A Magical Visit to Hobbiton in The Shire


My Dear Beloved Reader,

It’s been a while since I sat down to write about our adventures in the antipodes but I must confess we’ve been a tad busy. So, this episode is a sort of pictorial memory of an enchanting day in New Zealand where we visited the film set that was created for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in Matamata in the north island. The set is known as Hobbiton and is about two and a half hours drive from Auckland but well worth the journey.

Hobbiton, was originally going to be filmed by Peter Jackson using 17 locations but when Jackson saw this location with a specific tree by a lake (see if you can spot it in the photos below) everthing was brought to Matamata. So, this is where Bag End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo can be found. You should be able to spot in the following photographs. To see a larger image just click on the image you wish to see.

 

Travelling To New Zealand – The First Leg LHR to Abu Dhabi.


 

My Dear Beloved Reader,

The title is not exactly true as the very first leg was lugging the luggage that she who must be obeyed has insisted is “absolutely necessary” down the stairs, across the hallway and into our venerated vehicle. It’s been a bitterly cold day with the temperature hovering around 7C and for the benefit of my American friends that’s 46F. I was pleased to leave this:

fullsizeoutput_f54e

which happened last night and provided a slightly amusing skating rink this morning. I digress. We had an uneventful but slightly damp journey to London Heathrow Airport and having emptied the luggage onto a variety of carts I entrusted our velocipede into the capable hands of the valet parking team at terminal 4.

Braving the elements we travailed the one hundred feet or so into the terminal and then commenced the half-mile route march to the Etihad First Class check-in area.

IMG_E1538

Having completed the formalities we were duly ticketed by a very pleasant young lady and duly directed to the Fast Track path, where she who must be obeyed successfully held everyone up:

fullsizeoutput_f599 and we were off to the Etihad Lounge.

fullsizeoutput_f59c

This lounge has a somewhat subdued lighting scheme which I suppose is to encourage a restful atmosphere but don’t let the photograph above fool you. A few minutes after it was taken the lounge became quite busy. There is a self-serve buffet bar with an adequate array of food and our waitress was very pleasant. Great coffee!

It wasn’t too long before the appointed hour arrived and we made our way to gate 10 and duly boarded and shown to our seats by lovely Aida who together with her colleagues looked after us in an exceptional manner.

Here’s a short video of our experience boarding the flight to Abu Dhabi;

The First Class cabin was really spacious as you can see from our video

fullsizeoutput_f5ac

and Diana was very pleased with the extensive menu,

fullsizeoutput_f5ad

that was prepared, with obvious passion by our in-flight chef “Chi-Chi”.

fullsizeoutput_f5b0

We were very well looked after by Aida and her colleagues and we soon sat down for a lovely dinner.

fullsizeoutput_f5b4

To start with we had Meditteranean Mezze which was delicious

IMG_0075

and I for one had no worries whatsoever with the calorific content! This was followed by a delicious

fullsizeoutput_f59e

loin of lamb. The pudding was so good we scoffed it before we could photograph it. Then we had

our beds made. This was not a seat that recined to a “flat bed” but a proper bed and

fullsizeoutput_f5b5

we still had our enormous seats.

We’ve now continued our journey and I’m writing this in the Air New Zealnd lounge awaiting our flight to Auckland so, until my next post…….Toodleoo!

Travels With Stanley Episode 3. Leaving Saint-Jean-De-Luz for Toledo.


My Dear Beloved Reader,

This little video says it all as we leave Saint-Jean-De-Luz in the south of France just north of the Spanish border bound for the Toledo in Spain. Indeed from the sea-front of this lovely little town, you can see the Pyrenees that forms the natural border between France and Spain.

fullsizeoutput_1bed6

Once we got into The Pyrenees the weather really started to deteriorate and at one point it was snowing quite heavily. We certainly didn’t envy the drivers of the convoy below

fullsizeoutput_1bca5

transporting these giant wind turbine blades.

We arrived at our hotel The Eurostars Palacio Buenavista in Toledo at 18:10 after a pretty gruelling drive and we were glad to have an early dinner and an early night in preparation for our last drive to Marbella the following day.

Until my next post……………Toodleoo!

Travels With Stanley Episode Two (Rouen to Saint-Jean-de-Luz).

The Grand Hotel Thalasso in Saint-Jean-de-Luz rolls out the red carpet to welcome Diana Ross!


My Dear Beloved Reader,

Having awoken fairly early at our Rouen Hotel and re-packing a somewhat full Range Rover we sallied forth at 06:37 on a pretty wet morning for a soggy drive to the south of France. Fortunately, the further south we drove the weather improved with each degree of latitude. Our first break occured after 1 hour and fourty-five minutes having covered  98.2 miles, averaging 59mph and achieving 30.6mpg was just outside Alencon where Diana a.k.a. “She Who Must Be Obeyed” insisted that we breakfasted upon cafe au lait and pan au chocolat. Needless to say Stanley was prohibited from such a fine repast and had a delicious tin of puppy food!

After a total stop of 31 minutes we drove for a total of two hours and forty five minutes covering 149.7 miles while achieving 32.6 mpg at an average speed of 57 mph in very wet conditions especially while skirting Le Mans. We broke our journey just a tad north of Poitiers for seventeen minutes for a stretch leg break and to allow Stanley to visit the local lamp post.

Forty five minutes later having covered 49.6 miles at an average speed of 70 mph achieving 35.3 mpg in improving weather but still on the soggy side we stopped for another stretch leg break for a further thirteen minutes.

