Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2009

We had a very nice and quiet Christmas this year. We stayed home for the whole weekend, the only place I went was to church on Christmas morning.

We rented some movies for the weekend. IGA is the only place in town where you can rent decent movies and they were having a special. We could rent movies for .99 and keep them for two days, they didn't need to be back until Saturday afternoon. We rented the new Star Trek, Duplicity, Knowing and The International.

We watched Star Trek on Christmas Eve, we liked it. A very predictable Start Trek movie. I didn't make it to Midnight Mass this year, I was just too tired. I had been up since 4:30 am and it was a long day. At work, we had our annual Christmas Eve brunch. Not very many people showed up, but we sure did enjoy some good food and company.

Christmas morning arrived pretty uneventful at our house. No more little kids waiting anxiously to see what Santa brought them. I finished baking my pies, then got ready for church. Jennifer was still sleeping, so we opened presents after church. We got some of our presents early, the 42" flat screen tv, blue ray dvd player and wii gaming console, not to mention our new laptop computer. Jennifer got a nice fleece jacket from Gma, money from GGma and a new game for her nintendo DS. Gary got a $50 gift card to the Outback from his brother and a box of chocolate covered cherries with the liquid center from Jennifer. I got the movie "A Christmas Story" from Jennifer and some homemade jellies from our friends and neighbors the Hickeys. I also got a light house for my village from my friend in the office next door. My village is growing a little at a time.

The rest of the day was spent fixing a very non-traditional meal. We had chicken wings and some fixings to go with them and munch all day long. Watched the rest of our movies and in between watched snippets of football games.

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and watching a ton of football, so many games I couldn't even begin to tell you what bowl games we watched.

Monday morning when I came to work I had a huge present on my desk. I get along very well with the head janitor Betty, that she left a present for me. Inside were buildings for my village, I got a small house and school house, a larger coffee shop and some trees. My village is really growing. Now I just need to get some people for it.

We don't have any big plans for New Years, will just stay home and watch some movies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tae Kwon Do Party

Last Saturday was the annual Park's Tae Kwon Do Christmas Party and Awards Banquet. This is a party that we have to go to since we are running the school in Hardin. This is a dress up party.

This year, Jennifer invited her friend to go with us. I hope he enjoyed it. He is a quiet kid and doesn't say much. He sure came home with some raffle items, he won two and Jennifer won one.

Every year it storms when this party is scheduled and this year a storm came in that night. We didn't get as much snow as was predicted, but the wind was very cold and the temperatures sure dropped.

This year Jennifer and I received our new black belt certificates. All the people who tested during the year get their certificates at the party. Now we are official. Hardin didn't get any other awards this year, maybe next year.

We left early, due to the weather but also Jennifer's friend had to work Sunday so he needed to get back.

Here is photo of us together, all dressed up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Toys For Tots

For the past 25 years the biker group Roaddogs has sponsored the Toys For Tots. This was our first year participating. The second Friday in December is the huge Christmas Party. This year it was held at Bones Brewery. The only requirement to get into the party is that you have to be to a biker and that you bring in an unwrapped toy or money for the cause. We found out about this from our HOG friends who have been participating the past five years.

We arrived at Bones in plenty of time and we managed to get a table large enough for our group. There were 8 couples in our group. We had a table large enough, but not enough chairs, but that didn't pose a problem we we took turns standing. I should say the guys took turns standing. There was a live band called Jamulation from Bozeman. They were pretty good, played good rock and roll music. None of the stuff that today's kids listen to. They played music from the 60's, 70' and 80's. There was also a live auction and a silent auction. Some of the items being auctioned off were 52" flat screen tv's, computers, game consoles and a bunch of other nice items. The silent auction were mainly gift baskets. They were also selling t-shirts for the toy run.

We had a great time, we left around 11:00 pm. We both had been drinking, but since it was determined that I would be the driver, I quite drinking earlier. We both wanted something to eat, so ate at Denny's as that was the only 24 hour restaurant we could think of to go. Once I got some fresh air and something to eat I was better. To tell the truth, after leaving the bar I really should not have been driving. I was fine, but if we got stopped for anything I would have been in trouble.

Sunday morning we left Hardin to head back to Billings to help deliver toys at the mall. All the toys went to the Salvation Army and they will dole out all the gifts. Saturday the head Roaddogs spend the day shopping. It was very cold Sunday morning, below zero.

Our original goal was to meet our friends at a fire station house in Billings, but we couldn't find it. We got about 6 different directions on where it was. So we went out for breakfast instead. After breakfast we made our way to the mall and waited. Most of our friends were just going to be at the mall, none were riding due to the weather. It was just too cold and the roads were too icy.

The bikers arrived at noon. There were about 50 die hard bikers riding in the bitter cold and they all looked very frozen. Two dump trucks filled with toys stopped at the front of the mall and just started unloading. There were about 250 bikers helping unload all the toys. Gary and I got separated. All the toys were delivered to the Salvation Army tree in the mall and it was buried.

I went out to take some photos, then carried in a sack full of toys. By the time I made it out to get another load to carry in, all they toys were delivered, so I made my way back inside to take more photos. Gary would find me one way or the other.

It was announced later and in the news that the Roaddogs Toy Run delivered $30,000 worth of toys to needy children of Billings. Gary and I decided that we want to make this one of the annual things we must do. Hopefully the weather will be nicer so that we are able to ride. We are going to stock up on some toys over the next year. Needless to say, the coffee shops in the mall were making money left and right. The bikers just wanted something warm to drink.

After the toy run, the HOG chapter had their meeting and chili feed. Not too many of us there this time, weather played alot to it. Chili was good, especially on a freezing day. We had a very busy weekend and we both enjoyed ourselves.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Little Black Dress

Saturday we have our Tae Kwon Do Christmas Party and awards banquet. This is a dress up occasion. I've been looking for a black dress for some time to wear. I finally found one after two months of looking. This is a very classy dress. I paid a bit much than I wanted, but it really was a good price. I even bought a new pair of shoes.

I found the dress at JC Penney. I even bought a new pair of shoes for it. Just what I need, another pair of shoes. The other dress I wore was the Chinese dress I bought while I was in Hawaii. I had worn that particular dress for two years in a row. Besides, you can never go wrong with a black dress and it can be worn for other occasions too.

Here is the stock photo of the dress that I took off the JC Penney site. The back of the dress drapes over the shoulders.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Check Engine Light

A couple weeks ago, my check engine light came on when I was in Billings. A safety feature on my car is that the cruise control is disengaged. Alot of help that was. Anyway I made an appointment for the car and while they are at it they can check out the brake light that is out, my driver side window doesn't roll down and the lights on my radio are out.

I made the phone call to tell them what I needed done. I was told that since my radio works and the cd player works then it would be better just to leave that alone. Since I no longer have my warranty I would have to buy a whole new radio console which was around $700. Well I have gone all this time without knowing what radio station I'm listening, so I can continue on this route.

I told the technician was I needed done, my check engine light, brake light and the drivers side window. He told me that on the window it would depend if it is just a switch or a motor. Motor would be more money. I personally think it is a switch because the other three windows will roll up and down.

My appointment was for last Saturday at 8:15 am. Jennifer went with me because she was off and we could spend the day shopping. Since it would take them a couple hours to fix my car we could just hang out in the mall. (Across the street from Subaru)

We arrived at Subaru and got checked in. I am also due for my 60,000 mile check up. He said that it will only cost $875. I told him that I will have to schedule that for another time. I just don't have $875 to spend right now. It was going to cost enough just to fix the stuff I want. Anyway, I gave them the keys to my car, gave him my cell phone number. They would run the diagnostics on it and will tell me the price and I can authorize from there. Jen and I went to the mall. Nothing was open until 10:00, so we walked around then got a drink.

10:00 rolled around and still no phone call. Decided to walk back to Subaru to check things out. I figured that if I was hanging around they would work on things faster. Well, no word yet on the car and he assured me that they would call. I told him that we would wait, but was told that there was no way to tell when it would be done. Back to the mall we went. About a half hour later I got the phone with the diagnosis.

