Archive for September 2010

The Queen Mary

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 3:55 pm
By: Doug Lund
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Sure….just when I decide that I might be watching too much TV, along comes a new season of network shows that I’m already addicted to. Well, not addicted yet but a few that I really like. First and foremost is Hawaii Five-0 (Mondays at 9pm on CBS)..a remake of the long running series from the seventies starring Jack Lord as detective Steve McGarrett.   I used to watch it..but that was before we had cable and there weren’t a lot of choices. I always thought Jack Lord was a little over the top and Danno..played by James McArthur, was too mousy.  Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from the remake but it turns out the only things the 21st century version has in common with the original are the theme song, the character names, a few catch phrases (“Book ‘em Danno”) and the incredible Hawaiian scenery.

 

Hawaii Five-0 cast: Grace Park, Scott Caan, Alex O'Loughlin and Daniel Dae Kim

Hawaii Five-0 cast: Grace Park, Scott Caan, Alex O'Loughlin and Daniel Dae Kim

 

I especially enjoy the chemistry between the two stars; Alex O’Laughlin (McGarrett) and Scott Caan (Danny Williams).  The banter between these two TV lawmen reminds me of a couple movie outlaws..Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.  Caan is the oldest son of film star, James Caan and the similarity in appearance and acting styles is clearly evident. I sure hope the quality of the writing and presentation hold up because it’s a winner so far.

MIKE & MOLLY

I also like Mike and Molly which comes on just before Hawaii Five 0.  It’s about time we had a TV series featuring plus size performers instead of those paper thin actors who don’t represent the real world. Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, in the title roles, are really good together as a cop and a school teacher who find each other at an overeaters anonymous meeting. They’re so good and so funny that we..the TV audience..are way past the fact that both are heavy..yet the writers are determined to throw in lots and lots of fat jokes which wears a little thin after a while. .especially coming from the miss-cast Swoosie Kurtz as Molly’s mother who hasn’t eaten anything but lettuce leaves since 1978. I also have to wonder how long before the network tells producers to tone down the character of Molly’s drug abusing sister.  But then, after what they get away with on other prime time shows these days, I don’t think there IS a line of good taste that can’t be crossed anymore on network TV. Anyway, it’s an entertaining half hour.

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Well, Linda and I didn’t see any ghosts during our 4 night stay at the haunted Bullock Hotel in Deadwood. But there were plenty of goblins hovering around the slot machines she played preventing any payouts.

We did manage to get out of town and take in the beauty of the Black Hills this time of year.  Try as I may, though, I just can’t capture the splendor of the scenery with my camera. You really have to be there in person to appreciate the three dimensional glory of deep green pines splashed with the brilliant bright golden leaves of the oak and birch trees which share the same hillside.

View from parking lot of The Lodge..a new hotel and casino just north of Deadwood

View from parking lot of The Lodge..a new hotel and casino just north of Deadwood

 

Unfortunately, we were gone over Homecoming Day in Alcester. We usually don’t go anyway even though it’s where Linda attended high school..but we’d have liked to have been there this time because her mom, “Mother Mary,” was guest of honor in the parade.

Queen Mary

queen mary 1941

Back in 1941, Mary Waddell, was chosen to be the very first Homecoming Queen of Alcester High School.

It’s easy to see why.   She was a stunning petite brunette with a bright and easy smile who made young men’s knees go weak as they watched her cheer-leading the Alcester Cubs to victory. 

Now, 69 years and 8 children later, Mary is still a beautiful lady inside and out.

 

Three years ago we nearly lost her. Mary suffered a seizure at her house and was rushed to Avera Hospital where she remained unconscious in intensive care for several days. All 8  children returned home to be with her at the end. But, thanks to prayers from family and friends..including many who read this blog..and much to the surprise of her doctors..Mary woke up and got well.

What else would you expect from royalty?

