Day 5 Minnesota…It couldn’t be better…More photos from Butchart Gardens…Dinner with friends…

This was my favorite photo from Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:
Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill
220 Carlson Parkway N, Plymouth, MN 555447

Please RSVP my by email if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so. Hope to see you then!

The well-arranged paths made it easy to see the entire facility in about two hours.
Seeing this garden reminded us of the rainy day we spent in Versailles in 2014. Click here for details of the most extraordinary gardens we’ve ever seen anywhere in the worldTodayay we’re continuing with more photos from the exquisite Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, to provide a break from our ramblings on family events.
A garden viewing house.

It was a day we’ll always remember which was cool and sunny, a perfect scenario for an afternoon in the world acclaimed gardens. Please see this list where Butchart Gardens is listed as one of the top 10 in the world.

Each unique garden was followed by another on the blissfully sunny day.

Another major garden we’re looking forward to seeing is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina where we’ll be staying for 30 days beginning on Tom’s 65th birthday, upcoming on December 23, 2017. For the link, please click here.

The crowds were huge but we tried taking photos without obstructions.

We still have many photos to share on Butchart Gardens and we’ll continue to do so when we take breaks from sharing family event details throughout our remaining 37 nights in Minnesota. Please bear with us as we attempt to “mix it up” a bit during this period of family visits.


Last night, we had our first dinner with friends Chere and husband Gary at their lovely home in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Chere and I met years ago in a work situation that caused us to immediately delve into a meaningful and lasting friendship. 

Colorful collection.

Now almost 20 years later and throughout mine and Tom’s years of travel, we have stayed in close touch never seeming to miss a beat in the events of our daily lives. 

Perhaps, the last of the spring tulips, these flowers were so dark they were almost black.

Chere is a successful well-known national speaker, registered dietician with contemporary views, motivator and lifestyle coach. Her upbeat attitude and enthusiasm for “living life to the fullest” is illustrated here in her comments on her website:

“I Make Positive Change Easy
I love the challenge of working with busy, successful people that are tired of living a ‘ho-hum” life, tired of feeling low on energy and having no time to do the things they truly want to. Sounds impossible for most, not for me.
I believe that knowing your purpose, energizes your life, which creates your happiness which you need in order to live healthily and then you can truly feel balanced and authentically love your life.”

Miniature garden in the carousel building.
Pretty merry-go-round at Butchart Gardens.

It’s not hard to see why Chere and I have easily connected with one another with our mutual “overly bubbly” attitudes about life. Last night, at dinner at their home, made to perfection for my way of eating, both Tom and Gary rolled their eyes a few times over Chere and my many likenesses and enthusiasm.

Hand painted horse in the merry-go-round.
Painted Panda on the carousel.

It was a delightful evening of engaging chatter while seated at their beautifully set dining room table. There’s nothing that can compare to the joy of lively conversation with like-minded friends with whom you share many interests.

A redwood tree.

Thanks to Chere and Gary for sharing their home and lives with us last night. Gary was off on a white water rafting trip leaving Chere and me more girl-time to spend over these coming weeks in between times with family and other friends. More on that later.

What a pretty display at Butchart Gardens.

Soon, we’re heading to grandson Vincent end-of-the-year school picnic at a local park and again we’re thrilled to have a sunny day in Minnesota, each of which is treasured by the locals after the long, cold winters.

See Chere’s overly bubbly smile, with husband Gary, as they prepare the table for dinner.

Later today, Tom will spend some quality time with son TJ and daughter Tammy. At this point, who knows what the evening holds???

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 31, 2016:

In Bali, the Buffaloes stayed relatively calm until it the race began. For more on Part2 buffalo races, please click here.

It’s a whirlwind…Living in a hotel for six weeks…What’s that like?…Shopping photos…

Our two new pieces of luggage in easy-to-spot colors. Tom chose purple while I chose this peachy color. Each bag is expandable and lightweight, with four double-wheel rollers.

This is the longest period we’ll have spent in a hotel since the onset of our travels, beginning on October 31, 2012.  Many have asked why we chose a hotel over staying in a vacation/holiday home while in Minnesota for six weeks. Wouldn’t that be more cost-effective and convenient?

Not necessarily. There are several reasons we chose to stay in a hotel during this extended period from May 26, 2017, to July 7, 2017, a total of 42 nights. One consideration was the cost. It’s expensive to rent a house in Minnesota, but that definitely wasn’t the single most important reason.

Now that we’re here, we realize what a good decision it was to be free of planning meals, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and doing dishes. Without the responsibility of these daily tasks, we’re free to spend time with family and friends at our leisure. We love the freedom.

With a $30 a day budget for dining out so far, we’re totally on track, even slightly under at $81.62 for the three nights we’ve dined in restaurants; Grizzly’s, Champs, and Chipotle. 

We save considerably on restaurant tabs by not consuming cocktails, other beverages, appetizers, and desserts.  Tom says he’s had enough alcohol over these past two 33-night cruises (plus an additional two nights spent in Vancouver) that he’s on a break from drinking anything at all with a possible few exceptions for special functions.

Since I’m only drinking water right now with an occasional cup of herbal tea and trying not to drink anything while eating to improve digestion, it’s easy for me to avoid ordering beverages. Neither of us orders any sodas or sweetened drinks.

Tom’s two new pairs of shoes; one pair Nike tennis shoes and a pair of Nike slides ideal for casual living in upcoming vacation homes.