My check engine light is one because the air flow sensor is out and the air filter was clogged. That is going to cost me $652. Yikes. To fix the brake light, that is going to cost me $34. To fix the driver side window, the motor is out so that will cost $500. Well, I need the check engine light fixed, that sounds pretty serious and I need the brake light because I could get a ticket for that. Decided not to get the window fixed because I managed all summer with it broken. Besides I have air conditioning and the other windows will roll down.

Five hours later and $700 lighter from the checkbook I got my car sort of fixed. They are really stressing the importance of getting that $900 service done or I may be on foot. I really find it hard to believe that it will cost $900 to check the car. He said that they change the spark plugs and make sure the belts are in working order.

Gary wasn't too happy about the cost, but it did need to be done. Next time I will change the air filter myself and save me the money. I'm sure I can buy an air filter cheaper at an auto parts store. I guess I can live without cruise control.

My fear is that once I hit a certain mileage that my car will just quit. Who knows how they program the computers in the cars. People I have talked to were in shock when I told them the cost for the service.

Gary feels that since we have the lifetime oil change on the car they are going to get their money from us some other way.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Black Friday

I survived Black Friday. I didn't get up early and shop at 4:00 am or anything like that, but we did go to Billings Friday.

Our first stop was in Sheridan at the VA so that Gary could go in and get his blood pressure checked. The medication he is on right now just isn't doing the trick, but it has at least stopped it from going higher. We were told that they open at 7:30, we arrived at 8:00 am, checked in and waited an hour before he was called. It just doesn't pay to get there early. Anyway, his regular doc wasn't in, but the nurse told him that he wouldn't get a stronger dosage of what he is taking now, he will have to take another medicine in addition to what he is taking. He should be getting a phone call on Monday. He is not happy at all about having to take any kind of medicine. He fought this for 10 years, but his family history has finally caught up to him. We ate breakfast in Sheridan before heading to Billings.

Our first stop in Billings was at Nissan to get the oil changed in his truck. He thought it would take 20 minutes. Usually I am the one to take the truck in for oil changes and I told him that it would take over an hour, these guys are not speedy. Anyway we had plenty of time to look around at the new cars and trucks. I told him not to buy anything and this time I didn't go the the restroom.

We are in the market to getting a small utility trailer. He wants one to haul the motorcycle around. There are year round gatherings for bikers, but winter is just too cold to ride from Hardin to Billings. Anyway we decided to go ahead and get the trailer. If we don't like it we can always sell it. Now we have to order a hitch for the truck. For some strange reason he bought this truck without a towing package. It's going to cost about $300 to get the hitch and the labor for the installation. After leaving the Nissan dealership 2 hours later, we then headed to Laurel to buy a trailer.

We stopped at the trailer place and they just got in a used 12' trailer in a couple days ago. The original owner decided that it was too small for what he wanted and traded it in for a bigger one. It looks brand new and we don't think he used this one at all. We decided to go ahead and buy it for $1300 but we can't pick it up until next week. The little salesperson put our name on it and when we pick it up we will then pay for it.

We then made our way back to Billings, stopped at Wal-Mart to price micro waves. Ours is so old that it is not heating right. This was given to us by some friends who about 15 years ago bought a new one and gave us this one. Prices sure have come way down when micro waves first came out. We found one we wanted and I would pick it up on Saturday when I bring my car up to get serviced. That is another story.

We then decided to go to the mall to eat and watch people. Made it to the mall, but it was so crowded that we didn't even try. The parking lot was full, even the south forty part of the lot was full. We sort of peeked in the windows and all we could see was people shoulder to shoulder. No sense in trying to fight our way through that crowd just for something to eat. We went to Buffalo Wings and had a great burger.

It was getting late and we decided to go home, I had to come back up on Saturday anyway so anything we forgot I would get. It was a long day for us, but we enjoyed it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cat-Griz Game

Saturday was the big state rivalry game between the Montana State Bobcats and the University of Montana Grizzlies. This was the 109th meeting between these two teams and this game is huge in Montana. Gary and I went to Billings for Thanksgiving dinner shopping, then we went to the sport bar Bones to watch the game. We are Griz fans.

Surprisingly the bar was not crowded and we had our pick of where to sit. We chose a table that was right in front of a tv. Our view was not blocked by anyone sitting in front of us. We ate lunch as they have great burgers here. Most of the crowd were Grizzly fans, but there were plenty of Bobcat fans there as well.

Needless to say the Grizzlies won, 33-19 and once again is undefeated in the regular season. This makes the 4th time that the Grizzlies have an undefeated season, now we are headed to the playoffs.

The Grizzlies are ranked #1 in the standing for the playoffs and first team we play is the SDSU (South Dakota) Jackrabbits. The game will be held in Missoula, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will air on one of the Billings tv stations. If not will be listening to the game ont he radio. This is the 17th straight year that the Grizzlies have been in the post season playoffs. They haven't won it 17 times, but they have been in the playoffs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

White Elephant Auction

Yesterday our HOG chapter had their annual white elephant auction and pot luck. I made magic bars for the pot luck and for the auction I made up a basket with a bottle of red wine and four wine glasses.

We went up to Billings early in the morning just to shop around. We need to get a new computer as our old one is soooo slow. It takes a long time to boot up and also the programs are slow running. You have to be very patient and there are times when you have time to run errands before it wakes up. I have decided that it is a male computer.

Anyway, we only went to price the new computers and ended up buying one. We got an HP lap top and it has all that we need and then some. I am happy about the 4G of memory that we have, now I can really load up the computer with photos. It was on sale along with a $50 mail in rebate. We are going to Billings on black Friday, but the sale was ending this week and no guarantee that this computer will be on sale black Friday and at that price. Let alone be in stock. We figured why not, go ahead and get it. Won't look at prices on black Friday.

We got to the HOG meeting place early. This winter we are meeting at a sports bar, they are very accomodating for biker groups. We get a whole room to ourselves. Gary and I went early to watch some of the ball games before the meeting.

We have a very short meeting, had to vote for the treasurer position as two people actually wanted the office. Gary voted for one guy and I voted for the other. We like both men and feel either one will be a good treasurer. After the meeting we all got to eat the yummy food that was brought in. There were all kinds of salads and desserts, a couple potato dishes. The only vegetable was corn and for meat our choices were chicken or ham. It was all good. Then the auction started.

At first we weren't going to bid on any items. I did get a chance to look and thought that it would be nice to have a couple of the items. The top items this year were three jackets. There was a leather jacket with fringe, a denim jacket with a removable liner and a women's leather bomber jacket. The denim and leather bomber jacket were brand new. Whoever brought them bought them at Dillards, as there was a card on them stating what the retail price was and that these jackets had never been worn.

I ended up taking home the leather bomber jacket for $55. The original retail price was $340. I was the woman picked to model the jacket and it fits perfectly. Gary and I didn't get a chance to talk about it as we weren't sitting together. I really wasn't too sure how high to bid. When it was announced that I was the winning bid, Gary just shook his head. I had been looking for a new leather jacket but hadn't found one. I was going to buy it with my Wendover winnings.

Once Gary and I got to talk about it, he said just to pay for it with the check book and Merry Christmas. He said that if I wasn't going to bid on it, he was. It is very nice and will keep me warm. Once I get a photo of it, I will get it posted.

We had a good day, came home with a new lap top computer and leather jacket.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gambling Fun

Gary and I went to West Wendover Nevada for a four day gambling trip. We went with two other couples from Hardin. One is our neighbor. We had a great time and had alot of fun. We came home with more money than we started with. Not a great lot but it was more. Made alot of rookie mistakes but we learned.

We left here Saturday morning, we had some running around Billings to do before getting to the airport. We ate breakfast at the Muzzleloader, wanted to have a good filling meal as we would be eating a late supper. Our flight left Billings at 2:00 pm and we had to check in 90 minutes before. We parked in long term parking and waited for our friends at the ticket counter. We checked in at the airport, got our seat assignments. Gary and I both had aisle seats. The flight left Billings at 2:00 and we arrived in Wendover at 3:30. On the plane they raffled off some coupons for a free buffet and then we all played for the bag of bucks. You write your seat number on a dollar bill. Once they gather all the bucks, they will then draw one and if your seat number is called, you win the bag of bucks. None of us were lucky. We were losing before we landed.

