Eclipse 2024

We planned a year in advance for the April 8, 2024 eclipse, with flight reservations and hotel bookings in Austin, Texas, since it was one of the longest duration points. We flew in from Orlando, and Dani and Trish flew in from Vancouver BC, meeting up in Austin on Saturday the 8th. But the weather forecast for all of Texas, and Austin in particular, was bleak. So on Sunday we abandoned our rooms and drove across Texas to an Airbnb I was able to book. Then on Monday morning, we set off north for three hours to the only place in the middle of the country with a clear forecast.

It was worth it! We had lunch at a small cafe in the ironically named Plainview, Arkansas, and then headed back south a bit to find a space away from lights and telephone poles.

This eclipse was even more spectacular than the one we saw in Nashville in 2017. The sun is near a peak in its activity cycle, so the corona formed a bright ring, and there were spectacular solar flares shooting out from the sides as bright orange flames. Impossible to photograph, but so worth the experience.

360 degrees of twilight

New Zealand

After cancelling several trips to New Zealand over the past few years, Linda finally got her chance to visit on a cruise aboard the Regent Seven Seas Explorer. I had been to New Zealand on a Tauck tour about ten years before with Dani, and I was hoping the cruise would be an easy way to visit some of the highlights. As it turned out, as with Hawaii, it wasn’t a good way to experience the land. But the ship was beautiful.

We connected through LA to New Zealand. The new Delta One suites make 16 hour flights no problem.

We spent a couple of days in Auckland to get on schedule. I had a chance to meet for lunch at Le Garde-Manger with Steve Graham, and author writing a book about Linn Electronics, where I was COO in the 1980s. And we had a lovely dinner at The Grove.

The Regent Seven Seas Explorer bills itself as the most beautiful cruise ship ever built, and it’s hard to argue with that. All of the materials are phenomenal, the interior design is stunning, and the accommodations are great, even in the normal suites like we had. Service was also perfect. Everything is included, from dinks to shore excursions; our favorite benefit was the free daily laundry service!

Surprisingly, we didn’t think the food was as good as on its somewhat less fancy sister line, Oceania, which is still our favorite. Oceania has several ships the same size as the Explorer—about 750 passengers—but they also have some 1000 passenger ships, and we find the slightly larger size provides, ironically, an assortment of more intimate spaces.

Whereas the Tauck Tour had taken us on some very interesting excursions, the shore excursions on this trip were pretty much a bust. In particular, the “Journey into Middle Earth” was a pointless 8-hour slog on a bus to literally nowhere—a site where they built a set for a movie twenty years ago and then dismantled it ten weeks later.

Cruising Milford Sounds was very beautiful, though.

We had better luck with the shore excursion in Tasmania, with a visit to a very nice cave (165 feet deep—than goodness for handrails!) and an animal park.

Obligatory Kangaroo and Tasmanian Devil photos.

Overall impression was that the ship was great, but the itinerary not so much.

In Sydney we checked into our lovely room at the Four Seasons Hotel and had lunch at one of our favorite sushi spots, Sake.

Linda had been bothered by a cold for much of the cruise, which wasn’t surprising since it seemed like at least 15% of the passengers were sick from the start. That night I started feeling like I was getting it, and by the next day I was pretty sure it wasn’t a cold. Sure enough, she picked up some Covid tests, and we were both positive.

We had planned to spend the week dining around Sydney and visiting our dear friend Pamela, but that turned into a week of isolation in the room. We had also planned on visiting friends in Los Angeles for a week on our way back, but we canceled those plans and flew straight through to Orlando. So kind of an anticlimactic end to our trip. Glad we’ve both had six Covid shots, so it was just unpleasant but nothing worse.

And the view flying out of LA was very pretty:

Roadtrip: Chicago to Orlando 2023

With Dani and Trish moving to Vancouver, we decided to sell our condo in Chicago. So Linda and I flew to Chicago to cat sit while the girls explored Vancouver for a week, then we loaded up a rental minivan with items we wanted from our condo and bid it farewell, as we headed out.

There were some stops Dani and I had missed on our previously shortened road trip, so we set out in completely the wrong direction, heading east through Iowa, then south to Kansas City. These stops turned out to be the highlight of our trip, so I’m glad we did so.

Here are a few notes and photos. You can find photos and reviews of all the restaurants on my blog at

June 3, 2023

Chicago, IL

La herradura mexican grill
540 N Cody Rd, Le Claire, IA, US

Picked at random, it’s in the cute touristy town of Le Claire, overlooking the river. It was pretty good.

Antique Archaeology
115 Davenport St, Le Claire, IA, US

This is the shop run by the people on the TV show American Pickers. Pretty much what you’d expect, plus a lot of American Pickers merch. Friendly staff.

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum
505 Sterling Dr, Walcott, IA, US

I’m not into cars or trucks, but this was a great spot, with hundreds of vehicles brought to life by interesting signs about their histories. Highly recommended.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum
210 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA, US

Terrific museum! This really brought the man to life. I had no idea about all his great accomplishments because he got stuck being associated with the Depression. He did so much during his life. A must-see stop!

The Voyage Home Museum
361 E. 1st Street, Suite 2, Riverside, IA, US
The Voyage Home Museum

This seedy little store is worse than I expected, definitely not worth an hour detour.

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk
60 Greene St, Riverside, IA, US

Just a photo stop in a town that cleverly linked themselves to the fanchise. Skip it.

Surety Hotel
206 6th Ave, Des Moines, IA, US

Okay hotel in a very sketchy downtown.

801 Chophouse
801 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA, US

Good and popular steakhouse.

June 4, 2023

Betty’s Place
4766 State Hwy Pp, Holt, MO 64048

Yelp says it’s closed, but Google listed it, and it was a good dive diner. They have no phone service, so no credit cards, so maybe it is sort of closed. Still, the over-seventy after-church crowd packed the place!

Arabia Steamboat Museum
400 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO, US

This is a stunning museum about a steamboat that sank in 1852 and the team that unearthed it from 45 feet under a cornfield 150 years later. The entire cargo was perfectly preserved, and is on display. It’s a stunning glimpse into luxury goods of the time in brand-new condition. The presentation and flow of the museum is among the best I’ve seen. Well worth the trip to Kansas City.

The Raphael Hotel, Autograph Collection
325 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO, US

Fabulous service at this historic hotel. Every member of the staff was just so darned glad we were there! Best Autograph Hotel I’ve stayed at. Right on the “creek” in the center of Kansas City’s beautiful Plaza district.

Gram & Dun
600 Ward Pkwy, Kansas City, MO, US

Funky, almost Googie architecture and right on the “creek” through Kansas City’s Plaza district. Good small plates.

June 5, 2023

Aixios French Bistro
Kansas City, MO

Found at random, this French bistro is the real deal. Located on a charming upscale street across from the park.

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
5235 Oak St, Kansas City, MO, US

Wow, I went for the toys, but it was the miniatures that blew me away. We could have spent all day here.

June 6, 2023

Rama Thai
1129 E Walnut St, Springfield, MO, US

Random stop for lunch. Located in a historic house that has likely been many things. Decent Thai food, friendly service.

Hotel Napoleon, Ascend Hotel Collection Member
179 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN, US

What a dump! I need to stop making reservations at Hilton affiliates. No bathroom door. That was a first. It had apparently broken and simply been removed. The towel hook fell off the wall. No bellman, no valet, no one at the front desk for ten minutes. Seedy neighborhood (well, it’s Memphis). Would recommend to my enemies.

Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar
39 S Main St, Memphis, TN, US

We’d been here before so it’s why we stayed nearby. Interesting concept where everything comes in threes, whether wine, appetizers, or even entrees. As good as it was the first time. If you need to be in Memphis, eat here. We also walked to the nearby Peabody for a drink in the lobby. We stayed there before, but it’s not a great hotel. Dani and I stayed at an airbnb in Memphis in the suburban gayborhood, which is a much better approach.

June 7, 2023

Old Town Mexican Grill
116 Commercial Pkwy, Canton, MS, US

Okay Mexican food conveniently located next to a Love’s travel stop.

One11 Hotel
111 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA, US

Probably the last new hotel to ever open in the French Quarter due to zoning, this is a very stylish remodel of a historic sugar warehouse. Neat room design.

Batture Bistro and Bar
111 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA, US

The hotel’s cafe serves pre-prepared cold plates in the evening, and a continental breakfast. Okay if you’re staying there, but otherwise you can do better.

June 8, 2023

301 Royal St, New Orleans, LA, US

This corner cafe in the French Quarter offers something we haven’t seen anywhere else in New Orleans: a tasting sampler of all the standards. It was great to taste étouffée, red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya, side by side. My favorite was the étouffée, although the red beans and rice are also excellent. They also make a good shrimp Po’boy sandwich.

Restaurant R’evolution
777 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA, US

We had been impressed by this upscale restaurant on a visit quite a few years ago, and it continues to be outstanding. 10,000 bottle wine list!

June 9, 2023

DoubleTree by Hilton Tallahassee
101 S Adams St Fl 32301, Tallahassee, FL, US

Another Hilton-affiliated dump. The lobby looks like a cross between a bordello and a third-grade classroom decorating project. Dingy.

115 E Park Ave, Tallahassee, FL, US

Adjacent to the hotel, so convenient. The food was overwhelmed by an obnoxiously loud six-top next to us.

Date: June 10, 2023

Sensei Asian Bistro
Gainesville, FL

We were headed for a sports bar, but it was packed, so we went to this place next door, which was empty. It was empty because even at dinner it would be expensive, and at lunch that makes it outrageous. That said, it was good. Lots of fresh sashimi (although no soy sauce was served, which was a bit odd). The lobster fried rice was the best I’ve ever had. it was also $37.

Orlando, FL

Total distance traveled: 2,100 miles in 8 days.

Europe 2023

For our first post-pandemic trip out of the country, we decided to book a Tauck river cruise on the Danube. It would allow us to visit several cities and countries we hadn’t been to before.

To allow us time to get on schedule I booked several days in London beforehand.

We began our travels Sunday evening, April 23, flying out of the new Terminal C at Orlando International Airport. It’s a beautiful terminal. The first-class lounge is okay, nothing spectacular, but it has a great kids’ area designed to wear them out before they get on the plane. Brilliant.

I had found some great deals on business-class flights using Chase membership miles, so we have a weird assortment of airlines. Our first was Iceland Air, connecting through Reykjavik. (In retrospect, none of them except the final Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Orlando was what you would expect from business class, but that was the most important one.)

The trade-off for the great price was a tired 757 with no beds in first class, but the flight to Iceland was only seven hours, and the views of the Greenland ice cap and the Aurora made up for it.

Aurora over Iceland. The UFOs are fasten seat belt signs.

Keflavík Airport is the largest airport in Iceland and the country’s main hub for international transportation. The airport is 50 km southwest of Reykjavík. It’s an okay terminal, but the planes don’t pull up to gates, and the connection by buses on the tarmac is a bit inconvenient. I have no idea what they do with wheelchair-bound passengers.

