Tuesday, March 31, 2015

University of Arizona Softball and Baseball

After Wayne and I were in Phoenix, Arizona, for Professional Baseball Spring Training, we tagged on a trip down to Tucson to watch some University of Arizona Women's Softball and Men's Baseball. Both fit in well with our Arizona sun-cation.

Wayne is our event planner. He tried to get tickets directly from the University of Arizona for Women's Softball, but the only thing available was general admission in the outfield. We've sat there before, and the view isn't the best.

We like to sit in reserved seats behind the plate if we can. Because UA and ASU (Arizona State University) are arch rivals, good tickets were hard to come by, but Chuck had two great seats for all three games. We really lucked out. Thanks Chuck.

We were in Tucson for three days. Each day included both a men's and women's game. That really kept us hopping, but it was fun.

The men were playing Oregon State University in their three-day tournament.

The men's stadium is off campus in a former Spring Training stadium. Hi Corbett Field is huge and general admission tickets get you great seats for only $10, $7 dollars for seniors and students. That has to be the bargain of our whole trip.

While we were in Tucson, we stayed at the  Tucson Marriott University Park. We've stayed here many times before for various sporting events. We like it because it's within walking distance of campus sports venues and great restaurants. I just love college towns. They bring back such good memories. -- Margy

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hotel Traveling Meal Kit

Meal Kit with dishes, utensils, and condiments.
When Margy (and Wayne) start meandering for vacations, we usually stay in hotels. That usually means eating meals out. That can lead to over eating. While we don't diet on trips, we do try to manage our meals. We go to restaurants for dinner to enjoy the pleasure of eating out, but we alternate those with meals in our room.

Many hotels now offer a free continental style breakfast. When those are available we take advantage of them. When they aren't, that's where our "Hotel Traveling Meal Kit" comes in handy. This is a slimmed down version of our airplane camping and airliner camping meal kits. Those are more extensive because we use them to cook meals on the go.

Restaurant condiments, individual milks, and drink mixes make meals easier.

Here are the key elements I include:
  • flat bottomed cloth reusable grocery bag to hold the dishes and utensils
  • small plastic plates (one each)
  • small plastic bowl (one each)
  • one medium plastic bowl for salads
  • metal utensils if checking your bag
  • plastic utensils if you use a carry-on
  • empty plastic water bottles for drink mixes
  • several Ziploc plastic bags in various sizes
  • several paper towels for napkins and cleanup
  • small restaurant-style condiment packs
  • liquid drink mix
  • extra cloth grocery bag
  • plastic grocery bags for trash disposal
  • folding cooler bag
  • lidded plastic rectangular dish to fit in the cooler bag

The grocery bag with the dishes inside folds over to about 6 inches (15 cm) in height for packing. The folding cooler bag takes up only about 2 inches (5 cm) and I use the lidded plastic rectangular dish (mine's about 2 inches (5 cm) high) to hold the utensils and other small items for travel.

My suitcase is a rolling duffel bag with a separate zippered bottom . All three fit in there side-by-side with room to spare. That leaves the top portion of the bag for all of my other things. In total, my bag usually weights less that 30 pounds (13.5 kilos). That's well under the weight allowance for a checked bag. If we are using carry-on bags, Wayne and I share the load.

Folding cooler bag with foods that need refrigeration.

When we get to our destination, we purchase for about three days at a time. If we know the room will have a refrigerator and/or a microwave, we purchase accordingly. If we know we will have to rely on our cooler bag for refrigeration, we buy fewer fresh items at a time.

Here's a typical list of what we get:
  • water in gallon (4 litre) jugs to fill individual water bottles
  • cereal
  • fresh berries
  • small milk or packs of ultra-pasteurized milk (doesn't need refrigeration)
  • muffins
  • hard boiled eggs (in most deli cases)
  • crackers and cheese
  • trail mix
  • deli tuna or chicken salad
  • other deli salads
  • green salad in a bag
  • seasonal fruit 
  • pie or cake that doesn't need refrigeration
  • chicken (fried or broiled)
  • deli spaghetti or lasagna (can be eaten cold)
  • bottle of wine
  • the choices in grocery store delis are almost endless
  • ice from the hotel

I use my extra cloth grocery bag for some of the groceries. I accept plastic ones for trash.

