Today was mostly a rainy day. Good day for non-stop driving. Around lunchtime the sun did come out and we looked for a pulloff at a scenic spot. We struck out. For the last 2000 km I think we have counted 7 signed scenic stops. Yesterday our stop was an impromptu turn across traffic to an unmarked stretch of gravel. Today no such luck. We passed many lakes but never a place to stop beside one. USA-1, Canada-0.

Our GPS is also acting up. It gives you the time of arrival and includes traffic delays. Yesterday those predicted delays ranged from 30 minutes to five hours, but they never materialized. Today the range was up to an hour, but again no problems. Something about Canadian traffic sensors is crashing its programming. USA-1, Canada-1, GPS-0.

Because today was so wet, the only photos are from dinner at Maxime’s in Winnipeg. This is a family restaurant and serves chain-cuisine. In other words, if you know what you want (steak, fish, pizza, whatever) find a chain restaurant that specializes. Maxime tries to do everything, and is just OK.


Cute building, and the parking lot was full. The blue-hair crowd was out in force.


Helpful waiter.


Sunday special – roast beef. It was actually pretty good.


Alice ordered fish again, but en brochette. Don’t do this. You always get shorted on the headline ingredient with a brochette. I have marked the four bites of miso-honey pickerel with an “X”. There was more green pepper than fish.

Dessert was a Winnipeg specialty, the waiter said. It was angel food cake infused with lots of pecan bits that turned it brown, layered and frosted with whipped cream. It was very good and might be worth trying at home.

Tomorrow it’s off to Moose (Møøse?) Jaw, a place I have wanted to visit ever since I heard the name. Our route also takes us, two days from now, through Medicine Hat. As far as I know, the town names are the only unusual thing about them, but they have been on my bucket list for 60 years.



Friday, September 19, 2014

After another excellent breakfast (we seem to have chosen some pretty good B&Bs) we drove in the rain to pick up laundry, and then through the tourist traffic in Killarney, out to the drive called The Ring of Kerry (aka The Most Tour Buses in Ireland). Our B&B host suggested we take a short hike to the Meeting of the Waters, something tourists don’t overwhelm.


There was lots of heather (above), gorse, oak trees, moss, and wild blackberry bushes from which we picked some very flavorful berries. Our host said it was a 15 minute hike, and so did the sign in the parking lot. 25 minutes later we had not reached the end, but we could see it across the lake. The scenery was very nice, but didn’t change much, so we turned around.

We drove on, admiring the misty landscapes, and stopped at the Parknasilla Hotel for a lunchtime tea and scone snack.


The Parknasilla began life as a railroad resort hotel and has the same luxurious stuffed chair and white linen tablecloth look as it did 100 years ago. We had excellent leaf tea and the worst scones of the trip so far. They were like day-old Bisquick biscuits, only a bit softer.


The crystal chandelier in the men’s room did not make up for this faux pas. Undaunted, we pressed on.


Staigue Fort is a “ring” fort, 30 meters across. It was built around 200-300 AD, pre-Christianity. This one is one of the largest and best preserved in Ireland.


And this lovely stone lintel can be yours, if you guess the price
of the 200 sheep in the field next door.

The whole thing is built without mortar. It would have taken 100 men 6 months to build, if they worked continuously, but chances are it was built in stages by fewer men.


The interior would have had outbuildings, tents, campfires, and so on. No traces remain. The 4 meter thick interior walls had 10 sets of steps to get to the top – this is unexplained. The stones were not carried off to use in other dwellings; I think it’s because they are undressed stones and there are millions more just like them lying all over the place. Local lore has it that the fairies play football here and it would be a bad idea to steal a stone.

All in all, this was some impressive building. It was in such good shape we could not believe it had not been restored in modern times, but apparently not. 200 years ago the owner of the property used it for a cattle pen, and might have restored some of it, but nobody knows.

Not helped by the guidebook we searched for and found by accident the Skelligs Chocolate factory. A persuasive lady gave us free samples of their truffles and of course we bought some. After all, it’s what we came to Ireland for. It is very good chocolate, much better than the Godiva we have been gifted with in recent times. It also had a sign on the wall which is probably not unique to them, but:

We Love Kids
Please keep them under control because
Unattended Kids
Will Be Given an Espresso &
A Free Puppy

After a short stop at home to consult Tripadvisor, we went to the Sol y Sombra tapas restaurant in Killorglin. Verdict: some very good dishes, a couple of ordinary ones. Overall the menu was short on variety, IMHO. Still, a good place to eat.

BMW Welt

Thursday, August 14, 2014

We walked from the hotel to BMW Welt, the giant headquarters of BMW next to the Olympic Park. After signing some papers we had a free breakfast in the VIP lounge (weisswurst with sweet mustard and a large latte macchiato; bliss) with about 20 other people also there to collect their new cars.

We had 3/4 of an hour with a guy who talked about some features on the car and had me try a low-level simulator to test the brakes and stability control features. Then we went to pick her up.


Down below are the new cars on display, a BMW Shoppe with expensive logo trinkets (including a $280 golf bag), and lots of people doing the factory/museum/showroom tour. Upper right are some of the cars being delivered that day.




And here we are, taking delivery of Alice’s new car. It’s a 328 diesel wagon with 4WD for the Christmas Count and those secondary Scottish roads. After showing us a few more features they gave us the keys and we drove off to collect our luggage. We got lost coming back again to visit the museum – lots of one-way streets and no U-turns around the Olympic Park.



