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Category Archives: Travel

liz pic 1

Packing my favorite grey leather motorcycle jacket for my recent weekend ride got me thinking about this iconic jacket style. I purchased my current version in Italy in 2012. It was a little pricy but I have absolutely no regrets. To get that same jacket in the US, I would have probably paid three times as much. And the quality of the leather is like “butta”. I have another black version, a little less fitted, with a fur liner, that I have taken on all of my motorcycle trips and it has withstood wind, cold, sand, dirt, rain, and hail.

So, where did what me call the motorcycle or moto style jacket originate? Well, in 1929, brothers Irving and Jack Schott, the sons of Russian immigrants, created the first biker jacket, which they called the Perfecto. initially made for utility purposes, it quickly came to stand for all things cool, rebellious, and edgy. The company, Schott, NYC is still in existence today making some pretty cool versions of the classic jacket.

Try to imagine James Dean, Marlon Brando or Fonzie without the leather motorcycle jacket. Not possible.

Then try to imagine what you would wear in place of your leather motorcycle jacket whether you want to dress up or dress down an outfit and stay warm. It can even be worn over formal wear. In fact, I can’t think of an occasion when I would not wear one.



We like to take our stuffed animal, Mikhail, with us when we travel. Mikhail was adopted on Christmas Eve, 2009. She has traveled on two long motorcycle trips with us so far as well as other shorter trips. I discovered that taking stuffed animals on trips is not that unusual. In fact, the British hotel chain, Travelodge, completed a survey of Britons and found that 35% of adults sleep with a stuffed animal, this after finding so many left behind in rooms (this is no way to treat your loved one!) Many travelers bring their stuffed animals with them as a reminder of their families at home.

On the website, WikiHow, I found this article on how to travel with a stuffed animal!

1. Pack the things you want for your stuffed animal. Pack clothes, collars, and blankets for your stuffed animal. Your pet can’t be happy without the required stuff for her.

Since we pack light, the only accessory Mikhail has is a scarf to tie around her neck.

2. Make sure your stuffed animal can fit in your backpack or make a personal space in the car or an airplane. In the car or on an airplane, put a blanket on the seat next to you and lay her down there.

Mikhail rides on the seat beside me on the bike. I do have to tie her on so she doesn’t blow off. In a car, she can sit wherever she wants.

3. At your destination, put her in your purse with her head sticking out. You need to carry your animal and go sight-seeing with her. It builds plenty of memories.

I put Mikhail in my backpack…sometimes looking out, sometimes looking in (for safety reasons).

4. Buy things for her at gift shops. There could be shirts for dogs that you can use for your stuffed animal, rare necklaces, charms, and other things that are great for your pet. Make sure they are affordable.

We have not done this yet.

 5. In the hotel room or cabin (for cruises), give her a special spot on your bed. Put a blanket on the end of your bed and lay her on top! She’ll be sleeping on something cozy and she’ll feel protected because she is right next to you.

Done that!

6. Take pictures with her! Take a picture in front of something very cool. Let’s say you’re in Paris! Take a picture of her in front of the tower!

Done that!

7. Tell her about everything she sees! Act like a tour guide and explain some wonderful sights. This makes your animal seem more real, and more fun! You’ll also feel smart.

I admit it…done that!

8. Buy her a new friend! In some shops that you’ll see, you are going to find a stuffed animal that could be the perfect friend for your stuffed animal! Buy her one and introduce each other! Make them best friends, or sisters!

She has a friend at home, a yellow lab.

9. Feed her some of the unique foods you find! She’ll have a full tummy and she’ll be just as excited as you are.

Never have done that!

10. Play with her while you’re in the hotel room. After a long day of exploring, you’ll forget there is also playing needed! Make her dance, have her jump around, and have a dinner with her! She’ll be so happy that you didn’t forget to play.

Occasionally, she is usually very tired.

12. On the last day when you go home, have her wear everything you bought for her! That cute shirt in a foreign language or that beautiful necklace needs to be worn on your cute pet! Wearing it on the last day shows that you and your animal had a great time and you loved visiting that place. It shows festive, unique happiness. It celebrates your visit!

Since we don’t usually buy her anything, this is probably not going to happen.

12. At home, remind her of the loving and familiar place you both call home. Make some brownies or cookies and enjoy a movie with your pet, relaxing at home and remembering those fun times you had on your vacation!

Right now, she just needs a good bath.

