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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Take me away

Posted by joeabbott on April 8, 2018

WP_20180331_21_58_33_ProSuzy and I have a few places around the State of Washington that we like to run to … places we’ve stayed and will likely stay again if time and opportunity allow. To the east of the Cascades in the dry part of the state there is Cave B, a winery with fantastic oak barrel-shaped bungalows; off the Coast is Kalaloch Lodge, with the Pacific Ocean crashing at the base of the bluffs on which the cabins sit; nearby but nestled in the mossy rain forest is Quinault Lodge. And then there’s Skamania Lodge.

WP_20180331_14_56_55_ProLocated to the south off the Columbia River, we found this place back in 2001 when we were returning from a long road trip where we stayed at small motels, ate bologna and cheese sandwiches for many of our meals, and were fleeing a winter storm. We got one of Skamania Lodge’s cheaper rooms and fell in love. It was the dead of December but before the holiday crush, so we found it quiet, luxurious, and as oasis for our jangled nerves from being on icy roads. We’ve been back many times.

Just last weekend we found ourselves running there as a hideaway from our hectic lives but we made the trip in spring on the Easter weekend; and it was anything but quiet. And yet that was fine.

The trip down wasn’t quick but we didn’t try to hurry; we stopped at a few shops, found a delightful eatery in Camas, WA called Burgerville (you gotta try their rosemary infused fries!), and attempted to stop at Beacon Rock but found the crush of traffic and crowds to be too much of a dissuasion. We made it to the Lodge around 1PM, tossed our bags into the room, and our restless feet found a couple of the trails that loop around the property.

Over about 2.5 hours we ambled slowly on the roughly 4 miles of trails, not trying to make time and happy we only bumped into one other person actually on the trail. We could already tell the Lodge was a much busier place this time but didn’t mind. It was nice seeing the solo golfer working on his short game, seeing a trio natter as they took turns finishing their shots, or watched the new family delight as their child explored a small mound of wild flowers.

While there was a lot to look at on ground level, Skamania Lodge had installed a series of rope courses and zip lines since we’d last been there, giving us new things to look for aloft! Some of the shorter zips allowed me to give a modest nod at the venture without necessarily wanting to try, but as we were on the far side of the property and heard a 20-second zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz as a zip-liner cruised by overhead, I thought, now that looks fun! But, we were happy for a late afternoon stroll, hand-in-hand around the lodge, past the tree house rooms, wending about the golf course holes, and under steel cables as we worked up a small appetite.

Knowing we were going to enjoy their Sunday brunch, we paid homage to our 2001 road trip and enjoyed a lunchbox meal in our room, overlooking the rear lawn of the Lodge and finding the Columbia River and bluffs off to the south. We then settled in with reading material and enjoyed a quiet evening with the fireplace cracking and when we turned in, slept a deep and comfortable sleep.

In the morning we awoke and heard a chatter on that south lawn; and looking out, we saw they’d prepared for Easter by scattering hundreds of plastic candy- and toy-filled eggs about the lawns for the visiting children to find and enjoy. While Suzy woke up more leisurely, I headed down to the common area and settled into a seat looking out at the lawn. And, when I found myself a-sea amongst the many families, excused myself with a hot beverage and rejoined my miss.WP_20180401_07_32_24_Pro

WP_20180401_08_41_17_ProAround 8:30AM we made our way to the buffet and overate. I could describe the gourmet omelet bar, the cold sea food station, the carvery selections of ham and prime rib, or maybe describe the fruits and pastries and desserts. But I’m far more modest a man than to do that … or am I? ;-)  It was very very fine.

So fine, I needed a short nap after we spent a long hour and then some at our window table looking out at the Columbia and its attendant bluffs.

And after the nap, renewed and rejuvenated, we headed north to our home and animals and the minor chores that Sunday involves. It was a very fine weekend and, should you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest and in need of a respite, the very lap of comfort and luxury awaits you on our southern border, at Skamania Lodge. Drop in and enjoy.