Back To Bullocks

Posted: Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 11:32 am
By: Doug Lund
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Tap, tap.. tap..came the sound on my door . Seth, is that you?    Nope, just Linda who forgot her key.

bullock portraitWe’re holed up here in Deadwood Gulch at the Bullock Hotel fully expecting a visit from the owner, himself, before we leave..even though he’s been dead for nearly a hundred years.

It’s safe to say that there may not be a Deadwood today if it were not for ol’Seth Bullock. He was among the very first to settle here and worked as a gold miner, a hardware merchant, a farmer/rancher, a lawman and hotelier. He built this place in the early 1890’s and is one of the oldest buildings on Deadwood’s Main Street. It looks pretty much the same on the outside as it did when the doors first opened in 1895. Folks (mostly Bullock employees) like to say it was the finest hotel between Chicago and San Francisco. Oh, yeah..it’s haunted. 

bullock hotel old

bullock hotel new 

 I brought the camera along in hopes of getting a photo of Seth roaming the halls but I’m usually not very lucky when it comes to his slot machines downstairs or capturing apparitions upstairs. I’ll let you know if I see or hear anything out-of-this-worldly.

Yes, the missus and I are on another vacation. No grass growing under our feet..although the yard at home hasn’t been mowed for so long its embarrassing.  I swear I saw Arte Johnson in a German uniform peaking through the tall grass saying, “Verrry Interestink.” (Anyone under 40 is probably saying “what the heck is he talking about?” )

Anyway, this isn’t a real vacation, just a long weekend with our friends, the Graves, to try save the economy of Deadwood through generous donations made into brightly colored noisy coin operated devices located all over town.

A few of the casinos..Saloon Number 10 and the Gold Dust..were busy as could be on a Friday night..but a lot of others were dead as Wild Bill Hickok. In fact, several on the north end of Main street have given up the ghost and shut down.

I’d be very interested in reading any ghost stories you might be willing to share about staying here at the Bullock or any other eerie experiences you’ve had in this town that’s full of spirits..both liquid and ghostly. 

Oh, and since this is a family friendly blog, please no stories about memorable encounters at places like Pam’s Purple Door.

Tara

Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010 at 12:13 am
By: Doug Lund
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“Honey, (My wife sometimes calls me honey..not because I’m so sweet but usually just before asking me to do something) why haven’t you ever blogged about Tara? You’ve written about all of our grandkids and their achievements but nothing about her. You know she might think you’re not as proud of her as the others.”

Well, that’s just nonsense.  Of course I’m proud of Tara..it’s just that telling her story forces me to open up and share a few things about myself that i’m not very proud of.

But, as I sit here late on the eve of Tara’s 28th birthday I figure, what the heck…so here goes.

I had been dating Linda for a couple years when she got the call from her daughter, Brenda, saying she was going to have a baby.

Now, both Linda and I were parents as teenagers ourselves so we didn’t have a lot of moral high ground on which to stand to be critical.  But, we wondered, how is she ever going to manage?  Well, a few months later, Tara arrived right on schedule. I don’t even remember going up to the hospital to see her. I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t all that excited about this new baby or the fact that she made my girlfriend a grandma.

Now, I love kids..I really do but I didn’t like the idea of this kid horning in on my time with my wife to be.  I was such a fool and it didn’t take long before God took me aside and shook some sense into my sour soul. 

It happened one evening when I stopped at Linda’s over my supper hour from work. She said there’s a little girl in the other room who might like to see you. There sitting on the bed was seven month old Tara playing with a toy. When I sat down next to her, her eyes lit up and she gave me a big dimpled smile then reached her arms out for me to hold her. As I did, a wave of shame washed over me for my selfish attitude toward this precious little one. But that was soon followed by another wave.. one of  unexplainable unconditional love for this beautiful innocent gift from God who melted my hard heart.

Linda had been smitten by this kid from the beginning and knew it was only a matter of time before I’d come around too.

From then on, I’ve cherished every moment we’ve had together…and there have been lots and lots of wonderful ones.

