7

Our Kauai vacation fell into a gentle, anti-climactic routine on days 6 and 7 (Tuesday and Wednesday). Each morning began with the requisite viewing of the rising sun. Wendy and I then walked to Java Kai in Kapa’a for coffee and a reading of the events back on the mainland. I’ve fallen in love with Java Kai, and bought a diner mug as my trinket momento of our time in Kauai.

Wendy and I then returned to the room to get a little work done before heading to the pool here at the resort to read, sun, and take a dip in the pool. Afternoons were spent reading on the patio while sipping cool beverages and listening to the surf. We fed the zebra doves, listened to the Cubs beat the Reds, and nodded off on occasion or cuddled in bed with Lydia.

On Tuesday evening we enjoyed a light meal togehter and on Wednesday evening Wendy and I watched Lydia while Court and Becky enjoyed a much deserved date night together.

Our nights here in Kauai have generally ended fairly early. Between 9:30 and 10:30 we’re usually in bed reading as the sound of the surf sings its incessant lullaby outside our bedroom window.

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2
Kauai Day 3
Kauai Day 4
Kauai Day 5