We arrived in Wendover, got off the plane on the the bus to our hotel. There are three huge casinos, Montego Bay, The Peppermill and The Rainbow. We stayed at The Peppermill. That is the one in the middle. Besides you pay $10 more per person to stay at the Montego Bay. We got checked into our hotel. Got our packet, we each got coupons for gambling, meals, a free cocktail and the gift shop. We also got a players card and instructions for leaving. We didn't have to pick up our luggage, it was delivered to our room. We did go up to the room to check it out and also to find it. You have to get on the right elevator as these hotels have wings. With nothing to do but gamble, we walked around to check it out.

The first night Gary didn't play the machines. When he found out he could bet on sports,he was getting all the information he needed to bet on the football games. I got my instructions on how to play the penny machines. Before I would always lose my money in nothing flat on those machines. I had better luck with the poker machines. The first night I played my original $20 the whole night.

Sunday we decided to go to The Rainbow casino. We did play some of the machines earlier in the morning, but I was losing so I quit playing. Gary paced his bets on the football games. I also betted on the games. I had no clue what I was doing anyway, so why not. We went to the Rainbow, Gary found the area with the sports on and he was able to watch his games. I was playing the machines. My luck changed here at the Rainbow. I won $50 on one machine,so I cashed out and went to a different one. After about two hours I decided to give it one more try. I put $10 in a machine. It didn't take long when I cashed out with $140. I had hit some wilds on a bet that I won $136 worth of credits. That was good enough for me, so I cashed out. I had won smaller amounts here and there all day long. We didn't gamble all day and night, we did take breaks. The casinos are close enough that you can walk, there was a Burger King in between, so we would go there for a coke and just get out of the casino for a while. We went back and gambled some more. I won $60 more on a machine. We ate dinner at the Steakhouse. We had a coupon for buy one entree and get the other one free up to $30. We finished watching the football games for the night. We didn't win anything on football.

Monday we decided to go to Montego Bay to gamble. Gary and I both bet on the NBA games. This time Gary found out how to bet from some of his sports buddies. I bet on one game and he bet on another. We both did all right during the day. Our luck changed for the better during the evening. Our luck was better at the Rainbow, so we decided to go back there. Sure enough after playing the machines I cashed out with $100. I could have won more but we were getting ready to eat. This was our last night together so we all ate the buffet at the Rainbow. It is called the Rainforest buffet and they have stuffed parrots in trees. You get the sounds like you would in a rainforest. Mom and I had stayed at this casino when we were coming home from Napa and ate the buffet.

After supper Gary and I made our way back to Montego Bay. Since we placed our NBA bets there if we won we had to redeem there. Lesson learned, place your bets at the casino where you are staying. I won on my bet $38. Gary's game was the late one. We decided that since this is our last night that we would splurge on gambling and play the $1 machines. First we found the penny slot machines. We only played the ones with 9 lines. We both won, I won $50 and Gary won $60. We also got our free cocktail at Montego. This was one of the coupons we had, I had a margarita, Gary had a Jack & coke.

Since his NBA game was still going on and it was getting late, after 11:00 pm we decided to play our $1 machine. We found the slot machines with 9 lines. We both put in $20 because we would have played it anyway. I cashed out with $70 and Gary cashed out with $60. Gary said that he could check his ticket in the morning. Our flight didn't leave until noon anyway and we could get on the shuttle. If he didn't win then it was ok.

Tuesday morning arrived. Remember I told you that we each got those player cards. Gary never did put his in the machines. I did and I earned enough points that our breakfast was free. Nothing in the paperwork said that these were could towards meals and the gift shop. We did get a free meal out of it. We finished packing, checked our luggage in at the hotel. They took the luggage up to the airport for us. With time to waste, played some more machines. We didn't have any luck. We are just not morning gamblers. Soon it was announced that the bus arrived to take us to the airport.

Arrived at the airport and it took them a while to get all of us through security. First you checked in and the lady would check your names off her list. She had a hard time finding names, but they weren't listed in alphabetical order. Then we went through the security and we had about an hour wait before we could board the plane. The other couple that wen with us stayed at the Rainbow. It was a long time before we saw them at the airport, we were getting worried that they didn't get on the bus. They got to the airport just in time. As soon as they went through security we started boarding. They were the last ones at the airport, but the first ones on the plane.

Our flight left at noon and we landed in Billings at 1:00 pm. Since we were 20 minutes early we had to wait on the runway before getting to the gate. There was one man sitting in front of me and didn't like the waiting. He was grumbling about it. We got home in Hardin around 3:00.

We both had such a good time that Gary really wants to do this trip again next year. I was worried that he would have been bored, but once he found out he could bet on the games he was in heaven. Since our return he has been watching and practicing on the football and basketball games.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wendover Bound

Saturday Gary and I are leaving for West Wendover Nevada for a four day gambling trip. We are going with some friends of ours, so there are six of us in total.

Last year at Christmas time, our friends who happen to be our neighbors host a party. Alot of alcohol is consumed at this party. This is when our friend was talking to Gary and said that we should do a weekend gambling trip later on. My Gary said that would be fun.

Our neighbor is not a man who forgets things. It was a few months later when he stopped in my office for coffee. This is when he told me that Gary had said that we would do this weekend gambling trip with them. When our neighbor got the special information we would make our reservations.

In August our neighbor got the information and this turns out to be a four day gambling trip. I reminded Gary about this and he remembers agreeing to a weekend trip. Anyway, we are obligated so we made our reservations.

For $130 per person we get the flight and three nights stay at the casino and we had our choice of which casino we wanted to stay at. There are three casinos, so we will be staying at the Peppermill. This is the one in the middle. Once we check in we will each get a packet with coupons and other special little things inside. All we have to do is pay for our meals and the gambling.

Gary has been grumbling about this trip for the past couple months. He is not too sure about spending all this together time with our neighbors. They are very nice people, but he feels that four days will be a bit much. We don't have to spend all of our time gambling. There is a museum there that shows either the history of the Enola Gay or the two bombs, not sure which.

We leave Billings at 2:00 pm and will land in West Wendover at around 3:30 pm. We will come home on Tuesday leaving Wendover at noon and getting back to Billings around 1:30 pm.

Over the past couple days, Gary is lightening up about going and he is looking forward to some vacation time. He is pretty happy when he found out that he will be able to watch his football. I think we will have a good time.

The other couple who is going made their reservations late so they are staying in a different casino. In fact they are going to stay at the one that Mom and I stayed in on our way back from Napa in July.

We will have a good time. I kept all the paperwork to make sure that we get what we paid for and I'm sure we will, otherwise they wouldn't be able to do all the specials. I will most definately be taking my camera so will have photos of the trip. This is our last one until next year when we go to Greece.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Still Here

Things have slowed down considerably around here. I know I am behind on keeping you updated on things, but that is how it is going.

We have put the motorcycle away for the winter. We did get in one day of riding a couple weeks ago. We went to Billings for our chapter meeting at Bonez. This is a new place for our meetings and the place is welcoming us. It's a sports bar, so Gary and I went up early to watch the football games and eat. We ordered a plate of nachos. It was a huge platter just heaping with nachos. Between the two of us we couldn't eat it all. They also have their own brewery there, so I tried one of their amber ales. I liked it, but Gary didn't. He is not as adventurous as I am when it comes to beer. I will try anything once. After all I did drink Guiness. We had a good time and I'm getting things ready for the white elephant auction next month.

At the beginning of the month we went to Cody for a tae kwon do tournament. Only me and another student of ours competed. He came home with three medals and I came home with two. We had a good time, but was sure glad to get home. It was just a down and back drive. The only mishap was finding the school. The map and the location of the school didn't jive. I stopped and got directions and we finally found it. Didn't give us much time to get ready for the meeting. Just made it in time.

