Leslie did some research on things to do while we were in Tucson and noticed there was a Titan Missile Museum about 50 miles southwest of where we were staying. Her selection of this was based solely on her feelings this would be something I would enjoy. Boy was she right on that one!
The Titan Missile program was a cold war era “mutually assured destruction” program that allowed the USA to launch ICBM’s (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) to anywhere within a 6,000 mile range of the silo. They each delivered 9 megatons of explosive power, basically enough to totally destroy a large urban area. There were 54 of these in total, 18 each in Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas. They were installed starting in late 1962 and the last one was finally eliminated in 1987 as part of the USA/USSR treaty of nuclear dismantling.
The 1st part of the tour was a very interesting 30 minute film covering many of the details and politics of the era. Then they gave us a guided tour of the underground bunkers were the crew worked and lived while on duty. It was a very secure area and clearly designed for maximum safely and utility, not personal comfort. This was finally followed by a self guided tour of the area above ground that showed some of the equipment and site security.
As a cold war kid it was very moving and meaningful. There were also some younger people there who also seemed to appreciate the awesome meaning of what this represented. Many thanks to Leslie Baker for arranging for this wonderful day for us.
On the 1st of February we moved from Phoenix to Tucson. Mostly this was just to be on the move and spend some time in an area I really like but haven’t spent much time around. We picked this spot because it looked very good when researching on the internet, received solid reviews, and is next to a casino which gave us walking access to some decent restaurants, plus I like to play poker and Leslie occasionally plays Pai Gow.
Our intent was to spend the entire month of February there, and that allowed for a very low daily rate. But a series of activities changed that. First of all our son Patrick, his wife Mysha and their son (our grandson) Ronan came to Phoenix for a wedding. So we decide to use a time share we had and went back to Phoenix for the time they were there. I will cover that in a separate post.
The same week Patrick, Mysha and Ronan were there was the annual DSS (ASSA ABLOY Sales Org for the commercial US/Canada) sales meeting was held in Phoenix and I was invited in my consulting role for the group. Then the following week ASSA ABLOY had a global executive team meeting at Keystone in Colorado that I was honored to be invited to as well. I will also post on these later.
Finally we came back to Phoenix the last week of February because I had a doctors appointment up there (I became ill on my Keystone trip) and Leslie did some prep work with Darren for our taxes.
Our only side trips in the time we were there were to a Titan Missile Silo (which will also receive a separate post as it was a great trip for us), and Darren came down and took us to a great play “The Book of Mormon”. While we had heard wonderful things about the play, it exceeded our expectations. Before the play we went to German restaurant near where Darren lived in the short time he live in Tucson that was also great.
We really enjoyed our relatively short time there, Leslie did well at Pai Gow and I did well in a couple of Poker Tournaments. I wish I had more photos form our time there, but most where of the missile silo!
After a wonderful holiday season in the LA area we headed back to Phoenix on January 4th for the entire month. Phoenix our home for 8 years, and while we have leased our house and live full time in Elsie (our motor home) we still have many friends in the Phoenix area, plus of course our beloved eldest son James and his sweet wife Alma live there. To add to that we also have a doctor, dentist and hair dresser we both really like there. I admit the hair dresser is just for Leslie but Gina is also a friend of mine.
We arrived on January 4th and stayed at The Motorcoach Resort in Chandler. We have stayed here several times before and it is a nice place that is also convenient to the services we want to use near our old home.
I used the opportunity of being in Phoenix to go into the office and catch up with Stacy. The real work related activity was the retirement party for the great Deon Arnold. I had a chance to see a lot of my old work mates, and really enjoyed the evening.
I had given Leslie a sourdough starter last Christmas, and while it took almost a year she really got into making bread in the coach when we were in Anaheim at the end of the year. Not long after we arrived at the RV Resort another Newmar Dutch Star moved in next to ours. Leslie took over a welcome loaf of fresh bread and they turned out to be a great couple and new friends named Jordy and Kim. They live in Salt Lake City and we have already arranged to meet them in late June at an RV Park about an hour east of Salt Lake City.