Now, my dear reader you’re probably wondering why I’m bombarding you with such statistical nonsense? The truth of the matter is that the weather had been so glum that, the only highlights, scenery wise, were various types of  gallic roadworks that, occasionally featured workmen who seemed to be committed to smoking untipped Gauloise cigarettes. We departed our stopping place, Aiffres just outside Niort, at 12:53 and settled in for the next 157 miles which took us through Saintes where we entered the Cognac area with lovely rolling pastures and plenty of vineyards. Skirting Bordeaux we continued and entered the arondissement of Aquitane and broke our journey for a late lunch at 15:25 having averaged 63 mph and achieved 33.6 mpg stopping at Saugnac-et-Muret which is on the east side of the Parc Naturel Régionale des Landes de Gascogne. We enjoyed the view while eating a humble french baguette filled with a rather non descript cheese.Twenty-nine minutes later we were back in the car feeling refreshed and releived that the sun was shining we drove for a further fifty-five minutes covering 64.9 miles at an average of 73 mph achieving 34.1 mpg we made our penulitimate stop some 21.5 miles short of our destination in order to give Stanley some exercise before we arrived at our hotel.

fullsizeoutput_d7bbWe left nineteen minutes later and arrived at The Grand Hotel Thalasso in Saint-Jean-de-Luz where they had rolled out the red carpet in order to welcome Diana Ross and her husband.fullsizeoutput_db42

We were greeted by the most courteous and helpful staff and were whisked to our suite and having quickly scrubbed up we were ready to enjoy dinner in the Michelin highly rated restaurant L’Ocean.

We were not disappointed having had our already healthy appetites tickled by an aperitif we tucked into our first course of fullsizeoutput_db34

deconstructed squid with potato risotto which was absolutely delightful. Then

fullsizeoutput_db36

we enjoyed some sea-bass over a selection of beautifully prepared vegetables and then our our main course of

fullsizeoutput_db38

Veal cooked two ways, crispy sweetbreads and St. Georges Mushrooms followed by

fullsizeoutput_db3a

a cheese selection and finally

fullsizeoutput_db3c

Valhrona Alpaco dark chocolate, soustons sugared peanuts but when I broke the crust

fullsizeoutput_db3e

it was just sublime.

We went to bed tired, happy and stuffed!

Until my next post of this saga…………Toodleoo!

Travels With Stanley (Folkestone to Rouen)


My Dear Beloved Reader,

I thought it was about time to put finger to keyboard and attempt to capture our travels from the UK to Marbella in southern Spain. We departed from our home to attend a board meeting at Network HQ in Edgeware some twenty nine miles from home and after having concluded the meeting we departed for Folkestone in Kent in our trusty, somewhat full Range Rover Vogue SE Auto.

fullsizeoutput_dac4

It was a damp and drizzly day and more weather was to come later!

After one hundred and one miles we were on the train and had started our journey through the Eurotunnel.

We landed on the Continent and began our journey of one hundred and thirty-three miles to Rouen. The weather deteriorated quickly and we had an unpleasant drive in driving rain and gale force winds.

We eventually found our hotel which was not too easy as the Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedrale Hotel and its garage are situated in a pedestrianised area of this pretty cathedral town. Fortunately, the local police with their inimitable gallic charm escorted our car (blue lights flashing – see the video below) to the hotel. After a pretty difficult drive we were pleased to flop into bed and start our journey to Saint Jean du Luz the following morning.

Here’s three minutes and thirty-nine seconds of video highlights from Day 1.

Until our next episode of this gripping story…..Toodleloo!

The End Of A Chapter


Today is the day we leave our vacation home in Lakewood Ranch near Sarasota in SW Florida. It’s a huge mix of emotions. Sad to leave the wonderful friends to numerous to mention who are a wonderful crowd of people who Diana and I will always hold close in our hearts yet, excited to finally settle in to our new home in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire in the UK. Although we are leaving now we will be back for vacations in the future but also looking forward to exploring new places, making new friends and capturing new experiences. So, yes it’s sad to close this brilliant chapter in our lives but excited to start a new one. To all our pals, wherever you are, stay in touch. You will always be with us.

With much love,

Clive & Diana.

A Stroll On Siesta Key, A Tupperware Beach Party, Tumblers Tumbling And A Mingling Of Mennonites!


Dear Beloved Reader,

To view any of the photographs below in their full majesty please just click on the image of your choice. As ever, dear reader, please feel free to leave your comments below.

Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach

Having relieved our bank account earlier today of over $2000 for a set of new tyres for my beloved Corvette I decided upon a late afternoon stroll on a very quiet Siesta Key Beach.

The Meaning of Tupperware
The Meaning of Tupperware

During my stroll it was a surprise to observe, what I could only deduce, as a learned discussion on the meaning of that most useful of plastic storage boxes known as Tupperware!

CEL_1381
A Tumble

Meanwhile this close-by acrobat delighted her audience with a mid-air somersault which was executed perfectly and may have had nothing to do with the aforesaid storage containers.

CEL_1384
The Yellow Life Guard Hut

It was no surprise, as the beach was so quiet,

CEL_1388
No Lifeguard On Duty

that the life guards (both red and yellow) had decided to call it a day. Although this may have been a ploy to avoid hosting a future home presentation, of that well known brand of lid snapping plastic, even though the soft hiss escaping from the storage box could be likened to the sound of the swish of surf caressing the sand on a quiet day.

Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach

This beautiful beach was now becoming empty leaving just the few

To Stand and Stare
To Stand and Stare

to stand and stare where others

The Grand Debate
The Grand Debate

debated the meaning of life and the endless possibilities of Tupperware.

Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key Beach

So, we say farewell to the mingling Mennonites, the tumbler and the potential Tupperware hosts and hostesses.

Until my next post……Toodleoo!

The Surf’n Dudes


This morning we awoke to a thunder-storm, a tornado warning and a “small boat advisory” which means of you go out in a boat you’re completely certifiable! By lunchtime the skies had started to clear and I decided to have my afternoon stroll on Lido Key near Sarasota. It was so windy that the lifeguard was flying the forbidden swimming flags. The beach was almost deserted apart from one or two brave souls braving the elements in search of some exercise when to my amazement I came across a posse of surfing dudes. I’m not sure if “posse” is the correct collective noun for the surfing enthusiasts that I encountered but there they were, battling the waves with consummate skill. Having marvelled at their artistry in the surf it was time for me to turn homeward bound and then I came across a gaggle of lady Amish surfing spectators. I hope you enjoy the gallery below. Just click on any photograph you desire to see a full screen rendition. Enjoy!

