Saturday, July 28, 2012

RonnieAdventure #0013 - San Diego County, California

What do adults do after dropping the younger people at Legoland? Go find a RonnieAdventure!

About a mile from Legoland is the Museum of Making Music, so that seemed like a logical place to start. Although the museum is small, it is very interesting. There are hundreds of vintage instruments, audio and video clips (including the Beatles and Elvis), and an area where you can play many of the instruments yourself. Although I am not musically inclined, it was interesting to learn how and why various instruments were developed and what the instruments sound like when played by masters.  

1905 Steinway Art Case Grand Piano

Try an instrument and have your own jam session

Seaport Village is always a great place for lunch with great views of the bay. The restaurants right on the water are a little pricey; but, hey!, someone has to help pay off California’s debt.

The Pier restaurant at Seaport Village

The Junipero Serra Museum stands atop a hill in Presidio Park and is probably one of the most familiar landmarks in Dan Diego. The hill is generally recognized at the site where California began in 1769 when a Spanish Franciscan missionary, Father Junipero Serra, with a group of soldiers led by Gaspar de Portola, established Alta California’s first mission and presidio (fort). It is also a great place to watch the sunset.

Junipero Serra Museum

Junipero Serra Museum

Junipero Serra Museum

Flowers at sunset

California Sunset

California Sunset

California Sunset

It is easy to spend a day in Old Town touring the historic buildings, stores, and museums. There are also many restaurants, but expect a long wait in the evenings because Old Town is a popular tourist destination. The Old Town Trolley tours of San Diego and Coronado Island originate here and are a good way to get an overview of the City.

Entrance to Old Town

Tile Roof in Old Town

Old Town Dress Shop

Old Town Candy Shop

Old Town Pottery Shop

Old Town Craft Shop 

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Unfortunately, the rest of my time was spent working while everyone else went to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo – Bummer!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

RonnieAdventure #0012 - Vallarta, Mexico

I was reading the paper one morning and was appalled at the number of articles covering violence in Mexico. Drug dealers were kidnapping Americans, holding them for ransom, cutting off their heads, and dumping the bodies in the ocean. It was about this time that I received a call from an old friend in the Bay Area (San Francisco area) telling me that he found a killer deal on a vacation trip to Vallarta, Mexico, and he wanted to get several couples together and have a reunion to commemorate old times. This was to be a relaxing vacation in which we could sleep until noon each day, lie around the beach all afternoon, and eat great food each evening. He emphasized that it was Restaurant Week in Vallarta and all of the restaurants had specials that were to die for. When he told me the price, I said to count us in because it was time for another RonnieAdventure!

 We timed our flights so that everyone would get to the Vallarta Airport at the same time; but when I checked my email after landing, I discovered that their flight was going to be almost two hours late. There was also a warning in the email to kill as much time as possible getting through customs and under no circumstances were we to go outside of the terminal. Apparently, the local hawkers stand outside of the terminal’s front door and try to sell you everything from bamboo dart guns and shrunken heads to hand-made knives and machetes, and all other types of paraphernalia.

After taking as much time as possible to get through customs, we found that their plane was still not expected to arrive for another 90 minutes, so we hung around the airport  lobby and were hounded by people making time share presentations (they are the only hawkers allowed in the terminal). We finally agreed to listen to a time share presentation in exchange for tickets to Rhythms of The Night and a VIP taxi ride to the hotel. We didn’t purchase a time share, but the VIP taxi turned out to be a really great deal because we exited the terminal by a side door into a private parking lot and missed all of the fiasco in front of the main terminal door. The hotel turned out to be very modern (except that one elevator that didn’t work the entire time we were there and the water kept going on and off without warning) and we had specular views over the ocean from the balcony. Every time I ask the hotel manager when they were going to fix the elevator, he always responded “Mañana.” When we checked out, he was still telling people that were checking in that the elevator would be fixed “Mañana.” (One of the hotel maids told me that the elevator had been broken for several months.)    

