May 25, 2017
Paul Groves

Yosemite–Day 5 of 5

Yosemite National Park–Day 5

Since I did not see Happy Isles and The Fen, we took a walk to that area this morning. It was interesting to see the water level sign from the 1997 Flood. We can see the water level from yesterday and today… pretty high. After that walk, we packed and the students showed up around noon. We are going to get on the road. We overnight in Fresno and then drive back to Sylmar on Friday. Wonderful Trip, but it will be nice to have a room with a bathroom attached!

May 25, 2017
Paul Groves

Yosemite–Day 4 of 5

Yosemite National Park–Day 4

We did different things today. Ron hiked an uphill trail to see Vernal Falls. He also walked through Happy Isles watching the rushing water (higher and faster than usual for this time) and visited the Fen, a marshy area with feathery fields of fern (alliteration) that gave a fluffy, fuzzy appearance to the landscape.

During the same time, Paul went with Yosemite Art Center’s guest teacher, Sonja Hamilton, for a watercolor class outdoors. When you paint out in nature, that is called “plein air” painting that brings with it its own set of problems such as where to sit, where to put your palette, packing in your clean water and packing out your dirty water, and lunch (that I forgot). Sonja was a very good teacher and the first two hours was us watching her paint while she discussed the choices she was making and techniques she was using. The second two hours was work time for painting our own views of the falls. I learned a lot (not enough, obviously, from my paintings below).

We stopped at the Falls View, below Lower Yosemite Falls. We could also see Upper Yosemite Falls, but part of painting is deciding what portion of nature you will focus on for the moment. I also tried to paint a little ladybug I saw on a bench while taking a rest from hiking.

May 25, 2017
Paul Groves

Yosemite–Day 3 of 5

Yosemite National Park–Day 3

For Day 3, we signed up for a tour of the valley floor on “the Green Dragon”, a truck-pulled trailer of four-person seats. This was a two hour tour led by a Park Ranger, Carol. She has been in service in the Park for many years and was knowledgeable as well as interesting. She told us that the water level (due to the snow melting in this warm weather) is 177% of normal. Some of the tent-houses are flooded, the swinging bridge is underwater, and the river is too fast to allow rafting. On the other hand, there are waterfalls to see that are often just a trickle or do not exist at all a little later in the year. Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Vernal Falls are more impressive than usual. Our Ranger also told us of a huge flood in 1997 while she was here. A sign commemorates the amazing height of the water.

We stopped at several places to stretch our legs and take pictures. One of the stops was called Tunnel View, a vista point just after you pass through a tunnel on the south entrance. One of the other visitors took our picture, unfortunately, I am totally blocking a waterfall!

When we stopped to view El Capitan, Ron, with his eagle eyes, picked out two climbers on the face of the rock. The Ranger explained to us that the climbers work in teams of two. I was amazed to learn that a climb might take five days and that the climbers must carry a gallon of water for each climber for each day! Add to that food, climbing gear, and sleeping gear and that is much more of an adventure than I would want to try.

After the tour and lunch, we headed over to The Majestic (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel). It was built to attract the richer guests. It has some very nice features. We especially liked the tall stain glassed windows in the lobby. Rather than take the shuttle back to our camp, we walked and enjoyed the views and waterways. After dinner, Half Dome looked great in the setting sunlight. Another wonderful day in Yosemite and no emergency calls and no drama.

May 23, 2017
Paul Groves

Yosemite–Day 2 of 5

The Merced River runs through the valley. I liked this view of Half Dome over the river. Even when the light is nearly gone, the Merced River is beautiful and gentle. We had to take a Selfie during our walk and my eye was caught by this nice contrast in colors and textures of the leaves against the moss on the bark of the tree.

