December 8th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Road Trip, Scotty Hilander, Travel

It was a leisurely yet productive weekend. I have gotten things done on the computer that I needed to do; updating some more accounts and printing/sending off forms, yet I still had time for some hikes with the dog. It has been too beautiful to not take advantage of that and the exercise is always good for us both. Another eye post-op appointment in a couple of weeks and my calendar will be clear (at least that’s how it is for now…always subject to change, of course).

I have been cooking stuff and putting it in prep containers. Last night I boiled up some chicken thighs and portioned it out to freeze. I can take one of the containers out, heat it up with some additional water and some soup base from a jar. I can then make some homestyle soup or some chicken and dumplings. Today I made up and froze some Sloppy Joes. I don’t know if I can put anything else in the freezer but I will shuffle things around to see what I can do. This is definitely one of the things I missed about being in the trailer.

Tomorrow is laundry day since I will be down to my last change of clothes in the morning. I have to go to the laundromat early to do that and avoid the crowds. I will start my clothes washing and then maybe pay them to dry and fold so I can go do other stuff. They used to offer that service and I will gladly pay for it since it is really not that much. I have to go over to my old storage unit and move out of it, then take that stuff, along with some other things, to the new (and cheaper) storage unit. Now that I am back in a house I don’t need a heated storage unit.

It has been a week now that I have been out of the trailer and it has been so nice to be in a house again after six months. Traveling with it is one thing, but actually living in a 15′ trailer is challenging. It is fun to travel with; it is so easy to maneuver, I can take it in places where bigger trailers are not allowed, I have more options of sites it will fit in…just some of the plusses for travel. Staying put and living in it is another story. They are not made for that unless you get a huge trailer and that is not going to be happening.

I really hope to get some form of travel in soon but it is looking grim with the ‘rona escalating to even more epic proportions and no end in sight. I am starting to think about some local options when I can get the trailer out again. With the weather that may be a while yet, but it also gives me time to see how the pandemic progresses. I am much more concerned about that than the weather. Since travel is my thing I always think about it so looking at ideas is nothing new; not being able to go is new, but we do what we have to do.

For now I am happy just to pack up some snacks and take a drive to get out of the house for the day. It may not seem like much to some people, but it is a change of scenery and an escape from the rampant stupidity that is going on. Living here there is a wide variety of places to go and things to see and do away from the masses as long as you avoid weekends and holidays.

I could do a trip and stay in a hotel – I got over some of that fear on the trip I took over here some weeks back – but I am staying away from them for now so the trailer is the only viable option I will consider other than a daytrip someplace. It would also mean going to get takeaway at restaurants as well so even more exposure. I have had to go into more places than I have wanted to lately since I moved but I have needed to buy things. I still spend as little time as possible in any crowded place and traveling is no exception.

I would really like to do a multi-day Amtrak trip at some point. They seem to be reasonably safe if you spring the extra money for a roomette and keep to yourself in it. I like trains and train travel and the last trip to Vancouver, BC was scenic and fun and I have been on several in Europe. I would really like to do the Coast Starlight train down into California in the future when it is safer to go visit places. I’d have to board the dog but I would not be gone more than a few days. For me it would be more about the journey but I am always open for options (as one who travels should be…).

Of course Europe is always on the list but is closed to US passports for now. I almost seriously considered getting a ticket for next year with my airline miles when the pandemic started to calm down over there a bit. Airlines were doing no change/cancellation fees and that made it tempting with sone of the fares I have seen. With everything going on I wasn’t sure how things would work if I used miles and wanted/needed to cancel or change the flight and I had other priorities than to find out details. I can look into it now that things are calming down personally and I have the time to do it but no hurry. Now things are heating up again everywhere with the ‘rona so who knows when we will be able to go anywhere, be it far away and exotic or close by.

Speaking of travel, I have gotten a few new e-mails about cheap/discounted airfares. The website I use is having a contest for up to $1000 for you and a friend to go on vacation. If you might be interested, click here before December 11th, 2020. If you sign up on there I also get an entry. No pressure…just an FYI to pass along. I get nothing out of it other than an extra sweepstakes entry. Unless you want to take me on the trip with you!