After a short layover, the flight to London (on a much newer 737 Max) was only two hours. Aside from the mile walk from the gate to immigration, Heathrow Airport was a breeze. Immigration is now all electronic, with passport and face scans, and in no time we had our baggage and met Eddie Manning, our long-time driver while in London. We’ve used Eddie for about ten years now, and I highly recommend him.

The trip into London was slow, as always, complicated by road closures left over from the previous day’s London Marathon.

We tried a new hotel this trip, The St. Martin’s Lane Hotel, and it turned out to be great. It’s ideally located a few blocks from Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, and Leicester Square tube station. Our room was one of two large ones in the hotel, in a very utilitarian U shape. It wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so we hung out in the downstairs cafe, which was a bit weird–my Caesar Salad was more like a bowl of Caesar dressing with a head of lettuce in it!–but tasty enough.

Once our room was ready we got several hours of much-needed sleep, then walked a few blocks to our favorite restaurant in London, Clos Maggiore.

Clos Maggiore

What a meal! Probably a top ten of all time. We sat in a room we hadn’t been in before, an intimate upstairs space with a cozy fireplace. Not a tasting menu, but just two stellar courses that couldn’t have been better. My scallops starter and white asparagus entry were simply stunning. But the real show-stopper was a sublime Grand Cru Burgundy: 2005 Clos de la Roche from Nicolas Potel. I don’t think we will be able to top this meal on the trip!

White Asparagus

Tuesday we slept in, and had a lovely traditional French brasserie lunch next door to the hotel at Côte.

Covent Garden

After lunch, we walked over to Covent Garden to check out the London Transport Museum. It does a great job of interpreting the history of transport from horses through the latest tube extensions. The signage is just right, interpretive without being overwhelming, and for kids (of whom there were many) there are lots of things to climb on and buttons to push.

London Transport Museum

The new Elizabeth line is a 100km long trip East to West!

Then after another nap, we headed to dinner at our other favorite restaurant, the Michelin-starred Pied a Terre.

Perhaps it was just memories of the night before, but the ten-course tasting menu didn’t really stand out. However, the thing we really love about this restaurant is that they will serve the wine pairings blind and let you guess. So between one standard pairing and one reserve pairing, we had 18 wines to identify!

We did fairly well with varietals (at least the Sommelier said he was impressed) but not so much on regions. It was hard, though–Mourvedre from Greece, and Riesling for Marlborough? Who knew?

Wednesday didn’t quite go as planned.

Le Garrick

We slept in and then went to lunch at another charming bistro, Le Garrick, just off Trafalgar Square.

In the afternoon we had a short nap in preparation for seeing The Play That Goes Wrong, one of the funniest things we’d seen in the US from a touring company, and still playing in London at the original theatre. But just as we were about to leave for the show, I got an email from Air France saying our flight Thursday from London to our Paris connection had been delayed. Then I got another email saying they’d rebooked us on another flight at 6:20am so we could make our connection. This meant getting up at 3:00am! Yikes. So I gave our tickets to the concierge at our hotel in the hopes that someone else could use them. Fortunately, shows are much cheaper in London, and these tickets (I had somehow gotten fourth-row center in a fully booked theatre) were only 50 pounds each. Ah well. After a quick light bite at Côte, we went to bed.

To no avail, for me, anyway. Knowing we had a flight in just a few hours, I just couldn’t get to sleep. Oh well.

Eddie Manning dutifully picked us up at 4am, and we headed to Heathrow.

It took only 37 minutes to fly to Paris, and another two hours to Krakow, but with the now almost five-hour layover, we arrived just in time for our 5pm welcome dinner in the salt mine.

All of the fields in Poland seem to be long and skinny.
Nine people squeezed into each level of the elevator to the mine.

There are nine levels to the mine, but our dinner was only on the third level down, at about 400 feet. The elevator was quite fast, a good thing given how we were squeezed in!

This was not a working mine, it is historic, and was clearly hand carved.

Quite a few spaces have been carved into rooms and chapels.

Dinner was really quite good, and it was nice to get to meet some of our fellow travelers. While the river ship can accommodate over 120, we learned there are only 42 on this tour. Perhaps starting in Krakow seemed too close to the war in Ukraine for some, although it’s hundreds of miles away.

It was nice to finally get some sleep after 36 hours!

The next morning we met for a walking tour of the old city, making our way from the hotel to the market square.

The castle by the hotel
Look! It’s a church!
The Central Square

It is tradition to play a tune on a bugle in all four directions from one of the towers, every hour, even all night (so don’t stay in a hotel on the square!) The fourth time, the tune ends abruptly to commemorate a bugler who was shot in the throat while warning of an attack.

Linda eyeing a sculpture

They serve only breakfast until noon at the restaurant in the square, so I had French breakfast and coffee, and then Linda got a tuna sub from Subway on the way back to the hotel.

In the afternoon we took a 90-minute bus ride to Auschwitz, the first of the Extermination Camps built by the Nazis. It was not what I was expecting, as it is not a wooden stalag, but rather brick buildings constructed as Polish army barracks prior to WWII.

Until 1942 it was a concentration camp mostly for non-Jews, with the intent of killing Russian prisoners and anyone else who couldn’t work in the nearby factories, (which was almost everyone). After that it was a place to gas and cremate as many Jews, Poles, and gypsies as efficiently as possible, 1.4 million in all.

“work will set you free”

I chose not to take any photos inside the camp.

In the evening we had dinner at the hotel. We chose to sleep in on Saturday, skipping another walking tour, and spent the day at the hotel resting up.

Sunday was the all-day bus ride from Poland through Slovakia to Esztergom, Hungary to board our Danube River cruise boat, The M.S. Joy. The drive through the Carpathian mountains was really beautiful, with many villages, meadows, and mountains still encrusted with a bit of snow. Our lunch stop was at a ski resort near the top of the pass.

The ship is lovely, with large cabins and bathrooms, a Panorama lounge, Compass Rose dining room, and Arthur’s informal all-day dining room. Since we are at 1/3 capacity, there are almost as many crew as guests! The staff is wonderfully welcoming.

Esztergom, Hungary

Our tour guide said in case the ship sinks, just go up on the sun deck. The river isn’t that deep!

Dinner was a bit disappointing. Not bad, but certainly not Oceania-level dining. And despite the large number of dining staff, some experience and further training are needed.

Nice view from our cabin in Bratislava, Slovakia

As usual, I got a cold shortly after the trip began, but have been muddling through. My first night on the ship was pretty restless, and we were both tired after all the travel. Also, May 1st is a holiday, with most shops closed, so we decided to skip the walking tour of Bratislava and have a quiet day.

View from our cabin in Vienna!

One thing different about river cruises from ocean cruises is the view when docked. The ships dock side by side, so your view is likely to be of the ship next to yours. In fact, the passengers must often pass through other ships in order to get to and from the port! (This was actually the only time that happened on our cruise.)

In the morning Linda went on a tour of a palace in Vienna, and took a selfie. It might be her first!

In the afternoon she toured the ship’s helm.

We’ve been eating dinner in Arthur’s at the rear of the ship. The server there, Alex, is fantastic. The food is actually better and fresher than in the main dining room, and there’s almost no one there, so it’s like a private restaurant.

Vienna, Austria
Dinner in Vienna

Well, Linda got the sniffles just as I was recovering, so I headed off to the Tauck dinner in Vienna on my own. It was in a beautiful palace. The seven-piece chamber orchestra, four opera singers, and two dancers were all extremely talented. The music consisted largely of waltzes, most by people named ‘Strauss’ which means ‘bunch’, so a bunch of bunches. There was a lot of opera. So much opera.

The next day I went on a short morning excursion to Krems, an old town with a population of 25,000. There is a single main street in the old part of town, which is mostly tourist shops now.

Baroque church in Krems

We visited an ornate church, and an eclectic museum in an abandoned abbey.

In the cellar they had some beautifully carved old wine barrels, one of which had a carved cat on it.

The story was that the cellar cat would sit on the warmest barrel, which due to its high sugar content was the most prized wine, so that’s the one people wanted to buy. Of course, before the buyers arrived the winemaker no doubt put the cat on the barrel he wanted to sell!

Back at the ship, we went to lunch in the main dining room. Wow, the food is uninspired there. Not sure why it’s so poor, but that’s why we’ve been living on pub food at Arthur’s at the rear of the ship.

Water height markings along the Danube for various years. They now have eight-foot-high steel walls they can install along the river, but I’m not sure they would have helped in 2002 and it was even higher in 2013–so high that for a while the river flowed backward.

We cruised up the river to Spitz where I took a short drive to Weingut Christoph Donabaum, a small 2000-case winery, for a wine tasting hosted by the owner and his girlfriend. We had two 2022 Grüner Veltliners and the tartest Riesling I’ve ever had.

We had dinner at Arthur’s, which we again had to ourselves, with our delightful server Alex, who has been the highlight of our trip. Arthur’s looks out the rear of the ship, so we got to watch as we passed through a lock.

Friday Linda was still sick, so I did the trip to the lakes region of the Austrian Alps solo. This is the area Americans associate with The Sound of Music, although Austrians aren’t into that movie. We took a boat ride across one long lake, then reboarded our bus and drove to another lake and the town of Saint Wolfgang. He’s a saint because he decided to build a church there 1000 years ago, and also struck the ground with his staff and water bubbled up that magically cures your eyes, yada, yada, yada.

The town is very good at monetizing things. You can buy holy water, salt, salami, fake leather purses, and cuckoo clocks, all within feet of one another.

This is our excellent guide for today’s excursion. She came from Guatelama 20 years ago.

We’ve been seeing these things in every town:

They’re not cell towers. They’re Maypoles. They’re put up the last day of April (by hand) and then guarded for a few days. If the neighboring town manages to vandalize it, you have to buy them drinks. Or something like that.

We had lunch at Dorf-Alm zu St. Wolfgang, a decent meal of sauteed perch and boiled potatoes. I liked their barstools.

This is a Steirische Harmonika made of special wood that our guide’s husband purchased for his 40th birthday.

Lunch entertainment was provided by our guide’s husband, as this is the town they are from (or close to it). She had traveled by train to meet us in Linz this morning, and will need to go back tonight. It’s about 1-1/2 hours by train, but the cost is essentially free, since you pay 1000 Euro a year for all transportation. The bus ride back to the ship was mostly on high-speed highway, and we were back before 5pm.

The chef’s “signature dinner” was at 7pm in the dining room for everyone, and was actually pretty good.

Saturday Linda was still under the weather, so we skipped the walking tour, and after lunch at Arthur’s, I went for a short walk around Passau, Germany.

Sunday we said goodbye to our ship and took the bus to Regensberg, perhaps the most interesting of the cities we’ve visited on this trip.

The city has a long history, and you can easily spot the Roman fortifications on which the central part is constructed.