From a game of Legos, to a visit with Captain Eleven to just clowning around Tara lit up our life

From a game of Legos, to a visit with Captain Eleven to just clowning around, Tara and I were like peas in a pod.

 

Not ALWAYS happy..but usually gullable on the something spilled on your shirt game.

Not ALWAYS happy..but usually gullable when my finger bumped her nose in the something spilled on your shirt game.

 

From Foosball to piano duets to helping with the dishes and modeling a new winter coat.

From Foosball to piano duets to helping with the dishes and modeling a new winter coat we always had fun.

tara bike

  

From her first bike ride to marching in the band

From her first bike ride to marching in the band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graduation Day

Graduation Day

 

 

But as I learned with my own daughters, there comes a time when the training wheels come off and you just hope and pray they’ll be alright without you around to hold them up.

 

I know Tara believes that I still want her to be that same little girl who changed my life so many years ago and feels she’s disappointed me in some of the life choices she’s made.

 

But she needn’t worry.   

I adore all of my grandchildren, of course,  but Tare Bear you were the first to steal my heart and you’ll ALWAYS have an extra special place there.

Pals forever

Pals forever

Now, Tara and Peter have a litte terror of their own called Ella and she's "Great!"

Now, Tara and Peter have a litte terror of their own called Ella and she's "Great!"

Happy Birthday, Tare Bear!

Love, Grandpa Doug

Highway 1 And Tinsel Town

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 8:27 am
By: Doug Lund
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Wow! Our bus went right by the site of that natural gas explosion South of San Francisco the day before it happened.

Meanwhile, we were merrily on our way driving through some of the most beautiful scenery on earth; the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s often called the most spectacular meeting of land and sea in the world. Who could argue?

Yes Sir..it's Big Sur

Yes Sir..it's Big Sur

Poor Linda didn't see much of Hwy 1 because of height fears

Poor Linda (right) didn't see much of Hwy 1 because of height fears

Speaking of heights, some of these Redwood Trees in Big Sur State Park stand 300 feet tall

Speaking of heights, some of these Redwood Trees in Big Sur State Park stand 300 feet tall

 

We were lucky enough to see several rare California Condors perched atop one of the big trees

We were lucky enough to see several rare California Condors perched atop one of the big trees

Pretty dizzying when you stand back and look up

Pretty dizzying when you stand back and look up

"Those big trees started from this little seedling," says our bus driver as tour member, Roger, looks on in disbelief. Although the forest floor is covered in them, it's against the law to remove them from the park.

"Those big trees started from this little seedling," says our bus driver as tour member, Roger, looks on in disbelief. Although the forest floor is covered in them, it's against the law to take souveniers.

Ah, the Hearst Castle..a celebration of greed and gawdiness

Ah, the Hearst Castle..a celebration of greed and gawdiness

Okay, everybody out of the pool!

Okay, everybody out of the pool!

The view from William Randolph's personal and favorite cottage.

The view from William Randolph's personal and favorite cottage.

Our tour of Los Angeles included a stop at the Le Brea tar pits. Like the geysers of Yellowstone, new tar pits are bubbling up all the time.

Our tour of Los Angeles included a stop at the Le Brea tar pits. Like the geysers of Yellowstone, new tar pits are bubbling up all the time.

Of course no trip to Hollywood would be complete without a stop at the Chinese Theatre to look at all the movie stars hand and foot imprints in cement.

Of course no trip to Hollywood would be complete without a stop at the Chinese Theatre to look at all the movie stars hand and foot imprints in cement.

Next door is the Kodak theatre where the Oscars are held. Just think, movie stars walk up these very stairs.

Next door is the Kodak theatre where the Oscars are held. Just think, movie stars walk up these very stairs.

Seems ironic that I can't use my Kodak camera to take pictures "inside" the Kodak Theatre itself.

Seems ironic that I can't use my Kodak camera to take pictures "inside" the Kodak Theatre itself.

Our tour did include a stop at a lovely little winery called Gainey Vinyards

Our tour did include a stop at a lovely little winery called Gainey Vinyards

A goodbye California toast from a great group of people.