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21 hours with Suzy–or, heading back to the beach

Posted by joeabbott on September 17, 2017

DSCF1511Last weekend I enjoyed my annual outing with some old friends and on a long hike; during that hike we visited the Olympic Nation Park on a beach hike (more on that later). On the way home, I came across a beach with so many unique and lovely stones, I gathered a Nalgene bottle full of them to show to Suzy.

As we looked over them at home, I asked if she would like to see the beach; she was game and so we had a date.DSCF1551

This part of the Olympic National Park is some 5-hours distant accessed via narrow, 2-lane highways; and then the hike to the coast is a short 3-mile affair, but to get to Yellow Banks (where I found the neat rocks), you need to put in another 2-3 miles of hiking. Unwinding that stack so you can sleep in your own bed that night means a 10-12 mile hike on top of 10 hours of driving: a tall but not insurmountable order.

And so we arose early on a Saturday, saw to our morning breakfasts, packed the car with the prepared foods and gear, and were off around 6:30AM. With only a brief stop in Port Angeles at the Ranger Station to confirm our tide information, we made it to the trailhead by 11:30AM and were marching to the beach shortly thereafter, hitting the sand just before 1PM.

DSCF15363DSCF1570From there we wandered a bit more lazily toward Yellow Banks, stopping for our sandwich lunch and pointing out various seamounts, detritus washed up on the shore, or poking at a pebble here and there. Once we hit Yellow Banks, we turned our attention to the stones on the beach and started the long, slow march north again, all the while picking up anything that looked interesting.

DSCF1583At about 4:30PM we assessed our situation: we had about 60” of rock … that’s over four stone in stone … and a neat piece of driftwood that caught our eyes. Additionally, the sun would start setting around 7:30PM and we had about 5 miles yet to hike. Given our pace of roughly 2 miles per hour, understanding we were both quite tired, and we were lugging a lot of weight, we immediately started for the car.

Like clockwork, we hit the trailhead about 7PM and had time to tidy up, pop our stuff into the car, and get a few miles under the tires before the sun set.

The ride home was uneventful but long. First, we headed back to Port Angeles and had a fast food dinner in our car. While we typically aren’t eating from a bag, it was nice to have  hot meal without waiting, not worry about feeling grubby, and to just be able to sit without moving for a bit. It wasn’t just nice, it was needed.

However, after asking our GPS to take us home, we found it had sent us to ferry heading back toward Seattle! By the time we got there, the last boat had sailed and so we were out of luck. We then asked us to get us home and I explicitly stated to not use that ferry … but, it sent us to another terminal! Yikes! We didn’t realize it at that time but when we did realize it, we were within 6-miles of the terminal so we continued on. Fortunately for us, the last boat was a bit late and so we got a short ride into the city. I mentioned to Suzy that I may have dozed just a bit as we sat in our car for the ride over, and she informed me that, yes, I was snoring nearly the whole trip! I guess I needed a little shut eye!

Once back in Seattle we drove a half hour to our home, left the car a mess to clean up the next day, showered, and hit the sheets. And putting my head down has seldom felt as good.

We’re not sure what we’ll do with all the rocks, they’re awfully pretty but best seen all together. We’re sure some project will present itself and, when it does, we’ll tackle it with the same energy we showed in getting them.


Thanks for reading.

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More Seattle adventures

Posted by joeabbott on August 2, 2017

Seems we enjoy a bit of glassblowing here in Seattle … and when you can share that with traveling family and friends: all the better!! Here’s a picture that has my mother flashing a “thumbs up” … proof positive we had a fantastic time!


In the pic: Natalie, Suzy, me, mom, Ashley and Jay. Karen was taking the picture and she did a great job!

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And another

Posted by joeabbott on August 2, 2017

In addition to enjoying Seattle Center, we passed through Pike Place Market! Here’s a shot of my brother Jay, mother, me, and nieces Natalie and Ashley. Oh yea … and Rachel the pig!