These are the units of measure that visiting merchants had to use in selling their wares.
We had lunch in a lovely biergarten. My chance to try the local bratwurst and sauerkraut, which were very good.
High-speed train to Berlin. It takes a bit over four hours. Germans tend to be “seat squatters’ so boarding was a hassle.
Finally got into our reserved seats!
The lovely Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin. We had dinner in their Brasserie Quarré, which is much nicer than the name implies.

Monday morning we should have gone to breakfast earlier–it’s fantastic, with several rooms of buffet including Champagne and caviar! We did a short walking and driving tour around Central Berlin. Our hotel is really near the Brandenburg Gate (it’s outside our window) and it’s really interesting to see all the vibrant new buildings that stretch through the center of the city on the former no-man’s-zone or killing ground where the Berlin Wall was. There’s little trace of it any more, save for some different colored paving stones.

A little piece of the wall, which I think they had to put back up so people could see what it was like.

We visited a few of the locations of Nazi bunkers and such, but there is nothing left, as they have been intentionally erased. We also visited an excellent museum about WWII, Topographie Des Terrors, and I ordered a book that contains everything in the museum to look through at our leisure. We also passed tourist spots such as a reconstruction of Checkpoint Charlie, and the place where Kennedy delivered his address.

It’s no longer obvious where East or West Berlin was, as there has been so much modern development. The city is obviously thriving, and is really quite attractive.

We had lunch a couple blocks from the hotel at an all-you-can-eat converyor belt sushi restaurant, Yakoolza. It was really quite good, and we had it to ourselves.

After a restful afternoon we walked a few blocks to the two-Michelin-starred Facil for a lovely dinner.

After another amazing breakfast buffet at the Hotel Adlon we took a short bus tour around the city again and spent a couple hours at the Pergamon Museum.

It’s like a tiny version of the British Museum, filled with things stolen from elsewhere.

We split off from the group’s German lunch and wandered back through the Brandenburg Gate and had lunch at Mama Trattoria, across the street from our hotel.

Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin lobby.

Today is May 9th, traditionally Victory Day, which commemorates Russia’s defeat of the Nazis in WWII. However this year, because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Berlin actually tried to ban the display of Russian flags. That didn’t go through, so both Russian and Ukranian flags are on display, but celebrations are muted and there is a large police presence everywhere.

The most likely thing to disrupt traffic in Europe this year, which we encountered in Vienna and Berlin, is protestors gluing their hands to the pavement in intersections to protest climate change. I’m not sure how tying up idling cars for hours improves the climate, but whatever. Because it’s very good glue, the authorities have to cut the chunk of pavement out with their hand still attached, and then send them a bill for repaving. Meanwhile, in Paris, they are still protesting raising the retirement age from 62 to 64! Also while on this trip Charles II was crowned in London. Glad we missed that by a week!

We finished our tour with a lovely visit to the Reichstag, with a view overlooking all of Berlin, and a lovely farewell dinner. A talk by a former escapee from East Germany was the climax.

Then it was back to the hotel for some sleep before our early wake up call to fly home on Aer Lingus via Dublin to Orlando.

In all, an interesting trip with some good highlights, a great group of people, and the usual Tauck professionalism.

LA to Chicago Road Trip

In June 2022 Dani and I flew to LA and rented and SUV to bring some keepsakes from Grandma Marjorie’s house back to Chicago. We wanted to take our time and visit interesting attractions over a two-week drive. The original idea was to follow Route 66, but using Roadtrippers I found there were lots more interesting stops if we made our own route.

After loading two wooden trunks of china and a few boxes of antique curios into the car we headed for our first overnight stay, in San Bernardino, at one of the two surviving Wigwam motels. The room was actually a lot nice than we were expecting, and it was, indeed, neat to sleep in a teepee. Most of the rest of our accommodations would be Airbnbs, and all were really nice.

We made a quick stop to admire some dinosaurs in Cabazon.

Then we made the long drive across the desert to Phoenix, arriving early enough that we had time to spend the 106-degree afternoon at the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium.

On the way to Sedona we stopped at a couple of wineries and followed the recommendation of the pourer at Chateau Tumbleweed to visit the cute mountainside town of Jerome. Sedona is a pretty setting, but the town is just a tourist trap.

About twenty miles outside of Flagstaff you’ll find Twin Arrows… if you hurry. They’re already down to one arrow.

Continuing across the desert we stopped at the spectacular Meteor Crater, which I remember being impressed by in my childhood.

Then it was time for lunch and a photo op on the corner in Winslow Arizona made famous in the Eagle’s Takin’ It Easy.

We drove through the petrified forest, and on to Albequerque. We’d hoped to stop at a lava tube ice cave(!) but forgot about the time change.

The next day we spent quite a bit of time in the excellent National Museum of Nuclear Science & History and then took the Sandia Peak Tramway up to 10,300 feet, and a panoramic view of very flat Albequerque. That may sound high, but it’s worth noting that much of this trip was at six to seven thousand feet. It’s easy to forget how high the high desert is.

Maybe 2% of the stuff you’ll find at Tinkertown

We took the scenic route to Santa Fe, stopping at the fascinating Tinkertown, one man’s life’s work of building miniature dioramas and collecting… well, just about everything imaginable. He has passed away, but his wife continues to run the place, and I highly recommend it as a fun and funky stop.

Santa Fe wasn’t terribly interesting, but we happened to be there during their Pride Festival, which was fun to walk through. I had intended to visit the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, but hadn’t made reservations, and didn’t want to wait, so we headed for Taos by scenic backroads.

We spent two nights at Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa in Taos. After all the driving, I figured it would give us a chance to relax, and that was indeed the case, although in a somewhat unexpected way. Our two-bedroom suite was beautiful, spacious, and decorated in a Japanese style. It was the perfect place to hang out when it started to monsoon for both days!

Unfortunately, its perfection didn’t extend to the roof, and I was awakened early in the morning by water dripping onto my head. I don’t think rain is that unusual this time of year in Taos, but the roof was leaking like a sieve. I called maintenance, and a very young kid said they couldn’t fix it, handed me two buckets, and left.

So that’s how we moved to Texas. The Texas-themed room, I mean. Which was identical except for Texan decor (I use antlers in all of my decorating) instead of Japanese, and the absence of a hole in the roof. Despite the steady rain, our stay was quite pleasant. We enjoyed relaxing in the room and grazing in the bar.

Now a week into our trip, we turned North and headed for Colorado Springs, stopping at the bizarre Bishop’s Castle on the way. The work of one crazy, antisocial guy, this very-not-OSHA-approved flight of fancy is still under construction. It’s definitely Colorado’s most unique roadside attraction, and well worth taking the scenic route to explore it.

I’ve always wanted to visit Michael Garman’s Magic Town, and the northern trajectory of our trip was designed specifically for this. Dani and I missed it on our previous Colorado road trip, and it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss.

It represents over forty years of the artist’s life, with intricate and evocative carved people, detailed buildings, and great use of mirrors and Pepper’s Ghost effects to create an entire walkthrough miniature town. It’s hard to convey just how neat this is.

Kansas has more cool attractions than I would have guessed. The Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City is one of the best I’ve been to. It features a large new building with great use of audio/video displays to present historic figures telling their stories in period settings. Then you have a chance to walk through a street of interconnected shops filled with historical displays and costumed performers acting as shopkeepers, bartenders, and other characters.

It’s also worth spending the night in quaint Hutchinson Kansas to afford plenty of time to see the Kansas Underground Salt Museum (STRATACA). You descend 650 feet into a working salt mine to see the process and explore its history. There’s an informative tram tour and a train that runs on the original tracks. The mine is also used for records and artifacts storage of Hollywood films and props, so there are exhibits devoted to that as well.

We had more stops planned for St. Louis and in Iowa, but Dani was getting a sore throat, so we decided to catch those later, and made a 733-mile beeline from Kansas to Chicago, arriving three days early. We’ll go back and pick up the rest of those stops on some future mini-road trip.

Total distance traveled: 2660 miles in 10 days. Here’s our complete itinerary including our stays and restaurants:

AMI Zoom Wine Group Graduation

An In-Person Tasting of Old and Rare Wines

Left to Right, Front to Back:
Martin Susan, Nic, Mindy,
Larry, Loren, Alan, Steve, Alex, Jim, Kathy, Martin, Linda
Liana, Joe, Tori, Scott, Loretta, Hunter, Kayla, Aaron

Ready to taste!
12010Château Pontet-CanetFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac$22495
22005Château LascombesFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux$10192
31995Dominus Estate Napanook VineyardUSA, California, Napa Valley$21693
41990Les Forts de LatourFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac$27092
51982Château GloriaFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$14390
61970Château PavieFrance, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru$14691
71966Château Léoville Las CasesFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$23592
81959Vieux Château CertanFrance, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol$52494
91924Château Langoa BartonFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$140
101976Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private ReserveUSA, California, Napa Valley$18593
111957Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Private ReserveUSA, California, Napa Valley$184
122017Gérard Raphet Charmes-ChambertinFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru$13196
132005Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Saint GeorgesFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru$11092
141985Domaine des Lambrays Morey St. DenisFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis$99
151970Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Brunet Philippe BouchardFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru$100
161953M. Doudet-Naudin Clos VougeotFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru$190
171949Gauthier Freres Savigny-lès-BeauneFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune$238
Rhone Blends
182010Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-PapeFrance, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape$11493
192001Cuvée du Vatican Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve SixtineFrance, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape$4991
201988Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La ChapelleFrance, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage$19293
212013Caymus Cabernet SauvignonUSA, California, Napa Valley$13091
222013Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special SelectionUSA, California, Napa Valley$18394
232014Saxum Heart Stone VineyardUSA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles$11095
242001Château SuduirautFrance, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes$14495


Dinner Wines

Notes on the wines:

The group’s favorites were:

1959 Vieux Château Certan (8.5 votes)
1970 Château Pavie (5.5 votes)
2010 Château Pontet-Canet (5 votes)

1957 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve (10 votes)
1976 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (9 votes)

1949 Gauthier Freres Savigny-lès-Beaune (11 votes)
1970 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Brunet Philippe Bouchard (7 votes)
1953 M. Doudet-Naudin Clos Vougeot (6 votes)

I also really liked:

1924 Château Langoa Barton

Martin, Jim, and Steve

Zoom Wine Tasting Videos

(I only recorded sessions where someone couldn’t attend, so this is only about half of them.)