Thus, it’s easy to dine out for our preferred budgetary expenditure without giving it a second thought, especially when neither of us has a desire to dine in expensive restaurants. 

Much to my delight, I’ve had no problem ordering meals befitting my way of eating. Last night’s Chipotle salad bowl was indeed a rare treat. I haven’t had Chipotle since we left Minnesota four years and seven months ago. 

By ordering only the beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole, I was able to stay close to the limited number of carbs that I can consume daily. I practically moaned over the delicious concoction. On the other hand, Tom didn’t care for his beef burrito, claiming it had too much rice and not enough beef.

The day was great. Greg, Camille, and the three grandchildren came for breakfast at our hotel at 9:00 am, after which the kids swam in one of the hotel’s two swimming pools. It was fun to see them frolic and laugh, swimming and splashing in the pool, something we’ve missed for so long with all six of our grandchildren.

After they left, we visited Tom’s nephew Tim, and Tom’s sister Margie happened to be visiting Tim as well.  What a pleasant surprise! We have many more visits planned with Tom’s family members over the remaining days in Minnesota.

Afterward, we headed to TJ Maxx to see if we could find two new pieces of luggage. Our two large bags were literally falling apart. We exited the store a short time later, wheeling two colorful 30″ lightweight suitcases to the SUV for under $175. 

The regular retail prices for the two bags were four times the prices we actually paid. The odd colors resulted in several price reductions. We love odd colors on luggage. It makes them easier to spot when coming down the baggage carousel at airports and cruise terminals and less likely to be stolen. Most thieves prefer to swipe less noticeable black bags.

While at the mall, without any expectations, we wandered into a Famous Footwear store. We both desperately needed new shoes when a few of our individual five pairs were falling apart. 

Yesterday, daughter-in-law Camille let me try on her similarly styled shoes, and I was thrilled to find an equally comfortable style at Famous Footwear.

A short time later, we were back on the road, each with two new pairs of shoes. Tom purchased a pair of black Nike tennis shoes and black Nike slides, while I purchased black Clark sandals (my favorite brand) and a pair of casual waterproof shoes, as shown in the photo.

Our total bill for the four pairs was $219.36! What a deal! Nike tennis shoes were over $200 in Australia. Now, Tom can toss the $13 Adidas knockoffs he purchased in Hanoi last summer.  Surprisingly, they’ve served him well.

We’ll each toss two pairs of worn-out shoes which we’ll continue wearing until we fly to Nevada on July 7th, squeaking out every last drop of use. In doing so, we’ll each maintain a total of five pairs of shoes, exactly what fits into our bags.

Later in the day, Tammy and Vincent stopped at our hotel, dropping off two TV trays (there’s no dining table in our hotel room) and a cooler (we have a small refrigerator, but this works for picnics, etc.). It was delightful chatting with them and, we look forward to many more such occasions with all of our children and grandchildren.

Today, we’re staying put until we head to Eden Prairie, arriving at 4:00 pm for dinner at friends Chere and Gary’s home. Chere and I have stayed in very close touch all these years, occasionally through Skype and often daily via email. How fun it will be to begin seeing our many friends as well as our family members.

That’s it for today, friends. We’ll be back each day with more…

Photo from one year ago today, May 30, 2016:

The look on the buffalo’s mouth on the right inspired me to get a close-up of this buffalo’s teeth when we attended a buffalo race in Bali. For more details, please click here.

Memorial Day…Love and respect for those who gave their lives for our freedom…More family visits…

Nothing signifies Minnesota more than the commonly found Canadian Goose.

We extend our hearts and prayers to those who lost loved ones to war and strife throughout the world. Many celebrate with worship and reverence as a special part of today’s observations. May this day and others bring peace and healing for those who remember lost loved ones.

Yesterday, Sunday of this Memorial Day weekend, we drove to Sandstone, Minnesota to see daughter Tammy and family at their campground in Askov, aka Asking.

They’re pretty to look at but poop two pounds per day in the grass, a real nuisance for homeowners, particularly those living on a lake, as we did in our old lives.

The drive in the new Ford Explorer was pleasant while I worked on the settings on our phones for which we’d purchased SIM cards at a local T. Mobile store. Unfortunately, it was pricey for the two months of unlimited calls, text and 4 gigs of data at $180 for both phones, more than we’ve paid in any country.

We knew we couldn’t spend the nine weeks in the US without phones, especially with one car and the need to pick one another up during planned activities that may include only one of us.

This sky view took our breath away.

During the long drive, we sent our numbers by text to family members and now we’re easily able to stay in touch for planning and confirming our get-togethers over the remaining 39 days until we leave for Nevada for part two of the family visits.

What a pretty sky.  Rainstorms like this are typical for Minnesota and the Midwest.

Tammy, Tracy and our grandson Vincent have an RV parked in a permanent spot in a lovely fully equipped campground near Hinckley, Minnesota, home of several casinos and popular vacation spots. Many locals travel from all over the state to gamble and enjoy the countryside.

A deep bank of clouds and rain greeted us on the return drive before dark.

Warmly welcomed by the family and their two giant Newfoundland dogs, we settled in for an enjoyable day of lively chatter and catching up. Unfortunately, it was a rainy and cool day, and we spent most of the day inside the camper. 

It was raining in mysterious sheets during the drive back to our hotel around 8:00 pm.