On Columbus Day I had it off, so spent the afternoon in Billings shopping. Jennifer had to work that afternoon so she couldn't go with me. Let me tell you, shopping by yourself is boring. I did get me two new pair of shoes though. Just what I need, more shoes. I got me a new pair of running shoes and a pair for work. Did get rid of some old shoes in the process. Didn't buy too much stuff on this trip.

Most of the time we have been spending at home, getting some work done around the house. We do have one last trip planned for the year. Gary and I are going to Wendover NV with some friends of ours for four days in November. We got in on a good deal. Will blog about this later.

That's about it for now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Getting Back To Normal

Things in Hardin are slowly getting back to normal. The deal with the private security company is done with. Amazingly the security company is stating that they are withdrawing from the proposal because it would cost over $1 million to fix the infrastructure of the building. Things are falling apart inside. What they don't mention is that the head man is a fraud and a shyster and also the state attorney general started an investigation into this company. The company did not comply with the state attorney generals requests so that is a done deal.

Now the news is how some people want the Hardin Schools superintendent ousted from his job. He is also the vice president of the Two River Trade Authority and he was the spokesman for Two Rivers during this ordeal. He was the one who made the comment that he did his homework into the company and some other comments the people didn't like. Well, we all know he didn't do a thorough job of his homework.

Last Tuesday was a school board meeting and it did get pretty heated. People asked for his resignation and he told them a big NO. Rumors have it that people are putting together a petition to have the school board fire him immediately.

Needless to say my office is getting the phone calls to fire him. The people think that the county superintendent can hire and fire school personnel, which we can't. Also when people look in information for superintendent they find my office. The district superintendents are listed under the school district names.

On top of all this, the school district asked for a vote on a bond issue to enlarge the high school and repair the roof of the middle school. The school election is over on the 20th and from what I hear on the streets, it won't pass. Mainly because of the prison issue and the district superintendents role in it. Some comments from the newpaper blogs state that there is a perfectly good empty building that can easily be remodeled to a school. They can put the freshmen and sophomores in the prison or they can move the middle school to the prison building and then the high school could expand into the middle school.

For now things are slowing down and I hope Hardin can get back to normal and out of the spotlight.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hardin Is Famous

These past few weeks have been interesting to say the least. My hometown of Hardin has been plastered in the news, on the internet and the newspapers for the empty jail. The Two Rivers Trade Authority had apparently signed a contract with the American Police Force and this has taken off like a stolen rocket.

First, Hardin had built a detention facility two years ago with the promise from the state that it would be used. To make a long story short, this did not happen. The agreement was with one governor and when the new one took office new policy changes.

At first there were protests and meeting with the governor to get this open, we were promised that Hardin could bid on the sex offender treatment program for this facility. Hardin did and was awarded the bid, but then the legislature cut the program. Now we are back to nothing again. Many feel that the state did it to us again.

Hardin made the news by wanting the Gitmo prisoners when President Obama announced that he was going to close the Gitmo prison in Cuba. Well, this caused an uproar and we made the national news, big time.

Just in the past month it was announced that the Two Rivers Trade Authority signed a contract with the American Police Force. What promises this company was going to give, but they are so secretive about who they are and what they do. Of course if they announced publicly what they did and who they are, then then wouldn't be in the security business anyway.

To make a long story short, this was just something too good to be true. You know how the saying goes. This company stated that they would help Hardin get their police force up and running, they were going to have an animal shelter, help feed the hungry and also use the facility for an international security training ground. Would bring in big bucks. The Hardin citizens were told how wonderful this will be and that in five years Hardin will have changed so much that you won't recognize it.

It went to hell in a quick snap. Some reporters got digging into the supposed owners past and found out that he served prison time in California for fraud, he also has been sued civilally and owes tons of money to people. He talked investors into building a nursing home and never delivered on the goods.

Hardin and the county are and in fact have signed a deal to deconsolidate law enforcement. The city for a long time has wanted their own police department and the money from the detention facility was going to fund the police department. The deconsolidation is a done deal, in fact the city and county powers signed the paperwork. Now it has to go before a judge, but that is another story.

In the meantime, this American Police Force said that they would help fund and provide cars for the new police department, in fact they rolled into town with three mercedes suv's with decals for the Hardin police department. This got the tongues rolling and all the rumors starting. In fact all this was meant to show what the police cars could look like and how willing this company was to help Hardin.

Here are the rumors. Hardin has been barricaded nobody in or out. Hardin citizens are being forced to take untested swine flu shots and if they refuse will be quarantined in the detention center. Everybody in Hardin will have health insurance through this company. Twelve mercedes suv's are in town and the international police are stopping people and harassing people.

It has been quite fun, but now the loonies are showing up in town and some are pretty radical. Some sort of radio "shock jock" from Texas arrived in town. There was a group who called themselve the "Oath Defenders". They were going around town and taking pictures of one of the sheriff deputies on patrol around town and trying to say that this company is working the streets. In fact the deputy on patrol drives a black ford suv. The deputy was stopping motorists but then that is the deputy's job.

Things have come to a head I think. The state Attorney General is doing a civil investigation into this company and the contract. The bond holders of the detention facility have not signed off on the contract and now since all the revelations the other board members are now reluctant to go into further negotiations with this supposed company. The man running it has been ordered into court in California, remember he still owes money there.

One thing you can say about Hardin is that it is never boring. If you want to read up on all of this, just go to the Billings Gazette site and search for Hardin. It will bring up everything. Will make for interesting reading.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mystery Ride

Last Sunday Gary and I went on our HOG Chapter's mystery ride. This is the ride that we were supposed to do on the 20th, but it was raining too hard that day and not enough people to participate.

Sunday morning was beautiful. It was very windy earlier in the morning, but by the time we left Hardin to get to the dealership by 9:00, it was nice. At bit on the cool side, but with the sun shining it would warm up.

We arrived at the dealership with plenty of time. We waited around a bit for more people to arrive, there were about 20 bikes in all, plenty to do the mystery ride.

We all gathered around to get our instructions. The organizer of this ride first talked about how this guy in Texas is an iron butt rider and he rode around Texas and took photos of all the county courthourses in Texas, then he made his project bigger into the courhouses in the United States.

That was our mystery ride. We were divided into two teams, your team had to go out and take as many photos of county courthouses as you could in the time allowed. We all had to be back in Billings at the meeting place by 5:00 pm.

Our route took us to Hardin, Big Horn County and Broadus, Powder River County. If we had the time, we were to hit Baker, Fallon County. Away we went, made it to Hardin. I asked Gary if he would have a hard time finding the courthouse here. Ha Ha Ha was the response I got back. We got our photo of the courthouse and then made our way to Broadus.

Broadus is approximately 120 miles from Hardin, so we gassed up in Crow. By this time the wind was starting to pick up but it wasn't too bad. Let me back up, it was around 9:30 by the time we left Billings to head to Hardin. We got into Hardin around 10:30 due to road construction.

We made it to Broadus at 12:10 pm. Took us a while because again of road construction and traffic. The semi traffic was pretty heavy on this day and we couldn't get around like we wanted. Found the courhouse in Broadus pretty easy and got our photo. Took a very short break to stretch our legs and also to look at the map and decided if we have enough time to make it to Baker. Unfortunately we didn't. You can't get to Baker from Broadus, you have to back track and make your way to Miles City, which was 80 miles and then Baker is 90 miles from Miles City. Keep in mind that Miles City is about 150 from Billings.

We decided to go to Miles City and eat lunch as we were both hungry at this time. We did go on a highway that neither one of us had been on. Needless to say this was a horrible time to head north on Highway 59. The wind was blowing very hard and for us it was a head wind. Now I know how a ball feels when a cat is playing with it. We were batted around like a little toy. Some of the gusts came up and almost blew us off the road, that is how strong the wind was. It was not fun to say the least. The wind gets underneath my helmet and it feels like it will tear off my head. We were so glad to get into Miles City just to get out of the wind for a bit.

Ate lunch and then we made our way back to Billings. It was about 2:30 when we left Miles City. The wind was blowing here but not as bad as it was earlier. This time we had the cross wind, but we got out of it when we reached Hysham.