Until my next post …..Toodleoo!

Just Some Stuff


I’ve not posted anything on this site for ages and as you know, dear reader, I normally write about business stuff but to see that sort of content, you now need to head over to theteamworksnews.com

I thought it would be good to share some photos (click on them to view full screen) that I’ve taken today while out for my afternoon walk. This is just some stuff and just for fun.

DSC_2644
Hunting

This Osprey was hunting and to watch the speed of the dive and capture was breathtaking.

 

DSC_2543
The Capture

Later on while on my way home I spotted this yacht that must have broken away from its mooring during one of the recent winter storms. A reminder of the power that mother nature has and should never be underestimated.

CEL_1306
Aground and possibly abandoned?

Strange to think that the winds that uprooted the yacht left these nuts attached to the tree above its new resting place!

DSC_2651
Just Nuts

My final pic of the day was this of the Ringling Bridge made possible by the vision of John and Mabel Ringling. This edifying structure connects Sarasota (seen in the distance) to St. Armands Circle but I will leave that story for another day!

CEL_1307
The Ringling Bridge

Until my next post…….Toodleoo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Question of Confidence.


My Dear Beloved Reader,

The other day, well actually it was June 4, I found myself hurtling around “The Bowl” at Millbrook Proving Ground in a brand new Aston Martin Vanquish at speeds of just under 100mph with my arms folded while driving and I was quietly confident! Not a bead of perspiration was dripping from my brow and I will tell you why. First, however, a few words about what I was doing and why.

When Ben Lowden of my favourite motoring web site, http://www.pistonheads.com suggested that I might like a day out driving an AM Vanquish with a few other “enthusiastic drivers” I had to give myself a really good pinch. To make it really interesting the event was going to be at The Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. Getting into this high security facility, unless you have the right introduction, is absolutely impossible. This proving ground is used by the industry and the M.O.D. to try out and test their vehicles. You see all sorts of interesting and interestingly weird vehicles either trundling or zooming around one of the five tracks on this seven hundred and sixty acre site. Photography of any description is absolutely forbidden and it was made abundantly clear that any breach of this rule and I would be summarrily dispatched. So, it was with a great deal of reluctance I had to leave my photo and video gear in the Aston Martin Clubhouse which is in the only clubhouse actually on the site!

Milbrook

I was treated to a number of drives around three of the tracks. My first drive was around The Alpine Track. This twisty, hairy, glorious track is famous for the “Ski Jump” where it’s really easy to take off but it’s a completely blind crest and if you do become airborne you better have the take off just right! Further down from the “Ski Jump” is the famous stretch that was used in the famous car chase in Casino Royal. This stunt holds the record for the most complete  barrell rolls of a car. Seven in all and was achieved by setting off a nitrogen charge under one of the rear wheels as the car in real life would not have tipped at all! The stunt was completed by a driver in a modified car, complete with roll cage and no CGI effects were used.

You can watch this fantastic stunt by clicking this link: www.https://youtu.be/YTYwDTRv0XI

Although the Alpine Track was challenging after the third lap it became hugely enjoyable and the bellowing sound of the V12 six litre engine working its way through the fantastic eight speed gearbox was simply awesome, especially as this session was in the Volante and as it was a beautiful day we had the roof down!

516490_vanquish_2015

I have to thank my co driver/instructor Alan White a.k.a. Dr. Evil for his guidance throughout the day. You might wonder why Alan is known as Dr. Evil? He’s the examiner for all the drivers on the Aston Martin racing team so I was doubly lucky to have him guiding me round all the tracks that day.

After a short coffee break in the club house we strapped ourselves into the coupe and at this point Dr. Evil was driving and he informed me we were going to “Do The Bowl”.

We meandered from the clubhouse passing a convoy of Mercedes white vans that were being tested and obviously well trained, driving very close together and not bothering to signal when turning right or left and then we entered a slip road and joined the traffic in The Bowl. The Bowl is like a giant porcelaine tea cup and from memory it’s three kilometres in circumference and marked with 5 traffic lanes. Dr. Evil quickly moved through the traffic to the top lane at the rim of this giant tea cup and having reached his cruising speed Dr. Evil removed his hands from the steering wheel, folded his arms and proceeded to converse on the subject of driving with a balanced throttle. To say my chin hit the floor would be most appropriate. I must have looked like a goldfish midway through pronouncing the name “Bob”. Then we left The Bowl and it was my turn!

I was in the driving seat and Dr. Evil and been on his walkie talkie to notify the other vehicles being tested that I was about to enter the bowl and I proceeded along the slip road just like joining a motorway except I knew that I had to avoid a pair of camouflaged Lotus cars, a Rolls Royce covered in a Zebra wallpaper (which looked rather foolish) and a Maclaren F1 that was being tested enthusiastically to the point of mechanical failure. I smoothly took my position up on the rim of the bowl and was instructed to maintain a speed between 93mph and 98mph. Having quickly attained the required speed Dr. Evil asked me to remove my hands from the steering wheel and fold my arms and then I had to drive with a balanced throttle. Too much power and I crept towards the rim and too little I would begin the decent into the lane of the insane Maclaren! Knowing these facts concentrates the mind and I was soon getting the hang of driving with a balanced throttle which if you’re ever with me in my Aston Martin DB9, I will be happy to demonstrate balance throttle control to you while negotiating a roundabout. Then it was time for lunch.