A goodbye California toast from a great group of people.

Okay, that’s enough vacation photos for awhile. Time to get back to more meaningful stuff like what part of “NO” doesn’t our mayor and a majority of Sioux Falls City Council members understand about building a new events center at this time? Also, how does Jim Belushi keep finding work in Hollywood?

Don’t Call It “Frisco”

Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm
By: Doug Lund
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The drive from Lake Tahoe to San Francisco is a beautiful one; first through the eastern Sierras then  fertile irrigated farm valleys to the stunning Pacific Bay.   Just don’t try make that 200 mile drive on Labor Day!  The holiday traffic jams began just outside of Tahoe and didn’t let up much until well past Sacramento.  I’ve gotta admit, though, from the vantage point of our seats up high in the motor coach, you see lots of interesting things in the cars passing by out the window.

San Francisco looks particularly lovely when crossing the Bay Bridge at twilight and positively spectacular from the bay itself .

Theobligitory shot of the Golden Gate Bridge..which still looks neat even when the ever present fog is shrouding the top.

The obligitory shot of the Golden Gate Bridge..which still looks neat even when the ever present fog is shrouding the top.

That's Alcatraz Island from our Neptune Palace dining room for lunch.

That's Alcatraz Island from our Neptune Palace dining room for lunch.

Some of our group waitng to board the Bay excursion boat

Some of our group waitng to board the Bay excursion boat

 But while some write beautiful songs about this town  I don’t find it all that much to write home about. There are just too many people crammed into too small a peninsula. Residents spend half their lives in their cars stuck in traffic or driving around in circles waiting for a parking spot to open up out outside their over priced condos that require mountain climbing gear to reach the front door.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrific place to visit and experience cultures and cuisines that are “foreign” to most of us. I just need a little more breathing room. For example, when we took our ride aboard the old fashioned cable car this morning, all the seats were taken and Linda and I wound up hanging on the running board..which was  great fun, but the conductor kept saying to potential passengers at every intersection “room for a couple more just squeeze in here and hang on.” For a big guy who takes Prozac for panic attacks, it was a little unnerving.  

San Francisco day two pebble beach 002

"Hey, there's always room for a couple more."

"Hey, there's always room for a couple more."

San Francisco day two pebble beach 004
But now, here we are in Monterey, California after a memorable drive along the Pacific Coast with a stop at Pebble Beach which is Mecca for most every golfer.
A view of the famous 18th hole at Pebble.

A view of the famous 18th hole at Pebble.

If I would have only had the time and a spare five hundred bucks, I could have played. Since I had neither, I settled for a few photos, a souvenir golf ball and a Pebble Beach score card.

Tomorrow we board a smaller coach which can better negotiate the challenging and unforgettable twists and turns of scenic highway 1. We’ll then rendezvous with our regular Holiday Vacations coach at Hearst Castle where we get the royal tour of the place.

I’ll be looking for a charred sled called “Rosebud”..but suppose since William Randolph Hearst wasn’t a big fan of the fictitious Charles Foster Kane or his creator, Orson Welles…We’ll have to settle for the statuary and fountains.

So, as they say here in California…tah tah for now and, as always…wish you were here!

The Amtrak Experience

Posted: Monday, September 6, 2010 at 10:43 am
By: Doug Lund
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Okay, I admit to having a few reservations about Amtrak before we began this latest Keloland/Holiday Vacations tour west; I’d heard I might find it  boring, cramped, noisy and uncomfortable. But over the past few days, those apprehensions have melted into an affection for trains and an appreciation for the nostalgic experience we’ve just been through.    It began with the Union Station in Denver. It looks exactly how you’d expect a big city train depot to look from watching those old movies starring Humphry Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet or Loretta Young; tall decorative ceilings, high-back wooden benches for waiting passengers and train dispatchers making arrival and departure announcements that are impossible to understand because of the echo in that huge building.amtrak station

amtrak benches

amtrak in reno

Boarding the train we made our way up a tight spiral staircase to the second level through a narrow aluminum hallway and our compartment.