Mikhail’s First Day With Us – She liked having her picture taken from the start


Ready to Roll

Mikhail Enjoyed the Ocean Views

Mikhail Made it to the Continental Divide

Mikhail Making Friends

Mikhail’s at the Golden Gate Bridge

Mikhail Crossing the State Line

Mikhail’s First Trip to Florida


Mikhail toured the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee

Mikhail in Arkansas

Taking a Break by the River

In For the Night

If you took a poll of any student at Louisiana State University, most would think that it was always located in the capital city of Baton Rouge. But they would be wrong.

It was originally built in central Louisiana, in what now is the city of Pineville. It was founded in 1853 and named the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy. The institution opened January 2, 1860, with Col. William Tecumseh Sherman as superintendent. The school closed June 30, 1861, because of the Civil War. It reopened on April 1, but was again closed on April 23, 1863, due to the invasion of the Red River Valley by the federal army.

The seminary reopened October 2, 1865, only to be burned October 15, 1869. On November 1, 1869, it reopened again, this time in Baton Rouge, where it has since remained.

But why was it originally located here? It was due to a man named George Mason Graham, a native Virginian but with connections to local, state, and federal government. Graham was named in 1856 as Vice Chairman, with the Governor of the state as acting chairman, of the Board of Trustees entrusted with the establishment of a state university. As it so happened both Graham and the Governor at the time, Gov. James Madison Wells, were from Rapides Parish, and so, not surprisingly, the school was established here.

Graham lived in Tyrone Plantation, which he built in 1843. The plantation is located on Bayou Rapides, about a mile from my home.

The original LSU site in Pineville is located across the street from where I work. The U.S. Forest Service partnered with LSU in developing the site as a historical attraction and opened a walking trail. Along the trail are ruins of the foundation and “ghost walls” to designate the location of the building’s original walls, as well as informative markers.

So almost every day, I pass by both the home of the “Father of LSU” and its original location. How cool is that!


I am not sure everything is always bigger and better in Texas…but this was the case for our meal at The Farmhouse Restaurant in Van, TX. You can’t get anymore Texan than chicken fried steak, country-style milk gravy, mashed potatoes (with more gravy), and my choice of vegetable – English pea salad (not really a vegetable per se…but who cares)!

The Farmhouse got its name due to the fact that the restaurant was actually built around an old barn. The restaurant houses antiques such as an old tractor, farm equipment, and various memorabilia. We arrived on Sunday, before the “church crowd”, and it was bustling when we left. The food was definitely home cookin and the staff was down home friendly. No room for the pie…although I did have to look and take a photo.

At the end of my post from August 8, 2012, titled “Only The Lonely”, I mentioned waiting on my certificate from the Nevada Commission on Tourism for “surviving” Hwy 50, the so-called Loneliest Road in America. Well, it came in the mail today! Along with a cute pin that reads “I rode mine – Hwy 50 Nevada”. I plan on adding the pin to my Army backpack that I use to travel.

BTW: The English translation of the Latin phrase “Fortes fortuna adiuvat” on the certificate is “Fortune favors the brave”. According to Wikipedia, the phrase means that Fortuna, the Goddess of Luck, is more likely to help those who take risks or action.

We saw some of the most spectacular scenery driving on I-70 through Utah. I wish we could have spent more time but we were able to see so much on the ride and stopped at various scenic vista areas such as the San Rafael Swell and Ghost Rock.

I was in awe of the massiveness of the rock formations and canyons as well as the striations of colors. I only found out the geological science of the area when I returned home. You don’t need to know this information to appreciate the beauty but it is interesting.

According to the website, ,wind shifted massive sand dunes and the sand was deposited in whirls of layers. Buried over eons of geological time, the sands ceased movement and turned to stone. The compressed and cemented rock is called sandstone. Flowing water cut out the cliffs and canyons.

But what makes the colors? It is the union of iron and oxygen to form the mineral hematite.  A chemical reaction occurs whereby iron is oxidized by exposure to air or oxygenated water. The red sandstones are caused by microscopic, oxidized iron films of the mineral hematite spreading and coating the quartz grains. The amount of hematite is very small, but since iron is a powerful pigment a little red goes a long way!

Although red is the common pigment color, not all iron oxides are red; some are brown or yellow (the minerals are limonite or goethite), and some are black (the mineral is magnetite). Some iron minerals are metallic yellow (the mineral is pyrite consisting of iron sulfide) or green (the minerals are chlorite or clay consisting of iron silicate).

Under certain conditions, iron pigment will dissolve in water and be removed, or be rendered colorless by chemical reactions with the water. This causes the bleaching effect on the sandstone.

At the end of the day, we arrived in Fruita, Colorado, just beyond the Utah/Colorado border. This is where we ate some of Mexican food at El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant.

