In January 2021, I cruised with Brian, Carrie and the boys to the western Caribbean. I’ve been wanting to cruise the eastern area, and after the pandemic eased, the Reeds were ready to sail again too. We booked a 7 day cruise on the Carnival Mardi Gras, Carnival’s newest and largest ship. It’s pretty spectacular, with a lot of wonderful amenities, exciting playground, and a variety of excellent entertainment. We booked two cabins, one for Brian and Carrie and one for the boys and me. The were adjacent to each other, with adjoining balconies.

We were on deck 10

The last cruise we took left from Miami, and we flew a red eye to the Miami airport and went straight to the ship. That overnight flight was brutal and left us all tired for our first day aboard, so this time we decided to fly in to Orlando the day before and spend the night in a hotel. That worked much better as we were all more rested for our first day on the ship.

A roller coaster on the top of the ship!
Several water slides and pools

We sailed out of Port Canaveral and had two days at sea as we made our way to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The excursion I did there was a walking tour of the historical sights in old San Juan. It was very interesting and I would rate it five stars for those who enjoy history and are capable of walking a few miles. But the day was very hot and humid, and much of the tour was in the sun, and I was pretty miserable by the last few blocks. Here are a few pictures I took:

Colorful houses along the city streets
Beautiful cobblestone streets made of blue stone
cast from furnace slag ballast on Spanish ships
We walked up the hill to this old fort.
Yes, I did get a stamp for my NPS Passport book!
View from the fort
Ocean view from the fort
View of the city from the hilltop
Public library (Puerto Ricans love color!)
An iguana was sunning himself on the grass
Capital building

Our second port stop was Amber Cove, Dominican Republic. Carrie was recovering from foot surgery (which she reinjured in the Phoenix airport!), so she and I chose an excursion that would involve limited walking: a bus tour of the “Mountain Views and City Sights”. The mountain views were pretty spectacular, but the city sights on the way up the mountain showed what a dirty rugged life many of the locals live. Tons of garbage along the roadside, and run down overgrown shacks with a multitude of cars, junk and kids in the yards. The second portion of the tour took us to some of the historical areas and those were nicer. Again it was a hot muggy day, and we were anxious to get back to the ship before the end. Meanwhile, Brian and the boys did a zipline, waterfalls and swimming excursion.

View of the city from the mountain top
(Tram cables behind us)
Christ the Redeemer at the top of Mount Isabel de Torres
The surrounding jungle had lots of different kinds of trees including cacao.
We went into this beautiful church
Gorgeous stained glass window at the back
Carrie & I rode in a bicycle taxi to and from the ship to rest her foot.

Our third and final port was Grand Turks, Carnival’s resort island in Turks & Caicos. We booked a snorkel and stingray excursion for the whole family. First we went out a few miles from shore where there was coral and colorful sealife, and we put on our snorkels and fins and jumped in the water.

That’s Brian in the middle of the picture.
Andrew is in the rainbow shorts.
Two Carnival ships side by side in port.

From there, we motored over to a small beach cove where many stingrays come in to mate. They are very habituated and friendly, and allow folks to handle them.

Nathan holding a stingray

I mentioned in the beginning that we had excellent entertainment all week. I think it was the better than Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. Lots and lots of different options: musical stage shows, comedians, games, casino, and the typical lounge acts.

The red curtain is actually large video screens that change backdrops throughout the shows
Some of the shows included aerial acrobats along with the singing and dancing.
This Broadway revue was in the smaller theater.
During the day, they used the Center Stage area for group games.
Notice the video screens are lifted a little, and now display the Bingo numbers.

Our final day was a sea day as we made our way back to Port Canaveral, then to Orlando where we caught a flight home, after spending the whole day in the airport. Since we had all our luggage and couldn’t check it until three hours before our 6:00 flight, we had to just hang out there. At least the Orlando airport is nice, with a mall and lots of food places inside.

It was a great trip and the boys were wonderful roommates. We’re ready to plan our next cruise.

70!

01. April 2022 · Comments Off on 70! · Categories: Life & Family

This was one of those decade birthdays for me. I turned 70 years old last weekend. Eek!!