Sunset from Hotel Beach

Sunset from Hotel Balcony

Sunset from Hotel  Balcony

Hotel Palapas

 Early Morning Beach Stroll

After lying around the beach the next day, I got a little stir-crazy and decided that I would have to find a RonnieAdventure! I asked the hotel concierge how I could get to Puerto Vallarta (we were staying in Nuevo Vallarta). He said that he could get me a taxi for about $35 (American) and when I told him that the price seemed a little high, he said that I could probably negotiate a lower price with the cab driver. I then asked him how much it was to catch the local bus to Puerto Vallarta and he responded, “Senior! There is no bus that goes directly to Puerto Vallarta; so you should take the taxi.” I finally convinced him that I wanted to take the bus and he gave me directions on how to make the changes to get on the El Centro.

Getting up early the next morning we had no problem recognizing the converted school bus that took us to the change point where we caught the El Centro bus. The buses on the El Centro line were also converted school buses, but they exhibited a little more deferred maintenance and artistic beauty. Fortunately the bus didn’t have any windows so the exhaust smell was survivable. We finally arrived in downtown Puerto Vallarta and had a great time just walking the streets (The main street along the ocean front has been converted to a pedestrian walkway with lots of beautiful outdoor fountains, statues and art work displayed along the beach.), visiting various historic structures and the naval museum, and looking at all of the tourist trinkets. The ride home was uneventful, and for part of the trip we were on a modern bus (with air conditioning) that was nicer than most buses found in US cities.

Water Taxi

Sand Sculpture Along the Beach Walkway

Fountain along the Beach Walkway

Sculptures Along the Walkway

Puerto Vallarta Cathedral

Puerto Vallarta Cathedral

Our trip to the Rhythms of the Night show (about an hour’s boat ride down along the coast – there are no roads in this area) was great and we were treated to a fabulous dinner in the evening along with an elaborate show that was choreographed with input from a former employee of Cirque du Soleil. Not to be missed!

"Rhythms of the Night"

One day while wandering down along the harbor, I was approached by a local person that offered to sell me some discount tickets to any of the area attractions and tours offered by the many tour companies. I explained that I was looking for something a little different and  more exciting, so he told me that he had a “cousin” that owned a boat that we could rent for a day and the “cousin” would act as a tour guide and take us up stream into a swampy area (called the "Jungle") that contained lots of birds, crocodiles, and other animals. This sounded like my type of trip, so we agreed to meet the next morning on the dock. I wasn’t sure if he would actually show up, but on the agreed time he and his “cousin” pulled up in an old blue open boat that looked like it was Navy surplus from WWII. As we boarded the little boat, I could not help but notice the newer large, fancy, diesel-powered tour boat parked next to us that was also loading passengers. After getting about 100 people on board, their captain and crew went through emergency evacuation procedures and how to correctly put on a live jacket. I asked our boat owner if we had any life jackets in the boat that we should practice with and he said that we didn’t need any life jackets because if the boat sank the crocodiles would eat us before we could get to shore anyway. Really makes one feel safe! After the large tour boat left, the boat owner had to start the old 50’s Evinrude motor by pulling on a hand crank on top of the motor. After several pulls, the engine started in a large cloud of blue smoke and sounded like it was about to come apart. The boat owner assured us that the boat and motor were in good condition and he said that he was first going to give us a tour around the boat harbor bay before we went into the jungle. We were pleasantly impressed by his knowledge of the local plants, birds, and animals. As we traveled up the canals we were also impressed by the large mansions along the way. It was interesting to note that many of the estates were fenced on the river side to keep the crocodiles out of their backyards. We even managed to see crocodiles lying right next to the fences. The fences seemed to work for the crocodiles, but they certainly didn’t work for keeping out the Iguanas. Some of the yards were covered with Iguanas enjoying the nice green grass and lawn sprinklers. As we traveled upstream past civilization, the waterway became narrower, and narrower, and in many places we had to follow a path that had been carved through the tree branches hanging over the water. The boat owner cautioned us to keep our heads down and to watch for snakes that sometimes fall from the trees into the boat; but fortunately, we didn’t gain any additional passengers on the trip. The trip turned out to one of the highlights of our vacation.