Lunch was a hurried affair not because the food was poor indeed it was very good, nor was the conversation dull, in fact it was fascinating. It was just that I was eager to get back on the track! My final track of the day was to drive this beautiful Aston Martin Vanquish Coupe down a mile long straight as fast as I could.

Well that sounds easy but at the end of the mile long straight is a right hand banked curve and you need to enter the bend at the right point and at the right speed. Of course I was confident because Dr. Evil would tell me when to start progressive braking prior to the bend. I had a number of runs down this straight and upon each one I was getting progressively faster and then it was time for my final run having already clocked speeds above 150mph.

The final run was to be done with the gearbox in automatic mode rather than manual, with the sport setiings switched to race mode and the suspension settings set for the track. The clock counted down and we were off. The engine howling like a deep throated banshee as we raced through the gears. Faster and faster so the landscape in my peripheral vision was becoming a blur and racing towards that right hand banked curve. Surely, Dr. Evil should have told me by now to start the progressive braking process, he must do it now, I mean it really has to be now but my foot has the pedal pressed to the metal and I begin to feel like Luke Skywalker on his final run to drop the photon torpedoes to destroy the Death Star. Brake, brake, brake utters Dr. Evil and I enter the right hand banked curve using a balanced throttle, out of the bend to a progressive stop. I’d hit 168mph and it was a blast!

Sitting in the car parked in the lay bye watching some weird electric motor bikes that looked like old fashioned ice cream salesman with Darth Vader helmets on hurtling past at high speed the notorious Dr. Evil told me that I was a pretty cool, confident, customer. Apparently, most drivers on the course didn’t manage the number of runs that I had taken nor had they hit such a high speed and often they were returned to the clubhouse in a pool of sweat in need of a cup of tea. It was at this point I had to tell Alan a.k.a. Dr. Evil the truth. You see dear reader, I had worked out that no one was going to let me total a new Vanquish and I had learnt early on that Alan was married with children and it was unlikely that he had a death wish. So, all I had to do was to follow his instructions and borrow his confidence in the car and his knowledge of the tracks that we had driven on that glorious day.

So, dear reader, the next time you feel a little low in confidence find someone that has gone down the path, listen to their wisdom and borrow their confidence!

Until my next post……..Toodleoo!

Who Influences You?

Two of the most influential mentors in the industry today. Your chance to hear them speak for free!


My Dear Beloved Reader,

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything on my blog and the main reason is that I’ve just been putting ot off! In other words I have been suffering from a severe dose of procrastination. So much so, that I thought I would write an article on procrastination but I’ve decided to do that tomorrow. Oh!, dear reader, I can hear you groaning right now. I wanted to share an interesting experience with you and that’s to do with influence or asscoiation.

For the last two years or so Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) and I have deliberately sought out leaders in the Network Marketing Industry in order to hear their stories,compare strategies, discuss common challenges and this has been an illuminating adventure. The culmination of this great adventure is that we are grateful that we have enjoyed fabulous hospitality and have built lasting friendships with many high achievers in our industry. For those of you that follow our live broadcasts you will have already seen a direct result of this in our recent interview with the author of Beach Money, Jordan Adler. Jordan has an unusual story. His first eleven years in the industry were not a raving success. In fact Jordan didn’t introduce anybody to his business until year eleven! Now Jordan is one of the highest achievers in the industry. If you missed our interview with Jordan you can view a recording by clicking on this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQIe4twaiJY

Jordan Adler

Jordan Adler

This coming Sunday, February 15 at 19:00 GMT we are excited that we will be interviewing another legend, Brian Carruthers, author of “Building an Empire”. Brian has a different syle to Jordan. Brian hit the ground running and for a decade Brian recruited an average of ten people a month and has grown an organisation of over 350,000 distributors. Brian’s methodology of maximising his time and where to concentrate his efforts is a lesson to all of us.

Brian Carruthers

Brian Carruthers

https://plus.google.com/events/cfu7uuct24smdrg7bokl268ek5g

To take part in this extraordinary broadcast and have the opportunity to ask Brian your question please follow the following briefing note which was originally published on my Facebook account http://www.facebook.com/clive.leach:

How to get the best from our live broadcasts.

I know that we have a lot of new friends who have never seen one of our broadcasts and I am aware that a few people have had problems accessing them. So, I thought I would write a short brief so you can have the best possible viewing experience. Let’s take this Sunday’s upcoming broadcast. You will get a much richer viewing experience using a desktop or a laptop rather than a tablet or smartphone. You can watch them with these devices but it’s not as good.

The first thing to do is click on the link below as soon as you have read this brief. If you have already signed up for a free account with Google + you will be taken to our “Event” page and you will see three buttons in a box entitled “Are You Going To Watch” and then select “Yes”, “No” or “Maybe”.

If you are not a member of Google + I strongly recommend that you join and not only will you have a much better viewing experience but you will be able to ask questions during the live broadcast. If you’re not a member just look at the top of the screen and you will see a button with “Join Google +”. Click on the button and follow the simple online instructions and it takes about two minutes to create an account. You only have to do this once and it’s free! Just remember your password!

When you’re ready to view the broadcast, just click on the link a few minutes before the start time  and you will be taken to the event page and you will see a screen with a play button in a circle (looks a bit like an arrowhead). Click on the button and you will see an announcement that the broadcast will start in x minutes and will count down. Then, at the start time, as if by magic, I will appear in living colour! Don’t forget to tune in and we will have some fun!

https://plus.google.com/events/cfu7uuct24smdrg7bokl268ek5g

Until Sunday night…Toodeloo!

To subscribe to this blog click the Follow button in the top right hand margin.

Homecoming.


