Vancouver, B.C.

Alaska? Who the heck wants to vacation where there are no palm trees, beaches, and warm, clear water to snorkel and/or surf? Answer: Nearly every experienced cruiser, who answered the question, “Which was your favorite cruise?” Well, then. North to Alaska.

Note: Click on the picture at left to see our photo album.

To begin our vacation, we flew from Raleigh to Vancouver. We generally like to reach our port city the day before to avoid missing a moment of time shipboard. On arriving in Vancouver airport, we toted our considerable luggage to the Canada Line and road the train/subway to our hotel. Not a single transfer was required.

Unfortunately, my unerring sense of direction erred, and we exited the station on the side opposite the hotel. This was doubly unfortunate in that we had arrived in the rain. The Pan Pacific Vancouver was a welcome terminus to our voyage. Joy inquired as to a whether there might be a room with a better view and we received a room with a 180 degree panorama of the harbor for the same price. As an added bonus, we could see the cruise ship, Rhapsody of the Seas, right outside our window the next morning.

It was overcast and wet, but we walked the Stanley trail through the Harbour Green Park along the seawall. Outdoor sculpture, beautiful landscaping, and the entertainment of watching float planes take off and land were highlights of our soggy but beautiful outing.

The next day we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the rest of Vancouver from the Vancouver Lookout. From this vantage point, one can see that Vancouver is the setting for a large number of skyscraping jewels of architecture. Chicago may have the best overall skyline, but Vancouver has the best modern design skyline. Further, the setting, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and waterways, was just unsurpassed.

We then enjoyed the quick walk over to Gastown. Contrasting with the crisp modernity of greater Vancouver, Gastown is a quaint mix of outdoor cafes, boutiques, and tourist shops. It even has a steam clock that pipes out its chimes on the hour.

The morning was quickly over. It was time to gather our things in our room and ride down the elevator to the cruise terminal in the same building. Look out Alaska. Here we come.

Pan Pacific Vancouver – Video 1 of 2

Joy teased me about saying my name at the beginning of the video. “Who is going to watch this that doesn’t know your name?” Point taken. Check out the monopod I’m using to hold my camera. This proved useful over and over again throughout the cruise. Also, the video was edited and uploaded from my iPad 2.

Vancouver Lookout – Video 2 of 2

Ride up the elevator and walk around the Vancouver Lookout with us.

2011 Family Easter

It was wonderful to be with our family this Easter weekend. We still have a few youngsters willing to entertain us by searching for Easter eggs. But there just isn’t much better than seeing so many family members gathered together with love, laughter, and harmony. I wish that Will, Alex, and Paul, could have been there. You guys were missed. Click on the picture for the slideshow or the caption for the album. (I should mention that some of Sarah’s pictures are included without attribution. On some of them I lost track of whose was which.)

Boylan Heights and Lilly’s Pizza – Raleigh


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We had some time before the storm blew in on Saturday. I had planned to go down to the Warehouse District and check out some of the shops. As I was reading about it, I learned that there was an historic neighborhood just west of there. After some Trulia,, and Zillow checking, I altered my thoughts about what I wanted to do. Joy was game, so we loaded the dog in the Subaru and headed into town. The first part of the neighborhood was nice, but didn’t really make us feel safe. As we got more deeply into Boylan Heights, we found several nice streets. It isn’t as upscale as Cameron Park or the neighborhoods surrounding Five Points, but was quite charming. The predominate architecture was Arts & Crafts/Craftsman bungalows. Neighborhoods like this are to me like candy to a baby.

One of the things I miss most about California is the ubiquitous bungalow architecture, but if one knows where to look there are many equally fine Raleigh neighborhoods. Hope you enjoy these pictures we took.

After walking the Americana streets of Boylan Heights, I started to feel hints of hunger.  I had read that the service at Lilly’s wasn’t the fastest so we headed that direction.  Lilly’s is reputed to be the best pizza in Raleigh.  We arrived about 11:30am and there was only a short line.  When we reached the front of the line we ordered the Super Duper medium.  Although Lilly’s offers Vegan pizzas, we went for the full on carnivore’s special.  Their drinks have free refills and he sold us two for the price of one.  On our way to our table, we snagged some paper plates, napkins and metal utensils.  Our table was by the front window.  Beside us was an old refrigerator (the kind with the coils on top) in which were free newspaper flyers.  The outdoor tables were wet from the sprinkles which had already started.

When our pepperoni-sausage-bacon-and-more pizza arrived, it looked and smelled a thing of beauty.  I really don’t know whether to rave more about the seasoning of the sauce, the crust, or the toppings.  Every aspect of this pizza was the best.  Not since buying Greek pizza in Ipswich, Mass have I tasted anything close to this pizza.  Lilly’s may not make the best pizza in the world, but they make the best pizza in my world.  A medium was way to big for two people our age to eat, so we took home three extra slices. By the time we left the line was nearly to the door.

