Monday, September 20, 2021

September 20th: Birthday celebration and Trip to New England

 After Big Bear Lake, I had two weeks before heading to Burlington, Vermont to visit with my sister's family, the Scotts. I played a lot of pickleball and spent some time catching up with Matt and Wendy and hearing about their trip. 

Also, our family was finally all together to celebrate Wendy's and Rebecca's birthdays. Rebecca agreed to drive to Encinitas for the gathering. The Dog park Beach is always a big hit for us and London and Trevi. The dogs like running around on the Dog beach with other dogs

Rebecca with London and Trevi
Someone created a dog welcoming display. It's pretty funny.

Birthday cupcakes for Linda, Rebecca and Wendy

Rebecca pointed out it was closer to Linda's birthday (September 20th) than Wendy's or Rebecca's so we celebrated her birthday also. Of course a Boston Cream cupcake was purchased in Linda's name! We all agreed that cupcakes would work well in lieu of a cake.

We played some video games and watched the new Avengers movie. It was a fun gathering.

September 14th I headed to Burlington. Wendy dropped me off at the airport and all went well. My sister picked me up in Burlington and we spent the night at her house. Early on the 15th we headed to Portland, Maine for some sightseeing and lobster roles. 

On our way to Portland we stopped at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Rachel Carson info It is a very peaceful and secluded area. We saw a few shore birds but it was difficult to get a good picture. The salt marshes are huge and beautiful. 

It is a very peaceful and secluded area. We saw a few shore birds but it was difficult to get a good picture. The salt marshes are huge and beautiful. 

Although we didn't see a lot of birds, the salt marshes play a large role in maintaining a balance for all living things in the area.

We drove along the coast on Route 1 so we could enjoy the ocean sights on the way to Portland. Many small picturesque towns. The tourist areas were packed with people. We had intended to stop for lunch but some places were closed and others had a very long wait. We decided to just get lobster roles in Portland after we checked in.  

I had found an Airbnb in Portland for us for two night. We arrived Wednesday afternoon. It was a quite old home that had been turned into a rental property. 

It has three floors and we were on the top floor, formerly the attic. The stairs were "interesting". 

Portland Airbnb
Overall it worked out just fine other than Scott kept hitting his head on the vaulted ceilings! It reminded me of his visit to our trawler when we finally asked him if he wanted a bike helmet! Sometimes it's better to be shorter.

The first night we went in search of  lobster roles. We discovered some of the places were closed on Wednesdays! However, we found The Highroller Lobster Co. It is a great place in town and we hardly had to wait for a table. The lobster roles were wonderful!

Tomorrow morning we visit the Portland Head Lighthouse, do some hiking and look for more lobster rolls!

Monday, September 13, 2021

September 8th: Big Bear Lake

Given Craig and I could not get into Canada for a trip on Guppy, Craig, Karen and I planned a trip to Big Bear Lake California. I was not familiar with Big Bear Lake but Matt and Wendy had just spent time there and recommended it. 

Mountain Munchies

We arrived at Big Bear Lake before our lodging was ready and it was pouring down rain. A good thing for the forest. We decided to check out the restaurant Matt had suggested, Mountain Munchies. We had a great lunch and took our time to relax. We went to the store to pick up groceries and snacks, even though we had brought plenty, and spent the rest of the day enjoying our beautiful lodging.

Craig & Karen

Front porch

We stayed in Karen's niece's rental cottage which was very nice.

Living room

My bedroom

Craig & Karen's Bedroom

We arrived Monday. We knew the fires at Lake Tahoe were very bad, but that was 2 hours from us. I checked the status of the fires and saw a bulletin that all state forest trails would close Tuesday at midnight. Big Bear Lake is located in the San Bernadino State Forest. We had planned to hike to Castle Rock, a very scenic hike ending at an elevation of 7,300 ft. on Wednesday. I used the state's chat option to ask if we could still hike Tuesday. I received a response that all state forest trails were closed because all available staff personnel and firefighters were reassigned to fight the Lake Tahoe fire. There would be no staff to handle any other problems, especially another fire.

We were disappointed but we still had access to the lake and surrounding town. Tuesday morning, we headed into town to check out some of the stores. Craig ran into a couple park rangers and told them of our disappointment. After talking with them he learned we could still hike until midnight. Great! We went back to our lodging and prepared for our 2 mile hike to Castle Rock with an elevation of 7,300 feet.

Castle Rock

 Here are some pictures.

Craig by a massive tree
Craig went ahead so I could get a picture to show the immensity of everything.

Path marker

There were rectangular pillars filled with rocks marking the path. It was very helpful because it wasn't much of a path.

It was a beautiful day and the view just kept improving.