The last day of my road trip was a six-hour journey home through pleasant scenery that I have already described in my “Day One” post. During the latter part of my journey I kept receiving a number of calls from my dearly beloved Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) as to what my estimated time of arrival would be and towards the end of the journey I deduced that something was going on. Well to my great delight on turning into Hyacinth Place I was greeted by a finishing line “Welcome Home Banner” and sign written road created by Miss Lindsay and cheered by the Hyacinth Place Welcome Home Committee and of course, She Who Must Be Obeyed! Having been duly de-briefed by the committee it was time to unpack the car have a good dinner and then time to reflect on my trip but first for the techies out there mileage covered today was 458.8 miles at an average speed of 66.7 mph and achieved a fuel economy of 23.1 mpg. The total mileage covered for the entire trip was 5,721 miles and my overall fuel economy was just over 20 mpg which was remarkable.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip and I’m going to reflect upon my entire journey over the next couple of days and, if I may, dear reader, I will publish my last post with my conclusions in a couple of days. So, until my next post, Toodleloo!

Naval Live Oaks A 30 lb Red Fish On My Penultimate Day


Sunday May 6.

I’m on my way on my penultimate day leaving Slidell, Louisiana at 8.45 on a lovely sunny, blue skied morning and the temperature has already climbed to 76F (24.44C) and soon I join my old friend I-10 going east. About 45 minutes later I have crossed the state line into Mississippi and it must have been raining quite hard earlier on as the highway is pretty damp and spray is being kicked up by the vehicles ahead of me. However, the sky is clear and all is well as 75 miles later I cross over the Pascagoula river basin which is a large area that from the elevated highway spreads almost as far as the eye can see. To the south I can just see an industrial area of some kind with some shipping and to the north it’s swampland and near the horizon it appears to become forested. Eighty seven miles into my journey and I have left Mississippi and crossed into Alabama. One hundred and thirty miles and I see the impressive skyline of Mobile and shortly enjoy a view of the Battleship SS Alabama which I described earlier in my blog and you can view the photographs in my photostream on Flickr, please see the panel on the right hand side of this blog. Having passed Battleship Park I get a great view of the river flowing into the Gulf of Mexico which I did not see at the beginning of my journey as it can only be seen from this side of the highway! The Gulf is at peace, it’s an absolute flat calm without a ripple troubling the boaters out there enjoying the water. One hundred and fifty-four miles on and I have crossed the state line into Florida and I now recognise that this is my penultimate day of my road trip and I suddenly feel excited at the prospect of seeing Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) and arriving back in Lakewood Ranch tomorrow but now back on with the day. At Pensacola I leave the Interstate system and take the coastal road heading for todays destination of Panama City Beach. En route I pass through the small town of Gulf Breeze and I’m motoring on a two lane highway through the Naval Live Oak Reservation. This area was designated in 1828 by President Quincy Adams as the First Federal Tree Farm. This was an important area at that time as the Live Oak, which is a member of the beech family was used in the construction of tall ships. As many as two thousand Live Oaks were used to make one hull for a naval vessel!  As I continue along US 98 the landscape becomes a strip development of hotels and shops with an occasional view of the gulf.

A little further on I leave US98 and cross over a causeway bridge to Navarre and having parked the car I pay the princely sum of $1 for the privilege of walking along the lengthy fishing pier that was constructed in 2010. As I commence my $1 walk I view from the pier on my right hand side a bunch of not very attractive high-rise condominiums and to my left a brilliant white busy beach filled with the Sunday afternoon crowd relaxing, taking some rays! This part of the Gulf of Mexico is fed by a current that brings a prolific quantity of nutrients which colours the water a lovely shade of green which gives rise to the nickname for this part of the coast as “The Emerald Coast”. The throng of anglers on the pier are having a very busy time as they haul in what almost seems to be one fish after another and as I walk towards the end of the pier I find myself dodging anglers making their casts. The flying rods seem to be landing fish with a resounding thump at my feet as I continue to tread delicately over the writhing fish before they are scooped up by the anglers, de-hooked and returned to the ocean deep. I have just encountered an angler who has just returned a 35 pound Redfish to the sea as it was too big to keep! The angler would only be permitted to keep his catch of this variety provided the fish weighed not less than 18 pounds and not more that 27 pounds so, over the side of the pier this one went. Well, that not strictly true. This huge fish was gently lowered in a net to the ocean beneath the pier and then released from its captivity and some people think this is fun! All in all I think my $1 fee was good value. However, if I had been a fisherman I would have had to have paid $2! A little further on I break for lunch at Beasley Park in Ocaloosee Island and sit in a pavilion overlooking the beach. Having enjoyed my lunch I continue my journey and arrive at my destination at Panama City Beach for the night and tomorrow I start my final day of my journey and I’m now looking forward to returning to my American home.

For the techies out there mileage covered today was 290.1 at an average of 46.4 mpg and achieved 22.2 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

Slidell Sweet Potato Stuffed With Cinnamon Butter With Melted Roast Marshmallows.


Friday 4 May.

Today was my second longest drive of the trip and unfortunately, the most uneventful. I left Dallas just after 9 am with the temperature at 73F in heavy traffic. After 175 miles I’ve crossed over from Texas to Louisiana and shortly afterwards I stop at a Louisiana rest area and information centre. Louisiana takes tourism seriously and every centre I’ve visited has been well presented with helpful staff and always free, freshly brewed, excellent coffee. This state is much greener that the parts of Texas that I’ve driven through and much prettier. For a more detailed description of this part of my route please refer to my earlier post “Houston, We have a problem!” Finally I reached my destination Slidell after a very long drive. At the hotel I decided to dine at the restaurant next door but we had a power outage that affected the entire block. So, by accident I ended up dining at The Texas Roadhouse. I sat at the bar having walked across thousands of peanut shells on the floor and was greeted by Steve the barman who must have been an ex marine. He was certainly built like one and at the end of every sentence, conducted at parade ground volume he would finish off with a very loud “Yes Suh!” However, my steak was excellent and the sweet potato stuffed with cinnamon butter and then covered in melted roasted marshmallows (Steve’s recommendation) was indescribable and I left the restaurant several pounds heavier.