I started thinking I had overhyped in my mind how good this pizza was.  We had the leftovers on Sunday and I was again floored by the fantastic flavor.  The thickest part of the crust was a little too chewy when eaten cold, though.  I’ll try to do a better job of eating the whole thing fresh next time.

We beat the storm home thinking that we had avoided walking in the rain.  We didn’t realize that over 80 tornadoes would whip through our area killing 24 and leaving many hospitalized (not mention the property damage).  Our home and camp are fine, as are we, but our prayers are with the many families for whom the day brought more trouble than our brief power outage.  A huge tree was blown over onto the original farmhouse at the entrance to our development, but otherwise we just had some cleaning up to do.

The Big 8-0

Who would you most want to be like? When I am asked that question, the first human who pops into my head is my Dad. He has bathed his family in love from well before I was ever born. In addition, there are many graduates of WVU who refer to him affectionately as “Dad”. I have yet to attend an engineering conference where someone didn’t reminisce fondly about their days as his student.

Several of us submitted photos of good times we have enjoyed with Dad which were compiled into a video which we watched together after dinner. It was fun as family members would call out where it was that a particular picture was taken.

He would love to have had Ruth, Will, Alex, Dick, and R.P. (who scanned in several of Susie’s pictures) there (all of whom were there in spirit), but sadly they couldn’t make it for the party. We missed each of you. But we did have his wife Pat; his sister Susie; his children Janet, myself, Sarah, and Wayne; as well as Joy; Paul; Kim and Cassandra; Matt and Sera; Mary and Jimmy; Dan, Diane, Tyler, and Shelby. As always, Janet threw a great party and we all had a great time. Congratulations and Happy Birthday, Dad.

Christmas in Pittsburgh, 2010

It was great to see Joy’s kids and Clayton up in d’burgh.  Enjoying great food, a gift exchange, and our two dogs playing with each other non-stop.  Hope you got to spend Christmas with the ones you love.

Morgantown Christmas, 2010

Joy and I had a wonderful time in Morgantown for Christmas this year.  Family, friends, and food – a recipe for a great holiday.   We appreciate Matt’s family taking Will in for Christmas out in Nevada, but we missed having him with us.  Alex came back from Davis, California not only in time for Christmas but for our Christmas Eve bowling tradition.  Even though I bowl every year on Christmas Eve, I never seem to get any better at it.  Funny, huh?  I suspect my brother-in-law of actually playing more than once a year.  Paul bowled a 221 which was the highest score in the alley that day.

Mom seemed thrilled with her new iPad.  Dad got a new TV for his man-cave.  But, like them, I think we were all most grateful just for the time together to share love, food, and a lot of laughing.


Hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving as much as we did. It could only have been better if Alex and Will had been with us.

Raleigh? Really. (2)

We did finally find the West condos. In preparation for auctioning off 36 units, the developer held an open house. We saw nearly all of them and loved most of the ones we saw. But, frankly, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t an easy walk to downtown. The upside of that was that many of the units had a great view of the city skyline. I picked a unit on the 15th floor. Joy said she wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. (I hope she was talking about bidding on the unit. That’s what she was talking about, right?)

After the open house we ran into a young Oracle employee. Despite my giving him grief about the Oracle-Google law suit, he was very friendly. He took us to the “Entertainment District” where he was meeting his girlfriend to watch the NFL game at Tobacco Road (which turned out to be a restaurant). He told us about two Irish pubs within walking distance and walked us past a third one. Tobacco Road has ESPN on something like a zillion TV’s. Also in Glenwood South (aka “Entertainment District”), there is the Downtown Grill & Sports Bar. It is one of those below the sidewalk bars that seemed to be favored for a guys’ night out. But did you hear me say that there are three Irish Pubs within walking distance of West (and the other homes in Glenwood South). There is also a Bada Bing NY-style pizza joint and a very nice Bruegger’s with lots of outdoor tables. These and many other restaurants are on the first floor of 222 Glenwood, home of another beautiful condo complex.

But one needs more than a home, coffee shop, sports bar, and pub. At least, I do. How about a church that meets in an old warehouse. It shares the warehouse with a bar and an outdoor volleyball court. The teaching pastor is a product of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. I belonged to IVCF in college and was also a faculty advisor for IVCF.

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Adjacent to Glenwood South is Sewickley, PA-like Cameron Park. Do you prefer an older home with character to condo living? Sidewalks and parks? Friendly people? Check this neighborhood out. I asked two different couples what I thought was a quick question and ended up engaged in friendly conversation for several minutes both times.

We went back to our favorite pub Friday night with Lindsay and Sherry. Napper Tandy is a tasteful assemblage of intimate dining nooks. Some of the fixtures were imported from Ireland, but they all look as if they could have been. The live music is not traditional Irish but one definitely feels as though one is in an Irish pub. I really loved this place. Heather provided first class service and the food was great. I cannot wait to go back. This discovery is going to cost me money.