Later in the day, when the sun peeked out we gathered around a roaring campfire for more conversation and laughter. It was an easy day spent sharing a piece of their lives as they too, like all of our children and grandchildren, have found a “happy place” where they unwind and relax while still working and raising their families.

At specific points, there was a massive downpour.

We’re deeply touched by the love and emotions shared by our family and look forward to every single moment we can spend together. Once again, we’re humbled and in awe of the world around us, cherishing every interaction, each beautiful scene and the prospect of what is yet to come.

May your day be memorable in many ways.

Photo from one year ago today, May 29, 2016:

This cat, who didn’t seem to mind, was getting a lot of personalized attention from these three monkeys at the Monkey Temple in Bali, if you see what I mean. For more photos, please click here.

Fabulous first day in Minnesota…More continues today in the country…Photos of Victoria, British Columbia…

Historical government building in Victoria.

Today’s photos are some of the many remaining photos we’d yet to share from the memorable day we spent in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, on May 25th. 

With time constraints today, as we head out to drive to the town of Asking, Minnesota, to see Tom’s daughter Tammy and family who are camping for the holiday weekend, we’ll have to breeze through a quick post.

Market Square, a shopper’s haven.

Many of our days and nights are planned for the six weeks we’ll be in Minnesota, with several events scheduled for mornings when we usually prepare and upload the day’s posts.

On those days, we’ll quickly post photos and, at times, a shorter story so we can get on our way as opposed to posting later in the day or the evening. We apologize for any missed typos and errors during this period. 

New buildings have sprouted up throughout the city.

We use a comprehensive spell checker, but as texting enthusiasts are aware, errors can easily be missed or turned into other words representing different types of errors. 

The old and the new mingle well in Victoria.

Even with both Tom and I proofreading for errors, it’s still easy to misspell a few words or bypass grammar corrections we may have noted in a less hurried state.

Entrance to Chinatown.

We’d purchased and had shipped SIM cards to which we could add data, text, and phone features.  Unfortunately, the cards didn’t work on our phones after many attempts. Once we’re done here, we’ll be heading to nearby Ridgedale Mall, where we’ll purchase SIM cards for both of our phones. 

Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction in Victoria.

The SIM cards were only $1 each, a famous top brand with many positive reviews on Amazon to which users add money for data and phone. Once activated, we could have added a monthly payment plan for each phone, requiring no contract. Alas, they didn’t work, and we don’t have time or interest in messing with them further.

Cafe/restaurant in a historical building in Victoria.

As a result, this morning, we’re off to the Best Buy phone store in nearby Ridgedale Mall, where hopefully, they’ll get service working for both of our cell phones. Once this task is accomplished, we’ll be on our way to family in Asking, a two-hour drive from our location. 

The five-star Empress Hotel, where high tea is served at 3:00 pm at $75 per person.

We won’t be staying overnight. Instead, we’ll be heading back in the dark after the day spent with family. It should be another great family day yesterday, which we spent with my son Greg and three grandchildren, Maisie, Miles, and Madighan, at their home in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Also, yesterday, we visited Tom’s sister Patty who’s currently in a nursing home after recent major surgery; Tom’s brother Jerry, an avid reader of our site and Tom’s son TJ and grandson Nik at their home, ending the day with my son Greg and family.

Restaurant in Victoria.

The hotel is working out well for us. It has everything we need including laundry facilities, where we completed two loads of wash this morning. The WiFi is excellent, the breakfast food is fine, and the staff is friendly. The location is proving to be ideal for our purposes.

Hotel in Victoria.

There’s no doubt, this six-week period will fly by in a flash, and before we know it, we’ll be off to Nevada on July 7th. We’ll cherish every moment we spend with family and friends, taking photos while continuing to write to each of YOU every day.

Be well and be safe!

Photo from one year today, May 28, 2016:

A mom and adorable baby at the Monkey Temple in Singaraja, Bali. For more photos, please click here.

We’re in Minnesota after a 12-hour travel day! …All is good!…Our hotel and rental car…

As a former owner of this model, Tom is thrilled with this new Ford Explorer. We couldn’t believe all the technology in this rental car, more than any we’ve seen throughout the world. As it turned out, we rented this car for the full six weeks for only $50 more than a tiny economy car from this site:

It was 8:30 pm by the time we checked into the hotel. We were renting the SUV for an extended period required two separate contracts; one for one month and another for the additional two weeks. So, of course, this took twice as long as usual.

The lounge area is in the entry to the hotel.

Between the airport in Seattle and again in Minneapolis, my FitBit easily hit 10,000 steps from walking through the lengthy terminals. The easy three-hour flight landed by 6:30 pm. 

Another lounge area in the hotel.

It took a while to make our way to the rental car area at the Minneapolis airport. Everything had changed since the last time we were there five years ago. It had changed so much; we hardly recognized any area. 

There’s a small shop in the hotel where guests can purchase beverages and snacks.

Once we arrived at the Country Inn & Suites hotel, we were pleasantly surprised. Our discounted corporate rate at $107 a night was a far cry from the average rates of over $200 a night for most hotels. 

TV and fake fireplace in the lounge where most days I’ll prepare the daily post.

With breakfast, free WiFi, and taxes included, it was the best possible price we could expect for a six-week stay. But, of course, the convenient location was also a factor in choosing this facility.

Complimentary breakfast is available from 7:00 am to 10:00 am daily.  This morning we had eggs and sausage.

