Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Dec. mother/daughter Carnival Freedom 4 nt Bahamas cruise: Grand Bahamas; Nassau

Since Angie was coming back to St. Louis for her cousin's wedding on Nov. 23rd, staying for Thanksgiving the next week, and for the long weekend after Thanksgiving, she decided to drive up from Ft. Lauderdale with her 2 dogs.  Josh was smart and flew up and back over Thanksgiving.  Having nothing better to do, I asked if she wanted company for the ride back (other then the 2 dogs).  She said sure, so I rode back with her.  We tried to stop a little past Atlanta, but the hotel we planned to go to was gone, so we called Ken and asked him to hit the internet and find us a dog friendly hotel.  It was already about midnight and we got caught in road construction for about an hour with no way to exit the highway.  We finally made it to the Florida border about 2 am and ended up staying in the same hotel Ken, Roxy and I stayed in the year before.  Not the nicest of places, but relatively cheap and they allowed dogs.  All in all, Murphy and Molly were good travelers.  They didn't sleep much in the hotel, but Angie did get a little break from driving.  Unfortunately, I'm not a long distance driver.  I usually start falling asleep after about 2 hours of driving.  With 20 hours driving time to their home in Coral Springs (by Ft. Lauderdale), it was an exhausting drive/ride for all of us.

Are we there yet?!

 Murphy using poor Molly as a pillow whenever he could get away with it.
About 2 weeks before her trip out, we were joking about going on a short cruise during the week I would be there.  Joking turned to  checking out cruises.  We found 1 that fit perfectly and went to 2 Bahamas islands.  So we booked it.  Not a bad deal at $198@ for 4 nights (about $235 with port taxes and fees), plus I was able to get a $50 onboard credit for owning CCL stock and cruising on Carnival.  So we pretty much rested up the day after we got to her home.  The next day, we met Josh for lunch.  He dropped us off at the port, and away we went. 
The first day was spent exploring our new home for the next 4 nights.  We had booked the cheapest category room at the very front of the ship (interior upper/lower which meant bunk beds) as a guarantee, but were upgraded to an interior 2 lower beds in the middle of the ship--cabin 1291.  It wasn't the suites I'd been getting accustomed to and I missed the verandah, but we didn't spend much time in the room and it was quiet and very little motion was felt there.

 Weird bathroom picture!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

2003-San Francisco and beyond

Back in the day---the company I work for (Prestige Portraits of Lifetouch) use to have winter meetings.  I didn't go to them at first, but when they had one to Orlando, I asked if I could go.  That's when I became hooked.  They were a lot of fun and we had a really fun group of employees.  Unfortunately, the portrait business has taken a hit (probably because of all the great phone cameras and P and S cameras now), so the winter meetings are no longer done.  But I did get to go on a few really fun ones: 2 to Orlando, 1 to San Diego, and 1 to San Francisco.   This is a blog about the San Francisco trip.  Not only did I have the 4 days at the meetings in downtown San Francisco, but my sister joined me beforehand and we made a mini vacation out of it.

We lucked out with the weather.  It was about 70 for the highs most of our pre meetings trip.   Also had a lot of sunshine.  I forget the exact dates of this trip, but I believe it was around the end of January/beginning of Feb. 

It was a rather interesting trip from the start!  We flew into Oakland.  Having never been to that area of California before, I had no idea what to expect.  But I didn't expect the manager at the hotel we spent the first night in to have us sign papers saying we wouldn't have "visitors" in the night!  We signed and spent the night, then cancelled our reservations for the last night there before Carolyn was to fly home.  Can't say I was too impressed with Oakland!

Next day we were off.  We had decided we would head south along the coast and check out the scenery.  Here CArolyn is by our hot rental truck.  It happened to be the cheapest thing I could find.  I picked the bright yellow to tease her about her recently ended job as a school bus driver.
Carolyn suggested we head to Carmel and I was happy to oblige.  We took 101 and were treated to fantastic views of the coast.  One of our first stops was in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco.  This place left an impression on me and we ended up spending a couple nights here later on.
 Had to keep an eye on the waves, though!
We continued down to Carmel stopping several times to admire the scenery.
 I love the rugged coastline here!
 I could stay and watch the waves forever.