Folding cooler with rectangular plastic dish in bottom.
Some rooms have a table and chairs. We've also eaten on the edge of our bed. When we travel by rental car from hotel to hotel during our vacation, the cooler bag comes in handy. I put the bottom portion of the rectangular dish in the bottom of the cooler bag to catch drips from ice sealed Ziploc bags. I use a good quality and double them up. The plastic dish helps reduce any leakage. I put the plastic lid on the very top to help keep in the cold inside the bag.

We don't each lunch, but do like a snack or happy hour treat. Many stores have sushi, or we nibble on crackers and cheese.

Another trick I use to save money is to get a grocery store discount card for our repeat destinations. In Arizona, I use Fry's. In California, I still have my old Von's card. And in the Pacific Northwest, Fred Meyer is a good shopping place.

We may eat simple, but it's a fun part of our vacation trips. Not to mention we same enough to splurge on other things like sports events, shows and souvenirs.

Do you have a travel tips to pass along? I'd love to hear them. -- Margy

Friday, March 27, 2015

Baseball Spring Training in Phoenix

This is the third year that we've gone to baseball spring training in Phoenix, Arizona. The first year we accidentally found the games during a spring sun-cation from our still cloudy and rainy home at the cabin. Since then it has become an annual tradition in March.

This trip we took in three spring training baseball games. The Phoenix area hosts the Cactus League of pro teams. Because we have a link to the State of Washington, we chose to attend Seattle Mariners games.

We saw them play the San Diego Padres, the Chicago Cubs, and the Kansas City Royals at their home field in Peoria. We had excellent seats for all three games that cost only $29 each. Seats in a similar spot during the regular season would cost $75-$100 if you could get them at face value. Not!

Cano up at bat. First string players start all of the games.

We got a room at the La Quinta Inns and Suites across the street. Within walking distance are stores, restaurants and, of course, the stadium. Sweet suite! Rooms with free breakfast, Internet and parking are $199 even in this prime season. Suites run for $229. Less with senior or AAA. We opted for a suite for our extended stay. A fridge and microwave allowed us to easily use our mobile meal kit for two dinners. The third we tried the Texas Roadhouse across the street. Lots of good food at the happy hour price of $8.99!

Second string and new players come in at the end.
Each team has their own or a shared stadium for the season.  Games are at 1:05 pm daily from early March through early April.  In addition, there are a few night games. Other teams in the Cactus League include the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers, Oakland A's, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, and Texas Rangers.

One reason the teams come to Phoenix is the weather. Look at this gorgeous day of 85 degrees with a slight breeze to keep the sweat away.

Hats were the order of the day, and Wayne and I used sunscreen liberally. Good thing, our winter white British Columbian skin would have burned bright red in no time flat.

Cooler night games under the lights.
Need a place to head for a spring sun-cation?

Try going to spring training baseball games. You can usually get last minute tickets in the outfield area, or purchase better ones online for resale.

Oh, and don't forget the wonderful sunshine as an added bonus. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Day in Historic Fairhaven

One of my favourite places in Bellingham is Historic Fairhaven. In 1889, the railroad was coming, and Fairhaven grew rapidly, hoping to become the west coast terminus. The railroad connection never worked out, so the new town turned to the sea and fishing for its economic base. In its heyday, Fairhaven was a bustling town of hotels, shops, saloons and brothels. Today, the brothels are gone, but the rich heritage of hotels, shops, restaurants and nightlife remains. And Fairhaven has achieved its original goal of becoming a tranportation center with its Alaska Ferry, Amtrak and bus terminal.

I have some favourite stops when I go to Fairhaven. One is the Eclipse Bookstore at 1104 11th Street. The Eclipse Bookstore is amazing with its vast variety of books covering the two floors of the establishment.

Another great bookstore is Village Books at 1200 11th Street. They have mostly new books, but you will also find good used books among the collection.

Picking a spot to eat is hard. Avenue Bread at 1135 11th Street is across the street and within easy walking distance. In addition to their wonderful fresh breads (I chose the sourdough with rosemary - YUM), they have a small cafe.

Skylark's Hidden Cafe at 1308 11th Street was my choice. I just love the interior with a classic bar. They have great food and happy hour specials from 3-6 pm and 10 pm through closing on Sunday through Thursday. Get the grilled cheese sandwich. It's the best I've ever eaten!