By the time we brought in our bags, it was fast approaching 9:00 pm, and we decided to walk next door to Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill for dinner. Unfortunately, with the two-hour time difference, we weren’t as hungry as we could have been. 

We continue to avoid fruit, bread, and baked goods.

Also, Grizzly’s is the location for the upcoming Meet & Greet on June 9th for our Minnesota readers, for which we continue to receive RSVPs (please send us a message if you’d like to attend), and we wanted to check it out firsthand. So, after a good dinner and service, we were content with the decision to have our event at that location.

There are two workstations in the business center.

At the moment, we are visiting Tom’s sister Patty at a local nursing home where she’s recuperating from recent surgery. Soon, we’ll leave and head to Tom’s brother Jerome’s home in Coon Rapids. 

Jerome is Tom’s older brother with whom we’ve stayed in close touch over these past years. He’s blind with a talking computer and has enjoyed “listening” to our posts over these past years. Each day, Tom removes all the photos from the day’s post and sends them to Jerry by email. We’re so looking forward to seeing him as well.

Prices for hotels in Minneapolis are very high, comparable to many other larger US cities. Therefore, we opted for a corporate rate on this fairly modest hotel conveniently located for visiting family and friends.  Its clean, friendly, and fulfills our needs during the six weeks in Minnesota.

Today at 5:00 pm, we’re heading to dinner at my son Greg’s home (wife Camille), where we’ll see three of our darling grandchildren. The excitement of seeing those we love with more yet to see is indescribable. 

Over these next weeks, we’ll spend most of our free time with family and friends, filling our hearts with love and more wonderful memories. But, as we mentioned in an earlier post, we won’t turn each day’s post into a family album. Instead, we’ll continue to seek lovely scenery, wildlife, and many of the highlights in the Minneapolis area.

Complimentary coffee and tea are available throughout the day and night.

Tomorrow, we’ll return with more photos from the Butchart Garden in Victoria. Have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day weekend.

Photo  from one year ago today, May 27, 2016:

Here we were wearing saris standing at the foot of the steps at the Pulaki Temple in Singaraja in Bali.  For more photos, please click here.

Victoria, British Columbia…Butchart Gardens…A memorable tour and exquisite place to visit…At Sea-Tac Airport awaiting flight….

The popular Butchart Gardens sign where visitors often take their photos.

It’s 11:00 am Seattle time. We’re seated in a food court at Sea-Tac Airport while waiting to board our flight to Minneapolis in two hours. Rather than wait on the ship, we decided it made more sense to get to the airport after a $60 taxi fare, $20 in tips for a porter, and a skycap.

Darwin, our tour guide with Surfside Adventure Tours friendly and ultra knowledgeable about the amazing Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Our luggage was overweight, by 10 pounds each. The cost for overweight checked bags is $100 per bag. The skycap had a box where we loaded the extra 20 pounds (6 kg) to avoid paying the excess weight fees. Instead, we paid an extra $35 for the box, which we checked, saving $165. 

Based on time constraints, we won’t be able to identify flowers from the Butchart Gardens tour.

We were stopped at security for the computer backpack, taken aside for inspection. The agent took everything out of the bag to inspect each pocket, the laptops, and other electronics for suspicious chemicals. 

A water wheel near the entrance to the Butchart Gardens.

Of course, we passed inspection and didn’t complain about the time lost, not to the agent nor one another.  We’d rather they were diligent than careless. Lines were long. From the time we arrived at the airport until seated here now, 90 minutes had passed. At least now our wait isn’t too long.

Tom standing by the king on the giant hand-carved chess set.
Of course, I then stood by the queen.
Based on the delays in getting to the airport (35 minutes in traffic), baggage, and security check-in, the idea of leaving the ship early served us well. Now, we can relax and wait for our flight.
It was a good time of year to see the gardens, but we were a little late to see all of the tulips blooming, which occurred a few weeks ago.

The last full day on the ship proved to be absolutely fabulous. The tour we participated in with the other 10 Cruise Critic members was over-the-top. The tour company, Surfside Adventure Tours, with Darwin as our tour guide, couldn’t have been a better experience at the US $57.22 per person, plus the US $48.45 entrance fee (for two) into Butchart Gardens. 

Many tourists wandered through the huge grounds, bumping into one another in the process. We did our best to scurry along after taking photos.

Without the Canadian dollar exchange rate handy, Tom gave the driver a US $100 bill, which in his mind, he was thinking US $77, not Canadian $57.22. Subsequently, that resulted in his paying the driver Canadian $134.50 when he handed him the US $100 bill telling him to keep the change. This resulted in a tip of $43.78, more than we’d usually tip. 

Many unfamiliar flower species enhanced the gardens, but many we’d seen in other botanical gardens worldwide.

Here’s the info for Surfside Adventure Tours:  250-891-7792, and please ask for Darwin. Their website is:

It was easy to wander about following the clearly marked paths.

When all was said and done, the tour cost less than half as much as such a tour through the ship, and we had little room to fuss over the cost. An entire afternoon was well spent (literally and figuratively) touring the stunning Vancouver Island city of Victoria, one of the most beautiful cities we’re seen in our world travels.

Sun filtering through the tall trees.

As a matter of fact, we feel determined that at some point down the road, we’ll return for a summer stay in Victoria, perhaps around the time of our next visit to family in the US, whenever that may be in the future.

Interesting shapes and designs are the highlights of many specific areas.