Yes, I love Honolulu, So Cal, and Pittsburgh as well as several other great cities, but what fun to find that there is room in my heart for one more – especially since I live here.

Raleigh? Really? Really.

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Joy and I have had the privilege of living in or at least visiting some very cool cities. Who wouldn’t be impressed by Chicago’s old stone bridges and the romance of dining riverside? and the skyline? Please. Awesome. While the streets of New York may not be quite as picturesque, one has to admit that the little island of Manhattan is a one stop shop for everything attractive from antiques to contemporary boutiques. Throw in Broadway, Rao’s and other great restaurants and bars, and a plethora of cute little parks and one sees why so many of us <3 NY. Southern California is the region proffering the highest number of awesome cities per square mile in the world I have had the privilege to travel. Do you doubt me? Try driving down the coast from LA to San Diego and visiting every shop, restaurant, and site that draws your eye. Hope you're independently wealthy, because it will be a while before you get back to work. Then head up to the Palm Springs-Palm Dessert Area for a completely unique but equally stimulating vibe. Chicago does have a great beach and there is a nice marina in New York, but let's be honest, if you want the greatest combination of city and water, you'll find yourself in Honolulu. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, one finds some of the best shopping in the Pacific Rim and a dazzling skyline as well. Senor, do you like history, cities, shopping, and food? Si? Then hustle yourself on over to Old San Jaun in Puerto Rico - and pack some good walking shoes. Need a good cup of coffee, a wooden boat, a float plane, and a place to chill with a view? Then you need Seattle. Still, I have to admit that the crown jewel of all the cities I have seen would have to be Paris. Architecture, Museums, the Seine, the bridges, the shops, the food, the history, the off the charts sheer breathtaking beauty of it all, make Paris the winner so far in my experiences of many great cities. When my career landed me in Raleigh five years ago, I feared that I might never again feel that little jolt of excitement one gets from rounding a corner and discovering an unexpected treasure. Like an out-of-favor communist exiled to Siberia, I ventured into what I expected to be a cultural void. In these five years, I have experienced some pretty cool places on the east coast, but, frankly, other than the Wrightsville Beach area and our little lakeside camp, North Carolina was underwhelming me. I could visit some pretty awesome places from here - D.C., Annapolis, Miami, but I just wasn't finding any local scratching of my itch for an urban aesthetic. The attraction of my east coast family and a great job kept me here, but it was a keenly felt sacrifice. What this self-pitying son of many blessings needed was a good slap in the face and loud shout of "Wake up and open your eyes!"

Umstead State Park

Sunday dawned a beautiful, low humidity day. So, as we left the early service of church we decided that we would go look at one of the buildings housing loft condos downtown (West at North). As we tooled down Glenwood, we passed the entrance to Umstead State Park. For whatever reason, I thought it was just one of several little parks dotting the Raleigh area. Joy suggested we have a look at the park we had been passing for five years and we turned in. And we drove. And we drove. And we drove. The park was huge. Also unusual for this region was that it was predominately a hardwood forest. It reminded me of the drive out to Cooper’s Rock in West Virginia it was so beautiful – and right here in Raleigh. When we came to the lodge housing an exhibit hall, we spent about an hour learning about the history of the area. I especially enjoyed the exhibits about how the mill operated off of power from a waterwheel. Our church clothes weren’t conducive to hiking or paddling a rental boat, but we noted that dogs on a leash are allowed and planned to return with Moku and hiking shoes.

As we passed the very nice Crabtree Valley Shoppiing Mall at the inner beltway we transitioned away from the familiar part of Glenwood. Happily this lead us into the Carolina version of Beverley Hills as the homes on the southwest side of the boulevard were stately historic mansions with a sprinkling of upscale contemporaries. Grab a couple million and come shopping.

Sadly, Google Navigation dropped me at the right street address on the right street but not the right place. We were on the south end instead of the north end. As we began to drive up the street to the condo end, we discovered Raleigh’s Warehouse District. Old brick warehouses have been converted into quaint looking shops. But what really caught our eyes was a little restaurant with outdoor dining. The sign said, “H pie”. Seeing several people walking toward the restaurant, we decided to park and investigate for ourselves. Humble Pie may be a humble establishment, but what a pleasure it was to find a place with so much style. Exposed brick walls, hanging spherical paper lamps, servers in blue jeans and T-shirts, friendliness, and, as we found, good food. Joy says it is the best huevos rancheros she has had this side of Mexico. My southwestern omelette (with the goat cheese our server suggested) was the best omellette I’ve had since our last cruise. We were disappointed not to have been seated outside, but I really enjoyed studying the decor inside.

Between the park, the mansions, and Humble Pie, I found my impression of Raleigh slowly begin to shift. Not convinced about Raleigh? Keep in mind that this day was only half over.

Something New, Someplace Old