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Here’s a cute picture

Posted by joeabbott on August 2, 2017

A couple weeks back my mother along with my brother and his family came out for a visit. We had a grand time and among the many places we visited was the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exposition at the Seattle Center. It was a beautiful day amid beautiful works of art … with some beautiful people! Here’s a shot of my mother, niece Natalie, sister-in-law Karen, and niece Ashley. It’s hard to imagine a better group of folks to enjoy the afternoon with.


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Space Needle–a Seattle Brunch

Posted by joeabbott on July 9, 2017

Well, the Space Needle has been a Seattle institution since opening in 1962 and just as the restaurant up-top has always revolved, allowing for a changing view, the quality of food coming from the kitchens has likewise changed. I can’t speak for the early days, but when I got to town in 1989, dining at the ‘Needle had already taken on a form over substance sorta vibe … or, said more clearly, you went there to have dined at a revolving restaurant, not for the food.

I can happily say that’s no longer the case. It may have been excellent for a while, but my outing there yesterday confirms there’s still a lot of goodness coming out of the stoves and off the cooktops at the Space Needle restaurant: the Sky City.


My mother treated my younger brother and his family, along with Suzy and me, to a very fine brunch at the Sky City. I won’t try to detail all of the menu offerings, but will speak from firsthand experience about my meal!

Before our meal started, our prompt waitress brought out beverages of our choice and baskets of scones with a crusting of coarse sugar. The OJ I got tasted like oranges were squeezed right there in the kitchen and had someone told me they were picked from the tree just that morning, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Perhaps I’m jaded by the Tropicana juice we get from the local Safeway, but that was a good juice and the scones weren’t bad. Suzy retains her Scone Queen title in this area, but the Sky City bakers have nothing to be ashamed of.

I started the meal proper with a little something called a Malted Waffle, which was a quarter of a ~4” Belgian waffled covered with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream that was so fresh it set a standard for the rest of the meal. The waffle was crisp, the berries flavorful, and it really left you wanting more … but I wasn’t left wanting for long! Very shortly my The Benny arrived.

The Benny is their version of an eggs Benedict that wasn’t the best I’d had (a little something I enjoyed in New Orleans retains that title) but I’d order it again in an instant. Proper poaching of the eggs, a Canadian bacon flavorful enough that I reluctantly shared a snipped with Suzy, and a hollandaise sauce that you could have stood a spoon up in if you’d have had a deep enough dish. Or had the restraint to keep from using the spoon to shovel that tastiness into your mouth! Altogether it was a dish worthy of being the second best I’ve had. Hardly notable but they served that with enough cubed potatoes that I had a hard time eating them all … but a boy’s gotta do what a boy’s gotta do. I ate ‘em!

I finished my meal with a rhubarb and strawberries cobbler that had a thick, crunchy topping and a nice, tart center. While I was starting to feel the burden of all the food that came before it, I polished off my dessert and thought it a fine way to finish a fine meal. All I was missing was a place to lay down to nap as I let it all settle.

So, that’s my review of the Sky City Brunch served atop the Space Needle. A revolving restaurant is no longer the novelty that will draw you to this restaurant; a delicious menu and excellent food can now be your lure!

I hope you can make it and enjoy as much as I did. Thanks for dropping in.

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For the “made me smile” folder

Posted by joeabbott on June 26, 2017

I was looking through my phone snaps and this one caught my eye. Found myself smiling as I remembered being in northern Minnesota with Suzy a few months back at Jay Cooke State Park just outside Duluth. I knew I had to post when I felt myself snapping back to my work mindset after a quick mental vacation.

Suzy at Jay Cooke State Park, Minnesota

Thanks for looking in.

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The many faces of Joe and Suz

Posted by joeabbott on February 18, 2017

A week or so back Suzy and I attended our niece’s wedding in the outskirts of Vancouver; a very fine affair, attended by a now-common photo-guy and his booth. We availed ourselves to the fun and have this to show for it:


Yup, Christine and Cody married, and Suzy and I had a little fun. It was a very fine event made all the better by the excellent company we shared the evening with.

Thanks for dropping in.