There’s much more to share about Victoria, and we’ll do so during these next six weeks in Minneapolis when we have occasional quiet days with less content-rich information and photos to share.

These tulips remained later in the season, allow they were beginning to wither away.

Enjoy today’s photos as we realize we need to wrap this up. Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos of our new home for the next six weeks, our response to being back in Minnesota after being gone for the past 4.5 years, and any updates that may occur over the next 24 hours. 

There are numerous shops and restaurants on the grounds of Butchart Gardens.
Entrance into Canada after disembarking the ship to head out on our tour to Victoria.

For our US readers…have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day Weekend. For our friends outside the US, have a fabulous weekend as well!

Photo from one year ago today, May 26, 2016:

We visited a turtle hatchery in Bali on our way to Lovina to renew our vises. There were over 100 baby turtles maturing for future release attracting tourists to the site. For more details, please click here.

Last day of Alaskan cruise…Final expenses for cruise and extras…Minnesota, here we come in the morning…

Snow on mountain peaks. Ships at the Port.

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:

Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:

220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447
Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so.  Hope to see you then!

The scenery in Alaska hasn’t disappointed.

Here we are, the final full day aboard a ship since April 22nd when we left Sydney, with the exception of the two nights we spent in Vancouver at the hotel. 

We’ve cruised a total of 33 nights since leaving Sydney and look forward to getting settled in Minneapolis after our flight from Seattle with an early evening arrival. It will feel good to unpack, get organized and prepare for a whirlwind next six weeks.

The tender boats were delivering passengers to the shore. So we have packing to tackle this morning. I folded all my clothing from the closet, drawers, and cabinets, placing them in piles ready to be neatly stacked into my one large suitcase. Tom will pack later.

We’re out to sea at the moment heading to Victoria, British Columbia, our final port of call on this nine-night Alaskan cruise, arriving around noon. We’re booked with a private tour at 12:00 pm to visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria on Vancouver Island, a world-renowned garden.

Busy port in Skagway.

Tom booked us for this tour some time ago through an offering posted in CruiseCritic. We seldom attend ship sponsored tours due to the crowds and long lines. However, this smaller private group tour will suit our needs.

Besides, I’ve wanted to visit this world famous garden for years, and Tom surprised me with this booking a while back. That’s not to say that he loves visiting botanical gardens but he’s always been more than willing to see the many we’ve toured throughout our travels. In addition, his keen eye makes him the first to point out an ideal photo op.

Church near the shore in Skagway.

Usually, we post stories and photos while we’re still on location whether living in a specific country or on a cruise. In this case, with Butchart Gardens, we’ll be adding the many photos we’ll have taken today over the course of the next several weeks while we’re in Minnesota.

What stories will we tell while in Minnesota when most of our time will be spent with family and friends? We’re not inclined to post lots of family related information here in our posts. 

Boats and ocean front property in Juneau.

Let’s face it, most people quickly tire of hearing about other’s grandchildren and family members other than a few shots and quips here and there. Unfortunately, such will be the case for us. 

We’ll post of few photos of family members and friends with their permission but will not focus on turning our site into a family album. Most readers have their own family albums and don’t care to spend weeks looking at ours. 

Cruise ships in the port of Ketchikan.

Instead, we plan to share photos of places we’ll visit, magical and interesting moments we experience and the beauty of Minnesota. Of course, with so much to do and people to see in Minneapolis, its unlikely we’ll be traveling far from town. But, if we do, we’ll certainly incorporate those photos into the daily posts.

We have no doubt, we’ll have plenty of photos to share and stories to tell during these upcoming six weeks including dining in restaurants, visiting parks and lakes and sharing morsels about the hotel where we’ll be staying which is located in a lovely area.

A tiny portion of Tongass National Park/Forest which is the largest national forest in the United States with 17 million acres.

We’ve decided to share the final expenses for the cruise today rather than tomorrow which will be a very busy travel day in getting off the cruise, taking a taxi to the airport, flying to Minnesota, picking up the rental car and driving to our hotel.  

Here are the total expenses for the nine-night Alaskan cruise on Celebrity Solstice:

Expense US Dollar
Cruise Fare  $                  4,416.38
Airfare  $                                 
Taxi   $                          8.41
Cabin Credit  $                   (500.00)
Gratuities  $                     243.00
Tours  $                        77.00
Additional Gratuities  $                        80.00
Cruise Bill for Purchaes  $                     496.00
Total  $                  4,820.79
Avg Daily Cost – 9 days  $                     535.64
Hand carved the statue of the popular and commonly seen bald eagle in Alaska. For more details on Alaska bald eagles, please click here.

This morning, I attempted to get a copy of our bill in order to itemize how we spent the $500 cabin credit. Unfortunately, the line at guest services would have required an hour wait or more. 

Instead, here’s an overview from memory of roughly how we spent the non-refundable cabin credit; gifts for family, hats, gloves and a scarf for cold days in Alaska, a few cosmetic and toiletry items and one zip sweatshirt. No beverages were charged to our account. 

Ketchikan Duck Tours, a popular open air bus for tourists.

We received all the bottled water we wanted from the Captain’s Club free happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 pm each evening. Tom only consumed alcoholic beverages during the two-hour event each evening while I drank complimentary hot tea and water. Neither of us ever drank a soda.

Stunning views in Sitka.