We did arrive in Billings on time and reported in. Unfortunately we didn't have time to make Baker. Our team hit 21 courthouses off the list of 27. We didn't win, the other team had 23 courthouses. One of our team members didn't make it back to the meeting point and nobody knew where he went or if he even went on the ride to take his photos. He could have been the winning one.

Anyway we had a good time and we got a meal out of the deal. We all met up at a sports bar that served pizza. It was ok. The winning team all got beer glasses and the losing team all got these huge coffee mugs. The mugs and glasses have the HOG emblem on them. They are very nice.

Anyway this ride has given us an idea on our own to hit all 56 counties in the state. We already have two down. This will take us some time, but it will be fun to do. I was also able to highlight some more Montana highways on this trip. That is another goal we have on the bike, to travel on all the highways in Montana. Paved ones of course. We have Eastern Montana pretty much covered.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Homeward Bound

As the saying goes, All Good Things Must Come To An End. Before we knew it, it was time to go home. The days just flew by so fast on our trip. We sure enjoyed it and I would most definately go back to Ireland again, but not anytime soon. There was so much to see that you could spend a week in Dublin alone. We just didn't have time and being on foot didn't help. I'm sure once we figured out how the public bus system worked, we could have seen more stuff. Oh well, have to leave something for another trip back.

Our tour guide had arranged for a quick bite of breakfast at the hotel before we left. The hotel restaurant didn't open until 8:00 am on the weekends. We received a piece of fruit, a scone, a hard roll and a box of orange juice. In our rooms we were able to make hot tea and coffee.

We signed up for the 6:45 am shuttle to the airport. Our flight didn't leave until 11:30 am, but all the instructions said to be at the airport three hours before your flight. By getting on the 6:45 shuttle we arrived at the airport at 7:30. Taking the one at 8:45 would have arrived at 9:30, that didn't give us much time to go through all the security and do the paperwork for customs.

It turned out to be a good thing that we got to the airport very early. It took us time to get to the Delta ticket counter and there was a line. Dublin is a huge airport and at first we had a hard time finding the ticket counters. Once we got through that security and received our customs papers we then had to go through security again. Again Mom didn't take her shoes off, of course this time she was told that she would be ok, once the lady took a look at what kind of shoes she had on. Again she was randomly chosen to be scanned. Jen and I were giving her a bad time. All you can do is laugh.

We made it through this security and then found the gate where we needed to go. We had time to get a cup of coffee and take our time filling out our paperwork. This is the stuff where you have to claim what you bought over there and you need to remember the amounts. Jen got something to eat, as she didn't eat the snack at the hotel while Mom and I had a cup of coffee.

By this time the line at the gate had grown, so we got in line. This was the line for customs and we made it through without any problems. Down the stairs we went to the passport area. We were checked with all our paperwork again before we could make it through to the boarding gate. Once we got down to the boarding gate, it was pretty crowded. We did manage to find some chairs to sit on. We had about an hour wait before we could board. We were so glad that we took that early shuttle. The people who took the later shuttle did arrive in time to board, but I bet they had to really hurry. We were glad to see them and most of the people on our tour were on our flight to Atlanta.

We got to our seats and got buckled up and ready for takeoff. Listened to the instructions very intently. Again on this flight we had individual screens to watch movies and play games. We were also served a lunch on this flight. This time I chose the chicken, I learned my lessen with the pasta. Jen and Mom told me to pick chicken too. On the way home, I watched three movies and played some games. It really wasn't that bad. Just before we landed we were shown a ten minute video on how to get through customs and what we had to do. Mom and Jen both said that they didn't get this on their earlier travels. It was nice, at least I knew what to do. We claimed our luggage without any problems, however we were a little worried as ours was the last ones off the plane. I was sure worried how my whiskey was going to make it home in one piece with the way my luggage was manhandled. Anyway we claimed our luggage and had to have it rechecked and through more security.

Several international flights had landed in Atlanta at this time, so it was pretty busy. We got in line and they moved all of us people through pretty fast. This time we made it through the final security point with no problems. Mom was not randomly selected this time. Jen and I made sure she took off her shoes this time. Atlanta is such a huge airport that our next flight to Salt Lake was in terminal B and we were in terminal S. We took the cute little train to get to the next terminal, found our gate without any problems and had about a 45 minute wait to board.

Got on board for the flight to Salt Lake, on this flight we had individual tv screens, but had to pay to watch a movie and play the games. The only complimentary game was trivia and you played against your fellow passengers. It was fun, but by this time I was getting pretty tired. We landed in Salt Lake on time and this time we had about an hour wait. As we were waiting to deplane I could hear this woman say "Hi, Patty I didn't know you were in Atlanta". She is the superintendent of Wyola and she was on her way home from teaching a class in Atlanta over the weekend. I did get to talk to her for a bit. Also one of the flight attentants lives in Shephard. Mom was wearing her Hardin shirt.

We made it to our gate to board the plane to Billings. Jen was pretty hungry by now so she got a sub sandwich, she made it back just in time to board. She was able to take her sandwich on the plane, just as I was able to take my cup of Starbuck's coffee on the plane. I paid way too much money to have to throw it away. As long as we bought our stuff within the secure area we were fine.

We landed in Billings on time. By this time we are just exhausted. Keep in mind that Dublin is 7 hours ahead of Hardin time. We had been up since 6:00 am Dublin time and we landed in Billings at 11:00 pm Hardin time. We didn't get home until after midnight, so we figured we had been up 24 hours. I was so glad that I took an extra day off from work. Gary was there to pick up up on time. He was a bit worried because there was a lightening storm in Billings, that would explain the turbulence we experienced. We claimed our luggage and I was worried that the whiskey didn't make it. There was a wet spot on my suitcase, it didn't smell like whiskey. Once we got outside it was raining. What a relief. Once I got home, I check out my whiskey and it was all in one piece. The lid from the cardboard container had popped off.

It only took me about two days to get readjusted back to my normal time. I sure enjoyed the trip, but you can keep that jet lag. All in all we sure enjoyed ourselves and had a great time. We got everything that we were supposed to get and we feel that we got extra with the historical knowledge our tour guide had. He was just a wealth of information. Jen even had a good time, even though she was the youngest person on the trip. It helped that there were two others in her age group, even though they were older.

Last Day In Dublin

Saturday morning and this is our last full day in Dublin. How sad that our vacation has come to a fast end. I did look forward to going home.

Today is our bus tour of the city. We had a different tour guide this morning and it turned out to be Bernard's son James. He was just as informative as his father was with all the history. It was hard to take photos of the buildings and statues from the bus, they were either too big or we went by them too fast. Part of the time I was on the wrong side.

We did make stops at St. Patrick's Catherdral. Just got some photos outside we didn't get a chance to go inside. We also drove by Christ Church Catherdral. This is one of the oldest cathedrals in Ireland, no stopping here. If we wanted we can walk to these cathedrals later. Looking on the city map I had, these were a very far walk from our hotel.

Our tour took us to see the famous historical sites and we also went to Phoenix Park. We were able to get out to see the Papal Cross. This was the spot back in 1979 where Pope John Paul II had a mass service. This is also the place where our tour guide Bernard was found on his motorcycle. In fact everyone was taking pictures of Bernie on his motorcycly more than they were of the Papal Cross.

Our last tour this morning was at the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. This distillery was established in the 1780's. It was very interesting to find out how it is all made and the aging process to make this delicious whiskey. Before the tour started, we were seated into a small theater to watch a short video about Jameson's. Our tour guide told us that she needed eight volunteers for whiskey tasting. She needed 4 men and 4 women and the only other criteria was that you had to be over 18. I raised my hand up. Sure enough I was one of the lucky ones chosen.

We walked through the distillery and took a bunch of photos. At the end of the tour everyone was given a free shot of Jameson's whiskey. You had your choice of it straight or mixed. I had to sit at my table for the tasting. Mom and Jen picked out their drinks. I handed my camera over to Mom so that she could take photos. Proof that I was drinking whiskey.