So we both spent much of the month on work related stuff, plus of course the doctor, dentist (plus hair and nails for Leslie). I also had the chance to play a few rounds of golf with my old buddies at Foothills Golf course and one fun round at The Duke course in Maricopa.
We hosted several dinners at the coach for our old friends, some of them pictured here. In addition to those photos we also hosted JB and Cindy (and went to their house for a great meal one night), Mike, Jose and Sandra, and finally a fun night with Noam and Nick. Leslie went with our friend Darren to a drag show that she said was really good. And of course a highlight was time with our son James and his wife Alma.
Near the end of the month Sara came to visit with her dog Libby. She actually stayed in the coach with us for a few days, and it was fun for all. I even enjoyed having a dog in the coach again, but am still not ready for full time dogs again.
All in all we had a wonderful month in Phoenix, in some ways better as a visit than it was as our home. We stayed until the end of January and that 4 weeks was the longest we had been in any one place since we moved into Elsie. We actually came back in February but that will be covered in later posts.
The day after Christmas Leslie and I moved Elsie from in front of the Kelly home over to an RV Park named Anaheim RV Park due to its proximity to Disneyland. It was a pretty nice Park, basic in the features but good for our purposes. We had a couple of really nice evenings there with friends. One was actually after the New Year when Rosemary and Robert Thompson came to pick us up and take us (and our daughter Madison) to a local specialty food court type of place that had lots of different small counter service eateries around a very cool common area. We had a nice time, and we also went out to their home one evening for an enjoyable dinner.
The other nice evening was a dinner I cooked on December 30th for Sara, her boys and nephew Jake. Although I have known her boys their entire lives, and love all of them, it was the most time I had ever spent with Jake and really enjoyed getting to know this fabulous young man. I made my specialty Chili which seemed to be a huge hit with everyone. I have that recipe posted on this site.
In early December of 2017 Leslie had arranged for a special private tour day at Disneyland and it was one of the best days we ever had at the park, and that says a lot as we both have loved Disneyland from when we were kids.
The private VIP tour is a program that charges by the hour for a group of up to 10 people to be escorted through Disneyland (& California Adventure Park if you want) allowing you to jump the lines on any ride you want to. Since lines for most rides are 30-45 minutes for basic rides, 1 to 2 hours for more popular rides, and up to 3 hours for the top 3-4 rides having this really makes the day easy and great.
We started the day with breakfast at Goofy ‘s kitchen in the main Disneyland Hotel, plus the program includes seating in a special reserved section for the Main Street Parade and the Fireworks much later, plus dinner reservations at any restaurant you choose.
As I said above this is the second time we have done this, the first being two years on a less popular day than New Years Eve,so I was worried we couldn’t reserve it. Not only could we reserve it but we were able to get two groups!
We had two groups as we had so many people who wanted to come. In one group was Leslie, me, Kelly, Pat, Jayden, Josephine, Devin, Noem and Nick. In the other group Sara Gold had her boys Jordan, Sam, Zack, nephew Jake, niece Lital, plus friends Joe & Mary.
We all met for breakfast as I noted, then split into the two groups for the tours. We started our day at California Adventure and from there hit every top ride in that park and later in the Disneyland Park. By the time of the parade we were exhausted and thrilled to have our private viewing area for the parade as it had chairs and a great view.
After the parade most of us just went over early to our dinner reservation at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. Some went on another ride and still got to the restaurant before we were seated. The place was super crowded, but the meal was very good and we all had a great time.
After dinner Leslie and I were too tired to wait around for the fireworks show and the New Years celebration so we just went back to the coach. Most others left too, but some of the younger people went to the new Star Wars Bar and stayed through for the midnight celebration and fireworks. All in all it was another great day at the happiest place on earth.
The next morning we were all supposed to meet at a local “Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles” for breakfast. But Leslie and I were the only ones there on time, and the others only showed up after we called to wake them up! A couple never did make it. But it was my first time eating at this iconic southern California eatery, and my first time having Chicken and Waffles together much less for breakfast. The food was really good, and the owner was there and treated us great. Another fantastic part of a really wonderful week.