11/2/2020Vistamar and Crown Point
11/16/2020McManus and Roblar Petite Sirahs
11/18/2020Evans Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 and Crozes-Hermitage
2/1/2021Beckmen and Mollydooker
2/24/2021PETS Petite Sirah and Old Ghost Zinfandel
3/10/2021Clos du Bois Marlstone and Geodesy
3/15/2021Writer’s Block Zinfandel
3/17/20212018 Melville Donna’s Syrah and 2013 Jasper Hill Shiraz
3/23/2021Barbera – second half
3/24/2021Champagne and Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
3/29/2021Writer’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon
4/7/2021Pouilly Fuisse and Ann Albert Chardonnay
4/12/2021Writer’s Block Syrah
4/14/2021Albarino and Tablas Creek Blanc
4/19/2021Writer’s Block Petite Sirah and Romanian Wine
4/21/2021Onesta Cinsault Red and Rose
4/26/2021Writer’s Block and Red Schooner Voyage 2 Malbec
4/28/2021St. Joseph and Cote Rotie
5/5/2021Steele and Andrew Murray E11even Petite Verdot
5/5/2021Mercurey and Nuits-Saint-Georges
5/10/2021Stolpman Roussanne
5/12/2021New World vs Old World GSM – Beckmen and Beaucastel
5/17/2021Paolo Scavino Sorriso Langhe 2019
5/26/2021Katherine Goldschmidt and 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon
6/1/2021District 7 Pinot Noir & 2009 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny
6/2/2021Red Schooner by Caymus Voyage 8
6/7/20212013 Flying Goat Pinot Noir Clone 2A
6/9/2021Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
6/16/2021Louis Latour Macon-Villages
6/21/20212016 L’Orme de Rauzan Gassies Bordeaux
6/30/20212011 Chateau des Labourons Henry Fessy Fleurie
7/12/2021Two Jakes Cabernet Franc
7/14/2021Clime Barbera
7/26/2021Pedroncelli Petite Sirah
7/28/2021Broadside Merlot
8/16/2021Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon
8/18/20212018 Berringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
8/25/2021Para Maria (Stolpman) Red Blend 2019
9/1/20212018 Frisson Tourchet Red Blend and 1994 Don PX
9/8/2021Beckmen Cuvee Le Bec 2019 and 2011 Usseglio CDP
9/15/20212015 Dona Maria Grande Reserva, Portugal
9/20/2021Broken Earth Grenache Rose & 1982 Chateau Greysac
9/27/20212017 Iron Horse Chardonnay & Hospices de Beaune 1er Cru
10/4/2021Beckmen Chenin Blanc and Block 6 Syrah
10/18/2021Corona de Aragón Garnacha and 2005 Morey-St-Denis
10/25/2021Shannon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Ch. Lascombes
11/1/2021Ty Caton and Gard Cabernet Sauvignons
11/8/2021Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc & Mollydooker Enchanted Path
11/15/2021Spellbound Petite Sirah and 1971 Corton-Bressandes
11/22/20212018 Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah & 1970 Ch. Cos d’Estournel
11/29/20212018 Bishop’s Peak Petite Verdot & 1980 Ch. Montelena CS
12/6/2021Amavi Syrah & Dr. Konstantine Frank Saperavi
12/13/2021Andrew Murray Alisos Syrah and 1993 Henri Bonneau Chateauneu-du-Pape

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 6

Mondays, beginning September 20 (except October 11) at 6:30pm

Hunter & Kayla
Jim & Kathy
Loren & Larry
Michael & Aurora
Mike & Susan
Mindy & Nic

I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also put the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about a half-hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

September 20 Broken Earth Limited Release Grenache Rose 201911.67casemates
September 27Iron Horse Chardonnay 201716.67casemates
October 4Beckmen SYV Chenin Blanc 47yo Vines 202024.90beckmen
October 18Corona de Aragón Special Selection Cariñena Garnacha 20139.58casemates
October 25Shannon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 201910.00casemates
November 1Ty Caton Winemaker’s Cuveé Cabernet Sauvignon 201720.00casemates
November 8Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc, North Coast 201720.00tba
November 15Spellbound Petite Sirah 20176.25casemates
November 22Talley Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah 201815.00casemates
November 29Talley Bishop’s Peak Petite Verdot 201815.00casemates
December 6Amavi Cellars Walla Walla Valley Syrah 201815.42casemates
December 13Andrew Murray Syrah Alisos Vineyard 201819.17casemates
Total of all wines $183.66

Road Trip: Pacific Northwest

This was a delightful 12-day trip around Washington State and part of Oregon. Dani and I initially planned it, but I was able to talk Linda into going, too. It was so much fun to have the whole family traveling together!

I’ve embedded the best travel photos, but for photos of the meals and wineries, click on the links to my Yelp reviews.

Monday, August 2, 2021 — Seattle

Linda and I flew in to Seattle from Orlando, and Dani flew in from Chicago. First class makes the 6-hour non-stop trip on Delta much more pleasant. Covid meant the fares were cheaper, but it also meant that first class service consisted of a box of junk food!

We picked up our SUV from Alamo at SEATAC. Since we wanted to bring back wine, we had a couple of wine case pieces of luggage, so we needed a pretty good sized vehicle. When they offered us an upgrade I took it, but we were a bit startled at the massive size when we saw it. One thing’s for sure, we never had any trouble fitting in our luggage!

Since it was just past noon we had some time to kill before check-in, so we drove north of downtown to Sisi Kay Thai Eatery & Bar, where we had a delightful lunch, dining all by ourselves. A few blocks away was our first tourist stop, the bizarreness that is Archie McPhee!

Because our itinerary happened to take us to the major cities of this trip (Seattle and Portland) on Mondays and Tuesdays when lots of places are closed, it was a little tricky getting into some of the restaurants I was most interested in. The pandemic has also created some irregular operating times and staffing challenges for them.

But we were lucky and the new Loupe Lounge at Seattle’s Space Needle was open, and I’d managed to book a table. This was a fantastic experience involving lots of liquid nitrogen cocktail making, a whiskey flight, and endless pours of Taittanger Comte Rose Champagne, along with plentiful bites of gourmet foods to accompany everything. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip.

Next stop was our condo on the waterfront just north of downtown Seattle. This was our first of four Airbnb stays on this trip, and all were lovely in their own ways. This one was a two bedroom condo on the 16th floor with a view of the bay and Puget Sound.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

We walked back to the area around the Space Needle (which is on the World’s Fair grounds from 1962), stopping at the Artisan Cafe for excellent Bahn Mi sandwiches, which we ate on park benches. Then we visited the Museum of Pop Culture. This used to be The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame started by Microsoft’s Paul Allen, but its theme has been broadened. I was a bit disappointed that there was more pop culture in the gift shop than in the somewhat limited exhibit spaces, although there was a good LGBT history exhibit, and a few interesting bios in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

We took the monorail back to downtown (a two minute ride!) and sampled some just okay tacos off the Solamente Pastor taco truck. Later, for dinner, we walked to Wann Japanese Izakaya, probably Linda’s favorite meal of the trip.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Dani and I got biscuits for breakfast overlooking the waterfront at Honest Biscuits. My shoes were falling apart, so we walked to Nordstom’s Rack and I got some new loafers. Then we rode motorized scooters back! Great fun, but we should have ridden them UP the hills to Nordstrom’s, too!

For lunch we walked downtown for sandwiches at Cherry Street Coffee House, then went next door and down Beneath the Streets for a tour and history of Seattle’s past. I highly recommend this, as you can see how the city was built up and elevated a full story after being destroyed by fire.

I really wanted to see the spectacular new tiki bar Inside Passage, and this was our only time slot when it was open. You enter through a hidden door from the adjacent bar, Rumba (I think this space was previously a speakeasy theme). This was the only place on our trip where we were asked to show proof of vaccination. Bravo!

Inside Passage did not disappoint! I wish we’d had more time to spend there. Had I known how much food they offered I would not have made a dinner reservation elsewhere. The space is absolutely spectacular, with wonderful nautical decor, a beautiful bar, and cozy booths. But the most spectacular aspect is the giant octopus that looms overhead!

Dinner was a tasting menu at Art of the Table. It was very good, but we were still talking about Inside Passage.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

We checked out and headed for wine country. Dani wisely suggested we take a detour over the mountains, which was a great plan, since much of the road to Walla Walla is pretty desolate. A scenic drive took us to Snoqualamie Falls and then Leavenworth, Washington, a Bavarian themed tourist town that reminded us of Salvang, California.

We had German food at Colchuck’s and then continued south to Gard Vintners Wine Tasting Room in Ellensburg. I was familiar with Gard from wines I’d purchased on Casemates, so I wanted to try their other offerings. This was the first of many wine clubs I joined along our route!

We arrived in Walla Walla after 8pm, so dining options were limited. We had okay Mexican food at the incredibly brightly lit El Sombrero. Then we checked into our Airbnb, a cute two bedroom home built in the 1920s, and right across the street from Pioneer Park, with its lovely lawns and big trees.

Friday, August 6, 2021 — Walla Walla

Our Walla Wala Airbnb had chickens in the back yard, so Dani and I had fresh eggs every morning!

Friday was our big day for Walla Walla wine tasting. We followed recommendations from the wine club director we met the previous day at Gard Vintners. Our first stop was at L’Ecole No. 41, housed in a gorgeous historic schoolhouse. The wines were good, but not something we wanted more of, so we actually bought a bottle of something we hadn’t tasted.

At some wineries there is a tasting fee, so if we don’t like the wine we don’t feel obligated to buy. Other times the fee is waived for a certain purchase, or if you join their club. But if there is no fee, we always buy a bottle of something as a thank you.

Our next stop was Woodward Canyon, a nice facility, where we had a relaxing outdoor tasting. The wines were good if not spectacular.

Our best discovery was Reininger, where we tasted their wines under a big shade tree on their lawn. We loved the way they served the wines all at once, in essentially shot glasses, along with big wine glasses, making it easy to share and to compare. We joined their club, which gives us the flexibility of picking our wines each quarter.

Back in downtown Walla Walla, Kontos had a spacious tasting room but few customers, and the wines were not inspiring. We had a wonderful French lunch at Brasserie Four. It was so good we considered going back for dinner!

Our final tasting stop for the day was at The House of Smith, a barn-like facility in downtown Walla Walla where you can try all of crazy man Charles Smith’s wines, including our favorite offerings from K Vintners. Again, the wines were served in flights. We joined this club, too.

Dinner was at The Kitchen at Abeja. This restaurant, located in the tasting facility of Abeja Winery, had only been open three weeks, but they served an ambitious tasting menu under the direction of a young chef who interned at two Michelin-starred restaurants in France. Her food definitely shows promise, and it will be interesting to see how this restaurant evolves.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Saturday we went for a walk in the park across the street. They have a very large aviary with many birds, especially various types of pheasant. It’s a great town-supported feature.

Our final Walla Walla wine tasting stop was at Alton Wines. It’s a gorgeous new facility with a stunningly modern tasting room. I’d guess it is a rich entrepreneurs passion project. It was a bit odd, because they were out of most of their wines, and their club is on a waiting list because they have only limited wines. The only wine we really liked was a Sangiovese which—you guessed it—they were out of. They were only planning on being open one more weekend this season, and I can see why!

We went to lunch at the historic Ice-Burg Drive-In, which was very slow, and more historic than good.

Dinner was far more successful. We ate upstairs in the loft a TMACS in downtown Walla Walla. Our waiter, Caleb, was one of the best we have ever had, and this was one of the best meals of the trip. The restaurant was dimly lit (upstairs, anyway) and quiet enough for good conversation—an oasis from the lively bar directly below.