Going to Fairhaven in the off season means it's quite and quaint. In the summer, it's a bustling tourist destination. Either way, it's my favourite spot in town. -- Margy

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sandpiper Trail at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge

The entrance to the Sandpiper Trail.
When Wayne and I flew to Bowerman Field in Hoquiam, Washington, we took a hike on the Sandpiper Trail into the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge.

In March, we saw resident seagulls and ravens, and a few ducks. Using our ears instead of our eyes, we did hear some blackbirds in the cattails, and a few twittering songbirds. They must have been the first early spring arrivals to take up residence in the willow thickets.

Willow catkins in bloom.

Even though we didn't see lots of birds, we did experience the willow tree catkins in bloom. Many had already fallen to the ground, so I think we caught them just in the nick of time.

The Sandpiper Trail is a boardwalk leading over the marshy flats heading out to the Bowerman Basin portion of Grays Harbor.

It's one way in, but the end loops around the point with expansive views of the main harbor.

It's well maintained and brush has been trimmed back to make walking safe and easy.

Wayne and I stopped at the water's edge to relax in the warm sunshine on the park benches, and to view the birds up close with the telescope.

With it's help, I could tell that the ducks were Pintails. They were congregating out on a sandbar along with the gulls and ravens.

It must have been a seafood buffet. No squabbling needed.

The Sandpiper Trail begins on the north side Bowerman Field. It can be easily accessed by pilots walking along the airport road. For people arriving from town, there's parking outside the gate on Airport Way. It's free and open from sunrise to sunset. Wayne and I plan to return later in the spring when the plants are all green, and the birds have all returned. Stay tuned. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day Trip to Hoquiam, WA

Garmin 430W moving map in our panel.
The beautiful March weather beckoned us back up into the sky for a day trip to Hoquiam, Washington.  Wayne filed an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight plan for us to get from our home airport at Bellingham to Bowerman Field in Hoquiam.

We like to combine flight proficiency with our pleasure trips. We are still learning all the ins and outs of our new ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) collision avoidance avionics. It allow us to see both weather and traffic information on the moving map of rhe Garmin 430W GPS installed in panel and on Wayne's iPad.

Final approach to Runway 24 at Bowerman Field.
We are also practicing GPS IFR approach procedures in good weather so that we are better prepared if we ever have to do them in actual cloudy conditions. But this day was anything but cloudy.

The approach brought us straight in to Runway 24 for an easy landing on the ample 5000-foot strip. Bowerman sits on a spit out into Grays Harbor with no obstructions at either end. Nice.

997 on the ramp at Bowerman Field with the pilot lounge in back.

While on the ground the first thing we noticed was the excellent condition of the runway and taxiways. We passed the self-serve fuel (100LL and JetA) fuel and parked next to the only other plane on the field in front of the pilot lounge.

Walkway over the marsh for bay and bird viewing.
Next we noticed that Bowerman is suffering from the recent decline in private aviation. The once thriving restaurant has moved downtown. The FBO (fixed base operator) is empty. The only signs of life were the FedEx terminal and people walking along the airport road.

Because of some online research, I knew they were heading to the adjacent Sandpiper Trail into the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. Wayne and I tied 997 down and followed the other park visitors.

We went into the Pilot's Lounge to use the facilities and check things out. It's simple, but well cared for by the local EAA Chapter. There's an honour system for pop and snacks, and room for flight planning and relaxing.

On the wall there's a white board with quite a few messages. I'm not sure whether or not to believe the one about Tom Cruise being there in his Gulfstream in May 2006.

Bowerman Field with the town of Hoquiam on the right.

After departure we got a great view of Bowerman Field. We'll be back. Next time we'll walk into town and see what's happening.

Before we ldeparted, we left a donation to support goodies program and two copies of Up the Airway for pilots to enjoy. If you're a pilot, or just enjoy reading about flying adventures, this book wings you across Canada to show off the beautiful country from up above. Maybe it'll encourage some of the local pilots to come up and see us in Powell River. -- Margy

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mom, my inspiration.
Here's another favourite from Mom's recipe box. I chose her Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to make a batch to fill up the cookie jar and satisfy our sweet tooth. I love their crisp crunch and hint of coconut.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


2 cubes (1/2 cup each) softened butter or margarine
1/4 cup oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups dry quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups lightly crushed cornflakes
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, packed
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)


Cream butter with oil and sugars. Beat in milk and eggs. Add flour, baking powder, salt, soda, and vanilla. Mix well.