On our way to the viewpoint for Yosemite Falls, Ron ventured out on a log over a stream for a photo opportunity. We have watched for wildlife and have seen birds, squirrels, and several deer. Here is a photo of our tent cabin in Camp Curry. Notice the “bear box” outside where we have to store anything that has a food-like odor. We put our granola bars, shampoo, and deodorant in the box. In the night, I have heard some rustling noises, but it is probably only people going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The pretty yellow-white flowers are on the Dogwood trees. They contrast nicely with the dark bark of the surrounding trees.

I keep using this phrase, “The photo simply does not do this justice!” We followed the trail to the view of the upper and lower Yosemite Falls and that was very nice. We then followed the trail to the Lower Yosemite Falls and Wow! We were at a large stone bridge where the spray from the falls hit you in the face, the roaring sound of the water and the people scuttling about to get pictures and enjoy the moment made this the most exciting stop of the day. Nature is so beautiful from a distance, but being closer, in the “Splash Zone” really makes a difference for the experience. Fun.

May 23, 2017
Paul Groves

Yosemite–Day 1 of 5

Yosemite National Park–Day 1

We are in beautiful Yosemite Park for five days as the Evacuation Chaperones for about 60 of my high school seniors. They hike for several days and someone needs to stay on the valley floor in case someone is injured and needs to be sent home. The chaperones were having trouble finding someone who could miss school/work for several days to help. Ta-daa. Ron and I fit the bill just fine. I am sorry that we had to call off Bingo with no notice to our players, but I am not sorry to spend five days amid this magnificent scenery. We visited Yosemite back in 1982. It was time to return.

Even on the drive into the main portion of the park, the scenery was amazing. From the car, Ron was able to photograph the valley with El Capitan and Half Dome. Coming through a tunnel, Ron captured Bridal Veil Falls with Half Dome in the distance. We are staying in a spacious and comfortable tent cabin for the five days. Luckily, there is an outlet so we can charge our camera batteries, iPhones & iPads. Walking around, Ron captured a nice image of El Capitan. Yosemite Falls (Upper Yosemite Falls) made a great picture with the mist at the bottom of the falls.

On the first night, we accompanied the group to Mirror Lake where you could see Half Dome in the evening light reflected in the relatively still water. A large stone (topped by one of the students) also made a nice reflective picture.

May 17, 2017
Paul Groves

Back Home… Back to “Normal”

Back Home, Sylmar, CA

Getting back home is great. The Grand World Voyage was amazing, but getting back to your own humble surroundings is always pleasant. Our first task was to get back into running our charity Bingo. The bingo raises money for Guide Dogs of America. Guide Dogs trains the animals (every one of them is cute) and then brings in the people who will get the dogs for training together. It is sort of like a kennel and hotel and training facility all in one. There are twelve of these centers around the country and one of them is only a few block from where we live. Cool. The players have had bingo twice a month while we were gone. They are ready to get back to a full schedule. Tuesday is Bingo Night!

The next big event was Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch. Ron and I are in charge. This event provides a nicely decorated hall, music, champagne, and cinnamon raisin French toast, scrambled eggs, fruit cup, sausage, coffee, and orange juice… all for only $10. This is so much better than fighting the crowds at a restaurant in town. We sold 200 tickets this time… a record for us. Ron and our team of volunteers prepare and cook all of the food. We were exhausted when it was all over, but everyone seemed to have a great time. Our mobile home park puts on events throughout the year, but Mother’s Day and Father’s Day two of the biggest events.

Now that we are back on land and have internet on a daily basis, we are back to our hobby of Pokémon Go. This is a perfect hobby for two retired gentlemen. As part of the game, we need to walk to catch little creatures (Teddiursa is very cute) and hatch eggs. Changes have occurred in the game since we left to see the world (evolution items, etc.). This game is a good motivation to get out and continue the walking that we did on the ship and on the excursions. We came back home in May weighing a little less than we did when we left home in January. We are working to keep healthy and fit for future adventures.