We were surprised, in retrospect, by Walla Walla wines. My expectation was that the Syrahs would be the best, since I’m most familiar with Charles Smith’s fruit bombs such as BOOM BOOM Syrah, and Troublemaker. But he has sold those brands off, and his focus (and that of all the other wineries we visited) is on a much wider range of varietals. Overall, I think it was the Bordeaux blends that most impressed us.

Walla Walla is actually split by the Washington/Oregon border, and there are different micro climes in different areas. It’s also worth noting that many of the best wines we had from Walla Walla wineries were actually made with grapes from the Columbia Valley.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The drive along the Columbia River is not particularly scenic until you get close to Portland. Multnomah Falls is really the first photo op. I reminded us of Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite, but that might be because of the drought the whole Pacific Northwest has been experiencing. We were lucky that none of the resulting fires affected our trip much, although we often smelled smoke.

We picnicked along the river, watching the hundreds of kiteboarders taking advantage of the constant, strong winds that blow up the valley.

The one thing Portland is known for that was a must for Dani: a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts! They were as good as they look, although I must say that Chicago has become quite a donut town, and I think you could find their equal there, with a little work.

Since we were early, we drove on past our accommodations and visited Carlton Winemaker’s Studio. This is a neat concept that offers tastings of the wines of fifteen different wineries. We had a lovely afternoon sitting on the patio tasting wines and munching on charcuterie from their charcuterie vending machine(!)

In the evening we checked into our beautiful Airbnb in Dundee, about 20 miles west of Portland, and in the middle of Willamette Valley wine country. This home was gorgeous, two stories, with three bedrooms and a professional decor. Dinner was just down the hill at Tina’s, a charming restaurant where Linda ordered the winning dishes.

Monday, August 9, 2021 — Willamette Valley

Our winery day in the Willamette Valley was somewhat limited by it being a Monday, and we had to plan ahead because nearly all the wineries here require 24 hour advance reservations. But we made good choices. We started at Archery Summit, with a tasting on the patio overlooking the vineyards. While a few different wines are produced in this area, pretty much everything that impressed us was Pinot Noir. That ws the case here, and we joined their club, which allows you to custom select your wines.

Our next stop was Domaine Serene, easily the most beautiful winery I’ve ever visited. Looking more like a Four Seasons Hotel, it’s perched high above the Willamette Valley, with expansive views in all directions. In addition to Oregon wines, they also own two properties in Burgundy, so they offer both an Oregon and a Burgundy club. We ended up joining both! They also serve food, so we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon of wine, charcuterie, cheese, and bread. I’d never heard of this winery, but it was clearly the highlight of our wine tour.

Linda had hit the wall, so we dropped her off at our Airbnb and then Dani and I continued on to Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. They produce a myriad of pinot noirs, but they seemed clumsy after the wines at Domaine Serene, and they weren’t particularly cheap. Linda made the right call.

On the way back to the Airbnb, Dani and I detoured to Honey Pie to pick up pizzas. They were good, and also provided useful leftovers for later picnics.

I’ve never thought Oregon pinot noirs lived up to the hype from the 80s and 90s. As a Burgundy fan, they have always struck me as lacking the New World fruit of California pinot, yet rarely developing the earthy complexity of true Burgundy. But perhaps the problem has been that I’ve been unwilling to pay enough for them. At Domaine Serene, where we tasted $90 Oregon pinots against $90 Burgundies, they were quite comparable. Of course, these are wines made under the same management. Still, it will be interesting to see what Oregon pinots show up this year from the clubs we joined. Perhaps a reassessment is in order.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 — Oregon Coast

You can’t go to Oregon without experiencing the dramatic Oregon coast, so we headed out on a big circle, taking us from the vineyards through the forests to the rocky coast, and then back again.

The aptly named Haystack Rock was our first scenic stop, and Dani got a chance to dip her foot into this side of the Pacific Ocean (she’d already done the other side in Australia). The we stopped at Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House (also known as the Screw and Brew) for fish and chips. Yes, it really is a hardware store.

We’d intended to stop at the Tillamook Creamery, but the acres of parking lot were packed and there was a Disney-like line to get in.

Dinner was an elaborate, 20 course affair at Joel Palmer House in Dayton, Oregon. They have the world’s largest cellar of Oregon Pinot Noir, with 800 selections. The food emphasizes mushrooms in most courses, so it perfectly matched a well-aged 2004 pinot from Beaux Freres.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021 — Enchanted Forest

Justin told me I’d like Enchanted Forest, and he was right! It’s a mom and pop theme park located about 50 miles south of Portland. I loved the charming walk-throughs, and the way it engages childrens’ imaginations. This is my favorite kind of theme park. We went early, saw most everything, and were on the road north by lunch time.

Lunch was a quick stop at Republica in Portland. This is an interesting take on Mexican food, with a menu that changes daily. It’s probably more interesting at night, when they have a tasting menu. But with counter service and only two tables inside, it’s a bit hard to imagine how that works.

The drive to Mount Rainier National Park was quite scenic, and we arrived at our Airbnb lodging right on time. It’s called Knot-a-Care-Cabin, and it’s as cute as the name implies, with every little detail decorated in bears and other rustic motif.

A deer welcomed our arrival. The bedroom is a loft, high in the peak of the roof, accessed by a ladder—but Linda and I managed it without incident!

Dinner was the oddest, and in many ways one of the best, of the trip. We ate at one of the only places around, Wildberry Restaurant in Ashford. It is owned by a Himalayan sherpa who holds the record for fastest ascent of Mount Everest, and who has scaled that mountain ten times. The servers are also Himalayan, and our waiter was quite frenetic. He spoke in a high-pitched, almost hysterical voice. But the service was very efficient, even though their tent-covered patio was completely full. It turns out Himalayan food is very similar to Indian food, and it was very tasty.

Thursday, August 12, 2021 — Mount Rainier

Our day of sightseeing in Mount Rainier National Park made us realize how lucky we had been during the rest of our trip, as the smoke from the California, Oregon, and Washington wildfires really settled in. We were glad we had our masks. Still, we hiked a couple of scenic trails, saw some dramatic waterfalls, and circled all the way around Mount Rainier on our way back to Seattle.

We spent the night at the gorgeous Cedarbrook Lodge right next to SEATAC airport. It’s hard to believe you are near the airport in this bucolic setting. Before dinner we had a drink at the bar and the unique bartender introduced us to Amaro Amorino Riserva, made by a local distiller, which we liked very much. Dinner was at their Copperleaf Restaurant. The food and server were very good. And our server owns a timeshare in Orlando, which sort of brought the trip full circle! Then it was time for our early morning wakeup and our Friday the 13th trip back home.

It was a great family trip, and I’m so glad all three of us could do it together. Perhaps next time Trish will be able to join us, too!

Road Trip: Orlando to Chicago

In June of 2021 I sold the Lexus Ls460L to Dani and we took a road trip to transfer the car from Orlando to Chicago. It was our first trip since the Pandemic began in March 2020, so we started out rather gingerly, with AirBnB’s booked along the route, wearing masks, and only dining outdoors. But after traveling through Georgia and spending a lot of time in Tennessee, we got used to the laissez-faire attitude prevalent everywhere and loosened up. By the time we reached Chicago, all mask mandates had been lifted, and life was starting to return to normal.

Here are photos from our trip along with a chronology.

June 2

The longest drive of the trip was from Orlando to Atlanta, so we wanted to get it over in a hurry. We stopped along the way for a good hamburger at Espresso 41 Coffee Roasters in Tipton, GA.

We checked into the Atlanta Lama Luxury Cottage, and AirBnB at a small llama and alpaca rescue farm owned by two women, one of whom it turned out knew Linda from WDI days! It’s to the southeast of Atlanta, in a nice area of wooded rolling hills. Lovely cottage.

Arrived in time to host the weekly Wednesday AMI Wine Zoom (we brought the wines for the next two weeks).

Fed the llamas carrots, and had dinner at a nice place they recommended in the gayborhood, Argosy.

June 3

Visited the Georgia Aquarium. Dani wasn’t expecting much, since she grew up at SeaWorld, but when we entered the tank with three full-size whale sharks swimming overhead, her jaw dropped.

Visited the Cocal Cola museum, which still gives you the ability to taste the more interesting soft drinks they make in other parts of the word, but unfortunately doesn’t offer them for sale. Beverly from Israel is always my bitter favorite!

Visited S.O.S. Tiki bar. It’s neat inside, but we had drinks on the patio.

June 4

Picked up some sandwich makings at Public and headed for Gatlinburg, TN.
Stopped at Tallulah falls along the way. The visitor center and view were just meh. Had a picnic in the car.

Beautiful drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stopped at an interesting mill and other abandoned cabins. Dani got an audio guide that provided interesting GPS-triggered narration as we drove.

Gatlinburg was a hell-hole. Traffic inching along the only road through town, and hordes of unmasked people packing the sidewalks. Nothing but tacky tourist chains–not the charming kind of home-grown tacky, just mass produced tourist traps, half of the seemingly owned by Ripley’s Corporation.

The AirBnB was fine (we had to bring our food in from the car because of bear warnings) but the traffic was so bad we just ordered really mediocre Mexican food delivered.

June 5

We decided to abandon our AirBnB a day early and I booked a night at The Tennessean Hotel in Knoxville.

In Gatlinburg we road the chairlift to the top of the mountain and walked across the glass Skybridge.

We got a cheap discount on a photo package with our tickets (well worth it), then another company tried to sell us different photos at the top!

We finished our Great Smoky Mountains audio tour outside of Gatlinburg, then drove through Pigeon Forge–another hell hole of tourist tacky, but more spread out than Gatlinburg.

The Tennessean is right next to the old World’s Fair site, the only obvious remnant of which is the Sunsphere. Nearby there’s a nice square with lots of restaurants, but it was bustling, and the good ones were all booked. Dani got a kick out of posing on Gay Street!

We had a lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant/bar, and also had breakfast there the next morning. Very gracious service and good cocktail mixology.

June 6

On the way to Chattanooga we stopped at Lost Sea Adventure, a neat lake in a fairly deep cave. It’s a nice cave walk, because there is less elevation change than you’d expect, since you enter from the side of the mountain. The lake is stocked with trout, and you go on a short boat ride to watch them being fed. Pretty cool.

Another nice AirBnB across the river from Downtown. We ate at a big outdoor place called State of Confusion.

June 7

Just a bit outside of Chattanooga is Ruby Falls, a very deep cave you need to take an elevator to access. This is a very well-developed site, and they use Alcorn McBride equipment to tell the engaging story of the caves discovery, and to put on a beautiful light show of the very tall waterfall at the end of the path. There are a few tight spots and low ceilings, so not for the claustrophobic.

Lunch was outside at Main Street Meats, and excellent deli. Then back to the AirBnB for the Monday Wine Club Zoom.

June 8

An OK breakfast at Ruby Sunshine, a local breakfast chain, and then on to Nashville.

We stopped at Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park, which has a decent visitor center, and a pleasant walk on the river, but there are really no runs to see here, just some mounds.