 Located just off the highway a short distance south is Pigeon Point Lighthouse.  It is the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast of the US at 115' and is still an active lighthouse.   
Eventually we made it to Carmel--a cute coastal town known for it's scenery and artistic history.  Only 120 miles from San Francisco, but took us awhile with all our stops.  Here Carolyn is hamming it up for the camera on the beach of Carmel.
 Another beach picture at Carmel.
 Some of the historic architecture of Carmel.
 Being Clint Eastwood fans, we checked out a couple places we were told he was associated with--at least at one time.  Here is his affordable Inn in downtown.
 Here's the restaurant he owned for 27 years.  I understand he closed it in 1999, but someone else reopened it and kept the character.
 It's a cute restaurant with reasonably priced good food.
From there, we wanted to see some of Big Sur, so we continued south.  We just happened to come upon the scenic byway of 17-mile.  There was a toll to drive through it, but when I saw it was a scenic byway, I couldn't resist.  Had I been a little more prepared, I probably would have looked for the famous  Lone Cypress and Bird Rock , but I was thoroughly impressed with what I did see.   I couldn't have even told you where Pebble Beach was and the famous golf course until I did this drive.  I see where Pebble Beach got it's name.
 More of Pebble Beach.
 Views along the byway.


 My sister, the ham.
The drive also goes through a gated community with lots of fabulous houses---and deer.
Then we continued down "Big Sur".  Although Big Sur has no specific boundaries, the practical definition of the region is the segment of California State Route 1 between San Simeon and Carmel. The northern end of Big Sur is about 120 miles south of San Francisco, and the southern end is approximately 245 miles northwest of Los Angeles (for a total of about 430 miles).  That only makes Big Sur about 47 miles long, but there sure are a lot of scenic views packed in that short amount of miles!




 The name Big Sur can also specifically refer to any of the small settlements in the region, such as this one.   
 Some of the most stunning shore views I've ever seen.

 and bridge views---




Another sight we just came upon by chance was this beach at the southern end of Big Sur where elephant seals come to give birth and breed during Jan./FEb.  We were lucky to be here at that time.  They are amazing creatures! 
Elephant seals form harems, in which the dominant, or alpha, male is surrounded by a group of females.  Here one of the dominant males was chasing some of the other males away.
 The pups are usually born within 4-5 days of the female's arrival, and weigh between 60-80 pounds. They nurse for 24-28 days. Mating occurs during the last 3-5 days of nursing. After about 100 days the females head back to the ocean. 
 Another newborn and mom.
  There were Rangers there making sure everyone stayed back, but they were very close.
From here we were close to the road leading up to Hearst Castle, so we drove up there hoping to be able to tour the castle.  Unfortunately, we were too late. 
 Figuring we wanted to get back up to San Francisco quicker then we got down that far, we decided to cut over to I-5 and head back that way.  This was from the road cutting through to I-5
 It was a beautiful part of the country, even away from the coast.
 Lots of green rolling hills.
Shortly after we reached I-5, we saw signs for Mission San Miguel Arcangel.  So we went to check it out.
 The painted walls inside the church are the original artwork by artist Esteban Munras and other Salinan artists.[
 Father Fermín Lasuén founded the mission on July 25, 1797, making it the sixteenth California mission.
 Built in 1797, the mission remains in use as a parish church of the Diocese of Monterey although the original church was destroyed by fire in 1806 and rebuilt in 1818.
 Harmonic vibrations from the nearby Union Pacific Railroad main line weakened the unreinforced masonry structures over the years.  An earthquake in Dec. of 2003 caused sever damage and the Catholic Church considered closing the parish.  Work has since been done and it was reopened in 2009.
We made it back to San Francisco after dark and went in search of a hotel.  We weren't coming up with places any better then the place we had in Oakland, but I remembered a Best Western in Pacifica on our way out of town that morning and decided I was going to find it again.  Turned out to be a really nice place!  LOVED the free breakfast overlooking the ocean!
View at breakfast.  We ended up making this our base for our last couple of days.
We drove into San Francisco and checked out the architecture. 
 Also came upon Baker Beach.  Great views of the Golden Gate Bridge which we had driven across earlier. 
 The waves were really crashing in while we were there. 
 Loved the ingenious steps to the beach there.
 As we were leaving, we happened to see an elderly fisherman get pummeled by the waves and tossed like a piece of driftwood.  Fortunately there were 2 bystanders who just happened to walk down there and run to his rescue.  They were able to pull him out of the surf and back to safety.  Nice to know there are still people like that around.
 Another view of the bridge from the other side.
We managed to find parking downtown and wandered around a bit.  Lots of street entertainers.
 Vases in a store in Ghirardelli Square.
 the famous chocolatier in San Fran---the second oldest chocolate company in the United States.
 Had lunch at a place called Jacks.  It was very good.
 Carolyn posing as a cannery worker.
 The Cannery by the famous Fishermen's Wharf. 
 sculpture along the street.
 random colorful building.
 The china town district.
 Sir Francis Drake hotel on Union Square.
 One of the trolley cars of San Francisco.  Not only an icon of San Francisco, but a great mode of transportation around town.
 a brake man for the trolley.
Just another couple pictures from our Pacifica base hotel. 
 I'm glad Oakland turned out to be so uninviting.  Loved our little stay on the beach of Pacifica.
After one more night at our convention hotel, the Hilton downtown, it was finally time for Carolyn to leave and my "Winter Meetings" to begin.  So I drove her back to the Oakland airport and dropped her and the rental vehicle off.  Then I took the Bart back into San Francisco.  Turned out to be a good way to get back and forth from the airport.
 My co-workers and I had some free time, so we checked out some more of SAn Fran by way of the trolleys.
 Then back to the Hilton for the opening day reception.
 One of the alleys with lots of photo displays from all the Lifetouch/Prestige territories.
 View from my room.
 One night our territory manager took our group to Tony Roma's for dinner.  It was in walking distance to our hotel. 
 Walking back to the hotel.  Seems everywhere we went we were warned not to go left.
 Exploring the Hilton---this is the view from their restaurant, Cityscape, on the top floor.
 Every morning we were also treated to a free breakfast buffet. 
Again in our free time we wandered around SAn Francisco.  Here we were on the trolley with Alcatraz island off in the distance.
 A bunch of us walked around Fisherman's Wharf.
 More of the many entertainers in SAn Fran. 