I still have AP chemistry work to do. I leave at the end of May to grade the AP chemistry exams in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am teaching three AP Summer Institutes for new AP teachers this summer as well as instructing a virtual AP Summer Institute for UCLA Extension. There are a lot of details and preparation that needs to be done. I have been working hard and am almost completely prepared.

I have ordered paints and supplies so I can continue my watercolor projects. It was so much easier to simply go up to the 9th floor deck of the ship to paint, but I will make it work.

May 2, 2017
Paul Groves

Walt Disney World – Part III

Today was our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is a little funny to be in a park that commemorates Southern California when we are FROM Southern California. Several Star Wars attractions are here and it is a reminder that Star Wars Day (May the Fourth… be with you) is in a few days. We rode a ride that takes you through recreations of famous movies and the Indiana Jones Stunt Show which was really fun and impressive. We did a few of the smaller attractions as well and saw that there are plans for a whole new Toy Story Town in the back… no date posted when THAT will be ready. All in all, we were finished with this park about noon and went back to our rooms to cool off from the increasing heat.

We had a reservation at the Artist’s Point restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge. The Lodge itself is worth seeing. It is inspired by the various National Parks where the native crafts and materials are used to build the accommodations. The Lodge lobby is huge and reminiscent of the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone only on a much grander scale. There are simulated hot springs (one inside the lobby), waterfalls, and even a geyser. The dinner was good and a little exotic. Ron had buffalo steak and I had halibut with sunflower roots.

After dinner, we went back to The Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks show. It is called “Wishes” and has been showing for many years. It is scheduled to change after May 11. Of course, regulars to The Magic Kingdom are nostalgic… sort of like when The Electrical Parade was stopped at Disneyland. Late in the evening, we were able to get on several attractions with no wait time. It was a nice finish to our visit.

We have been hearing from our World Cruise friends who have traveled home to find good or bad weather, see grandkids or see their pets. I am ready to see my mobile home and our friends at Oakridge. “There’s No Place Like Home.”

May 1, 2017
Paul Groves

Walt Disney World – Part II

The Magic Kingdom was the target of our third WDW day. We arrived at about 8:30 a.m., but the Park does not officially open until 9:00 a.m. Our first stop was the barbershop on Main Street. Ron stayed at the barbershop until it opened to be second in line. FIrst in line was a little boy who was there to have his first haircut. Meanwhile, I walked down to the castle. People were poised to move into their favorite areas for that first ride of the day or they could gather directly in front of the castle to see the Welcome to the Magic Kingdom show. I was in the group for Fantasyland so I could ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This is an attraction that was finished just after our last visit. It is a family roller coaster, so the ride is short and pretty mild with some nice visuals of what it was like to work in the Dwarfs’ jewel mine. There were a few cute mini-attractions in the waiting line for this ride as well. It was fun and over too quickly, but I was able to check THAT off of my “To Do” list.

An attraction that they do not have in our Disneyland Park is Mickey’s Philharmagic. This is a clever 3D movie that revisits songs and singers from several of the most popular Disney films (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc.) while Donald is trying to retrieve the blue wizards cap. We actually spent most of our time in the Park playing an interactive game where we were seeking out pirate treasure. Around Adventureland, there are spots where your Disney wrist band will activate an area with lights, animated objects, and sounds to give you clues to the pirate’s treasure. You must follow instructions and visit the correct sites in the correct order. If you do, you get a souvenir card. There are five different treasures. At one point, you even get a Fast Pass to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

We rode the Jungle Ride one more time. I don’t seem to get tired of the bad jokes and puns on that ride. Our captain was very funny this time. She really put herself into the role.