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North Carolina–a slice of the South

Posted by joeabbott on August 7, 2016

My small family is in the habit of getting together with assorted in-laws and cousins every three years or so in different places. Colorado, Northern Minnesota, and Michigan are all places we’ve held these mini-reunions and this year the 20-or-so of us met in North Carolina at Atlantic Beach (Emerald Isle). While Suzy and I wanted to spend a LOT of time in North Carolina (as neither of us had been there), demands at home, logistics of being on the Isle, and enjoying time with family made the trip shorter and the extent of our wanderings less extensive than we would have liked; we saw far less of this wonderful place.

But, here’s a day-by-day account of our time on the Nation’s “other” coast.

Monday – getting in

On Monday we flew out from Seattle … no pictures today as the six-hour flight, three-hour time zone change, and another three-hour drive to the Emerald Isle all did their part in eating up the day. I had hoped North Carolina would have a “Maine flavor” and be a string of tiny towns and interesting sights along the drive, but was surprised when our first hour out of the Raleigh airport was greeted by pavement, trees, and little else. And that’s it.

Don’t get me wrong … I love a good stand of trees but we have plenty of these in the Pacific Northwest! We’d seen so little in the way of “sights” that upon coming on a “Bojangles” restaurant, we stopped in. While I was interested in the advertised “chicken and biscuits”, I was disappointed by the fact that, for all intents and purposes, it’s a KFC. Just another fast food chicken restaurant. It wasn’t bad … and as we were hungry, it was very good … but I was hoping for something more than a fast food stop. Given how many Bojangles are in NC and how we’d never heard of them before, we were happy to have stopped, just wished our first meal was a bit more authentic in terms of NC food.

Upon getting to the condo we were staying at with my sister and her family, we caught up and then headed out for a late night stroll on the beach. And this is something North Carolina does very well: the beaches were amazing. Great sand, that wonderful rolling surf sound, and miles and miles of it. Just wonderful. But that was the day.

Tuesday – Kitty Hawk

2016-07-26 10.39.31As a degree-holding aerospace engineer, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see Kitty Hawk and yet, it was a three-hour drive from the condo. While many families had shared an interest, the long drive dissuaded all but my sister and her family, so we piled into our rental and headed north!

2016-07-26 13.49.36On the way, I tried a boiled peanut and found dry roasted is more my thing, as a boiled nut, it has the texture of a bean or firm pea and just not what I associate with being a “peanut”. The proprietor of the shop took my opinion in stride and happily sold me a couple containers of roasted peanuts: one pepper-and-salt, one sugar-coated.

Kitty Hawk, from the tourist “where did the Wright Brothers fly” standpoint, is a pretty simple affair: a main exhibit building complete with a Wright flyer replica, the small “airstrip” used in their initial flights (complete with stone pillars denoting flights taken on the birthday of flight: 12/17/1903), and a massive tower commemorating the brothers on a nearby Kill Devil Hill.

I think I was looking to be moved by the birthplace of flight and managed to generate some of those feelings: the walls of the main building are lined with portraits of those who furthered the science of flight … most whom I recognized and “knew”, interactive models and displays describing the physics of flight … all the stuff of my early college studies, and context of the story of putting it all together were impactful. Only sixty-five years separated the first flight from the Apollo astronauts landing on the moon and seeing it all starting with a kludgy canvas and wooden “aircraft” and a lot of guts and vision … well, profoundly impressive.


But, we walked the exhibits, strolled the airstrip and markers denoting the four flights, and climbed Kill Devil Hill to walk around the Wright memorial. And yet, at 95°F and +80% humidity, it was hard to be out long. My wife reddened, I sweated buckets, and we made our way to the gift shop LONG before my interest in being at Kitty Hawk had waned.

WP_20160726_13_54_37_Pro2016-07-26 13.36.06WP_20160726_12_54_34_Pro

We then drove a short ways north to Duck, NC, and found Duck Donuts. Before sampling their wares, we ate at the BBQ place next door (my quest for some perfect southern BBQ) and I found the brisket to be a lot sweeter and tangier than I was used to. It was my first of many BBQ meals and while the regional style is distinct, I prefer the smoky tang of a Texas BBQ, thank you.