The tour expense listed at $77 is for today’s Butchart Gardens tour. The additional gratuities are for our cabin steward and the restaurant hostess. We didn’t include a tip for the dining room assistant for my meals when my meals were often not prepared correctly or served on time. There was no airfare associated with this cruise since we arrived by cruise ship.

Tomorrow, we’ll prepare and upload a post while waiting to get off the ship, while waiting for our 1:15 pm flight at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle. Most likely, it will be available at the usual time.

 Read here for an interesting story about the building of this tunnel in downtown Ketchikan.

We’ll be thinking of all of you and the photos you may enjoy while we tour the fabulous Butchart Gardens which appears to be taking place on a sunny day on beautiful Vancouver Island!

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 25, 2016:

In Bali on the prior day’s pst post, we shared a photo of two buffalos wandering by during dinner and here were four buffalos on a hike from the river seen that evening. For more details, please click here.

Sitka, a surprising Alaskan experience…

The cloudy scenes were appealing, although a sunny day in Sitka would have been nice.

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:

Grizzly’s Wood Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:
220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447
Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so.  Hope to see you then!
It’s not easy to describe Sitka, Alaska. It’s a combination of rustic cabins, many worn and tattered, ocean front homes of varying sizes and value and a few more modern properties built or being built by those seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of life in more populous areas in North America and other parts of the world.
The “Welcome to Sitka Alaska” sign greeted us as we disembarked the ship.
However, it’s easy to see how Sitka may become the chosen place to-run-away-and-hide from the rigors of big city life. The surrounding scenery is some of the most exquisite in the world, rife with wildlife, lush vegetation, mysterious little islands and some of the world’s most prolific fishing suitable for all skill levels.
There are thousands of small islands in the sea surrounding Alaska.
Here are some fun facts we found on Sitka from this website:
  1. Sitka is the first and oldest city in Alaska, some sources say it is 10,000 years old

  2. For 63 years Sitka was a major Russian port. (Fur trading)

  3. Sitka was the site of the signing of the Alaska purchase on October 18th, 1867.

  4. The City and Borough of Sitka, Alaska, encompasses 4,710 square miles, making it the largest city in the United States.

  5. Sitka, Alaska is the 4th largest city in Alaska by population after Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. (Population around 9,000)

  6. Sitka was featured in the hit US movie, “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock, although most of the scenes of the city are actually filmed in Boston

  7. Smithsonian Magazine named Sitka number 9 in the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013

  8. Travel Channel Recently Featured Sitka on their popular show “Bizarre Foods

  9. James Michener lived here while writing his epic novel Alaska

  10. John O Connell Bridge between Baranof and Japonski Island is the first cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere

We were the only ship in port and the crowds in the town weren’t wrong.

As is the case in each location we visit, we ask ourselves the interminable questions, “Should we return here for a two or three-month stay or could we ever live here?” Yes, to the first question. No, to the second.

Our bus driver explained that most days it was so foggy and cloudy a scene such as this would have been impossible.

We’ll never live in such a cold and snowy location after spending a lifetime in Minnesota for Tom, and over 40 years for me, in the frozen tundra that so well describes the winter months in the cold northern state, bordering Manitoba, Canada.

Walrus tusk decorator items.

Then again, the bigger question becomes…”Will we ever “live” anywhere permanently?” Highly unlikely, based on our current joy in living as nomads, a lifestyle we’ve easily adopted, hopefully for the long haul.

Me in another giant bear chair.

Yesterday, after uploading the post, we bundled up in warm clothing and made our way to deck two to depart the ship for the free bus shuttle to downtown Sitka. 

Is this some type of Bison?

Getting off the ship was relatively quick and easy but the line inside the visitor’s center waiting to board the free shuttle buses was long and slow. We waited for no less than 20 minutes. 

Me, posing in yet another bear chair.

The ride to the center of the small town was another 15 minutes but the breathtaking scenery on the way and the informational chatter of the bus driver kept us occupied.

St. Michael’s Cathedral is also known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel“.

It’s nearly impossible to take good photos from a fast-moving bus. However, once we arrived in downtown Sitka, the photo ops were plentiful as we walked around the town bumping into other cruise passengers along the way, occasionally stopping to chat with others we’d met on the cruise.

View of St. Michael’s Cathedral from the main road.

As we wandered through the tiny town, my interest in visiting Sitka increased. The cozy small town feel, the handcrafted items in the shops, the playfulness of its residents whether the bus driver or shop owners, all play a significant role in making Sitka a desirable location for visitors.

Alternate view of the church.

We’re totally convinced that the “flavor” of Alaska is hardly perceived on a cruise. Yes, its’ a decent way to catch a few of the highlights but it’s hardly the perfect medium to fully embrace the vastness and beauty of this magical place.

Shops in the center of Sitka.

Hopefully, someday when the time comes to explore North America, Alaska will be on our itinerary if we’re able to find affordable vacation homes in a few different areas or, as our friends Chere and Gary did a few years back, rent a motorhome/caravan and explore on our own.

A pretty scene from the shoreline in Sitka.

Today is a sea day. We’re comfortably situated in Cafe al Bacio on deck five in perfect seats for viewing the upcoming Egg Drop Contest, whereby ambitious passengers make contraptions from which they can competitively drop raw eggs from upper decks to the atrium floor on deck three. It’s a silly but fun event we always find humorous to watch.

View of the bay in Sitka.

With no breakfast this morning, we’ll head to lunch after the Egg Drop Contest, the Captain’s Club happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, dinner in the Epernay Dining Room by 7:15 and later head to the 9:00 pm show in the Solstice Theatre. At 10:15 pm, we’ll stay up for the adult comedy show.