We had dinner in their version of Downtown Disney at a place called Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming. The food was very tasty, but we ordered too much. We had two starters, hush puppies with jalapeño jelly (yum) and their thigh-high chicken biscuit sandwiches (three little biscuit/chicken sliders) that were also wonderful. After eating those, we had our server make the entree to go. We were going to share one entree anyway, but we were full. We only ordered the entree because the title intrigued us… Chicken and Donuts. I kind of expected something magical about the combination, but it was just what it said, a couple of good pieces of fried chicken and two donuts! The country gravy over mashed potatoes were good, however. After dinner, we walked around the shops. I have a special iPhone case that I had made at Disneyland, but the outside band had separated while I was traveling around the world. It did not hurt the phone, but pieces kept sticking out from time to time catching on my pocket. In the Co-Op store, there was a D-Tech, the guys who made my original case. They replaced my outside band for free! How cool is that!

April 30, 2017
Paul Groves

Walt Disney World-Part I

Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Our first day at Walt Disney World was spent at the Animal Kingdom. It’s iconic symbol is the Tree of Life which looks pretty small in photos, but is actually huge and the trunk is made up of interlaced sculptures of different animals. It is worth staring at for awhile. I liked the owl and iguana and I think lobster all together in one area. The big ride was Expedition Everest which included a portion of the ride where the roller coaster car travels backwards and even does a loop da loop as we traveled backwards. I think I am glad I did not remember that part of the ride. We survived it fine, however. It was a hot day, so we went on the Kali River Rapids where you get wet. I liked the decorations as you waited in line. It reminded me of our recent trip to India. They captured the look of some of the shrines and temples. We also viewed the Lion King show which had some great singing, dancing, and the characters we remember from the movie… life-sized. Well, Timon was much larger than life-sized.

EPCOT Center was our target for the second day. The Flower and Garden Festival was taking place so there were some very impressive topiary sculptures and plantings. Our first stop was the Test Track where we designed a car and then sat in a “sim car” while it went around the test track… really fast. We got the best score for our design for efficiency, but it did not have a lot of power. Fine for driving in Los Angeles. We had brunch in the Land Pavilion where several characters came by for photo ops and to sign autographs for the kids with autograph books. Ron posed with Pluto and I posed with Dale (how can you tell the difference?… the nose). There was also a cool ground painting by Glidden Paints that looked all elongated from the side, but from below, the picture looked correct.

As the day got hotter, I tired of taking photos, but we worked our way around the World Showcase and visited little mini-countries. It was cool to relate what we saw to our recent travels. We saw Morocco, and it compared favorably with our memories… tangine slow cookers, mint tea, and the clothes. China’s building was patterned after the Temple of Heaven that we visited. This is a smaller version, but it matches my photos of the site. Pretty cool. The 360-degree film of China revisited several of our stops in China (Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square, and even the terra cotta warriors).

April 30, 2017
Paul Groves

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando, FL

Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida

Ron and I are both fans of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books so we could not pass up an opportunity to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We were here several years ago and saw Hogsmeade, but they had just announced that they were working on another portion of the world, that is, Diagon Alley. One of my strongest memories of the first visit, was that the incredible main ride in Hogwart’s Castle made me sick as a dog and I did not enjoy the rest of the day. However, as we were talking about this visit while still onboard, the idea came that we might put on our seasick patches before we went to the park. It worked very well. I felt a little queasy after the ride, but it went away almost immediately.

My favorite aspect of this section of the park is the great detail and attention to design that went into recreating Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. If you saw the films, the park looks very familiar. I enjoyed the books more than the films because you got so much more of the story s you read, but visually, I was always impressed with the films and now the park. We rode the Hogswart’s Express from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley. Universal Resort consists of two separate parks that require two different admission fees (or a park hopper sort of ticket), so to board the Hogwart’s Express, you had to show your ticket. That little attraction was fun (and any excuse to sit down where it was cool was welcomed). We ended up in London and you turn down an uninteresting brick alley to enter Diagon Alley. You could hear the bricks magically moving as you turned the corner.

The big attraction here was Escape from Gringotts, but seeing the shops recreated from the films and having breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron were actually my favorite parts of this park. I don’t remember much else of the parks except that it was pretty hot and humid. We returned to the hotel to rest and came back out after a shower and a nap when the heat had abated somewhat.