In actuality, I’ve never really been bothered by my age. Maybe it’s because I’m active and fit and look pretty good for my years. I take good care of my health, and hope to live to 100. I love my life, especially retirement, and have the freedom and resources to do a lot of fun and fulfilling things. I think it’s a healthy mindset to have.

Carrie invited me over for dinner on Saturday night. She said Brian was playing in a golf tournament and would not be home until about 5:15, and we would eat about 5:30. On Saturday morning, I texted her that I was thinking of coming over between 4:30-5:00 to hang out and chat with her and Nathan. She was a little quiet for a moment and reminded me Brian wouldn’t be home and Nathan was working with his trainer. I said that was okay, I’d just chat with her. Again, she protested just a bit that she didn’t want me coming too early because I would try to help prepare dinner and it was my birthday. I just chuckled.

I puttered around the house in the afternoon, and held off leaving for the Reeds’ until 4:40. When I got to their house and walked into the kitchen, 22 people yelled, “Surprise!” All my Arizona family had gathered to celebrate the start of my new decade! Even Richard was there, wearing his mask and practicing social distancing while he ate.

It was a wonderful evening and felt like a reunion after so many months of Covid separation. I even got presents!! That actually made me a little uncomfortable because we don’t exchange birthday gifts, But I allowed it, because it was bringing everyone so much joy to be together.

So the reason Carrie was so unenthusiastic about me arriving early became clear. In her panic, she had Brian text everyone telling them to come 30 minutes earlier because I was “upsetting the plan.” They all installed an app on their phones that faked their Life 360 locations in case I checked that before heading out. It was probably a good thing Arizona had lost their Sweet Sixteen game so they were not playing during the party time. Everything worked out perfectly, the surprise was authentic, and it was a wonderful evening.

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/uwG_iefUOhE

(Why WordPress would let me embed the “Surprise” video but not this one, I do not know.)

The next morning, I played around with an aging app to show what I look like now that I’m 70.

I had to run my photo through the app twice to get it to look this bad. Thank goodness I don’t feel this old! Happy birthday to me!

28. December 2021 · Comments Off on A little bit of fun in a pandemic year · Categories: Life & Family

When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was holding an active Disneyland annual pass with 5 months left on it. When Disney closed the parks indefinitely, they refunded everyone’s unused portions. This indicated a long shutdown, and also led to speculation that Disney would likely alter their future ticket programs. When the closures stretched to over a year, it was hard to fault them for increasing prices, considering the size of the loss they had taken. Once they announced their reopening and posted updated ticket prices, everyone let out a huge groan, and then rushed to hand over their money, me included. After a two year and one week drought, I finally re-entered the turnstiles on December 12.

During the holidays, Disney turns their parks into the most magical Christmas place on earth, and it’s my favorite time of year to visit. From the lights and decorations on Main Street, to the delectable holiday sweets and treats, the decked out themed rides (especially It’s a Small World and the Haunted Mansion), to the gigantic Christmas tree at the entrance, it’s a spectacular delight.

As I often do, I went with Carrie and the boys, and we all shared a large hotel room. Gas prices have sky-rocketed this year, so we decided to take my Tesla. The weather forecast was nice when we made our reservations, but the closer we got to the date, the worse it looked, with cold and rain on the horizon. We packed extra warm clothes and umbrellas, and forged ahead. We ended up having one rainy day and two dry days, but it was only in the 50s all week, so we were glad to have our coats, hats and gloves, especially as the sun set each night.

Disney allows guests to go without masks outdoors, but you must wear a mask fully covering your nose, mouth and chin when indoors, including all indoor rides. I was pleasantly surprised with the level of compliance among the guests, only occasionally seeing someone’s mask drop below their nose before being kindly reminded by a cast member of the park rules.

We spent three days having lots of fun. On the last day, I convinced the family to get a leisurely start and stay in the park late after the fireworks. This used to be one of my favorite times, when the crowds disperse as families take their young children home to bed, and the ride lines open up. It’s also beautiful to experience the lights late into the night. We happened to be on the Small World ride just as the fireworks were starting, and as we came out, the rockets were going off all around us. They shoot them off over both the castle and the Small World facade, so we were right in the middle of it. What a show! The last thing we did was go over to Thunder Mountain Railroad (roller coaster) and ride it twice in succession, before making our way back to the hotel.