The dense fog in the forested hills.

Between preparing today’s post, managing our many photos, chatting with passengers, my working out in the gym, the sea day and evening will be packed with plenty to keep us occupied and entertained.

Tom, by our ship.

Tomorrow is packing day. In 48 hours, we’ll be disembarking the ship to grab a taxi to the Sea-Tac airport to fly to Minnesota. How the time has flown!

Be well.  Be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, May 24, 2016:

A year ago we had the opportunity to meet Gede’s our house man’s gracious parents who live in Lovina, Bali where we went to extend our 30-day visas. For more details, please click here.

Part 2, Hubbard Glacier…Wow! Wow! Wow!

We encounter aspects of this world in our travels that leave us emotional with our mouths agape in sheer wonder and awe.  Such was the case yesterday when our ship sailed to the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.

As we approached the Hubbard Glacier.

Our captain’s adventurous nature and desire to please his passengers got us as close as any cruise ship dare venture when calvings (equivalent to avalanches) were occurring every 10 minutes or so.

Beautiful mountains surround the glacier.

We’d love to have been able to capture calving, but they happened so quickly we kept missing the photo op, especially without our tripod handy on deck five, where we stayed watching the glorious scene for over two hours.

As always, Tom was having a great time.

It was cold outside, and we were bundled up as best as we could with the clothing we have on hand; lightweight jackets, flannel shirts leftover from chilly Penguin, Tasmania, and gloves we’d purchased in the ship’s Alaska shop. I’d added a hat and scarf to my glove purchase, but none were available for men.

At times, we wondered if dark chunks of floating ice were wildlife, but alas, we never saw an animal in the area.

Tom, who more easily stays warm than I, had no trouble staying warm while I nestled up close to him for some added body heat.  Many passengers had brought along heavy down jackets and gloves, but we have no room for such items.

As it turned out, the dark ice was a compilation of rock and dirt trapped in ice.

When we’re on the Antarctica cruise in January, we’ll be renting complete cold-weather outfits through the ship’s pricey rental program. Still, it is undoubtedly better than purchasing everything we’d most likely never use again.

Close up of the top layer of Hubbard Glacier.

After the few hours on deck five, we headed up to our veranda, where we could take the more steady of the two videos included here today when we used the tripod placed on the outdoor table.

This expanse of the glacier is approximately ten stories high.

Although the sun tried to peek through from time to time, the conditions were overcast with dense clouds. Nevertheless, we did our best with the photos, knowing they wouldn’t be perfect in less-than-ideal situations.

Ice floating in the rippling sea as we neared the glacier.

We both feel we’ll need to purchase a more sophisticated camera while we’re in the US, especially with Antarctica and Africa upcoming in the future. These simple cameras we’ve owned over these past years are no longer sufficient for our needs.

The size of the glacier is hard to believe, and it continues to grow over time.

Although I still have a lot to learn about taking photos, I think I’m ready to go to the next level, perhaps taking an online course to help me. I’ve been hoping a more technologically advanced camera would hit the market soon within a reasonable price range that is relatively easy to use without changing many settings while shooting.

The closer we maneuvered toward the glacier, the more the floating ice in the sea.  It’s still early in the summer season.

Alas, I’ve yet to encounter such a product and will soon begin searching for what will work well when weight is a significant factor for me and our baggage. We certainly don’t need any added weight to our already heavy bags and carry-on.

Suppose our current camera continues to hold up. In that case, we’ll keep it since Tom seems to be getting good at handling it, and the idea of us each taking photos in both of the upcoming locations might prove to be the best idea for capturing unique and memorable shots. 

An edge of the glacier.

Today, we’re in Sitka with a plan to get off the ship and explore yet another tourist-orientated town with shops and restaurants. Of course, there’s so much more to see in Alaska, but we’re convinced that someday we’ll return and do so in our way and time.

In reality, one-day visits to ports of call generally don’t do it for us, with a few exceptions. Instead, it’s the magic of living in a location for a period that provides us with the type of experiences that fill our hearts and minds with the richness and depth of any location, hardly accomplished in one day regardless of any tours on which a traveler may embark.

At specific points, the ice appears blue.

This further exemplifies our chosen method of traveling…not quickly skipping from one location to another, instead of spending the time to discover the wonders this fantastic world has to offer.

Of course, one generally doesn’t stay long at the Hubbard Glacier, and for our purposes, this cruise fulfilled our expectations. The sights and scenes yesterday left us reeling with delight over having decided to spend these short nine days on this Alaskan cruise.

We’ll be back tomorrow with many more photos we’ve yet to share.  Have a beautiful day filled with richness and wonder!

Photo from one year ago today, May 22, 2016:

One of the narrow roads we walked in the neighborhood in Bali. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1, Hubbard Glacier, Alaska…Wow! Wow! Wow!…

Tom, hatless and happy anyway!

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:

Grizzly’s Wood Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:
220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447
Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so.  Hope to see you then!

As we began posting this morning as we were nearing the Hubbard Glacier and we were both bundled up in our warmest clothing, prepared to bolt outdoors as the ship made the approach although not cold in the realm of Alaskan weather and we were very excited to get as near to the glacier as possible. 