 I wasn't about to go to San Francisco without checking out Alcatraz.  So one of the days when we had a long break between classes, a few co-workers and I went over. 
 Often referred to as "The Rock", the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963.
Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf.
 November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Aboriginal peoples from San Francisco who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s.
 In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
 In 1867, a brick jailhouse was built (previously inmates had been kept in the basement of the guardhouse), and in 1868, Alcatraz was officially designated a long-term detention facility for military prisoners.   In 1909 construction began on the huge concrete main cell block, designed by Major Reuben Turner, which remains the island's dominant feature.
 The island became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August 1934 designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons.  Most of the prisoners were notorious bank robbers and murderers.  During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Rafael Cancel Miranda (a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party who attacked the United States Capitol building in 1954),Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. "Doc" Barker, James "Whitey" Bulger, and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis (who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate). It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prisons staff and their families.
 Often referred to as the Mess Hall, is the dining hall of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary where the prisoners and staff ate their meals.
 The prison cells typically measured 9 feet by 5 feet and 7 feet high.
 The cells were primitive and lacked privacy, with a bed, a desk and a washbasin and toilet on the back wall and few furnishings except a blanket.
 Inmates were permitted out into the yard on Saturdays and Sundays and on holidays for a maximum of 5 hours.
 Control center
 The Warden's House was the home of the wardens of the state penitentiary. It was built in 1926 or 1929 and had 17 or 18 rooms.  Today the house is a ruin, burned down during the AIM (American Indian Movement) Occupation of Alcatraz on June 1, 1970.
 In its 29 years of operation, there were 14 attempts to escape from Alcatraz prison involving 36 inmates. Officially, every escape attempt failed, and most participants were either killed or quickly re-captured. However, the participants in the 1937 and June 1962 attempts, though presumed dead, disappeared without a trace, giving rise to popular theories that they were successful.  It's only 1.5 miles from San Francisco, but the water temperature is considered too cold to survive a swim that far.
After 2 or 3 days of meetings, we had our big company award dinner.  Loved the table center pieces!
 Gotta include a picture of our talented territory. 
 We quite often won territory of the year at these meetings.  Here's our photography manager showing off a couple of his awards. 
How things change in so little time!  Hardly anyone from our territory is there anymore.  In fact, there is no longer "Prestige", now those of us remaining are part of "Lifetouch".   The territory manager on the left above, was forced to leave when the merger happened.  DAve, in the middle, was previously transferred and later quit.  Mark (the sports' photographer manager and my immediate boss) died shortly after these meetings---he was a really good man.  Even looking at the group picture above I only recognize 3 people who are still with the company now in 2013.  The winter meetings were always a lot of fun.  But I'm sure Lifetouch spent a fortune on them which they weren't able to keep doing with the recession that began in 2007.  No more winter meetings, just summer meetings that only those getting awards are invited to.  I went to that once (always in Minneapolis) and it was a lot of fun, too.