The Jack Daniel’s Distillery tour was excellent. Great visitor center, and we had an excellent guide who took us on a tour and conducted a tasting of four of their whiskeys. It was really interesting to learn that their whiskeys are all the same as far as production, barrels, and aging. The only difference is how high (and therefore hot) the barrels have been stored in the warehouse prior to bottling.

Our place in Nashville is the top level of a four unit townhome near the college. Quite nice to be a bit out of downtown. It was an easy walk to dinner at a tapas place, Barcelona Wine Bar, where we ate outside.

June 9

Lunch was downtown at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, which was better than when I ordered it shipped during the pandemic, but not life-changing. I think I am over Nashville hot chicken.

We spent an hour at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which neither of us were interested in, but you have to in order to tour RCA Studio B, which was quite interesting. It’s where hundreds of hit records have been recorded, including most of Elvis’. It was fun seeing all the old recording equipment, having used much of it myself, and also interesting to get a peek into the still-operational modern control room.

Chopper is a great tiki bar! It has a giant robot over the bar, and robot-shaped tiki mugs. I had a tiki drink with coffee in it that I really liked. Here’s my approximation of the recipe:

Dopamine Tiki Drink from Chopper Nashville
Bourbon 1-1/2 oz.
Demerara rum 1-1/2 oz.
Coffee 1-1/2 oz.
Coconut Syrup 4 pumps (about 1 ounce)
Lemon 3/4 oz.

We had a nice dinner at Butcher & Bee, recommended by one of Dani’s friends who went to Nashville for graduate school.

June 10

After an okay breakfast at nearby Fido we headed for Memphis.

The Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum in Jackson, TN does a great job of presenting the history (and mythology) of that famous train wreck.

Our AirBnB in Memphis was in a particularly nice area, obviously the gayborhood, and walking distance to lots of restaurants. For dinner we walked to Alchemy and had a nice meal and cocktails on the sidewalk.

June 11

Another excellent restaurant was right around the block, so we had lunch outdoors at Central BBQ. Yum.

For me, one of the unexpected highlights of the trip was the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Following a path through 25 very well-interpreted display rooms, you find yourself looking through a glass wall into the room where Martin Luther King was staying when he was assassinated. Seeing his everyday belongings scattered about the room really brought the reality of it home.

We stopped for a flight of bourbon at just a few blocks away, at Max’s Sports Bar. Max’s is owned by a couple who owned a condo next to our in Chicago, and they kindly invited us to drop by. At their suggestion we had the BBQ nachos, which were amazing, actually better than lunch at Central BBQ!

We drove along the river and stopped for ice cream at A Schwab, a vintage pharmacy selling tourist junk on tourist junky Beale Street.

June 12

After an excellent to-go breakfast from the very busy Cafe Eclectic, we headed for Branson.

Our first stop was at the Sultana Museum, right after crossing the river into Arkansas. The Sultana was a steamboat that sank, killing 2300 or so Union soldiers who had been prisoners of war and were being returned to the North at the end of the Civil War. It was the largest maritime disaster in US history, but hardly anyone has heard of it because it happened the week after Lincoln was assassinated. The museum was hosted by a very sweet, knowledgeable woman who gave every visitor a self-guided tour of their many displays, photos, and artifacts. Highly recommended.

Trying to avoid the interstate, our lunch stop was at Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant, which was still pretty much in pandemic mode, with almost no tables, and ordering at a desk. A lot of fried stuff, not that good.

At Justin’s suggestion, we stopped at Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail for a fun golf cart journey through a beautiful (but man-made) journey through rock work, waterfalls, a cave with a tiki bar in it, and an expansive view.

Then we made our way through Branson to our condo in a luxury resort, which involved very confusing directions and an odd, after-hours check-in procedure. But the room is beautiful. We ordered pizza delivered for dinner.

June 13

This is the day that desensitized us to pandemic crowds. We went to Silver Dollar City, and the place was packed. We started with a false sense of security on the Flooded Mine ride, which we had to ourselves. It’s a charming and nonsensical boat ride / shooting gallery through animated scenes of prisoners trying to deal with leaking water.

We didn’t have such luck at Mystic River Falls. It LOOKED like a reasonable line. 2-1/2 hours later(!) we boarded our river raft. I must say, though, that it was a great ride. And we got soaked.

I’m not sure why the throughput on that ride is so slow. It seemed like it could have handled a lot more boats, and some went through empty.

After a truly horrendous BBQ bowl and a cinnamon role to recover we headed to Walmart for dry shoes, Dinner at the nearby El Lago Mexican restaurant was surprisingly good, and the GIANT margaritas were great.

June 14

Before leaving Branson we stopped at the WORLD’s Largest Toy Museum Complex. They aren’t kidding. This is a highly recommended stop, with buildings full of every imaginable toy, curated by type and vintage. An hour was not nearly enough time to explore here.

I was surprised that I liked Branson. It’s tacky, but my kind of home-grown tacky; the roads are laid out on the ridge lines, so there are great views; and there are lots of alternate routes, so the traffic isn’t as bad as in some tourist areas.

We had lunch at the Funk Yard in the gloriously tacky Uranus, Missouri, where every employee is in on the pre-teen joke (“The best fudge comes from Uranus.”)

We made a brief stop at t. James Winery, which has been a long-time supporter of the Florida State Fair Wine Competition where I’ve judged for the past 30 years. Typical of hot, humid states their wines are mostly really sweet. I bought a Pink Catawba and a Concord, both of which ended up being enjoyed as mixers during the following week.

Our last night was spent at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis. Road construction made it so difficult to get to this hotel that we just had dinner in the lobby at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

June 15

The drive from St. Louis to Chicago is almost as tedious as the one from Orlando to Atlanta. We stopped at 217 Roadhouse Bar and Grill, where the hamburger was a lot nicer than the server.

And then, by late after noon, we arrived at out condos, and Dani was reunited with Trish.

Best of all, the car fits in the garage.

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 6

Alex & Loretta
Dani & Trish
Hunter & Kayla
Loren & Larry
Mike & Susan
Rachel & Christina

I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also put the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about a half hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

June 162009 Latour Macon-Villages Chardonnay10.83casemates
June 232020 Melville Rose25.68melville—ros-p566.aspx
June 302011 Chateau des Labourons Henry Fessy Fleurie10.83casemates
July 72016 Castelli del Grevepesa Chianti Classico Riserva “Castelgreve”14.99wtso
July 142019 Clime Barbera Harde Vineyard El Dorado13.05lastbottle.com
July 212019 Poggio del Concone Toscana17.24lastbottle.com
July 282018 Broadside Merlot Margarita Vineyard, Paso Robles17.99B-21
August 182018 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley, Sonoma21.98B-21
August 25Stolpman Para Maria Red Blend12.09casemates
September 12018 Frisson Toucher Vineyards Proprietary Red26.94lastbottle.com
September 82019 Beckmen Cuvee le Bec21.60beckmen
September 152015 Dona Maria Grande Reserva, Portugal44.99B-21


Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 5

An eclectic selection of worldwide regions and varietals for the adventurous palate.

Dani & Trish
Jim & Kathy
Hunter & Kayla
Loren & Larry
Mindy & Nick
Mike & Susan
Rachel & Christina

May 10Stolpman Vineyards Roussanne14.99
May 17Paolo Scavino Sorriso13.04 liquor
May 24Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rosé7.49
May 31District 7 Estate Grown Pinot Noir7.91
June 7Flying Goat Cellars 2013 ‘Clone 2a’ Pinot Noir, Rio Vista Vyd, Sta. Rita Hills
41.82 olivos cafe
June 14Scott Harvey Mountain Selection Barbera12.49
June 21Château Rauzan-Gassies L’Orme de Rauzan-Gassies Haut-Médoc 201622.99
June 28Primodì Terre Siciliane Rosso Appassite 2017 by Barbanera13.99
July 12Two Jakes of Diamonds Roman Reserve Cabernet Franc16.67
July 19Calculated Risk Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 201814.99
July 26Pedroncelli Family Vineyards Petite Sirah13.99
August 16Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon35.00


Home Meal Kits

Gobble’s Caribbean Vegetable Rondon Stew

During the pandemic rather than visit restaurants, I subscribed to six different meal preparation kits. I enjoyed each, and each had their own strengths. Here is how they compare.  

Blue Apron is the first kit we tried. Limited customization of meals is available, but there is a lot of variety in the recipes. There are some good ethic selections. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. My only nit is that sometimes condensation had soaked the instruction cards. This is an excellent choice, and a moderate price.  Let me know if you want a free starter box and I’ll send you one.

Home Chef offers the most flexibility in swapping ingredients. Nearly every meal allows substantial customization of the proteins, including upgrades in quality, change from beef, to chicken, to vegetarian, etc. When fish is part of a recipe it is impressive how fresh it is. We had a bento box that included raw tuna, and it was as good as at any sushi place. Instructions are clear, and the recipes are interesting and varied enough to avoid repetitiveness. They also have options you can simply heat up, although we never tried these. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. For overall quality, this is my favorite of the five plans.  Here’s a $35 off coupon:

Minted Spinach Soup from Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot is a vegan meal kit. It has the most ambitious recipes, excellent ethnic options, and a lot of variety. Because a lot of the recipes involve tofu or seitan, neither of which are my favorites, I stuck with the vegetable-only recipes. I really like that instead of instruction cards each week includes a very professionally produced booklet with all of the recipes. Purple Carrot is the only where service where I had delivery issues. They use a company called laser ship which lost my orders a full 20% of the time. This is the most expensive of the five plans.  Let me know if you want a free starter box and I’ll send you one.