We left our beach RV Park, Dockweiler, on December 21st which also happens to be the birthday of my sister Susan and my sister-in-law Celina. We moved over again to the street outside the Kelly home in Lakewood Country Club area. So we were dry camping again, which mean no hook-ups for electricity, water or sewer plus in this case we park leaning a lot to starboard (our right) and no slides extended. We have done it before and it makes for cramped conditions. Plus because of the angle the water only senses about 1/2 of the full amount and says we are out earlier than we actually are. Plus running on batteries means you can only run certain devices like the AC or heaters when the generator is running. No AC wasn’t a problem because it was cold the entire time we were there, but we had to turn on the generator first thing in the morning and last thing at night for an hour or two to heat up the coach. We spent a lot of our time traveling around visiting family and friends, or at the Kelly house so it wasn’t really a problem.
This was our year to be with our kids and their partners for Thanksgiving, so that also means this is the year they spend Christmas with their partners families. While this plan has been in place for several years it was actually the first Christmas in the lives of James and Madison that they didn’t spend it with us. Patrick had missed a couple of times for family reasons with Mysha (like her pregnancy with our soon-to-be grandson last year).
Before Madison left the area for Christmas with Joey’s family, my older sister Tess arranged for a joint Susan/Celina birthday party at her house on the 21st of December. Tom picked up Italian food, Madison brought Joey for those to meet him if they hadn’t already, and we had a great time with everyone.
Then there was a repeat group dinner on Christmas Eve hosted by Tess again. This was a traditional Turkey dinner with all the fixings. Tom smoked the turkey outside and while I’m not a huge fan of Turkey this was very good and surprisingly moist. Leslie made great stuffing, Tess had her famous creamed corn, plus salads, cranberry sauce and everything.
Christmas the next morning was quiet without any of our kids, but we just took it easy and walked over to the Kelly home and Leslie made breakfast blintzes she had learned from Jessie Butler for Christmas breakfast. We just hung out the rest of the day. I watched some of the NBA on Christmas Day basketball and later we all enjoyed our traditional Baker/Kelly meat fondue Christmas dinner. We have been doing this for over 15 years as none of us needed the big Turkey dinner tow days in a row, and we fell into this. It is a very social meal and the entire family on both sides seem to love it.
Although I write about our travels, I actually am still employed by my old company and actually work at least a little bit every day, and sometimes more. It is done mostly now while on the road. But sometimes I still need to travel for staff meetings, sales meetings, and some trade shows. My actual job title now is “Head of Strategy” for ASSA ABLOY Americas. My boss is Lucas Boselli, Head of the Americas for ASSA ABLOY.
Lucas called for what he calls his “ETM” (Executive Team Meeting) in New York around Christmas in one part to have a year end staff meeting, also to celebrate a fantastic results year in his division as Manhattan at Christmas time is stunning. So in the middle of December while we were parked at the beach I flew to New York and stayed 3 nights at the fantastic “W” Hotel on Times Square.
I will skip any review of the business aspects of the trip (which were positive I must add) and will only mention the evening activities of the trip. The first evening was in advance of most of the team arriving as it is a short trip for many of them from the New Haven area, so I just walked around the Times Square area and grabbed a bite on the go.
The next night, after the meeting, we all went to a nice dinner together followed by a Broadway show called “Come From Away”. It is a thoughtful, funny, and very touching show about all the flights coming from overseas on 9/11 that were diverted to a small airfield in North Eastern Canada. I won’t go into any details of the show except to is was wonderful and I recommend it to everyone.
The next evening was a nice retirement diner party for Steve Timmons, who had been with ABLOY in Canada and later the US for 47 years! Steve and I have known each other for 20+ years and worked more closely together during my time running the High Security Group of which ABLOY was a member. Steve had a great career and I appreciated the opportunity to honor him.
After spending Thanksgiving boon-docking in front of the Kelly house, on December 2nd we moved 30 miles to Dockweiler State Beach RV Park. This is right on the beach in the City of El Segundo, right next to LAX Airport. The planes take off from LAX just a few miles north of our beach RV parking and when they are overhead it can get pretty loud. If you’re outside you just stop talking until the noise clears. But our coach has such good sound insulation that it really doesn’t effect us inside the coach. And the planes stop completely (or are so few) at night that there is no problem in that regard.