It was another early morning (before 6:00 A.M.) and perhaps my days of sleeping in until after 8:00 A.M. are over for now. It is not getting light until after 7:00 so it’s coffee and a sunrise. I have said before I like getting up early but I like staying up late too.

I think I like getting up early better these days so that’s about it for tonight.

Thanks for reading my blog! Be safe and stay well. It’s all about the science.

January 30th, 2020

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

It’s been a somewhat quiet life lately. The dog is doing good. The weather has started getting a little better, and we are getting more daylight finally (about 15 minutes a week!). The Scotty is ready for a trip. I, too, am ready to go somewhere.

So thats what I did.

I went to Montana a few weeks ago. It was good to get out of the house. It’s good to see family and we had a good visit. It is always risky driving that way this time of year but I made it without incident despite the best intentions of some of the careless drivers I encountered. Good thing I have the flexibility of nowhere to be and all day to get there…but I didn’t really need it since I left early to get back home between storms. I always keep an eye on the weather when I travel and build in a day or two of padding.

Snoqualmie Pass – Washington

Snoqualmie Pass – Washington

Of course Rider turned into a hellion while there and ended up getting grounded a few times. He did good on the way and loves the road! We got him registered while there and his papers came in the mail last week so now he is somebody..

Speaking of that flexibility, as I write this post I am actually on another adventure. I am taking an Amtrak train trip to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Pacific Central Station – Vancouver, BC

I have wanted to go to Vancouver for a while and have wanted to do it by train. The clincher for me was I had a voucher for a free hotel room that I needed to use this week so I took great advantage of that and found an expensive hotel in downtown Vancouver to spend it on. It worked out to be a great opportunity for a train trip, albeit a fast one, to someplace new I wanted to see and experience and it will not cost me AS much.

Just prior to the last trip I took to Seattle I bought a new travel backpack. I got to try it out a little on that trip. It was definitely comfortable but I was still figuring out the packing. I am treating this like a trip to Europe (and it’s why I bought the backpack) so I packed it exactly how I would if I were going there. I think I have the packing dialed in pretty good so far but I am finding a few small packlng tweaks I will need to make before I go anywhere else. I’ll be walking around to get on transit and getting to and from the hotels so this is a great test run. It’s also not as silly-looking as walking around the neighborhood wearing a suitcase. Upon reflection, however, I have seen worse stumbling around the streets in my ‘hood.

Tuesday night I stayed at a hotel in Edmonds to make it easier to catch an earlier train the next morning so I can get to Vancouver sooner. I ended up walking 8.2 miles to shop and check things out in the area, and that’s on top of the bus rides I took.

Whenever I fly somewhere early out of Seattle I always stay in a hotel the night before so I am doing the same for this trip on the train. I always take full advantage of any shopping, dining or sightseeing that I can when I do an overnight. You have to maximize time when you travel so don’t just park your ass in the hotel…plan on finding some interesting things to do! I have some things I want to shop for so that will be something else to do on this trip.

My plan is (surprise) there is no plan since it is to be such a quick trip. I found several things I definitely want to see and do in my short visit but mostly it’s going to be spontaneous. I have a feeling I will be making another trip to Vancouver to see everything I want to see. Now that I am not working I can go when the weather is better without any time restrictions. I’m definitely excited about that!

Wednesday started out grey with a few sprinkles and there was more rain the farther north I went so the sightseeing along the coast wasn’t real good. I spent time in these waters running boats to various State Park islands so I have seen this area before and on some beautiful days. I’m just hoping that the weather is better in Vancouver.

Amtrak scenery on the Coast Starlight route

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Coming Into Vancouver, BC

The train is definitely comfy and a relaxing way to travel. We did a lot of train travel in Europe two years ago and this trip brings back some good memories of that experience. I wish we had more passenger rail service in the US and if the rail companies would even add just a single passenger car on a train I bet they could get people on board.