Every Plate is by far the least expensive of all the meal kits. The downside is that the recipes are quite repetitive. If there are three possible proteins, three possible sauces, three possible carbs, and three possible vegetables, then there are 81 possible combinations, and you tend to see them, over and over. True, there are also some other varients, but it just seemed too mundane. Instructions tend to be very simple. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. This is a good pick if price is your most important consideration.  Here’s a $20 off coupon:

Mushroom Hoagies from Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh offers a lot of different meals each week, and has an excellent selection of vegetarian choices in addition to meat-based ones. Limited customization of meals is available. I really like their recipes. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. A good pick in terms of value for the variety. Here’s a $70 off coupon:

Barramundi with lemon beurre blanc and capers from Gobble

Gobble was the last meal kit I tried. It has a good range of menus like Hello Fresh, good customization options like Home Chef, and interesting ethnic meals like Purple Carrot. Gobble’s big advertising point is that meals can be prepared quickly because many elements have been prepped for you. For example, in the Caribbean Vegetable Rondon Stew (pictured at the top of this article) the kohlrabi had already been peeled and diced, and the basmati cilantro rice was already cooked and provided in a sealed pouch. The company claims meals can be prepared in 15 minutes, and I found this close to the truth. I’ve loved all the recipes I’ve gotten from them, and one of the regular fish offerings is barramundi, which I find much better than the tilapia that predominates at some of the other services (photo above). I also like the way Gobble calls out the calories of each item in the kit, in case you want to make substitutions or omit ingredients. Discount link:

Overall, my choices are:  

  • Overall: Gobble – great recipes, fast prep, protein options
  • Most Customizable: Home Chef – multiple swaps on every protein
  • Best Selection: Hello Fresh – also great vegetarian options
  • Vegan: Purple Carrot – complex prep, all vegan ingredients
  • Cheap: Every Plate – repetitive but easy recipes

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 5


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

March 24Champagne André Chemin Tradition Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs Brut NV 26.99Wines Til Sold Out
March 31Riesling Jean Biecher et Fils Rosacker Grand Cru Alsace 2018$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 7Pouilly-Fuissé White Burgundy P. de Marcilly 2019$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 14Albariño Rías Baixas Adegas Tollodouro Pontellón 2019$12.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 21Cinsault Onesta 2012 or 2015$11.67Casemates
April 28Saint Joseph Domaine Guy Farge  Terroir de Granit Northern Rhône 2017$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 5Château de Chamirey Mercurey 1er Cru Champs Martin 201829.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 12Beckman 2018 Barrel Select Cuvee$20.80 (actually should be $45)Beckman
May 19Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Château Roc de Boisseaux 2016$22.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 26Katherine Goldschmidt Crazy Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016/2017$15.00Steve’s Cellar
June 2Red Schooner$30.00Martin’s Cellar
June 9Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (Litre) 2014,15,16$50.00Steve’s Cellar

Right click to download full size spec sheets:

Red Schooner Voyage 8

Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (1 liter) 2014, 2015, 2016

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 4 – Steele

This is a chance to try all the common (and some uncommon) varietals from a single producer who makes excellent wines with a light touch, so the varietal characteristics will come through very clearly. Retail on these wines was $238.


February 15Steele Pinot Blanc 2018$14.00
February 22Writers Block Roussanne 2017$13.00
March 1Writers Block Counoise 2015$13.00
March 8Writers Block Pinot Noir 2017$13.00
March 15Writers Block Zinfandel 2016$13.00
March 22Shooting Star Barbera 2017$13.00
March 29Writers Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2017$13.00
April 5Writers Block Cabernet Franc 2017$13.00
April 12Writers Block Syrah 2015$13.00
April 19Writers Block Petite Sirah 2016$13.00
April 26Writers Block Malbec 2017$13.00
May 3Steele Petit Verdot 2015$25.00


Linda McBride Alcorn Named TEA Master

Linda McBride Alcorn at WDI in 1993

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) – the global, nonprofit membership association for the creators of compelling places and experiences – has announced the slate of TEA Masters honorees for 2020. The TEA Masters program celebrates masters of their craft in the global visitor attractions industry. 

The TEA Masters program, initiated several years ago by the TEA Past Presidents Committee, helps boost awareness of the many creative specialties and disciplines that collaborate to produce excellence and breakthrough guest experiences in themed entertainment. Engaging more fully with leading practitioners in these areas benefits our TEA membership community and the industry as a whole, fostering greater appreciation and understanding of the disciplines themselves and their role and impact within a project team. 

Each TEA Master has made significant contributions to the industry and helped pave the way for others.

Top three achievements

• Was the first woman engineer at WED (WDI) hired in January, 1979.

• Was part of the opening day show control design and installation teams for EPCOT, Disney-MGM Studio, Animal Kingdom and Euro Disneyland.

• Built and mentored the show control team at WDI Florida.

Linda McBride Alcorn
Show Control Engineering 

As early as age 10, Linda McBride had constructed a clay model of Disneyland on her bedroom floor complete with copper wires going through the Matterhorn for the Skyway cables. So it’s not surprising that when she obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering from UCLA, the place she sought employment was WED Enterprises.

She is the “McBride” of Alcorn McBride Inc., the well-known show and media control systems company, but while she lent her name, she was never a partner in the business founded by her husband, Steve Alcorn. Although, in the course of a career with Disney from graduation to retirement, she has had occasion to specify Alcorn McBride products and to give them feedback (“I was their toughest customer.”)

Linda Alcorn at her desk, 1980

Twenty-two years old and fresh out of college, in 1979 Alcorn was the first woman engineer hired at WED (now Walt Disney Imagineering). She was assigned to the Show Control section of the Electronic Engineering department and began work on the EPCOT project. This young engineer, working on a seminal project that would become a defining model for much of the global themed entertainment industry, took on responsibility for numerous pavilions including World of Motion, France, Canada, China, UK, Germany, Japan, Italy, and parts of CommuniCore.

Linda Alcorn with the late Marty Sklar at WDI on the occasion
of her 20 year service award, 1999

Her degree in Electronic Engineering gave her a basis in industrial control to apply to the one-off challenges of creating EPCOT. “I knew calculus when I walked in the door at WED, no training in the ‘real world’ whatsoever, had never had a job or an internship, didn’t know how to lock my desk or read a blueprint. I was just trying to get my degree as quickly as I could… I just went straight through school.” She also had pluck. “I really, really wanted to work at Disney, so when they told me they’d lost my resume, I hopped in my car, drove across town and dropped off another copy, and got my interview. She relates that she was later told, ‘the reason we hired you is because you wanted it so bad.’”

After EPCOT, she continued on for nearly four decades at Disney, including a five-month stint at Walt Disney Studios, (led by Don Iwerks) where she gained additional experience working on show control for custom projection systems. Four of the systems were bound for pavilions at Vancouver Expo 86, including three exhibits produced by Bob Rogers. One of those was the pioneering and influential Spirit Lodge show for the General Motors Pavilion; another was for the Rainbow Wars film that was nominated for an Academy Award.

Linda during EPCOT construction, 1982

She rejoined the staff at what was now Walt Disney Imagineering. Because she was on the engineering side and not the creative side, she worked largely in the background, bringing one attraction after another to life. Smart and tough, Alcorn was often the only woman in the room at hundreds of meetings. In the late 1980s she relocated to Orlando. For the next almost 30 years she had a hand in many of Disney’s Florida show control projects, new and rehab. In the early 1990s, she relocated to Paris with her infant daughter to supervise show control systems for all of Fantasyland in the new Euro Disneyland park. 

Linda Alcorn in the Euro Disney show control office, 1991

Alcorn shared her unique definition of a good show control system: “Unlike most other theme park engineering disciplines (e.g. lighting, audio, projection), a show control system should never make itself apparent to the guests – it should just work flawlessly as if by magic. If I did my job right, no one was ever aware that I had been in the attraction.” 

Linda McBride Alcorn retired from Disney in October 2016, having made an historical contribution to the industry, as technology and creative go hand in hand in themed entertainment storytelling. Not only has Linda blazed a pioneering trail in her field, she’s been a generous and encouraging mentor. She considers as one of her greatest accomplishments what she did in her last 8-10 years at Disney, building an Engineering Services team in Florida. “We built up quite a wonderful department to carry on the show control work and maintain the systems,” she says.”I feel like I made a difference in their lives just by showing them a little bit of confidence.”

Linda’s Attractions

Attractions with show control systems designed, redesigned, and/or supervised by Linda Alcorn, 1979-2017


  • Spaceship Earth 
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment 
  • ImageWorks: The What-If Labs
  • Mission: Space
  • Test Track
  • The Land
  • Living with the Land
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • CommuniCore
  • The Living Seas
  • World of Motion
  • Universe of Energy
  • The Land
  • Wonders of Life
  • Journey into YOUR Imagination
  • Captain EO
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!
  • Ellen’s Energy Adventure
  • Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable
  • Food Rocks
  • Innoventions
  • Mexico Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
  • The American Adventure
  • Impressions de France 
  • Norway Maelstrom
  • O Canada!
  • Wonders of China

Magic Kingdom

  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
  • Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook 
  • Sword in the Stone
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Splash Mountain
  • The Hall of Presidents
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Barnstormer
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures 
  • Space Mountain
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
  • ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter 
  • Stitch’s Great Escape!
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor 
  • Donald’s Boat
  • Mickey’s Country House 
  • Minnie’s House
  • Toon Park

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Star Tours
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
  • MuppetVision 3D
  • Walt Disney Presents
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Sounds Dangerous! 
  • Studio Tour George of the Jungle 
  • Making of Armageddon
  • Making of Haunted Mansion 
  • Journey into Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Sounds Dangerous!
  • Studio Backlot Tour
  • The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
  • The Magic of Disney Animation
  • The Great Movie Ride

Animal Kingdom

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug! 
  • The Tree of Life
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris 
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  • The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
  • Expedition Everest 
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Dinosaur
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • Primeval Whirl


  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Paris Disneyland

  • Small World
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Fantasyland Installation Supervision

Expo 86

  • British Columbia Pavilion Theatre
  • GM Pavilion: Spirit Lodge
  • Canadian Pacific Pavilion: Rainbow Wars
  • Telecom Canada Pavilion: Portraits of Canada

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 4


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

December 30Bordeaux Blanc Château Guichot 2019$11.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 6Sauvignon Blanc Loire Valley Francois de la Roche Touraine 2019$12.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 13Pouilly Fuissé Domaine Sébastièn Giroux Les Raidillons 201729.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 20Pinot Noir Megan Anne Cellars Willamette Valley 2017$14.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 27Languedoc Domaine de Fabrègues Le Coeur 2016$13.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 3Gigondas Domaine du Grand Montmirail Le Côteau de Mon Rêve 2017 $22.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 10Barolo Boasso Margheria 2016$27.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 17Henry’s Drive Shiraz-Cabernet 2017$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 24Petite Sirah Vinum Cellars PETS 2017$9.17Casemates
March 3Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tour Saint-Michel Cuvée du Lion 2017$29.99Wines Til Sold Out
March 10Clos du Bois Winery Marlstone Red Blend 2012$30.00Steve’s Cellar
March 17Syrah Melville Estate Donna’s 2018$40.00Melville

Right click to download full size spec sheets:—donnas—96-points-p552.aspx

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 3

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting November 23, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

November 23King Estate Viognier 2015 $8.50
November 30Au Contraire Russian River Valley Rosé 2017$10.58
December 7Bernard Reverdy et Fils Sancerre White 2019$17.99
see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
December 14WineSmith Cellars Grenache 2017$17.67
December 21Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2015$23.99see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
December 28Mi Terruño Mendoza Argentina Malbec Reserve 2016$14.99
see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
January 4Pascal et Alain Lorieux St Nicolas de Bourgueil Agnès Sorel 2018$19.99see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
January 11Andrew Murray Mixed Reds$20.16
January 18Melville Pinot Noir$35.00
January 25Melville Syrah$35.00
February 1Beckman Assorted Reds$35.00
February 8Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2016$30.00

Right click to view product specifications full size:

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 3

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting October 7, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