We got to the base of the final part of Castle Rock and Craig looked up and decided he'd had enough. I looked at the rocks and said I'd keep going but would stop if it felt dangerous. He volunteered to stay below and get a picture.

Steve 10 feet from
the top of Castle Rock

When I was about ten feet from the very top I was worn out, (7300 feet and no air!) and it looked dangerous to continue. Our rule was no injuries on this trip so I stopped. The view was incredible

On the way down we saw a wonderful view of the entire area. 

The boat was very comfortable and fun

The next day we took a narrated boat tour of the lake. The weather was again very cooperative and the ride and narrator were excellent.  Big Bear Lake History

Craig and Karen.
It was a little breezy!

Craig was on the ball and asked the captain which way the boat would cruise around the lake. Turned out they had the chairs all facing one direction for the best view, and we had front row seats.

The captain/narrator informed us that houses on the lake ranged $500,000 to $11 million. We saw Roy Rogers and Dale Evans House as well as Mel Blanc's. There were many other rich and famous owners pointed out.

The house built on and around the boulders are particularly incredible 

The next day we went to the Alpine Zoo. It was better than we expected. All the animals were rescued. They even had 2 snow leopards. They had some type of genetic disorder so they were removed from the natural habitat. Here is a link to the animals we saw. Alpine Zoo Animals

It was a great trip!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

September 6th: Overnight Fishing trip

The Producer, my fishing trip boat

People have asked me, "What's it like going on an overnight fishing trip?" Here is maybe more than you want to know. 

I went on an overnight fishing trip into Mexican waters. We arrived at the boat Tuesday night at 8 PM but couldn't board until 8:45 PM. I don't know why they tell us to get there at 8pm! The repeat anglers showed up closer to 8:45 PM. It worked out okay because I met some of the other anglers as we sat around on the dock. There was a lot of beer drinking going on but I was happy with just the company. There were 7 firemen from Los Angeles County who were a lot of fun. For most it was their first fishing experience on an overnight charter boat.

 This bird stopped by on the rail. I suspect it might be some type of night heron. Perhaps my niece Stephanie knows.

We left the dock around 9:15PM and headed into the middle of the San Diego harbor where the bait tanks are. We fish with live sardines, They are 6 - 8 inches long. The deck hands scooped up sardines in bushel basket sized nets and put them in our bait tank. It took 45 minutes because we took on several thousand sardines. About 100 per 29 fisher people. (There was one woman aboard). We next headed out of San Diego harbor on a beautiful night with an almost full moon.

By the time we actually exited the harbor, it was about 10:30 PM. The ride out of the harbor was very peaceful and serene. As we got into the open ocean waters, there was a pretty good breeze. Time to go to bed, for me at least. It was difficult sleeping because the boat was rocking broadside as we travelled all night, The sleeping accommodations are minimal at best. I was in the top bunk, left, #21. Hard to get in and out without a ladder but it was wider than the bottom bunks. Don't want to sit up suddenly nor be claustrophobic! I put my backpack on the outside of the bunk in case the waves picked up so I wouldn't roll out while sleeping. Fortunately the waves never got very big. 

The next morning everyone was commenting about the rocking all night so it wasn't just me. In fact, being a boat person I understood it was going to be a long night. We had breakfast, a burrito and coffee. (Food is not a high priority, nor is it healthy!)

About an hour later we arrived at the first fishing spot. The boat collectively caught 49 Mahi Mahi at our first stop. (29 people fishing.) Mahi Mahi travel in schools so when you find the fish, there is a frenzied 15 - 30 minutes of catching. It's exciting and fun. I caught my limit of 2 fish. 

Mahi Mahi or Dorado

There were 7 firemen from Los Angeles County who were a lot of fun. For most it was their first fishing experience on an overnight charter boat. Lots of beer drinking every time we stopped fishing to move to another spot. I think we moved 8 times. Those firemen can consume a lot of beer and keep on fishing. Of course I'd say they were in their late 30's to early 40's. Nice to see them having fun. 

They've had a rough year with much more overtime than they would like as EMT's and firefighting. They do both. They said January and February were very difficult because they knew many of the people were not going to survive, and they just kept coming nonstop. Of course they felt good about being able to help many.  Fortunately, for whatever reason, they said currently most of the people will most likely get the help they need to survive. Perhaps people have figured out the urgency of getting help. A lot of the enjoyment of the trip is getting to talk to people from many locations and backgrounds. Everyone was very friendly.