The Duck Donut shop, however, is a real treat. When we stepped in, they fired up the donut press and started pumping out our donuts! Yup, the ones we’d be taking home. All their donuts are a cake-type batter but what makes it unique is the just-made donut and the toppings. I ordered a vanilla glaze with Oreo crumbles and a glaze with salted caramel; Suzy got a couple chocolate treats. While eating a warm donut is absolutely marvelous, I couldn’t possible eat two and ended up enjoying one of my donuts then next day. Not the recommended way to eat a Duck Donut but it worked for me.

After this, just a long ride home and a family gathering on the beach for a late night stroll and search for the elusive “ghost crabs”.

Wednesday – New Bern

2016-07-27 11.15.07-12016-07-27 10.42.31I’ll speed up the trip here … not because the locales, people, and activity don’t merit the space, but my posts are already over-long.

A few of us were interested in the birthplace of Pepsi cola and with New Bern just off the Atlantic strip, it was a quick trip. And I’m happy we went. The drug store that birthed Pepsi was charming and the current proprietors congenial… and the Pepsi float was very fine … but the charm of New Bern sold me. Overall it had the quality of a well-kept historical town with lots of character. It looked like a southern town.

Beside the stop at the Pepsi shop, we toured the gardens around the Tryon Palace (very fine … especially our time chatting with the in-character blacksmiths), walked the battlefield of New Bern, and (as best we could) avoided sunstroke.

2016-07-27 10.03.20

For lunch we stopped at Moore’s Barbeque and I enjoyed sweet and tangy ribs. While the sauce wasn’t completely to my liking, the ribs were smoked to perfection.

That night my niece played host to a family gathering at the condo she was staying in and we all contributed to a potluck. Having planned ahead, Suzy and I brought about 30 different Seattle Chocolate candy bars of all different flavors, broke them into squares, and everyone sampled and compared the varieties.

Thursday – Maritime Museum

Today the various families split up, some opting to see wild horses, take sea cruise tours, or … like we did with my sister … head to the North Carolina Maritime Museum. They were happily in the middle of a Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge show so, in addition to history and culture on how the Atlantic and the various ports played for this area, we got in some pirate stories! And to hear about the excavation of Blackbeard’s ship (Queen Anne’s Revenge) that was currently in process just a mile or so off the coast.

Lunch couldn’t have been easier than a trip to Finz, across the street where we bumped into my mother, brother, and his family! The meal was good as I heartily enjoyed my first shrimp burger but I have to opine that you owe yourself a trip to Seattle for a better cup of chowder; Finz did well, but we’ve perfected the recipe in the Puget Sound region, IMO.

We then walked the town and continued enduring the mid-90° temps and abusive humidity but it finally was too much and, upon returning to the condo, I took a nap. The heat, bustle, and time zone change all took their toll.

That night we gathered at Plaza Mexico Restaurant Bar and Grill … not because we believed North Carolina had the best south-of-the-border meals, but because they could seat 21 people. That said, it was very fine and our waiters were prompt and attentive.

Friday – Aquarium

Our last full day saw a wonderful trip to the North Carolina Aquarium … a place that we spent a lot of time at and could have spent more. It was clean, the exhibits in working order, and aside from a couple of uncharacteristically lazy otters, there were plenty of animals doing their things. I even saw an egret dismember and eat a fiddler crab on the Bogue Sound! Not your everyday aquarium sight.


WP_20160729_13_36_44_ProLunch was Crab Shack fare while I tried another sampling of shrimp burger … and shouldn’t have. Not bad, just not as great as the day prior and it took the edge off the “wow, what a treat!” experience the first time I enjoyed one.

Afterward we had enough time for a short visit to Fort Macon and really enjoyed it. So much so, we came back the next day before departing for our flight out! The main tour building contained informative and interesting displays, the fort had been meticulously restored, and we enjoyed a musket-firing demonstration that, if not memorable for the instruction, it was memorable from my ears still ringing from that shot! Hoo boy is that loud … and that was just one musket.