October 7Charles Bailly Crémant de Bourgogne Sparkling Brut N/V$13.99
see product sheet below
October 14Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé 2019 Château Paradis La Grande Terre$11.99
see product sheet below
October 21Mâcon-Fuissé White Burgundy Sébastièn Giroux Vers Chânes 2018$19.99
see product sheet below
October 28Grevepesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013$19.99
see product sheet below
November 4Cantina Valpantena Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2017$19.99
see product sheet below
November 11Domaine de l’Espigouette Gigondas 2017$24.99
see product sheet below
November 18Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Domaine Belle Louis Belle 2017$24.99
see product sheet below
November 25Encantado Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017$19.99
see product sheet below
December 2Underground Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County 2016$19.99
see product sheet below
December 9Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2017$16.99
Wines Til Sold Out
December 16Château Vincens Prestige Cahors 2016$13.99
see product sheet below
December 23Los Haroldos Estate Red Blend Mendoza Argentina 2019$12.99
see product sheet below

Right click to download full size spec sheets:

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 2

  • Alan
  • Hunter
  • Jim
  • Joe
  • Liana
  • Loren
  • Mike
  • Steve

August 31

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino, 2018 750ml

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino
Steve’s Selection

September 7

Hermes Moschofilero Mantinia 750ml

Hermes Moschofilero Mantinia
Liana’s Selection

September 14

Le Pre Vaujour Sancerre, 2018 750ml

Le Pre Vaujour Sancerre, 2018
Steve’s (and Mike’s) Selection

September 21

Nora Albarino 750ml

Nora Albarino
Mike’s Selection

September 28

Samuel Robert Rose Willamette Vintner's Reserve, 2019 750ml

Samuel Robert Rose Willamette Vintner’s Reserve, 2019
Jim’s Selection

October 5

La Sacrestia Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016 750ml

La Sacrestia Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016
Hunter’s Selection

October 12

Double Black Zinfandel Paso Robles, 2018 750ml

Double Black Zinfandel Paso Robles, 2018
Steve’s Selection

October 19

Chateau de Ferrand St-Emilion Grand Cru, 2016 375ml

Chateau de Ferrand St-Emilion Grand Cru, 2016
Steve’s Selection

October 26

Fess Parker Syrah The Big Easy, 2017 750ml

Fess Parker Syrah The Big Easy, 2017
Joe’s Selection

November 2

Vistamar Cabernet Syrah Gran Reserva, 2017 750ml

Vistamar Cabernet Syrah Gran Reserva, 2017
Loren’s Selection

November 9

Clos de los Siete, 2016 750ml

Clos de los Siete, 2016
Alan’s Selection

November 16

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 750ml

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017
Steve’s Selection

Steve’s Chicken and Celery Salad with Wasabi

Cook Time: 10 minutes 

Servings: 2 servings


1/2 lb shredded or cubed chicken meat

2 Tbsp lime juice

2 Tbsp Tatziki sauce

1 Tbsp tahini

diced scallion

1 or 2 Tbsp wasabi paste

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 celery stalks

dried cranberries




crushed pecans


If you don’t have Tahini or Tatziki you can substitute plain Greek yogurt or Mayonnaise.

Combine all ingredients except pecans and chill

Add pecans when serving

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 2

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting July 29, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines. I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance, or put the week’s red in the fridge about an hour before the tasting, so the wine will be at a good temperature: about 45 degrees for whites (it will warm up in the glass) and 60 degrees for reds.

July 29

Val Do Sosego Albarino Rias Baixas 750ml

Val Do Sosego Albarino Rias Baixas $15.99
$15.99 each

August 5

Muses Estate 9 Assyrtiko 750ml

Muses Estate 9 Assyrtiko $11.99
$11.99 each

August 12

Gruber Roschitz Gruner Veltliner Roschitz 750ml

Gruber Roschitz Gruner Veltliner Roschitz $14.99
$14.99 each

August 19

Wagner Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 375ml

Wagner Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 375ml $29.99
$29.99 each

August 26

Halos de Jupiter Costieres de Nimes Rouge, 2018 750ml

Halos de Jupiter Costieres de Nimes Rouge, 2018 $13.99
$13.99 each

September 2

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 750ml

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 $17.99
$17.99 each

September 9

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 750ml

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 $10.99
$10.99 each

September 16

Intrinsic Red Blend, 2017 750ml

Intrinsic Red Blend, 2017 $23.99
$23.99 each

September 23

LehmannThe Barossan Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2015 750ml

LehmannThe Barossan Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2015 $20.99
$20.99 each

September 30 – 3 Sherries Compared

Important! Do not taste any of these three before the tasting. They need to be tasted individually, and in order, as you will not be able to go back to the dry ones after tasting the sweet ones. All three of these can be recorked and served with food over the next month, so no need to pour a lot into a glass.

Osborne (Pale Dry) Fino Sherry 750ml

Osborne (Pale Dry) Fino Sherry $13.99
$13.99 each

Osborne Medium (Amontillado)Sherry 750ml

Osborne Medium (Amontillado) Sherry $13.99

Osborne Pedro Ximenez 750ml

Osborne Pedro Ximenez $29.99

Thai Coconut Carrot Soup


Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 3 hours Difficulty: Easy Servings: 8


1 tbsp oil

1 small onion peeled and diced

2.5 lb carrots peeled and diced

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups canned coconut milk

2 garlic cloves minced

3 Tbsp Thai red curry paste

2 T bsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp honey

1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp minced ginger (optional)

Fresh basil (optional


Sauce onions until translucent. 

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot on high or a pot on the stove.

Cook for several hours until carrots are tender.

Purée soup with an immersion blender.

Serve warm or chill overnight.

Garnish with basil if desired.

Southern-Spiced Chicken, Potato Salad, Green Beans with Maple Syrup and Red Pepper



2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1 Tbsp Southern Spice Blend (Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Ground Yellow Mustard, Smoked Paprika & Cayenne Pepper)

¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes


¾ lb Golden Or Red Potatoes

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2oz Sweet Chili Peppers

1 Tsp Southern Spice Blend (Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Ground Yellow Mustard, Smoked Paprika & Cayenne Pepper)

Green Beans

6 oz Green Beans

2 cloves Garlic

1 Tbsp Maple Syrup

¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes


Southern Spiced Chicken

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season on both sides with salt, pepper, and coat with spice blend.

In a medium pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken.

Cook 6 to 7 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. An instant-read thermometer should register 165°F.

Drizzle the chicken with spicy maple and crushed red pepper flakes.

Potato Salad

Fill a medium pot 3/4 of the way up with salted water; cover and heat to boiling on high.

Medium dice the potatoes.

Add the diced potatoes to the pot of boiling water.

Cook 15 to 17 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.

Drain thoroughly and return to the pot.

Roughly chop the cherry peppers.

Add Dijon mustard, rice wine vinegar, chopped cherry peppers, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, spice blend, salt and pepper; stir to combine.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Green Beans with Maple Syrup and Red Pepper

Cut off and discard the stem ends of the green beans.

Peel and mince 2 cloves of garlic.

Heat 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot.

Add the prepared green beans; season with salt and hot pepper flakes.

Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add the chopped garlic.

Cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until slightly softened.

Add maple syrup, crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of water.

Season with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the green beans are softened and the liquid has cooked off.

Steve’s Healthy Egg Salad


3 hard boiled eggs

1/4 cup 2% milkfat Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp pickle relish

1 Tbsp stone ground mustard

1/2 tablespoon dill

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 cup chopped red onion

Chopped chives (to taste)

Salt and pepper (to taste)


Cut up the hardboiled eggs. 

Combine all ingredients and mix until desired consistency. I like it chunky.

Refrigerate for an hour. Serve and enjoy. 

Steve’s Creamy Cucumber & Radish Salad


1/2 English cucumbers, sliced

6 radishes, sliced

2 Tbsp plain non-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream

tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tsp fresh chopped dill

Salt and pepper to taste


Peel the cucumbers as desired. Thinly slice.

Do the same to the radishes.

Combine all ingredients.

Dani’s Vegetarian Lasagna


About 9 Pasta sheets (make your own or use fresh pasta from Whole Foods)

1 15oz package of part skim ricotta cheese

3/4 cup mozzarella 

1/4 cup parmesan 

1 egg

Approximately 4 cups of fresh spinach

2 or 3 cloves of fresh garlic, sliced thin 

2 zucchini, peeled and sliced thin

1 onion, chopped 

1 red bell pepper, chopped 

olive oil 

Italian seasoning (oregano, sweet basil, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary) to taste

about 1 1/2 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a medium sauce pan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and red pepper, and sauté until brown, stirring occasionally. 

In another medium sauce pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until garlic begins to brown, then add spinach and quickly sauté until reduced in volume. 

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, egg, and Italian seasoning. After the spinach is done sautéing, add the spinach/garlic mixture to the mixing bowl and stir. 

Spray a 9×9 inch pan lightly with cooking spray (I used grapeseed oil). Add a small amount of tomato sauce to the bottom, then line the bottom with a layer of pasta (about three sheets). 

Spread half the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta. Next add a layer of sautéd onions, then lay out the thinly sliced zucchini into a third layer. Cover with a layer of tomato sauce. 

Repeat: pasta, ricotta mixture, onions, zucchini, and more sauce. 

Top with a layer of pasta. Add a bit more sauce to keep the top moist during cooking. Then add the remaining 1/4 mozzarella and parmesan to the top. 

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, checking occasionally. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Linda’s Onion Soup

Ingredients for the Soup

2            Vidalia sweet onions (large), sliced into crescents about 1/4″ thick

1 tbs       Butter

1 tbs       Olive oil

1/2 tsp    Sugar

2 tbs       Flour

6 cups    Beef broth, low sodium

1 tbs       Minced garlic

3/4 cup   Chardonnay wine

1             Yellow onion, sliced (optional)

               Seasoning to taste (see below)

Ingredients for the Optional Bread and Cheese Topping

1             Sourdough baguette, sliced 1/2″ thick

3/4 tbs     Butter

3/4 tbs     Olive oil

                Grated cheese – Gruyere, Swiss, Parmesan and/or Cheddar 


In a covered 5 quart pot, combine Vidalia onions, butter, and oil and cook covered for 30 minutes on low stirring occasionally.   Uncover, add sugar and stir occasionally until onions are a golden brown (about 30 more minutes).  Sprinkle with flour and stir until blended. Add beef broth and garlic.  Simmer on low, partially covered, for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.   Add wine.  The onions will be extremely limp at this juncture.  If you want additional texture add optional yellow onion at this point.  Season to taste: Use seasonings that appeal to you in small amounts until you have achieved the desired result.  Salt and pepper are a good place to start.  I use Cavender’s Greek seasoning, Lemon pepper and/or poultry seasoning as the spirit moves me.  (Realize that it is always best to slightly underseason – you can always add more at the very end.)  Partially cover again and simmer another 30 minutes.

So here’s where I part with the traditional restaurant recipe.  Trying to broil soup bowls topped with cheese is a wonderful way to get burned.  And I find the bread really gets in the way of eating the soup but that’s just me.  If you insist here’s a safer way.  Prior to serving the soup, melt butter and oil in a large frying pan, season to taste and coat both sides of the bread slices.  On medium heat, lightly brown both sides of bread and transfer to a baking pan.  Top with grated cheese and broil in oven until melted.  Put one slice of bread on top of each soup bowl and use the remainder as a cheese bread side dish.