My Mahi Mahi fillets - 
 about 12 lbs.
After the first stop, we rode around for 5 more hours and caught only 4 more fish. When fishing, you put a fresh sardine on every 1 minute or so. That means you continually go back to the bait well, catch a sardine and put it on the hook. The fish will not bite on an inactive sardine. I had one very nice sized fish on the line, but it got off the hook just before I got it to the boat. Very long day standing at the railing trying to catch fish that weren't biting. I was allowed to keep fishing because the goal is to reach the total boat limit so everyone gets fish to take home. Overall I'm glad I went on the trip but won't do it again! But... I have a lot of really good fish in the freezer. (I will NOT calculate the cost per pound!)

I must point out that the largest Mahi Mahi caught on our boat was smaller than the one Cindy caught on our trip to the Bahamas. Cindy, I told you it was a big fish! It just wasn't as big as mine.

All the charter boats post their catch for the day. We did much better than the other overnight trips. Some had more anglers and caught less than 6 fish. That would be a day of "Fishing" only, not "Catching". Of course our day would also have been pretty bleak if not for the first stop. 

We started the cruise back to San Diego about 2:30 PM. Many of us crawled back into our bunks for a nap. We got back to the dock at 6:20 PM. I arrived home around 8:00 PM.I sauteed some of my fish in garlic butter and it was excellent. Then it took about 45 minutes to skin the rest, cut it into meal size portions and freeze it. Even though I was pretty well worn out I know to freeze it as soon as possible. Because it gets frozen while so fresh, it is excellent even after being frozen. Keeping it in the refrigerator overnight would make a difference.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

August 26th: St Louis

Poppy seed pastries
When my sister Julie heard that I neglected to take a picture of the poppy seed pastries when I was in Cleveland, she said, "No problem. I just bought some more today. I'll send a picture!" Of course, a fresh supply! It's a good thing I got out of Ohio when I did. Too much tempting food!

My trip to St. Louis was great. It was particularly enjoyable because my week long stay allowed lots of time to relax and catch up with my niece's family, the Toracks. It's hard to believe JP is a senior and Kaitlyn is a sophomore! I arrived Tuesday afternoon and enjoyed a nice dinner on the deck. I also met the new puppy Teeli. I learned that Teeli is named after Teeling Irish Whiskey, one of Will's favorites. Teeli and Rica are both great dogs.

The Torack Lake house

Christi informed me that Will, Kaitlyn and JP had a busy schedule the next couple days and she and I would go to the lake house with Teeli. Given a very busy Ohio trip, a few days relaxing at the lake sounded great! Will, JP, Kaitlyn and Rica would join us Friday evening. Rica would enjoy the escape from Teeli! Teeli likes to play, a lot... she is a puppy after all.


Christi and Teeli at the Lake House

This was my first visit to the lake house. It's on a small inland Lake, Lake Perry, about 90 minutes from the Toracks's house in St. Louis. There is a beautiful view from my bedroom. I took the picture through the screens. I don't like to mess with removing things that don't belong to me!

I love to Kayak. Christi had two kayaks, so away we went. Teeli came for a short ride but clearly didn't like it. It was a beautiful day and we kayaked through several small coves. We spotted turtles and some small fish. Christi said we needed to kayak to alligator island. Hmmmm. I don't think alligators are in St. Louis. We went into a small cove where sure enough there was a variety of "pseudo" animals. Someone knows how to have fun! Note the snake, bears and alligators

Alligator island

Teeli came for a short ride but clearly didn't like it. 

When we woke up the next morning we noticed the screen door was slightly bent and the lower screen was broken through at the bottom. We suspected Teeli was the culprit. She doesn't run away but does like to roam a little. I duct taped the screen and bent the door enough so that we could latch it. Christi put a small cooler in front of the door to deter Teeli. Teeli had no problem going over the cooler and out the top of the screen. Time for plan B. Christi put a small folding stool on top of the cooler. Teeli looked at it and gave up. Success. A little while later Teeli was at the front door. I was impressed! I suggested Christi go out on the porch and call Teeli so I could get a video of her vaulting over the cooler and through the opening in the stool. We were disappointed and had to laugh when she simply squeezed behind the cooler and out the door!

Christi told Will we would go to the grocery store, (Not close) so they wouldn't need to shop. That was fine with me. We were after spare ribs that Will would cook on the smoker. Of course we bought other good things also. But I suspect Christi had an ulterior motive. On the way out of town she said, "I think we need to check out the new ice cream stand I saw." Fine with me. She went all out with a chocolate sundae covered in shaved ice with whipped cream!

My hot fudge sundae was very large but paled in comparison to hers!


Will and family arrived Friday night. We played a card game of "Up and down the River". It was a fun evening. Saturday we spent on the beach. They have a ski boat and I planned to go water skiing. It had been a long time but I was going to use two skis. I was informed the ski rope had broken when they towed a boat in on the last visit but they tied it securely. The rope broke as soon as we started. Tried again. Same result. I knew I was eating too much in Cleveland! In my defense, the rope was quite worn and frayed! Good reason to come back with a new ski rope.