I wanted a memento of the places we traveled on vacation, so I designed my own Vacation Charm Bracelet. The elements include a wine cork from a bottle of Luna Vineyards Sangiovese from Napa Valley. I cut the cork in four parts where the letters were stamped on one side, LUNA, and the date, 2008, on the other. I modpodged the same letters and numbers to the flat side of the cork pieces. I added a medal I purchased from Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso, one of the many missions we visited in California.  Then for color and to represent the different scenery, a shell bead for the beach and jasper beads for the mountains and forest, as well as Globe turquoise for the Southwest and the desert. A motorcycle charm seemed a fitting finish. They dangle on a sterling silver link chain.

What do you need to have with you before traveling along the “Loneliest Road in America“? Water, for sure, and enough gas too, and maybe a big bowl of spicy hot chili!

Nevada State Highway 50 crosses the center of state and was named The Loneliest Road in America by Life magazine in July 1986.  The route is historic due to its origins as a Pony Express trail. The 287 mile stretch is named this due to its passage through several large desert valleys and lack of civilization. There are some signs of life while passing through the historical towns of Fernley, Fallon, Austin, Eureka, and Ely.

Our first stop was in Middlegate Junction, a lone building that houses a restaurant/bar/gas station. We stopped for cool drinks and to rest up a little.

Next stop was Austin for lunch. This town was founded by Pony Express riders but then became a silver mining boomtown. For some reason, even though it was very hot out, I decided to have a bowl of chili at the Toiyabe Cafe.

We took a long break in the town of Eureka, and explored the Eureka Opera House, which was built in the year 1880, and still used today. The courthouse across the street (photo below) is a historical building as well.

This road is isolated in places. There were times we did not see another vehicle for miles. The elevation is 6,000 feet in the valleys and up to 10,000 feet for the surrounding peaks. The scenery was beautiful in its starkness and the miles of road stretched before and after us.

When we made it to Ely, we could say we “survived” Hwy 50. In fact, you can get a Hwy 50 Survival Guide and have it validated at each community along the route. Once it has been stamped, you mail it in to the Nevada Commission on Tourism and get a certificate to commemorate your successful journey across “The Loneliest Road in America“. I am waiting on mine!

I have been blogging about my food experiences on vacation but I will divert somewhat and focus on my wine tasting experiences in the Sonoma and Napa Valley areas. First of all, even if you do not drink wine, which my fellow traveler, after 33 years of sobriety does not, you can still love this area of California. The scenery alone will intoxicate you.

Many of the wineries are fascinating to tour with their large estates and lush landscaping. Also, you can see the vineyards up close. Riding on a motorcycle was a great way to tour the area.

Imagery Winery, part of the Benzinger Family Wineries, was one of the first we visited. It includes a gallery of the artwork that is created for each and every unique wine label. They are a boutique winery and only sell their wines there, no distribution. The wines were good, especially a Sauvignon Blanc called WOW Oui, but the information I received from the server was invaluable. Apparently, just as most people have a dominant hand or ear, most have a dominant nostril. By sniffing with my right, dominant nostril, I was able to smell the bouquet of the wine so much better that using both nostrils.

I am no wine connoisseur, and I think most of the vineyards have good wines, what probably differentiates them is the wine tasting experience. One of the smaller wineries we visited was Schug Carneros Estate Winery in the Sonoma area. It had a very small tasting room, nothing fancy like some of the other wineries we visited, but their 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir was quite good. The server here was very informative as well. She explained the difference between the appellations or regions where the vineyards are located and how the climate (temperature, fog, rainfall, soil, etc.) affect the characteristics of the wine.

Other wineries we visited were Jacuzzi Family Vineyards (yes, the same family as the Jacuzzi spa), which had a beautiful tasting room inside a Tuscan  style villa.

Notice the sunglasses someone put on this cool dude!

There was no wine tasting at the last winery we visited but I did enjoy a glass of sparkling wine on the outdoor patio area and soaked in the beautiful views from the hilltop Artesa Vineyards and Winery.


The best cup(s) of coffee we had on vacation, no contest, was at The Mainstreet Grill located in Half Moon Bay, CA. We were passing through the town and while I was not terribly hungry, I did want coffee for warmth and a little pep. We chose this place because it looked like it had been around for a while, having that old-fashioned diner appearance. We sat down at the counter which was a great place to watch and listen to the owner/cook sing along to the oldies music playing on the juke box. It seemed to be his schtick, cooking and singing along now and then.

Larry had a full breakfast while I had the home fries – yummy smothered potatoes. We both had multiple cups of the delicious Kona coffee. No photos of food this time, but a few other snapshots of Larry with the menu and the main street area of HMB.