I walked about 20 minutes over to the hotel through some seediness but I felt fairly safe or I would have just called a ride or taxi. Usually I won’t walk areas like that alone but it was just another adventure! Even with the train delayed about an hour and a half I arrive in Vancouver well before my hotel check-in time.

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC

I got to my hotel and was able to check in early, drop my bags, and hit the town to find some sights and food. Pretty nice hotel for free (usually around $220/night!) and in a great location – right in downtown close to the arenas. I got on the elevator with a couple to go to our rooms. When we were getting off the elevator on the 10th floor I happened to notice that their baggage had tags from Air China. Damn. Hate to see that.

It turned out to be a nice day to be out and about – clear and a bit cool but very pleasant with a long sleeve shirt and rain shell. I walked around the area by the hotel to see what was going on and get my bearings. There was a lot happening and the usual interesting and exciting things: the noise and hustle and bustle of the city, people, restaurants, tourist shops, and cannabis stores.

View from my hotel – Vancouver, BC

Responsibly different than other countries, Canada has decided to be intelligent and realistic about cannabis (I prefer to say “cannabis” since I refuse to use the racist term “marijuana” that was coined by the government to scare people in the 1930s) and has legalized it nationwide (there are many reasons, most ignorant of facts and full of hypocrisy, why it’s illegal in the US; one news story even speaks (not surprisingly) of Cabinet-level government corruption in the 1930s involving Dow Chemical. Shocking, I know.).

Unlike Washington state, where you are supposed to smoke out of public view, in Canada you can just walk around smoking in public just as you would a cigarette. The pre-rolled joint packages have a Canadian tax stamp and you can even have the government send it to you through the mail! It’s not as cheap here as Washington though and purchasing bulk flower looks to be different than Washington.

It’s different than Amsterdam, too, in that cannabis is technically not legal there but is tolerated. From what I was told in Amsterdam you won’t get bothered by anyone for smoking in public as long as you are not blatant about it and the King and Queen are not in town. The Netherlands even says psilocybin truffles are legal BBC and they can be bought in what they call “smart shops”. These shops even sell cannabis seeds.

There were many restaurants, mostly Asian-style foods like noodles and most were my kind of place – small mom-and-pop joints – and there were a few chains like the local Japadog, Five Guys, The Clown, and The King.

I was still looking for something to eat but not sure what I wanted so I headed to Granville Island and the Granville Market hoping to find some cheap unique eats.

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

On the Waterfront – Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

It is similar to Pike Place in Seattle – mostly a place to get fresh produce and meats – but more outdoors like the old River Quay area in Kansas City, MO. It had only a few stalls to get cooked food but nothing really looked interesting at the time. I’ll visit again and have time to look around more. I caught a water taxi back across and went back into downtown.

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

View from the water taxi – Vancouver, BC

I walked around more and was not sure what I wanted. A shawarma place looked good until I saw a guy that looked like the cook picking his nose so I decided to pick something too…another restaurant.

I decided on a Canadian chain. Tim Horton’s has really delicious coffee and a selection of food that is different than most fast food chains. I will eat at a local chain in other countries but usually not when I travel on vacation in tbe US. As a rule I don’t eat at American chains in other countries unless I find something unique at them. The “food” is usually garbage and I don’t like to eat like that stuff much these days. After Tim Horton’s I walked around for several hours more just taking it all in.

Inside the Vancouver Public Library – Vancouver, BC

I felt much less threatened walking around Vancouver than I do in Seattle, especially at night. Vancouver has, from what I have seen, fewer people just hanging out on the streets begging, pissing on the sidewalks, trashing everything and committing crimes which they never get prosecuted for – all the things that happen in Seattle. Granted, I don’t know as much about Vancouver that I know about the problems and crime that Seattle refuses to do anything to fix. Vancouver does have automated public toilets on the sidewalks and many other things to help keep the city clean.