It was very cold the entire time we were there, but the location is still great not just because it is close to the beach, but it is also relatively convenient access to our friends and family spread throughout the LA metro area. Leslie was able to spend a lot of time with Sara and Rose locally, plus Ruthie and Julia visited from Reno. They came down for a very nice Birthday celebration at Sara’s art studio for Leslie’s birthday.
Joe and Craig stopped by in LA for a few days as well in advance of their annual Christmas Cruise out of the LA port. We had a great visit a local restaurant, The Proud Bird, that doubles as a small airplane museum. And of course our time with our daughter Madison was the top story anytime it could be worked out!
I had some business to attend to in December as well, including a trip to The Big Apple. I will cover that with a short post soon.
I said “home again” when of course our home is actually now on wheels and we are in a different place every few weeks or more often. In this case we got off the cruise ship on November 18th, my 64th birthday as I noted in an earlier post. We flew back to Phoenix late that evening, took an Uber from the airport to pick up our car from Mike Kosse’s house (who was kind enough to store it while we were gone), and checked in at the Crown Plaza Hotel near the airport. It was nice enough and we were able to grab a bite there for a late dinner.
The next day we went to “The Motorcoach Resort” were we were going to stay for a few nights getting ready to go to the LA area for the rest of the year. I had dented the coach on the side tube that holds the awning cover for the full length slide before we left, but it doesn’t effect any aspect of coach use. But when we stored it in the garage at Motorcoach Resort we plugged it in, but the circuit popped while we were gone and the house batteries drained to nothing. So while the engine started fine (different battery pack) nothing in the house that required batteries worked. We were able to park it and plug it in, but had to get a full charge the next day before it fully worked again. In the meantime we lost everything we had stored in the refrigerator and freezer. It is important to never let your batteries deep discharge on these coaches, so this is another error on my part.
Leslie was invited by her friend Darren to see Cher in concert and really enjoyed her evening. I was less enthusiastic and didn’t go, but after hearing them rave perhaps I made a mistake.
After a few days in Phoenix, and a quick chance to see some friends, we left for Long Beach (actually Lakewood) and parked on the street near the Kelly house for Thanksgiving. Leslie and I stayed in the coach for 4 nights there in what is called “dry camping” (people also use the term boon-docking or stealth camping) which means we had no hook-ups for water, power or sewer and relied solely on our on-board self contained systems. The only real problem was we were near the curb edge of the street so we were at an angle and had to reverse which side of the bed we had our heads on to keep our heads higher than our feet. We also couldn’t put out our slides so the space was tight, but fine for a few days.
Thanksgiving was hosted by Pat and Kelly. Leslie arranged a deal with our kids and their partners that they would all spend Thanksgiving with us every other year and alternate with their partners families. We do the reverse year alternating for Christmas as well, so we get to spend one holiday each year with all of the kids and their families. This year was ours for Thanksgiving, but not Christmas. We ended up with 7 from the Baker side (Scott, Leslie, James, Alma, Madison, Joey and virtual family member Nick Altieri) as Patrick, Mysha and Ronan couldn’t come due to work conflicts. Add in 5 from the Kelly side (Pat, Kelly, Jayden, Josephine and Devon) and we had a nice crowd. None us are dedicated to turkey for Thanksgiving so we went non-traditional and I made a Beef Tenderloin with my special corn/onion/garlic/jalapeno dish, salad, home made pies form Madison plus some snack odds and ends. While we missed Patrick, Mysha and Ronan, we had a wonderful day.
There is a specialty program offered by some cruise lines called the “Chefs Table”. It has an extra cost of typically about $100 per person and is limited to 12 people. Most cruises don’t offer it all, and the ones who do usually only do it one night for a typical 7 night cruise. Leslie and I had done it twice before, first on an NCL Cruise from Boston to New Orleans, and second on a Princess Cruise around the South American horn from Santiago to Buenos Aires. The first time was particularity memorable. It was with our buddies Dominic and Rich and during the dinner I proposed to Leslie even though we had been married for 28 years at the time. I had never formally proposed before and this turned into a very special time for us. We also met new friends at the table who we hung out with for the rest of the cruise.