Jungle Tour Passage


White Egret


Blue Heron


After we returned to the boat dock, we asked the boat owner about a trip to Los Arcos (large rocks on the south side of the bay that are known for a place to go snorkeling). He said that his boat was too small to cross the bay, but he had a “cousin” that had a larger boat that we could rent to take us snorkeling at Los Arcos. We agreed to meet at the boat dock again the next morning.

The “cousin’s” boat turned out to be much nicer and crossed the bay with no problem, but the “cousin” that owned the boat was not of the same caliber of person and it was not the greatest trip. One of the nice things about the trip is that we were accompanied by some dolphins along the way that liked to do tricks. Snorkeling turned out to be a disappointment, as the water was not very clear. (Apparently that is a good as it gets in Vallarta, which explains why most people that visit the area do not come for the snorkeling.)

Los Arcos



The rest of the vacation time was filled with sea kayaking, riding boogie boards, enjoying the beach, swimming with the dolphins, and trying to figure out how to use my new camera. The really great experience, however, turned out to be the food, which was really outstanding. Our two favorite restaurants were the Fajita Republic where they served scrumptious fajitas and Le Kliff that had gourmet food and killer views. (At Le Kliff we even had a small animal (I think it was a coatimundi) that kept coming by the table to beg for food.) Unfortunately, the two restaurants are located on opposite sides of the bay. We could walk to Fajita Republic, but we were not sure how we were going to get to from our hotel (located in the State of Nayarit) to Le Kliff (located in the State of Jalisco), because taxis cannot do a round trip across State lines. However, our concierge assured us that he could help and for a few dollars we were able to hire his “cousin” that made the round trip in his  personal van, saving us a lot of money when compared to two one-way trips. It is nice that everyone in Mexico has so many “cousins.”

Fajita Republic

Le Kliff

Sunset from Le Kliff

Sunsed from Le Kliff

Uninvited Diner Guest

Sunset from Le Kliff

Sunset from Le Kliff

There were a lot of thing that we did not get to see and do, so I guess they will have to wait for the next RonnieAdventure! By the way, we did not ever see any drug dealers, violence, or kidnappers and we never felt that we were in any danger at any time! So much for what you read in the newspapers!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

RonnieAdventure #0011 - National Auomobile Museum, Reno, Nevada

So what is the number one destination for every car enthusiasts place to visit before they kick the bucket? The National Automobile Museum in Reno! I had a few hours to spend in Reno before I had to catch a plane home, so I decided it was time for a RonnieAdventure!

The National Automobile Museum contains over 200 vehicles and other automobile related memorabilia from the first self-powered vehicles to futuristic concept cars. I can still remember the first time that I saw the collection, which was a long time ago, and at that time the collection was still owned by casino magnate William F. Harrah; thus, the collection is often still called The Harrah Collection.

The current museum is spread over four galleries, with the first three galleries divided by vehicle age and the fourth gallery includes race cars, the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, and other famous vehicles. Celebrity owned cars includes Elvis Presley’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado and John Wayne’s 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. Movie cars include James Dean’s 1949 Mercury (Rebel Without a Cause) and the 1912 Rambler from the movie Titanic. Examples from other marques include Auburns, Bugattis, Cords, Duesenbergs, Ferraris, Pierce-Arrows, Rolls-Royces, etc. There is even a gold-plated DeLorean DMC-12, a Jeep Wagoneer fitted with a Ferrari V-12 engine that was used for winter driving by William F. Harrah, and the only surviving prototype of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion car.

The only problem with the visit was that I ran out of time before I ran out of museum. This adventure is obviously on my list for a repeat visit the next time I am in Reno with more time to spend.

 1899 Locomobile

1938 Phantom Corsair

 1961 Roth Beatnik Bandit

Burning Man Transportation