I have to go back a bit here. Gary likes to drink Jack Daniels whiskey, which I don't particularly like, unless it's mixed with coke. My favorite whiskey is Crown Royal. Before this trip, Gary said all he wanted was for us to being back a bottle of Irish Whiskey and I told him that I will bring him home the good kind.

Now to the tasting. We all had a shot of the Jameson whiskey, Johnny Walker the Scotch whiskey and Jack Daniel's the American whiskey. Jameson's is distilled three times, Johnny Walker distilled twice and the Jack's distilled once. First we had to taste the Jameson's. Then we had to compare the Jameson's to the Jack's. Finally we compared the Jameson's to the Johnny Walker. Once we were done, our test at the end was to put out the glass that we liked the best, keeping in mind where we are. I really did like the Jameson's the best. It is real smooth, my second was the Jack's. I did not like the Johnny Walker at all. That is pretty strong. There was one guy who did like the scotch and another guy liked the Jack's. The rest of us picked the Jameson's. Once we finished with the tasting, we all got our complimentary shot of Jameson's. This time I mixed it with cranberry juice. Jen had hers with cranberry juice and she really liked it. I've never had whiskey with cranberry juice and I do have to admit that it is very nice.

All of us whiskey tasters got an official certificate stating that we are now Official Irish Whiskey Tasters. We were told that we can now put this prestigious award on our resumes. We finished our drinks and then went down to the store. I did buy Gary a bottle of the Jameson's whiskey and I also bought a small bag of the fudge made with Jameson's. Mom was talking to a worker while she was waiting for me and Jen. We found out that our tour guide was from Roundup Montana. What a small world. We knew that she was an American just by her talking, but we never did ask where she was from. First he asked where we were from, when we said Montana, that is when he told us she was from Roundup. He couldn't believe that we lived in a town so close. We never did see her again to talk to her. He did say that he would tell her we were from Montana.

I was feeling quite good by the time we left. Keep in mind that I drank four shots of whiskey in the morning. Not an usual occurance for me. I'm lucky to even drink one shot of whiskey. Once we finished our tour of Jameson's, back on the bus we went. We were then dropped off at Trinity College to wander around. We had a choice to get back on the bus at a certain time or we could just walk back to the hotel. Had to keep in mind that we had our farewell dinner for the night.

We decided to walk the streets to the little shops to get in some last souvenir buying. I still didn't buy anything for me. We walked alot going into the little shops, comparing prices. I bought me a linen scarf made in Ireland and also a necklace with a four leaf clover in it. More postcards. We didn't make it in time for the bus, which we figured we wouldn't anyway, so we walked back to the hotel.

I think I walked my Mom too much. Her legs were sure tired when we got done. Due to the weather she wasn't able to get out and get some walking in before our trip. In the last two days of our trip, we did some heavy duty walking.

We got ready for our farewell dinner. We were taken to a local pub called Nancy Hands. We had reserved seating on the second floor. We wanted to sit in the seats that looked like thrones. At our table was the group from Pennsylvania. We made good friends with this group as we sat with them quite a bit. One was Mom's seat partner on the bus the whole trip. They were a group of siblings, two sister and one brother and the two sisters brought their husbands. In fact they were sitting behind us on the flight from Atlanta to Dublin. We had a very delicious meal of Guiness stew. It was very tasty and made with Irish beef. For dessert we had baileys cheesecake. This was more a mousse than a cheesecake, but it was good.

I gave Mom my camera and had her take photos of all the tables. This was my last chance to get a photo of everyone. A few days back Mom's batteries on her digital camera died on her, so she fell back to her old and reliable film camera. She ended up taking 10 rolls of film on top of all her digital.

Once we made it back to our hotel, we all went to the bar and had one last drink together. Well not everyone went. We had drinks with the two gals from Texas, they were sure funny, the couple from British Columbia who missed the first three days due to plane troubles. The family from New Jersey and a woman from Austrailia. This was the first place where Jen was carded. She had ordered the pear cider. She wasn't the only one carded. The young couple from New Jersey were also carded. We just laughed. The woman from Austrailia told the bartender not to worry, Jen was younger than she looked. Then she realized that she said that wrong.

Once we all finished our drinks, back to the rooms we went. We had an early morning to catch our bus to the airport at 6:45 am. We also had to repack our suitcases. I had to pack the bottle of whiskey in my suitcase. Fortunately the bottle I bought came in a very sturdy can and I wrapped it in a towel I packed.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sligo To Dublin

Now we are making our way back to Dublin for our last two days of the trip. We had to get up a bit earlier as the bus left about 15 minutes earlier than normal. Not too bad, we always had plenty of time.

Our first stop this morning was at Carrick-On-Shannon for our river cruise. We boarded the Moon River for an hour cruise on the River Shannon, which is the longest river in Europe. We got fresh baked scones with hot tea or coffee on this cruise. It was a very peaceful cruise and very enjoyable. A nice break from being on the bus. Relaxing. Fortunatley the weather was cooperating this morning. We even had some entertainment on the cruise.

Back on the bus to Dublin. In the morning the mist was out so we were able to stop to get some great photos of the mist in the valley with the hills poking out. Almost looks like a postcard. Very pretty.

As we made our way back to Dublin we stopped off at the Guiness Store House. This was the last of our optional tours. At the end of this tour we all got a free pint of guiness and we raised a toast to Arthur Guiness, celebrating 250 years.

The store house is huge and wide open, so on the tour we had to wear these earphones while the tour guide had his microphone. The building is built shaped as what a pint of guiness looks like, dark on the bottom while getting lighter on the top. We had to hang on to our tour tickets as that would allow us to get our free pint. We learned how Guiness was first made, which actually was a mistake and how it has grown to this day. It really was very informative. We even got to sample the freshest brew of Guiness. We decided to grab a light lunch in their cafeteria before heading up to the Gravity Bar for our pint. We wanted something to eat before drinking that dark stuff.

Up to the bar we went after lunch. This is also the tallest building in Dublin, 7 stories, where we got a great view of the skyline of Dublin. The bar was very crowded. We made our way up to the bar and our tour guide was our bartender. He gave Jen a half pint of the black stuff, while Mom and I had a pint. We raised our glasses and had a toast for a wonderful trip. We also toasted to Arthur.

Before we knew it it was time to get on our bus. We made our way back down to the street, found the bus. This time we made our way to Trinity College to the Book of Kells. These are books written by monks nearly 2000 years ago. It was in the 17th century that they were moved to Trinity College. We were not allowed to take photos of the books. There were four books in all and security was pretty tight. Once we finished looking at the Book of Kells, we then went into the Old Library. It's a very long room filled with thousands of very very olds books. There are busts of some scholars and even the oldes surviving harp in Ireland. It is rumored that this harp belonged to the High King Brian Boru. Again no photos allowed. Had to buy postcards.

We made is back to the bus to get to our hotel. We didn't sign up to go to the cabaret dinner, so we decided to walk to the Temple Bar area. Jen said that it was a long walk, but according to the map I got at the hotel, it didn't look that far. It was a very far walk. We must have walked 5 mile round trip.

We did make it to Temple Bar. There were many little streets that we not on the map. While on our trek to Temple Bar we walked through Grafton Street. This is where all the street performers were. In fact there were performers all over the streets. We stopped and watched them on our walk back. We finally made it to Temple Bar. This is an area with shops, pubs and restaurants. We did find the pub Temple Bar, but on a Friday night it was so crowded and besides they didn't serve food. Instead we found a cafe called The Bad Ass Cafe. We had a very good burger here. It was right in the square where we could watch people. On the corner was a band playing and they were pretty good. We stopped and listened to them for a while.

We walked slower on our route back to the hotel. We stopped and watched the performers along the way. There was an acrobat that was pretty good. We did make it back to the hotel. Jen was too tired, but Mom and I went down to the bar for our nightcap.