That night we gathered at my cousin’s condo for pizza (thanks, mom!), snacks, and lots of conversation. One of the other nights we had brought some store-bought cookies that went over well enough that we did it again … to the same effect.

Saturday – coming home

2016-07-30 11.04.11What can be said … it was a homecoming. The quick tour of Fort Macon bled into a rush trip to the aquarium to exchange a too-small souvenir shirt, and then the long, uneventful drive over pavement and through trees to Raleigh. Monday rush hour traffic wasn’t bad and we found our rental car drop off spot quickly. The flight home wasn’t as quick and, upon getting up after landing I remarked to Suzanne that there were small children in seats both rows ahead, behind, and across the aisle from us … a fact that she said she was very aware of even without me pointing it out, thank you very much. Yeah, I guess it had been a screamy, fussy, jibbery sort of flight.

But we were home. No ocean crashing but the temps were in the lower 70s, the humidity around 30%, all the whiskers and beaks were healthy and well … it was good to be home.


Thanks for dropping by and taking interest in the trip. While the weather wasn’t exactly what I’d have ordered, but the beaches were fabulous, the people warm and welcoming, and that sweet and tangy BBQ really says you’re in North Carolina. I strongly recommend you drop by when you get the chance.

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Vacationing and pets

Posted by joeabbott on August 5, 2016

Have you ever had a BUNCH of time and expected to be able to do a certain something in that time but it doesn’t seem to pan out? Such has been the last couple weeks where I’ve been on vacation (yup, a real vacation … just time off doing nothing) but I haven’t written a single post! What’s that all about?!?

Well, it’s about packing the day with being out and about, with much physical toil or completely recuperating. But, even when having a “do nothing” day, like yesterday, I squeeze in a little something … again, like yesterday when Suzy and I picked up and spread a yard of crushed rock around the plateau. Yup, that was a “do nothing” day for us. But, writing has taken the backseat.

With two weeks off, we split the vacation into two parts: time in North Carolina for a family reunion of sorts, and doing work on the property. I’ll try to post something on those topics later but will use this post to show off a bit of our house-sitter.

While we’re away, we have our nephew, David, stay at our home. He tends to the cats, ensures our chickens are fed and the eggs collected, and generally is around to make sure things stay on the rails. Because, as our home is starting to get up there in age, minor things will happen. In the last couple stays he’s had particular trouble with water issues: a toilet flapper inexplicably failed one stay and a plastic splitter on the hose of our irrigation system gave away another time. Minor issues, to be sure, but we’re happy to have someone on site to attend to them.

And, every day he’s staying at our home, he’ll send photos of the cats and chickens to help us with our separation anxieties from our pets. Here are the pictures he took this last trip.

Day 1

On the first day, our cats seem to have opted to stay indoors. Not uncommon for cats to exhibit somewhat unusual behavior when big changes happen … like Suzy and me being gone … but it’s also not uncommon for our cats, who see a lot of monitored outdoor time, to enjoy afternoons upstairs looking out the windows or just napping.

Trimble Day 1image3image1


As Trasper wasn’t feeling well when we left (a pretty big concern for us), it was distressing to see him inside on Day 2 while Trimble was clearly enjoying some outside time. While it was good to see the cats, we were starting to wonder if leaving Trasper was the right call.


Day 3

This is more like it. While Trasper’s picture is hard to understand what’s going on, he’s under his ferns and rolling on his back. Now that’s’ the Trasper we know! And Trimble taking an afternoon nap on my side of the bed … classic Trimble.


Day 4

Another outdoor shot of both of the cats; yup, they’re getting into the swing of being pet-sat.



If you can swing having a pet sitter at your home when you vacation, it’s worth considering and, if you do, have them send you pics … they’re great to get and see. I like the various photo styles David used … some close-ups, some distance shots … and always appreciate seeing our cats enjoy their days. The chickens … well, with 13, there are too many to hope to see in any one picture (however, I suspect David didn’t try enticing them to come to him with treats). So, the candid pictures of the odd bird or birds is fine. I don’t worry about them like I do the cats.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have found your way to stay in touch with your pets while you travel!

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