Posted by Paul Groves on May 23, 2017

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.

Posted by Paul Groves on May 17, 2017

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.

Posted by Paul Groves on May 2, 2017

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.”

Posted by Paul Groves on May 1, 2017

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!

Posted by Paul Groves on April 30, 2017

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).