Here I am, taking a trip down memory lane with a model 1600. I bought a new red one in 1968 and I’ll bet if I still had it the company would have traded it straight up for the new wagon.



After BMW made airplane engines, they made motorcycles. This is a 1923 model with a 500cc overhead cam flat-twin boxer engine that put out 8 1/2 bhp and had a top speed of 100 kmh. I don’t know how well it comes out in the picture, but this was just a gorgeous machine.



Both Alice and I thought this 1956 model 507 was the best looking car in the shop. There was a picture of Elvis getting into one; we don’t know if it was a gift, publicity, or what. They say that all the cars made are still around but are in museums or private collections.

We gathered our trinkets together and left for Leipzig. It was 260 miles through many traffic jams, rain, and high-speed driving. We were cautioned to break in the car by keeping it under 100 mph for the first 1200 miles – no worries in the USA. But, to keep up with autobahn traffic we had to maintain 80+ mph in the center lane.

The in-car GPS let us down in Leipzig. As we came near the hotel it warned us about “pedestrian zones” but showed the route going right through them. We had to park (in a disabled zone) and Alice went to find the hotel and ask them how to drive there while I kept all the handicapped people at bay. It turned out there was a way to drive in – just a single way that the GPS didn’t know.

We’re staying in the GrandHotel Handelshof. It is called a “Grand” hotel because breakfast is $28 per person. We declined that option. We went out on the street for dinner and found 20-30 restaurants within two blocks. And they were crowded. It’s chanterelle season and everyone had specials at pretty reasonable prices (e.g., less than breakfast at the hotel).


Here’s Alice enjoying her pork medallions wrapped in speck (German bacon cured more like ham as far as taste goes) with chanterelles in cream sauce, potato croquettes, a leaf of lettuce that allowed them to say “salad”, and a half-liter of hefeweisen (a cloudy yeast beer). I had the same but with sparkling apple juice. This dinner beat the pants off last night’s.






So here we are in the city of Bach. Tomorrow morning we will go in search of our own Coffee Cantata and then do some exploring.

No BBQ for Vampires in Odessa

Odessa, TX, 5/24/13

SteerSafeGuysThis morning we drove 60 miles to Deming and the GPS got us lost. We called SteerSafe and they gave us better directions. When we arrived they were ready to work and in 20 minutes had a replacement right wheel bracket installed, tweaked both sides, tested the steering lock-to-lock and declared us ready to go.

Off we went through El Paso (not the prettiest town ever, although we just saw it from the interstate) and heading east towards Dallas. The rig seemed to behave better. In the wake of a semi we still shook about, but the steering was not jumpy at all. I hoped I was not imagining things.

HotelElCap01It was another travel day, but we did stop in Van Horn to look at the El Capitan Hotel (1930). It has been bouncing between being a hotel and a bank, and part of the fun of the hotel are the two vault doors that now serve as doors for the gift shop and for the bar supplies. There’s lots of bright tile in the foyer and the exterior is almost a stereotype of the “Southwest” look – adobe/plaster and logs sticking out.

We engaged the bar lady in conversation as Alice had a margarita. There is one woman in town who likes jalapeno margaritas and when she comes in she has five or so. Wow. The bar lady has put in a request for some rubber gloves when she cuts the jalapenos. We learned that yesterday they had a really fierce rainstorm and there were tornado sightings in the area. It was so dry in Van Horn we could not believe it had just rained. We also heard that Jeff Bezos (Amazon) has bought many ranches north of town to use as a location for his rocket experiments and his large staff means big money to the town.

It was too early in the day to stop there, so on we drove and started looking for hotels in a town called Monahans. The Comfort Inn had a room for $180 and so did the Best Western. What??? Apparently the market is driven by oil field workers, and there are a lot of oil wells in West Texas. Then, as we drove out of the parking lot we heard a front wheel SteerSafe bracket scraping again. Unmentionable obscenity. I got under the rig and found it was the left wheel this time. Swear word. I got out the tools and removed the springs from the left side, tightened the bracket and hoped for the best. The guy at SS told me I could run using just one side, so OK. On the road, I could detect no difference in behavior; is this thing working at all, or were the Airtabs and lower tire pressure acting alone? Can the damn thing be properly fitted to a Sprinter?

In Odessa, the heart of oil country, Motel 6 advertised rooms for $85.99. Motel 6! We went to the Comfort Inn and flashed our AAA card and got a rate that was relatively reasonable, but I’m not saying what it was. Now settled, we decided to find a BBQ restaurant. The Guide to Eating in Odessa listed about 8. The first one, according to the GPS, did not exist. OK GPS, you suggest one. We went to the first one on GPS list and it was abandoned. We went to the second one and it was only open for lunch. We went to the third one and ditto – lunch only. Fourth one, the same. All right, we get it. BBQ is not for dinner in Odessa. Who knew?

BarnDoor02We ended up at the Barn Door Steakhouse and had a perfectly acceptable meal. I had a rib-eye steak in ranchera sauce with cheese enchilada and the usual rice and beans. Alice had half a slab of baby back ribs. Two unusual things: a big hunk of cheddar is brought to your table for you to scrape at, and at some point it gets taken to someone else’s table. I don’t think our local boards of health would think much of this. Second: the Stack of Hay. This is their version of fried onions, and it was really good.


Since it was Friday night, we were treated to a country trio who sang some oldies and one real sugary original composition about My Dad. Overall, though, good stuff.

Our final insult from the GPS came when we told it to take us home. It took us to the wrong Comfort Inn and didn’t know the right one. I had to ask for directions. I know I broke the unwritten law, but it was late and we were tired.