Me, bundled up and freezing my you-know-what off!
 For details on this massive glacier please see below from this site:

“Hubbard Glacier

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard landsat-tn.jpg
False color image of the Hubbard Glacier
Type Tidewater/Mountain glacier AKA Valley Glacier
Location Yakutat City and Borough, Alaska, U.S., Yukon, Canada
Coordinates 60°18′50″N 139°22′15″WCoordinates: 60°18′50″N 139°22′15″W
Length 122 kilometers (76 mi)
Terminus Sealevel
Status Advancing
Hubbard Glacier is a glacier located in eastern Alaska and part of Yukon, Canada, and named after Gardiner Hubbard.

Map of Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska, squeezes towards Gilbert Point on May 20, 2002. The glacier is close to sealing off Russell Fjord at the top from Disenchantment Bay at the bottom.

The longest source for Hubbard Glacier originates 122 kilometers (76 mi) from its snout and is located at about 61°00′N 140°09′W, approximately 8 kilometers (5 mi) west of Mount Walsh with an elevation around 11,000 feet (3,400 m). A shorter tributary glacier begins at the easternmost summit on the Mount Logan ridge at about 18,300 feet (5,600 m) at about 60°35′0″N 140°22′40″W.
Before it reaches the sea, Hubbard is joined by the Valerie Glacier to the w. Throughout forwarding surges of its own, it has contributed to advancing the ice flow that experts believe will eventually dam the Russell Fjord from Disenchantment Bay waters.
The Hubbard Glacier ice margin has continued to advance for about a century. In May 1986, the Hubbard Glacier surged forward, blocking the outlet of Russell Fjord and creating “Russell Lake.” All that summer, the new lake filled with runoff; its water level rose 25 meters (82 ft), and the decrease in salinity threatened its sea life.[1]
Around midnight on October 8, the dam began to give way. In the next 24 hours, an estimated 5.3 cubic kilometers (1.3 cup mi) of water gushed through the gap, and the fjord was reconnected to the ocean at its previous level.[1] This was the second most significant glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in recorded history, and 35 Niagara Fal equivalent flows.
In spring 2002, the glacier again approached Bert Point. It pushed a terminal moraine ahead of its face and closed the opening again in July. On August 14, the terminal moraine was washed away after rains had raised the water level behind the dam it formed to 18 m (59 ft) above sea level.[2] The fjord could become dammed again, and perhaps permanently. If this happens, the fjord could overflow its southern banks and drain through the Situk River instead, threatening trout habitat and a local airport.
It takes about 400 years for ice to traverse the length of the glacier, meaning that the ice at the foot of the glacier is about 400 years old. The glacier routinely calves[3] off icebergs the size of a ten-story building. Where the glacier meets the bay, most of the ice is below the waterline, and newly calved icebergs can shoot up quite dramatically so that ships must keep their distance from the edge of the glacier in Disenchantment Bay.”

Now, late in posting, we’re rushing to upload today’s post with the first round of Hubbard Glacier photos we took while standing for several hours on the deck in the icy cold weather totally entranced by the sight before our eyes. 

We had no idea how magnificent it would be.By noon, after the close sailing to the glacier, we’d scheduled to meet Diane and Helen for lunch in the dining room. We’d met them on the last RC cruise from Sydney to Seattle, finally managing to find one another on the Solstice so we could catch up.

Photos don’t do this massive glacier justice.

Cafe al Bacio was packed when we arrived after the enjoyable long lunch so we sat with another couple for a half hour and chatted while we waited for a table in our usual spot along the railing.

A table opened up only a short time ago and soon we were situated at our favorite table and chairs, all in the ergonomically correct position for ultra comfortable typing and researching.

As soon as we upload today’s post, we’ll return to the cabin to shower and dress for the evening. Thank goodness tonight is “casual” dress which makes the prep time quick and painless.

The remainder of the day includes a Cruise Critic private party in one of the “royal” suites on the 11th deck to which we’re invited and will attend. Afterward, we’re meeting a couple in the Captain’s Club lounge for happy hour from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm. 

Then, we’re off to dinner in the Epernay Dining Room where we’ll share a table with other passengers who enjoy sharing. By 9:00 pm, we’ll take off for the night’s entertainment in the Solstice Theatre. We’ve discovered we prefer to sit on the balcony level of the theater preferably in a back row.

While we watched there were numerous “calvings”, the equivalent of an avalanche on a glacier.  A loud sonic type boom followed several seconds later.  It was unreal!
If a show doesn’t entertain us, inconspicuously, we can slip away.  With both of us possessing “short attention spans” we seldom find one of us prefer to stay for the show unless it extra special. It’s not uncommon for one or both of us to nod off during a show.
Over these next few days, we’ll share the balance of our Hubbard Glacier photos and our up-close-and-personal experiences in participating in this extraordinary observational event.
Thanks to our readers for hanging with us during these past 30 nights of cruising “less the two nights we spent in Vancouver before boarding the Solstice).
With only four days remaining until we disembark on Friday, catching our flight to Minneapolis, our hearts are filled with enthusiasm to see our loved ones once again. Lots more Hubbard Glacier photos will follow tomorrow!
Have a lovely evening and be well and happy.
Photo from one year ago today, May 22, 2016:
This close up of my dinner in Bali appeared to be a lot of chicken. But, once I dig in there are only a few good bites on each leg and thigh section. Tom eats the two breasts and a little meat, but the dark, which I prefer, is sparse due to locally lean free-range chickens.  For more Bali photos, please click here.