I did get a taxi to the train this morning as I was told by hotel staff that walking back to the train would be a bad idea (and I thought it was a bad idea too given the areas I walked through near the station to get to my hotel). However, I mainly thought that it was a bad idea because it was not only five in the morning but also because I walked 10.2 miles yesterday. My legs are tired!

Amtrak King Street Station – Seattle, WA

All told, the trip definitely went by too fast but it was a great adventure and I finally got to do this trip. With the train getting delayed it threw my day off so I did not get to see and do as much as I wanted to. I’ll do it again and stay a few days next time. Vancouver is a really fun and interesting city to hang out in and I want to do another trip there but maybe have someone to go with. Lots of great people watching, a vast selection of great foods, many exciting things to see and do and a great transit system that makes it cheap and easy to get around. However, like cities in Europe, I have other places I want to visit and usually do not spend my travel time repeatedly going to the same places; a trip of 1-3 days a time or two is plenty. It’s too big of a world to spend it all in one place!

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more fun and exciting adventures!

Europe – Day 11 – February 4th, 2018: Antwerp, Belgium to Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adventure, food, Just things, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

The view from our room in Antwerp, Belgium

We got some pretty good rest last night and headed out around 9. When we got to the station it was right on time to catch our first train of the day to go to Amsterdam, and to finish the trip a train change in Rotterdam. We saw a couple of classic windmills yesterday as we went through the countryside.

We were told the Antwerp station is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but I haven’t verified that as of yet. It’s the same as the others we have been in – grand, beautiful and a reminder of the opulence of earlier times that continue today in Europe. The station here is the most incredible one that I’ve ever seen.

Interesting escalator with two pitches in Antwerpen Centraal – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal – Antwerp, Belgium

There were not any pictures taken in the train. The windows were just too nasty to see anything very clearly. We got into a little weather but we have been prepared for it pretty well.

Once we got to Amsterdam our hotel was a five minute walk, and it turned out better than what we thought it would be. Lots and lots of foods and plenty of vice in the area – “coffeehouses”, sex shops, prostitutes in windows, “smart shops” and the like. Not an area for the weak or prude or kids. Our hotel was in the Redlight District (just for a change of neighborhoods and nothing else other than it was very affordable yet nice). It is a lively area with a lot to see and do.

We got settled in and went out for something to eat. We have eaten the frites min a few places around the city before and they are delicious. They deep-fry the fries until almost done, then take them out and set them aside. When you order them, they pop them back into the fryer to finish cooking and it also gives them that delectable crunch.

We opted instead for a waffle. I had a waffle with Nutella drizzled over it and I also got a strawberry crepe. We did some more strolling around after that to see more sights then went back to the hotel.

I went out for a walk alone when it got dark out. I wanted to get out into the night’s crowds and excitement and check out the area. It is a very exciting area with tons of food to try. I went back to the hotel and Jim was ready to go out again.

Church in Redlight District – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Street in front of our hotel – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Street in front of our hotel – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Nighttime in Amsterdam

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oh…damn…

We got out for a walk and a late-night snack. I got this tasty morsel – a chocolate-covered flaky croissant, split and filled with creme filling, strawberries, walnuts, and topped with Nutella.

This is a fun city, and nighttime is even more exciting. The first place we stayed in on the way over was in a different area than this last one in the Red Light District. Completely different feel but I did like them both.

It’s a great last evening for now!

Europe – Day 10 – February 3rd, 2018: Köln, Germany to Antwerp, Belgium

Adventure, food, Just things, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Back to the rails!

After a delicious bakery breakfast (gonna miss the bakeries!), it’s back on the train to our next stop. Our hotel is situated not only on the open plaza between two cathedrals, out the back door is a shopping center (with the previously mentioned bakeries) located in the train station. Of course we had to go there for breakfast.

Apparently the train is another high-speed train, and it seems as though we may be in a First Class car. Plenty of room, comfy and hauling ass. They checked our ticket and passports and didn’t make us move. This train and the one yesterday had a coffee/snack cart just like the airlines do. The seats even have fold-down footrests!