For the techies out there the mileage covered today was 541.8 at an average of 62.9 mph and achieved 23.7mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

Cadillac Ranch, The Other Memphis & A Tornado Shelter!


Today has been one of my best drives of this road trip so far! Probably because very little of it was on the Interstate network and I saw some interesting stuff and met some fascinating people.

My day started late as I had a bit of a lazy lie in bed and did not leave the hotel until 09:50. My first stop was just four miles away at The Cadillac Ranch in Potter County, Texas. This is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of mid twentieth century Cadillacs; the tail fin) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. I lifted this information from the font of all knowledge “Wikipedia” and I have my doubts as to the accuracy of the angle that these cars have been buried. However, I took several photographs of this installation and you can see some of them below and others on my Flickr photo stream. Just click on the “More Photos” link in the Flickr panel on the right hand side of this blog. You would really help me dear reader if you would leave your comment on the Flickr site as to which of these Cadillac photos you like as I’m having a tough time picking just one!

Forty minutes later and I’m now on route for Dallas having thoroughly enjoyed walking around the graffiteed Cadillacs and on the slip road at 10:45 I saw a puppy dog standing over a lawn sprinkler cooling off and then nonchalantly walking off with a good shake. Thirty miles later and I have left the I-40 east and joined the US 287 South in the direction of Fort Worth. On either side of this dual split highway lies rolling green pastureland as far as the eye can see with an occasional small herd of cattle doing what comes naturally. Later the pasturelands change to newly planted very well irrigated wheat fields.

I decided to have a walk around a very small town named Claude and spotted a beautiful library building almost opposite which could only be described as a somewhat decrepit city hall. I noticed that discreetly tucked in the corner of the library was a portable barbecue, see if you can spot in the photograph and it made me wonder what the librarian was having for lunch! Leaving Claude the scenery changed as the landscape to my north became dotted with giant rolls of hay and to my south ploughed land planted and irrigated by those long metal structures that remind me of a wing from an ancient biplane.

Ninety miles into my journey I stopped at the Donley County Safety Rest Area to answer the call of nature and afterwards I walked around the information centre which was very well laid out and presented. You can see a couple of pictures of the interior of this information centre on my Flickr photostream.

My next port of call was just down the road at Memphis, Texas not too be confused with the one in Tennessee! I was walking around the red pavered road taking some pictures of this small pretty town and I noticed a bumper sticker “I STOP FOR QUAIL”. Now that’s not the sort of thing you see in England every day and I stopped to photograph it. Just at that moment the lady owner of the vehicle popped out of a shop and spoke with me. This charming lady of indeterminate years invited me in to see her art collection that was being hung in preparation for a sale at the weekend. While viewing this most attractive collection of western paintings (some were better than others) another lady entered the emporium and was introduced to me. This lady became very excited upon meeting me and it’s fair to say that it’s not that often I have that affect upon members of the opposite sex! However, when this lady invited me to come with her next door to sign her visitors book I understood that it was in her capacity as the office manager of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce. We had a pleasant conversation while I duly signed her book and Susan McQueen, for that is her name, told me that she would relay our meeting to the members of the chamber at the next meeting. I don’t think an awful lot goes on in this pretty little town but in listening to Susan’s enthusiasm I’m sure things will change. As an example there is a very pretty historical hotel which is currently being refurbished so perhaps that town in Tennessee may have to rely a little more than just Elvis to remain the one that everybody remembers!

Leaving Memphis I noticed that it was 102F (38.89C) and was soon on my journey with fields of ploughed red earth either side of the highway which soon gives way to fields of golden wheat which is very picturesque. I stopped for lunch at The Dairy Queen in Childress (population 6,109) and suffered a near edible grilled sandwich of the famous rubber chicken variety.

After 166 miles on I stopped at Hardman County Safety Rest Area for a quick break and was comforted to note that this particular rest area boasted a tornado shelter which was about the size of a large utility room in a modern home. I suppose that if one of those frightening phenomena are bearing down upon you it doesn’t matter how cosy it would get in the shelter! Thirty miles later and I drive through a small town called Vernon. This must have been a massive seed producing area as within the town there is a huge factory reminiscent of a Lancashire cotton mill that was called the Crown Seed Company. Massive towers, broken windows, rusting machinery and a general air of dilapidation.

After 238 miles I’m now approaching Wichita Falls and I have joined the I-44 west and the skyline of this sizable town is ahead of me. The Interstate system took me over and through Wichita Falls and I am now traveling along US 82 East. Just over 330 miles into my drive and I have joined TX114 which will take me into Dallas which is about 40 miles away. This last piece of my journey is conducted in rush hour traffic and I’m pleased when I arrive at my hotel and I promise myself a soak in the bath!

For the techies among you the mileage covered today was 371.2 at an average speed of 59.4 mph and achieved 23.9 mpg.

 

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

I’m On My Way To Amarillo da, da.


Wednesday May 2.

Well did you sing the title? Originally recorded by Tony Christi, and then by Sir Tom Jones latterly by Peter Kaye and now you! Now that I’ve planted that seed I bet that tune will be rattling around your head for the rest of the day! I left Gallup just after 9am (Mountain Standard Time) and Gallup is not the sort of place one would wish to stay in for any length of time so I’m pleased to be on my journey. My journey today takes me east along I-40 and fortunately it runs parallel to or near to historic route 66 and I’m able to divert from one to the other as the mood takes me. Route 66 is a simple highway, one lane in each direction and therefore, is a lot slower than the modern Interstate system but on the Interstate you just don’t see as much stuff. Fortunately, route 66 carries very little traffic and that allows you to stop and stare.