amtrakk cooridor

amtrak compartment Yes, it was tiny compared to the roomy hotels we’ve become accustomed to on these trips but it was very comfortable and the views outside our big private picture window, as we rolled through the Rocky Mountains, were nothing short of spectacular. This view of Linda taking in the amazing sights ain’t bad either.

amtrak linda

amtrak canyonWe were surprised at how quiet and smooth the ride was..very little clickity clacking. I was told that’s because modern rails have fewer splices for the steel wheels to roll over plus the California Zephyr’s suspension is far superior to those trains that first chugged along this route.  Even though our train was pretty full, we always found room in the lounge for a cocktail and the observation car for even better panoramas. The waits in the dining car for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner weren’t long at all. The staff was fast and friendly…the food was fair to middlin’.

amtrak dining car

 It’s not the Orient Express..but our Amtrak adventure was great fun and highly recommended. Oh, if you ever do make this trip..I forgot to mention one of the more memorable sights as you journey along the Colorado River. There’s a stretch known as “Moon” River where rafters and Kayakers feel compelled to drop their drawers and give everybody on the train a good view of their bare backsides.

amtrak mooners

When Grouse reads this he’s sure to wonder why I didn’t use a telephoto lens but believe me, from what I could see, you do NOT want a close-up view of these cracked  white porcelain posteriors.     Well, we’re off  now for a paddleboat ride on beautiful Lake Tahoe then down to San Francisco for a couple days.

As always, wish you were here.

Colorado Here We Come

Posted: Friday, September 3, 2010 at 5:52 pm
By: Doug Lund
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Greetings one and all from Beautiful downtown Denver..home of the Big Blue Bear. 

Yes, that really is a statue of a  40 foot tall blue bear peaking through the events center windows. It's the creation of a local artist who wanted to get people's attention. It certainly does! He got the idea by seeing people always looking through the window trying to see what's going on inside. Hey, bears can be curious too.

Yes, that really is a statue of a 40 foot tall blue bear peaking through the events center windows. It's the creation of a local artist who wanted to get people's attention. It certainly does! He got the idea by seeing people always looking through the window trying to see what's going on inside. Hey, bears can be curious too.

To be honest, I’m not finding Denver to be all that beautiful.  Oh, the mountains in the distance are nice..but on the way here from the airport (which is so far away they should book separate flights) we drove past a few public areas that had more shopping carts than HyVee. They are the personal vehicles of hundreds and hundreds of homeless folks; carts they’ve confiscated to carry all their worldly possessions.  I know it’s common in most every big city to have a lot of people who make their home on the streets, but I somehow pictured Denver, with its Rocky Mountain high reputation, lovely vistas and many cultural and sports attractions, to be different. Anyway, I’m not bad mouthing homeless people (but for the grace of God go a lot of us)..but I was surprised at the numbers. I’m told the city has a ten year plan in place to end homelessness in Denver. They’ve clearly got a ways to go to reach that goal.

The view from our downtown Denver hotel's 12th floor window.  Looking forward to lots of sunny days ahead.
The view from our downtown Denver hotel’s 12th floor window. Looking forward to lots of sunny days ahead.

Yes..Linda and I are traveling again: hosting the Keloland/Holiday Vacations Great California Train Adventure. It’s all aboard Saturday morning as we head into the Rockies on the California Zephyr.  We’ll be on the train for two days and one night..arriving in Reno Sunday. I’m a little worried about squeezing my ample body into one of those berths, but Linda has promised that she’ll take the top bunk. At least we have a rest room in our compartment so when nature calls five times during the night I won’t have to bump into others trying to make my way to the community toilet down the hall.

We have 30 folks on this tour and everyone is excited about the days ahead traveling in the mountains of Colorado and Nevada by rail..then aboard a luxury motor coach down to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Yes, we know how lucky we are to go on these trips.  It would be fun to have you join us on the next one.