So back to the beach we went. Kaitlyn and JP slept in. Will started the ribs early as they take hours to cook. He showed me the preparation. I'm going to try the recipe at Big Bear Lake where our AirBnB has a smoker. When I say slept in, I mean like maybe 11:00am. So now Kaitlyn & JP were ready for action. We spent time coaxing Teeli to swim. My goal for the visit was to get Teeli to enjoy swimming. Rica loves to swim which helps. I eventually got Teeli to jump off the "LillyPad" (a floating mattress in the picture on the right,) and swim to shore. 

Christi decided we needed some competition. She called for kayak racing. After several heats we named JP the winner!

Kayak racing, Kaitlyn wins, not a phot finish!

After some more swimming we moved on to a Frisbee challenge. It's played with teams. The idea is to get the Frisbee in the barrel and the partner is allowed to help by knocking it as needed but no catching. It was fun. I don't honestly remember who won but it was a close game.

Will tossing to his partner Kaitlyn

There are plenty of lizards on the property. JP coaxed one to stay on his shoulder for a picture.
After leaving a bag of trash overnight on the screened in deck, we decided Teeli got a bum rap on the screen door. Raccoons broke through the screen again and made a mess. We decided they previously came through because they smelled the barbecue grill. Will and I decided we could make some temporary repairs to the screen. We at least got it to close again.

That evening a Great Blue Heron paid us a visit. A very large bird!

Will and JP needed to head back to St. Louis Sunday morning. Kaitlyn slept in, can't blame her, school starts Tuesday! 

Christi and I drove back into town for mass and a tour of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. The complex was established in 1818 and began with a log church. The cornerstone of the current church was laid in 1827. The church is St. Mary's of the Barrens Church modeled after the Motherhouse Chapel in Rome. The church is quite impressive and the shrine is very nice. I appreciated that the shrine had real candles we could light. Maybe because it is outside and it's not a fire hazard.

There was also a Rosary Walk with wonderful landscaping. You can do a virtual tour of the Shrine and church at this link. Virtual Tour

Sunday afternoon was very relaxing and Teeli swam a little more. We played some more Up and Down the River and then planned Monday morning. Christi suggested we go for a hike on the way home. Sounded good. The hike was going well. It was fairly cool and a pretty walk, but kind of rocky. Teeli was leading the way. 

About half way into the loop trail, we came to a spot covered with tall grass and weeds. We had forgotten bug spray and all had shorts on. Kaitlyn suggested we turn around and go back. Christi decided she could beat down the grass with a stick. She moved forward and I had Teeli at the rear. 

We came out of the weeds and I resumed the lead with Teeli. Then I heard Kaitlyn say, "There are bugs all over me." Christi said, "Me too." I held Teeli while they were catching up. They had hundreds of very tiny bugs on their legs and arms. We weren't sure what they were, but knew that wasn't good! For whatever reason I had none on me.

We used our drinking water to wash as many off as possible. We knew they didn't get all of them off. We resumed the hike and got back to the car as quickly as possible. Using wipes, tweezers and more water they did the best they could to get them off. I suggested that perhaps Kaitlyn should become more persuasive!

We got back to the house and Kaitlyn and Christi headed for the showers. Kaitlyn was more successful at removal. She ended up fairly rid of them. Even with Will helping Christi, she still ended up with numerous itchy bumps. We learned on Google that they were seed ticks. Eventually, JP did a thorough search of Teeli and found some on her also. I kept checking myself but I never found any. I guess I just didn't taste good.

Fortunately, seed ticks have no previous host so theoretically they don't spread disease. Also there are no cases of Lyme disease in Missouri. Christi was still itching, especially overnight so she ended up getting some medication to reduce the itching and prevent any infections. It's a hike we'll all remember.

JP and Rica
I had to ask Christi for pictures of Rica as I didn't have a good one. Rica is a great dog, very patient with Teeli and deserves recognition. Here are some pictures of JP, Kailyn with Rica from last year.

Kaitlyn and Rica
Rica and Teeli

I was sitting at their dining room table and noticed it was an antique table similar to the one my parents had when I was growing up. Christi pointed out that it is the same table. They had it refinished and it is beautiful.

Despite the tick episode, Christi rebounded quickly and we celebrated Kaitlyn's 15th birthday on Tuesday. We went into St. Louis for a crepes breakfast. 

Then we had a great birthday dinner with a chocolate chip cookie cake, 2 small special cakes from the chocolate shop, numerous cupcakes from a neighbor and of course ice cream. We ended the night with one last game of Up and Down the River. I headed home the next morning.