My route starts on the I-40 and having left Gallup I’m soon barreling along through the Rockies and the scenery is dramatic. Red sandstone bluffs on either side of me with a prairie in between and its easy to imagine this as cowboy country. Soon I see a sign for The Continental Divide and decide to investigate. I pull off route 66 at the sign and take in the view and if you have a look at the photographs below and also by clicking on “more photos” in the Flickr panel on the right hand side, you will see the divide. I’m facing north so the rain that falls to my right (east) will drain towards the Atlantic and that which falls on my left goes west towards the Pacific. This is a first for me as I don’t think I have ever straddled a continental divide before.

Seventy miles on the landscape has become dominated by limestone rather than sandstone and I’ve passed a number of farmsteads but the land is so poor I have no idea how they make their living. Having travelled about 100 miles on a mixture of both highways I leave the I-40 again for the 66 to investigate a small town called Old Laguna. This tiny ramshackle town is comprised mainly of adobe style dwellings and would appear to be populated by native Americans, have a look at the photograph below and on my Flickr photo stream.

After journeying for 200 miles I stopped at a rest station and look back west and its obvious that I have now left the Rockies and I’m traveling through pastureland of a sort as it appears to be very dry. Later I stopped at the world famous “Clines Corners” although I must admit until now I had never heard of it and having replenished the tank in my Corvette and my inner tank with a 6 inch Subway I had a look around their world famous store full of moccasins, boots and other stuff that I didn’t know that I needed and still don’t!

Shortly after leaving Clines Corners the scenery changed to Pine forrest and 88 miles further on I’m surrounded by red stone bluffs and I’ve seen a sign for Lake Conchas state park. It was 24 miles off my route but I decided to go and have a look and turned on the 66 and was confronted with a derelict filling station (see the picture below) and I’m now heading north on a deserted road. Soon I reach Lake Conchas which must have been made by building a dam and there is no one around but there is signs of boating, marina storage etc. The lake is pretty low and I’m feel that I’m at a fairly decent altitude but the whole place is deserted and very windy. I leave Lake Conchas traveling east on NM 104. I have descended from Lake Concas and reached a village called Tucari which is at an elevation of 4000 feet.

Back on the I-40 east and having journeyed for 399 miles I have left New Mexico and entered Texas and changed time zones from Mountain Standard Time to Central Time. Finally I reach my hotel in Amarillo feeling a little weary but pleased with the experiences of the day!

For the techies out there. Mileage covered today was 458.3 at an average speed of 64.4 mph and achieved 24.3 mpg.

Las Vegas to Gallup, New Mexico via The South Rim at The Grand Canyon, Arizona


Tuesday May 1.

This will be one of those days that will be inevitably etched in my mind. After bidding a fond farewell to my lovely wife, Diana a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed. I took my leave of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and set forth for Gallup in New Mexico via The South Rim of The Grand Canyon in Arizona. My journey started eastwards on the I-215 under bright overcast conditions and having reached Boulder City and turning right onto the I-93 near The Hoover Dam I observed spectacular red rock scenery. Suddenly having gone around a fairly decent bend in the road an impressive vista of Lake Mead hove into view (for pictures please see my previous post “A Dam’ Fine Excursion) and having covered just over 34 miles I have left Nevada and entered Arizona. After a total of 46 miles I stopped at a scenic overview on the Nevada Highway and enjoyed a wondrous view of the Colorado River (see picture below). I stopped to fill the Corvette up at Kingman just before turning east on the I-40 at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and opposite the filling station stood a rather rickety gaming establishment which I was reliably informed by the filling station cashier “Wuz where all them big guns hung aat”.

After about 150 miles I’m on a high plateau in the Rockies and the excellent scenery that is rolling by the window is a mixture of pasture land, forested areas, scrub and some horse country. The plateau descends into a tiny town on route 66 called Ashfork and I decided to visit the museum. The museum is free and I am encouraged by a member of staff who outnumber the visitor (me) by 4 to 1 and I peruse the exhibits which were of interest. I particularly enjoyed the fire engine and for this and other photographs please click on “More Photos” in the Flickr panel on the right hand side of this blog and then navigate to day 14. After leaving Ashfork and nearing the turn off for the road which will lead me to the South Rim of The Grand Canyon the scenery changes and becomes reminiscent of the Alpine scenery one would find in the Austrian Tyrol on a summers day. At 221 miles I have turned north onto AZ 64 and am headed up to The Grand Canyon. The road steadily climbs and the road runs through a pine forest and the aroma is gorgeous. I’m beginning to hum snatches from Elgar’s Variations, it’s just that sort of road.

Finally I arrive at the entrance to the park and I notice that the entry fee is $25. So, I reach for my wallet and get out the plastic and my Florida driving license for photo ID. The very nice park ranger makes the assumption that I’m a 63 year old Floridian and therefore I just pay $10 entry fee and receive a pass that now entitles me to free entry to all the national parks in the USA for life and that also covers anyone (up to three people) in my car! What a bargain! I commence my 13 mile journey along the South Rim and to say that it’s spectacular is an understatement. It takes me more than two hours to cover this paltry distance and I wish that I had much more time to spend in this beautiful place.It is indeed, one of the wonders of the world and if you can’t get there soon, then please have a look at all the photographs that I have taken on Day 14 of my Flickr photo stream. I have to say that I think my photographs are pretty good and please leave some comments on them and be sure to tell me which one you think is the best one. I’m having a very tough time trying to make the choice!