Basically this is a special multi course meal prepared by the Executive Chef, and presided over by him and the Head Maitre’D. In the case of Princess they also include a private kitchen tour and special appetizers in the actual kitchen. Then you are marched up to a reserved area in one of the dining rooms for 5 or 6 more courses, plus wine paired with each course. We tried to sign up right when we got on the cruise ship but were told it was all full. Leslie used her persuasive magic to get a table for us and some of our friends anyway. So filled with only our friends we had the Chefs Table during one of the sea days while crossing the Atlantic.
Most of our group really enjoyed the entire evening, and the kitchen tour plus those appetizers were particularly good. But the main course was lamb which neither me or Leslie liked. The Maitre ‘D, who was Portuguese, was funny and did a great job. The Executive Chef was Australian (hence the lamb he said), and while he certainly tried hard his humor was forced and the food was not as good as we have had previously. Of course most of our other friends who were there just loved the whole thing so maybe I am out of line. In any case I certainly recommend doing it at least once if you never have before.
Obviously a large part of an Atlantic Crossing is sea days, and we had plenty of them. Including six in a row at the end of the cruise until we reached Ft. Lauderdale. But we did have some great port stops through the first eight days of the cruise, and really only one port Leslie and I didn’t like.
Cartagena – Our first stop is a beautiful town on the southern coast of Spain. The bus tour Leslie and I took had us visiting some really nice old areas of teh city and included some much needed long walks and hills climbs. While the guide was fine, the group was too large and there were other groups where ever we went. One of the last bus stops was for shopping a relatively short distance form the ship so we just walked back a little early.
Malaga – Our second stop was another port town on the southern coast of Spain. Similar to Cartagena really if you stay in the port area. Our friends Darrell and Nancy arranged for a private tour of the inland towns up in the hills named the “White Towns”. Our main stop was in Mejas which was so charming Leslie expressed a desire to move there. All of the buildings in the town are white, and if there is any accents it is in green or red flower boxes planted with green or red flowers. Also many of the private homes have attached gardens as big or bigger than the house itself. Residential and commercial areas are not separated and many buildings house both. And while the town was certainly beautiful and beyond charming, the people were also very happy to have us there and gracious in their hospitality.
Casablanca– Perhaps the most famous city we visited on the cruise, mostly due to the classic Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman suspense romantic film of 1942. But in reality this is a large city in Morocco on the northwestern tip of Africa on the Atlantic Ocean side. Like most of northern Africa it is dominated by Muslim people but a non-secular government is in place. All 15 people from our group rented a private bus tour. We drove around some interesting spots and toured one of the largest mosques I have ever seen. But the tour was hurt by our tour guide who took us to a “shopping: stop were at first we were trapped by a very aggressive carpet/rug sales team and pushed very hard to get us to buy rugs. The we were move over to a similar spot to buy spices after another hard sales pitch. Leslie actually tried to buy some herbs but they only wanted cash. When she said she had to use a credit card they tried to usher her privately to another building saying that was the only place they could use credit cards. I felt we were being railroaded so insisted we just leave then. we got back on the bus unhappy with the visit and our feelings towards Casablanca were hurt by the constant sales pitches.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife– This was actually our second visit to this beautiful island off of the Atlantic coast of Africa. Owned by Spain it is also a common vacation spot for norther Europeans, especially the British. On our first visit we took a tour to around the island all the way to the opposite coast. So this time a group of us just walked all around the main port town.
Ponta Delgado – Our final part was another island, this time a little further west in the Atlantic. This is owned by Portugal so we like to say we have visited Portugal now even though we never reached the mainland of this country. To say this island was stunning doesn’t do it justice. We took a bus ride through the inner parts of the island and we awestruck by the natural beauty. Also our friend Richie Silva was born here before moving to the USA as a child.