We were making our way back to our room, when we were stopped by a gentleman from Donegal. He invited us to sit with him and his wife and he bought us a drink. Boy that man could talk. He was just fasincated that we were Americans. Mom and I couldn't get away. Somehow he managed to motion to the bartender for another drink. Mom and I eneded up having three drinks in total. Our saving grace was that the bar was closing down for the night. We kept telling him that we had to go because we have an early morning.

He was a funny little guy and boy could they talk. I liked him because he said I looked 30 and Mom looked 50. I think the two bottles of wine he drank had alot to do with that. He determined that Mom is of Irish descent, even though her forebears came from Scotland. Since Scotland is just across the way and it was so easy to move between Ireland and Scotland, that she is Irish. She has the look of an Irish mother. His wife even agreed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Galway To Sligo

Once again we got everything ready to go, our suitcases out the door to be loaded on the bus. This morning at breakfast we about caused an international incident. Every meal we have our coffee and tea last, well one of the guys noticed that the coffee pot was just right here, so we helped ourselves. The poor young waiter was having a tizzy, this can't be happening. I think he even got in trouble by the head waiter. Anyone the guys explained what had happened and we were very sorry. I have to tell you that it was nice to have a cup of hot coffee with my breakfast.

On the bus we went, the sun is shining again, very nice to see. We are making our way north up to Sligo. Our first stop is to the village of Knock. This is a village where about 200 years ago the villagers saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary. To this day it is a very religious site. In 1979 Pope John Paul II said mass here and gave the village a gift of a golden rose. The church and the whole site is very pretty. The original chapel is still standing and we were able to get inside and take photos. They have built a church on the site where the appartitions took place and while we were there, they were getting ready for mass. We had about an hour to spend here. Once again Jen and I lost Mom. We were making our way to the bus when we found Mom again. She was on a different path than we were. Mom and I had talked about splitting up when we have just a short stop at these places, this way we can get more photos. As it was we were getting the same photos of everything.

We made it to Sligo early, too early to check in, so we stopped for lunch in the town. We were dropped off in a part of town where the river run through. We ate lunch in a little coffee shop along the river. It was too cool to eat outside. We sat by the window and watched the people up and down the walk. We watched a little girl feed the pigeons. After lunch we walked a bit along the river then back to the bus. It was still early to check in so we were taken to another hidden treasure of Ireland. We went to The Holy Well. This is an outside place of worship. For 800 years the Irish people were oppressed by the English and were not allowed to practice their faith, so they did it in secret. Here they worshiped in secret. It is very beautiful with altars and statues. It is used to this day as a place of worship.

Now it was time to check into our hotel. We stayed on the bus for our optional tour of the Belleek Pottery Factory in Northern Ireland. As we made our way to Belleek, we stopped at Drumcliffe. This is where the poet William Butler Yeats is buried. He spent his childhood in Sligo and a relative of his was the priest at Drumcliffe. The church is very beautiful and there is one of the few original celtic crosses here. Very few are left standing today.

We arrived in Belleek, we wouldn't have known we were in Northern Ireland until our guide told us. There are no markers or borders, those were taken down after the "troubles". We were not allowed to take photos in the factory except in the spot where they weave the baskets. After watching them, I will appreciate these delicate pieces more. Such intricate work and very time consuming. After our tour, we wandered through the show room. We all bought a bell that is only sold at the Belleek site. Since we were in Northern Ireland, they don't take euro for money, they are under the pound sterling. Fortunate for us they took American money and we had the bells shipped home. It only cost $20 to ship it home. The only bad part is that it will take 4-6 weeks. We figured it was better to have these delicate things shipped as they would pack it nice and safe and if the bells do arrive broken, they will be replaced at no cost. Alot better than packing them in our suitcases or carry on bags.

We got back to the hotel in plenty of time. We had about an hour before dinner, so Mom and I took a walk along the Sligo Bay. It was a pretty time of day, just before sunset. We were inside eating dinner during sunset, so we missed that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Limerick To Galway

Woke up to a very big surprise, the sun was shining. We were so happy to see that sun and it sure felt good. Today we are on our way to see the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, which are all outside things.

We are now getting into more the scenic parts of our drives as we follow the coastline. Our first stop was The Cliffs of Moher. Very beautiful scenery with sheer and jagged cliffs with luxurious green pastures on top. We spent about an hour and a half here. It was a bit cool here, but at least we weren't getting rained on. No more rain forecast for the rest of our trip.

We were able to get beautiful photos of the cliffs. There was a tower at one end that we paid 2 euro to climb up to see the view. More spiral stairs, but at least it was small. There is a rock wall to keep tourists from venturing too far out and falling off the cliffs, which apparently has happened. The cliffs are formed from the pounding surf and the gale force Atlantic winds.

Our next stop was a place called The Burren. This is a very strange place. It looks like it was just one huge rock that over the centuries has been broken up. Strange plants do grow here and we were not allowed to pick any. Biologists are studying the plants and trying to figure out why they only grow here. Jennifer and I wandered out towards the shore, Mom stayed up by the road as she wasn't wearing the right shoes to be wandering out on rocks. Jen kept telling me to be careful. She reminded me that I don't have a good track record with rocks. Mom kept warning me to be careful too. I was, I managed to conquer the rocks. Of course these rocks are bigger and bit more solid.

One of our travelers wasn't feeling well so we stopped at a small gift shop/cafe for a short break. We were able to get some photos of the coastline of Galway Bay. We made our way into the city of Galway, one of Irelands major cities. We were dropped off at a city center for lunch, we had about an hour and a half here to get lunch and be back on the bus.

There were several American fast food places in this center. There was a McDonald's, took a picture of Jen standing in front. We decided not to eat here because we can eat at McDonald's back home, so we found a cute pub to eat lunch. I tell you, those pubs serve the best food.

After lunch we had some time before heading back to the bus, so we wandered into St. Nicholas's Church. It is a very old church and there was a tomb of a crusader. Our bus was parked right across from Galway Cathedral and we had about 10 minutes to get inside and take some fast photos. It was a very pretty cathedral. We got our photos and back on the bus.

We had plenty of time before we could check into our rooms at the hotel, so we took a drive through Connemara. We stopped at the marble place. This is where they quarry the green marble and also amethyst. Our little guide spoke to Jen and told her that she has a touch of the gaelic in her. When he found out that Mom and Jen both have birthdays in February he told them that if they put a piece of amethyst in their pocket they will never get inebriated. It only works on people who were born in February. Jen bout a piece of amethyst on a marble stand and I bought a marble celtic cross. They are very pretty. I think Mom bought something too but can't remember what.

We were finally able to check into our rooms at the hotel. This was a very big hotel. By the time we arrived, we were so glad just to be off the bus. This was the longest time we ever spent on the bus. Our hotel really wasn't in a place where we could go exploring, so we just stayed in the motel. Mom and I had our usual nightcap and then we watched some of our group playing a card game. It looked like fun and we should learn to play it. Will have to see if I can find the game "Phase Ten" around here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kenmare to Limerick

Today we are on our way to Limerick. Our first stop was the village of Adare. Adare is one of the prettiest villages in Ireland and it has thatched cottages that are in their natural setting. As usual it was raining when we stopped in Adare, but it was a misting rain so not too bad. We did stop in a church and then made our way out to see the thatched cottages. We had about an hour here.

On our way to Limerick. We drove by St. Mary's Cathedral, didn't get to go inside. A lady on our tour did get dropped off here at the church as she was searching for her family roots. Her great grandmother was baptised in this church. She had to find her own way to the hotel. We then stopped at the Treaty Stone along the Shannon River and we could see King John's Castle across the way. We were able to get time to shoot some photos. We had people who live in Limerick Pennsylvania on our tour so naturally they had to have a group picture of them in Limerick Ireland.

Back on the bus we went. We were supposed to stay at the Radisson Hotel in Limerick but instead we were moved to the Bunratty Castle Hotel. This move was due to construction at the Radisson, which I think in the long run was a better move for us. We were right next to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. If we had stayed at the Radisson, then we were tied to the hotel.