Our original plan was to stay at Brugge (Bruges), Belgium but there were no rooms available when we arrived so we had to move on. Seems as though there was a bier festival happening so it was quite busy. We didn’t have much time to look around the city and we needed to move on to find a place to stay for the night. Looks like we’re headed to Antwerp!

Brugge, Belgium

Doorway – Brugge, Belgium

One of the canals in Brugge, Belgium

One of the canals in Brugge, Belgium

Church in Brugge, Belgium

 

We got to Antwerp and the train station was remarkable. We have seen nice train stations but this one was extraordinary.

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

 

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Our hotel ended up being rather interesting. We ended up staying in. Hassidic neighborhood and our hotel was far from any sights and food except for a local pizza chain. It appeared to be a somewhat rundown area but it wasn’t too bad when we went walking. There was a local Polish grocery market. The pizza was a quatro formaggi, but we are not sure WHICH formaggi. I think it was feta, mozzarella but not sure about the other two. It was different than cheese pizzas I have had before and it was delicious and the best cheese pizza I’ve ever tasted. The walk to get it was actually interesting and fun.

We crashed early and got a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow it’s another place!

Europe – Day 9 – February 2nd, 2018: Luxembourg to Köln, Germany

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

Last night we decided that our next destination would be Köln (Cologne), Germany after some recommendations from the girl who helped us yesterday and my friend Kevin, who had been there before. We got up this morning and decided to skip going into central Luxembourg so we could get an earlier train to Germany.

We went downstairs and had a delicious complimentary hotel breakfast consisting of meats and cheeses, bread, yogurt, coffee and fruit. We are really enjoying these continental breakfasts here in Europe.

We made our way to the train station about 9:30 and got on the train to head out. We are getting pretty good about finding our way around for two guys who never really dealt much with public transportation before the trip started. I must say that Google Maps has helped quite a bit and help from the numerous strangers who have shared their knowledge along the way has been even better.

The trains are very smooth and they go everywhere. It is really an incredible system capable of mobilizing masses of people. They are smooth, quiet and comfortable and can get you virtually anyplace you want to go. The scenery is beautiful and it is really neat to see the little towns and villages in isolated areas.

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Train ride scenery between Luxembourg and Köln, Germany

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Train ride scenery between Luxembourg and Köln, Germany

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Train ride scenery between Luxembourg and Köln, Germany

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Fort at Köln, Germany train station

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Train ride scenery between Luxembourg and Köln, Germany

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Train ride scenery between Luxembourg and Köln, Germany

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Köln Station – Köln, Germany

Along the way, just before Köln I saw something interesting that may be tied to family history. I saw a Winniger Winery along the tracks. Perhaps they are some distant relatives!

We stepped out of the train station to be overwhelmed by an incredible sight…the Köln Cathedral.

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

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No way in hell I’d go up that ladder – Köln Cathedral in Köln, Germany

Words cannot describe the enormity and architecture of this building, and pictures cannot capture it – it must be seen to be believed and experienced. I could not stop looking at it the entire stay; the details of the details is just unbelievable. Gargoyles, statues, spires…it is really something to see. You cannot fathom what the inside of the place looks like. Think about this: this building started being built in the 1200s and wasn’t completed until the 1880s.

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

And the nighttime view from our hotel window inspired me to go for a walk…

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

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Köln Cathedral – Köln, Germany

While out walking around I stopped for some local food (no surprise there!). I went to a shop selling a sandwich called a döner. It is a type of shawarma, except the bread was more of a crusty/chewy pita that was split and filled with delicious goodness.

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A delicious late night snack called a döner – Köln, Germany

After, of course, I had to have dessert so I went by a bakery and grabbed this delicious item:

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Oh, the Pastries!

Earlier in the day Jim and I had some curry wurst mit pommes frites. It was a very filling snack and carried us through for hours. I just find something that looks interesting to eat or something I have heard of and want to try. One caveat – no mayo, which is globbed all over several foods in Europe (especially frites).

Tomorrow morning we are off to our next destination. As I write this I cannot help but look at that magnificent cathedral…what an experience.