Add cereals, coconut, nuts and chocolate chips. Mix by hand until well blended.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on ungreased baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

Bake at 375 degrees (my oven does better at 360) for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Don't over bake.

Cool about 3 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack or flattened paper grocery bag (Mom's tradition). Let the cookies cool completely and store in a covered container. Enjoy.

I don't know where the recipe came from. It's typed and quite old. It may have been from a cookie exchange when Mom taught school, or one of her night school cooking classes.

No matter the source, these cookies have become a family favourite. Give this recipe a try and they might become one of yours too. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

IFR Flight to Jefferson County Airport

Landing on Runway 09 at Jefferson County.
Wayne and I took 997 on an IFR (instrument flight rules) training flight to Jefferson County International Airport (0S9).  Jefferson County is about four miles from the historic Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

We departed Bellingham International, our home airport, for the half hour flight to Port Townsend. Wayne and I are still learning how to use our Garmin 430W IFR-rated GPS for RNAV (aRea NAVigation) approaches. Small airports like Jefferson County can now have IFR approaches for airplanes to use in weather with low visibility.

iPad interface with Garmin 430W.
The flight took us over Whidbey Island with the snow capped Olympic Range ahead of us. But we both were too busy for much sightseeing. Talking to ATC (air traffic control), watching for other planes (it was a beautiful clear day), and paying attention to the navigation instruments kept us pretty busy.

Our new navigation technology helped us out a lot. The Garmin Flightstream with Bluetooth technology let Wayne use his iPad to receive moving map information from our GPS on a larger display. And the Garmin Pilot software  includes FAA approved charts with a real-time display of the plane's position. This flight was to help us learn how to use these features more effectively.

Another reason for coming was to have lunch at the airport's Spruce Goose Cafe. Airport cafes are well know for excellent homecooking. The Spruce Goose fits the mold. Whether you come for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the food is great. We shared a Caesar salad, beef dip sandwich, and a chocolate shake.

They were all good, but that shake really hit the spot. Flying is such thirsty work!

Port Townsend, Jefferson County Airport.
The Jefferson County Airport is a step back into time. It reminded us of how flying used to be before all of the craziness led to fences everywhere. Runway 09/27 is lighted and 3000' in length. Fuel (100LL) is available by credit card 24 hours at the self-serve pump. There is ample parking both on the paved ramp and on well maintained grass. If you are arriving from Canada, Jefferson County is an international airport of entry. Call ahead to arrange for customs.

Spruce Goose Cafe
The airport is about four miles from town (a very long walk even by our standards). The Peninsula/Key City Taxi has 24 hour service to and from Port Townsend. They can be reached at (360) 385-1872.

Whether you arrive by car, ferry or airplane, put Port Townsend on your list of places to visit in the near future. -- Margy

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fly the Sunny Skies

This has been an amazing winter. February and March (so far) have had more sunny days than I can ever remember for this time of year. Perfect weather for flying.

We took 997 out of her hangar at Bellingham Airport for some IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) practice. (Stop by next week for the rest of the story.) Practicing in sunny skies makes us more proficient when the clouds return and we have to fly without visual contact with our surroundings. Kind of like flying blind, but the instruments tell us everything we need to know.

Heading back into Bellingham on the approach to Runway 16 we could see Mt. Baker in the distance capped by a wispy cloud. Then on final, we could see her lofty snow capped peaks over the wing.  What a nice day to enjoy blue skies up close and personal. -- Margy

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Margy Meanders over to Powell River Daily News

Thanks to Citizen Journalist over at Powell River Daily News for inviting me to be a "guest columnist" today. Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? Guest columnist. Almost like I'm a journalist myself. The post is called Circumnavigating Goat Island and you can see it by clicking here.

Looking towards Second Narrows with Goat Island on the left.

The post was based on another of the same title at my off-the-grid Powell River Books Blog. Thanks Citizen Journalist for the opportunity.

If you would like to know more about my hometown Powell River, British Columbia, here are a few links.
If you have any questions, leave a comment or use the email link in my profile to send me a message. -- Margy