After being home for five days, we all took home Covid tests (just to make sure) and all tested negative. By the following week, the Omicron variant was raging across the nation and around the world, so I’m very glad we went when we did. If we had waited one more week, we likely would have chosen to cancel our plans until next year.

Hopefully, this pandemic will ease soon, and I can book a couple more visits on my pass before summer heat and crowds hit. And if I time it right, I can get another Christmas visit in next December before my pass expires.

We had a big wedding in our family a couple weeks ago! My granddaughter Megan married her sweetheart Christian Thompson.

Christian popped the question in February, and she said “YES!”

Immediately wedding preparations commenced, and Robin’s sewing/crafting studio became wedding central. Measurements were taken, dresses were ordered, alterations were made, venue was reserved, flowers were purchased, friends and family were invited, gifts were received, and love was all around!

Robin made the little girls’ dresses
Robin hand embroidered the bottom of Megan’s veil

I reserved a VRBO house in Eagle that Brian & Carrie planned to share with me, but in late summer, the Delta variant of Covid began surging, and the country went into lockdown again. B&C made the difficult decision to cancel travel plans due to their family’s health vulnerabilities. Fortunately for me, Ken had a couple aunts who were booked into an expensive hotel, and they gladly cancelled that reservation and shared my 3 bedroom house, paying part of the bill. It worked out nicely for all of us.

Nearly all of Ken’s extended family made the trip, and we had a lovely time catching up with some we had not seen since Robin & Ken’s wedding 24 years ago! Much of our time was spent in their beautiful back yard, where Ken and his mother and aunts created and served gastronomical delights. The rehearsal dinner was held there too.

Rehearsal dinner

The wedding was on Thursday evening at a rustic old mill site about 10 miles from their house.

Still Water Hollow Mill, Nampa, ID
The only picture I seem to have taken of the bridesmaids

The ceremony was beautiful, followed by a lovely reception. The evening started out warm but as the sun set, so did the temperatures, and most of us brought out our sweaters and wraps.

Daddy daughter dance
Megan smashed a bit of cake into Christian’s face.

On Friday morning, the family again gathered at Robin & Ken’s for brunch, and the newlyweds came over to open their gifts.

Megan and Christian flew off on Friday morning to honeymoon in Hawaii, and the rest of us spent another couple of days relaxing and visiting until, one by one, we all took our leave. I drove home on Sunday – Monday and picked up my happy puppy from the dog sitters. All in all, a wonderful week.

Mr. & Mrs. Christian Thompson

My brothers and I grew up in Tucson, but around 1965, we began to scatter. Richard off to PCC, then the army and Vietnam; Dale back to New York to take over Grandma & Grandpa’s farm; Daryl to San Francisco, then Taiwan, then Santa Clara; Don to Phoenix for school, then the Los Angeles area for a new job. I’m the only one who never left the state, but Roland and I left Tucson in 1985 for Mesa, leaving Mom and Dad to wrap things up on our Tucson history when they transitioned to retirement life in an RV.

Daryl moved to Tempe in 1984, just about a year before Roland and I moved to Mesa. After traveling for several years, Mom and Dad settled into a senior mobile home park in east Mesa, before moving to Fellowship Square in the late 90s. That put half of us back in close proximity, but Richard & Dianna lived in New Mexico for many years before beginning full time RV living, Dale was still in New York, and Don & Betty were living in the San Fernando Valley at that time.

Dale was the next of us siblings to make a move back to Arizona when he entered the full time RV life. Granted he didn’t have a permanent home here but the majority of his time was spent nearby, and his official mail residency was Tempe.

Two years ago, Richard’s health forced them to make the difficult decision to come off the road, and they bought a home in east Mesa in early 2020. We have helped them spruce it up over the past year while enjoying having them living nearby.

Don is semi retiring by transitioning to a contractor status with his company, and he and Betty sold their house in Winetka and bought a new(er) one in Queen Creek. They will make the big move next week.

So after 55 years of us being scattered across the country (and around the world), we will finally all be back living in close proximity again. It’ll sure be nice to have everyone in the same state again (most of the time — Dale still meanders across the border from time to time in his little home on wheels.)

We are Arizonans through and through.

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