All too soon I leave The Grand Canyon and at mile 309 I’m driving south-east on my way to Flagstaff and then onto Gallup. At mile 343 I’m on the US 89 and I’m skirting The Painted Desert and once more I wish I had time to stop and stare. I reach Flagstaff after a total of 389 miles and pick up the I-40 east towards Gallup and I’m at an elevation of 6000 feet and that’s after I have descended from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! I continue my downward journey and after another 35 miles I’ve dropped a further 1000 feet and I’m in Geronimo country. I’m about 80 miles west of Gallup and the scenery puts me straight into a cowboy movie. You expect to see teeming herds of Buffalo and hordes of native Americans between the flat topped eroded mesa’s on either side of the roadway and that big band theme tune from “The Big Country” is rattling around in my head followed by the whistling “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”. I’m now off the I-40 and on historic route 66 as the sun is setting behind my left shoulder and I begin to feel like a High Plains Drifter. Oh! very cherooted Clint Eastwood indeed, as I leave Arizona and enter New Mexico. At long last I arrive at my hotel in Gallup which is a town that you would just spend one night in because you’re too tired to travel any further. Tomorrow I’m going to get my kicks on route 66!

For the techies amongst you the mileage covered was 559.5 at an average speed of 61.2 mph and I achieved 23.7 mpg.

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

Last Day at The Bellagio


Monday April 30.

Today is our last full day at The Bellagio and Diana, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed, and I have throughly enjoyed our time here. We spent the day relaxing around the Cypress Pool (very large sumptuous sun loungers) and had a quiet dinner together. Tomorrow, Tuesday May 1, Diana flies to Miami and then drives to Lakewood Ranch near Sarasota in south-west Florida while I start my 2500 mile return car journey. My first stop will be Gallup in New Mexico after visiting The South Rim of The Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Until my next post, Toodleoo!

Thrills, Spills, Snow And A Show.


Sunday 29 May

Having gently awoken She Who Must Be Obeyed from her sonorous slumber and having enjoyed a healthy breakfast (orange juice, muesli, coffee and a huge croissant laden with butter and preserve) we put best foot forward and in no time we had collected my Corvette from the valet. A gentle drive down Las Vegas Boulevard on a Sunday morning brought us to our destination, The Stratosphere! We took the lift (elevator for my American readers) which speedily rose the 1,149 feet to the observation deck where we enjoyed the views over Las Vegas. Not only did we gaze in wonder at the wondrous panorama but at the congenital idiots that paid good money to be sent spinning out into the atmosphere on reputedly the highest roller coaster in the world. We were also amazed at the foolhardy that had forked out $149.00 to be attached to wire and then flung off the top of the building hurtling down to the ground 1,149 feet below. If you look closely at one of the photographs below you will see a person in a blue overall plummeting towards the earth’s surface allegedly seeking entertainment. To see a larger image just click on the photo or click on the Flickr links on the right hand side of this blog to see images of the day and navigate to Day 12.

By now the temperature in Las Vegas had risen to 87F (30.5C for my British readers) and we decided to drive out to Mt. Charleston about 40 miles away. We were soon climbing steadily enjoying the scenery and breathing in the pine laden scent which was superior to the artificial aroma emitted by some popular lavatory cleaning agents. We stopped for lunch at a ski lodge opposite Mt. Charleston Baptist Church (have you noticed that where there is a church there’s always a hostelry of some description?) at an elevation of 6000 feet and the temperature was a pleasant 65F (18.33C) although She Who Must Be Obeyed was making noises about getting her fur lined cape out of the boot (trunk) of the car! Fortunately, for all concerned, on this beautiful sunny day there was a blazing log fire inside the lodge! Continuing our healthy eating regime we lunched upon a chicken salad wrap accompanied with deep goose fat fried potatoes and to stay healthy we had unsweetened iced tea to which She Who Must Be Obeyed added a small quantity of aspartame.

After enjoying the vista from the terrace and being duly fortified we continued the assault on Mt. Charleston summit and we reached as far as we could go at an elevation of 8000 feet at the foot of the aptly named Cathedral Rock. By now the temperature was a refreshing 57F (13.89C) and She Who Must Be Obeyed retired to the heated seats of our chariot. It was amazing that within such a short distance one could leave the frenetic activity and desert temperatures of Las Vegas and enjoy such tranquil scenery and naturally pine scented fresh air! Please feel free to view todays photographs by clicking on “More Photos” in the Flickr panel on the right hand side of this blog.

We returned to our sumptuous room at the Bellagio in good time to change for our group dinner which was at the Milos restaurant at the Cosmopolitan. Then we were treated to the spectacular Cirque Du Soleil show in the “O” theatre at the Bellagio. I cannot find an adjective to describe this wonderful, ephemeral event (OK just two then) and I had to keep reminding myself that this 1800 seater theatre with its swimming pool set in the stage, that holds over a half million gallons of water is inside a hotel! This show was breathtaking and from now on I will look upon synchronised  swimming in a different light. If you ever get the chance to see this spectacle then go and enjoy!

Until my next post, Toodleloo!

Red Rocks and Fountains


Saturday 28th April

Today Diana (a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed) and I had a very pleasant 30 mile drive to Red Rock Canyon and then followed a scenic loop of some 13 miles around the canyon. The colours are fabulous and as the name implies there is an abundance of red sandstone rock over limestone. The Keystone Thrust Fault is, on which this Canyon is part of, like the famous San Andreas Fault (a break between two major rock bodies along which the break is vertical) the Keystone is horizontal. It began as gray limestone layers were pushed east during the end of the age of dinosaurs and ultimately “ramped” up through Jurassic Aztec Sandstone. Estimates of total eastward movement along this fault are as high as 40 miles. No, I haven’t overnight become a geologist but gleaned this information from their web site http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org . However, the photographs are mine and please view the entire shoot by clicking on the Flickr link in the right hand panel of this blog and select the road trip day 11 set. This was a great day out and we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery.

Upon our return to the Bellagio Hotel I took the opportunity to stand, stare and gawp at the marvelous fountain show that take place at the front of the hotel every day from 4.30 pm until midnight at 15 minute intervals. You will have to imagine the most effective syncopated fountain, light and music show which was beautiful to perceive. Have a look at the photographs on my Flickr site.

To round off the day we attended our group dinner at Le Cirque restaurant and later we retired to bed happy, tired and overfed!

Until my next post, Toodleoo!