Made our way to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. We could spend as much as we wanted here because our hotel was just a five minute walk away. We first toured the castle. We got a guide to give us information about the castle first and we learned on why castles were built they way they were, for defense. Again we climbed a bunch of spiral stairs. This time we had our choice of 3 different staircases, which naturally we took. Somehow Jennifer and I got separated from Mom, but not to worry we found each other in the great hall.

After the castle we then made our way into the folk park. This is very neat, has working shops and eating places inside. It was so nice to be able to take our leisure time going through the folk park. We walked every inch of the place and saw everything. We ate lunch in pub inside the park. Just ate something light.

The park was starting to close up and get ready for their Irish Ceili. We didn't sign up for this optional. We ate supper in the pub Durty Nelly's. This pub was established in 1640 so very old. We ate with other people from our group here. At first we were seated in the restaurant part of the pub. This was huge meals and pricey meals. All we wanted were burgers. That is when we learned that we have to ask for bar food. Once we got that figured out, we were seated upstairs for the bar food.

They had very good burgers and Jen had a fajita. The beef was very tasty in Ireland. It was a very nice evening spent with our fellow travelers and relaxing. When we were leaving the pub, there were some outside tables. Mom decided that she was going to dance on the table and I had to take her photo. She told me to hurry before anybody saw her. Around the corner came Bernie our tour guide. She was caught red handed. He then had me and Jen get on the table and he took our photo. It turned out real nice.

Another woman was traveling with her mother and we had a standing joke on whose mother would dance on the tables first. My mother won. She is such a good sport and I have the photo evidence.

Back to the motel we went. Mom and I had a night cap in the bar. Jen was going to check out the swimming pool. Since Jen had the one and only key to the room, we had to go find her. We made it to the swimming pool after some searching in the hotel. They don't put the pools in the central part like in American hotels. There was a door propped open, so Mom and I decided to check it out. It was just an outside courtyard with a very pretty fountain. Once we made it to the pool it was closed. Found out that Jen never did make it to the pool as she couldn't find it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kenmare Ring of Kerry

We stayed two nights in Kenmare Bay. It was nice not to have to pack all the time. It was raining too hard for us to expore Kenmare Bay. It looked like a very interesting little town and it's famous for it's lace.

This was our drive around the Ring of Kerry. It was a very scenic drive through mountains and along the coast line of Kenmare River. It was actually a bay, but way back when the Irish were oppressed by the British, the Irish were not allowed to fish in rivers, so with a stroke of a pen the bay became a river and is still named as such.

Our first stop was at a junction where we could see the mountains. It was pretty cloudy and cool then. We were able to take some photos before making our way. We made several stops at some scenic pull outs. Our first major stop was at Muckross House and Gardens. We dropped off the people who were taking this tour, we didn't sign up for. We were given about 20 minutes for a break so we were able to wander the outside of the house taking photos. It was very pretty. Time to get on the bus and we were dropped off in Killarney.

We had an hour in Killarney so we decided to see the cathedral. Our tour guide told us was just a 10 minute walk down the street. His 10 minute walk ended up taking us 25 minutes. When we started out we could see the spires of the cathedral, but when we got further into town we lost sight of the spires. There was another couple from our tour headed to the cathedral so we followed them. By asking for directions we found it. The cathedral was very beautiful inside. Had to use my museum mode on my camera and a rosary service was going on. The people weren't fazed on bit by tourists traipsing around and snapping photos.

We were in the cathedral for about 10 minutes before it was time to make our way to the bus pick up spot. Since it took us 25 minutes to get to the cathedral we figured it would be about the same time, but it only took of 20 minutes to get back. We were back in plenty of time for the bus, so we were able to take a little rest. So much for a little 10 minute walk. It helps when you know your way. Killarney was the place where we had our group photo taken. Turned out to be a very nice photo. We had stopped at this little souvenir shop and had a cup of Irish coffee. That was very tasty. After a bit of shopping it was time to pose for the photo.

After the photo, we made our way around the Ring and ate lunch in a little cafe along the coast line. It was a cafeteria type cafe, but this was the place where we got our own glasses of ice. Yeah, we were able to get more than two ice cubes, we could get as many as we wanted. We had a very delicious lunch with a beautiful view of the bay, but while we were eating lunch the rain came again.

Made our way around the Ring of Kerry then we were taken to the Kissane Family Sheep Farm. This was an optional excursion we signed up for. The rain was coming down pretty good by this time. First we got to see a demonstration of how the sheep dogs gather the flock. That was pretty impressive and the owners were glad that the dogs were willing to work in the weather. Once this was done, we got to go inside the shearing barn and see a demonstration of how they sheared sheep with the clippers and then with the electric clippers.

This was an optional that Mom wanted to do. She said she wanted to see if they knew how to shear the sheep with the clippers. It was informative but I got a kick more out of the city living people who have no clue what it is like to raise any kind of farm animal or crop. Of course there is nothing like the smell of wet sheep. These sheep were more hairer than the ones back home.

Back to the hotel we went, time to get ready for our dinner. Dinners we had a choice of soup, salad or fruit as an appetizer; beef, chicken or fish for the main meal. This time for dessert we had a sampling of different cakes.

Once again, time for a night cap at the bar. The bartender was nice and started a fire for us, felt good. We then signed up for our bus transfers to the airport. I had read the instructions and we were supposed to check in 3 hours before our flight. This meant that we had to be on the 7:30 shuttle, the 9:30 shuttle would have been cutting it close. We decided that waiting the extra hour wouldn't hurt us anyway.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Waterford Crystal And Blarney Castle

As usual we got our bags packed and ready to go, after breakfast we made our way to the Waterford Crystal Factory. It started to rain in the morning. We stopped at the Crystal Factory, unfortunately we couldn't tour the factory as it had closed down in February. A victim of the global economic crisis. The name Waterford Crystal has been sold and now it will be mass produced in another country.

We were able to walk through the showroom. All the pieces were very beautiful. Watched a short movie on how the crystal was made. It was all very interesting. We had only spent about an hour and a half in the showroom.

Back on the bus we went. Before stopping at Blarney Castle we were shown one of Ireland's hidden treasures. It was a small town name Yougals (Yawl). We were able to get out of the bus and snap a few photos. Most of us hit the little visitor center. Jen and I bought umbrellas, which helped keep the rain off our heads. Yougals is where the movie "Moby Dick" was filmed. Too bad we didn't have more time to explore, it had alot of interesting things to see.

Arrived at Blarney Castle and this time the rain is coming down steady and hard. We climbed all the way to the top to kiss the blarney stone anyway. We didn't travel thousands of miles to let a little rain keep us from kissing the blarney stone. We had two hours at Blarney and it took us an hour just to make it to the top. Climbed about 200 stairs all spiral and very small. We were able to duck into the small rooms off the stairs. There were signs up that informed us what the rooms were used for.

We finally made it to the top. It was pouring rain and windy. Had to be careful walking as those stones get pretty slick. We all kissed the blarney stone. You have to lay down on your back, grab the rails behind you and lean over as far as you can and kiss the stone. Jen and I went first. There is a guy there helping you, he will hold onto your hips to help you. Mom made it down on the ground ok, but getting up she was a bit slow. Not the easiest thing to do when you don't have much room. There was a professional photographer that would take your photo, but we didn't purchase those. Some people in our group did and they weren't too happy with them. I think the ones we took are just as good.

After kissing the stone, we then made our way back down. More spiral stairs. After all this we were pretty wet and cold and all we wanted to do was get inside and warm. We decided to eat lunch. First we were going to eat in a bar, but we had a hard time finding it, so we ended up eating in the cafeteria restaurant. We all had hot tea and soup. It was all very tasty.

We did find he bar where we wanted to originally eat, but it was outside seating so it was just as well we didn't find it. Boarded the bus and made our way to our hotel in Kenmare.

It was raining too hard to get out and explore. We didn't want to get wet again anyway, so we just stayed at the hotel. Ate dinner in the bar, just something light and had our nightcap.

There was a young family with a little girl about 2 years old there. The little girl was saying hello to everyone at the tables. When she came to our table she gave Jen a huge hug. Her mom said that she liked Jennifer's long hair. She was a cute little girl and not shy at all. She had all these people to visit.