Friday, September 30, 2005

Pictures from Europe

I have posted many more pictures from our vacation on my MSN spaces site. You can click on this link to go to that page:

If that link does not work in your browser, just type in and then click on the photos tab.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Things in Europe that you don’t see in the US

Doorknobs with a button on top – the knob doesn’t turn
Cigarette machines on the street (“You must be this tall to smoke”)
Trains that run on time
Train crossings that cannot be driven around
Carbonated drinking water (I’ll be seeing that one more often now).
Towel Warmers
Toilets that you can stop mid-flush when desired.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

To and About Assmannshausen

The rest of the trip to Assmannshausen went pretty well. Both Mrs. K and I slept better than we expected on the train and awoke refreshed and ready for the rest of the trip. We had to change trains in Basel, Switzerland, but that didn’t even require a change of platform. We just waited for the train to arrive and we got on.

This train took us to Frankfurt where we had a long (3 hour 20 minute) layover. That time was pretty easy to pass. It was lunch time and it was nice to be on a seat that wasn’t moving.

Catching the train to Assmannshausen was a bit of an adventure. The train showed up about 20 minutes before it was to leave. Many times, these local trains will only stay in the station for 2 or 3 minutes before they head out again, so we needed to be sure this was the right train before we boarded. Remember that we are hauling around two huge bags and assorted back packs, fanny packs and small bags, so boarding the train is a big production.

I decide to ask the conductor / ticket checker person who is coming up the platform passed us about the train. She understands my question, but speaks very little English and does not know the answer, but says she will find out. I don’t really trust her to come back with the answer so I follow her leaving Mrs. K behind with the bags. The ticket checker lady quickly finds a group of fellow German speaking employees. Well they begin talking among themselves. I can’t even be sure that they are talking about my question. This goes on for 5 or 10 minutes with me standing there with a smile that says “I’m being polite and you don’t know how much of what you are saying I do or do not understand, so be careful.” I pretty sure they are saying things like “his mother is a hamster” just to see if I understand any German.

In any case, eventually the one who speaks some English says to me, “you are in the right place on a normal day.”

“Oh, CRAP” I think to myself. We been traveling for the last 16 hours and we are nearing or destination and this is not a ‘normal’ day. He explains that the overhead electrical line that powers the train is out on one part of the track. They don’t know if this train is going to go through or not. They suggest that we get on and see what happens.

Well, it turns out that the train did go through with some delay and we got to Assmannshausen about 30 minutes late. No problem.

We found the beautiful hotel and checked in. They must have given us the wrong room because this room would hold all three of the previous rooms we have had in Europe, combined. The bed is up in a loft. The bathroom is as big as our whole room in Rome and the sitting room is very nice with couch, dresser, and TV with satellite. The hotel was built in 1408, but is very modern inside.
Our day in Assmannshausen was nice and relaxing prior to our trip back to the states. We walked along the Rhine River, saw some real German castles and just saw the sights. We rode a skylift up to a huge statue called the “Rund um den Niederwald” on the top of the mountain. It commemorates the founding the united Germany back in the 1800s. Very Impressive. Then we rode the lift down the other side of the mountain to Rudesheim for lunch.

On the walk back to Assmannshausen we passed through some of the most beautiful wine country that I have ever seen. We also walked through some castle ruins and got some great views of the surrounds towns and fields. We were both surprised how good our legs felt after a day’s rest.

We just finished our dinner. They make a great pan of Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. Add a beer to that and I’m in heaven, Germany style. It has been a great vacation, but I am ready to get back to the English speaking world. We just have 2 trains, 2 planes and a car ride to get back home. I know Mrs. K is looking forward to seeing how her car is. We have not heard anything further from our neighbor or from her dad which I think is a bit suspicious, but it could mean that nothing is wrong. We’ll find out tomorrow. We both miss our dogs. I’ll also catch up on posting these notes and many pictures.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On the Train to Germany

As I am writing this, Mrs. K and I are on the night train out of Rome heading to Florence, Brig, Basel, and eventually Assmannshausen, Germany. We had a fun final day in Rome after we got our travel problems worked out.

First thing this morning I decided to take a look at our itinerary. Traveling at night and checking into a hotel the next day is trickier to me than it should be, so I wanted to double check the details. Sure enough, we were to check out of our hotel in Rome this morning, spend the day sightseeing in Rome and then board the train tonight. Then I checked the train reservations! They had been made back in Charlotte for the wrong day. We had travel reservations to Germany on Tuesday, arriving on Wednesday instead of leaving Monday arriving on Tuesday. CRAP!

Then I looked at my cell phone and noticed that I had a voice mail message. It was our neighbor informing us that Mrs. K’s car alarm was going off and the car was OPEN. CRAP! At this time it was 9 am Rome time which means it was 3 am eastern US time. There was no way I could call anyone about that then.

So my first stop of the day was at the train station (glad it was only 4 blocks away) to get our reservations changed, if possible. Happy ending, it was possible and got done with only one slight hitch, I could not get the reservations changed or refunded there. The lady at the ticket office said that I could get that done where I got the reservation. It remains to be seen if I will get and junk off of the AAA people when I do that on Friday.

Anyway, the day was nice but was supposed to get worse as the day went on, so we took our rain gear along with our normal fanny packs, money, camera, extra lens, and hats.

Our first stop was the Coliseum. We paid an additional 8 euros each to bypass the long line and get a guided professional tour. Well, we got to bypass the long line, but professional, the tour was not. The poor lady spoke better English than I speak Italian but that is not saying anything for her English. She kept repeating herself to the point that we could hear other folks on the tour start to make fun of her. Usually it is me doing that.

Despite the less than professional guide, the tour was fun and I got some good pictures. They have added quite a lot of exhibits in the stadium since we were there 3 years ago. It By then it was lunch time and we headed back to the same restaurant that we had dinner at last night. The pizza was huge and well priced.

After lunch it was late enough to call about the car. As it turns out, the car appeared to be OK but was still unlocked. Mrs. K asked her father to go take a look and I asked the neighbor (who is seriously a great neighbor) to see if he could lock it for us. I hope it will be fine for a couple of days. This is the first car break-in we have had in 7 years in this house.

We continued our day be strolling about the Capitoline Hill, the Roman Forum, and the Flori Emperial (an ancient market). We toured Santa Maria Maggorie and also took some time to update my blog and check email at an internet point.

Our dinner was not real good and very over priced which is very surprising considering that we were near the church, but not near any of the big tourist hangouts. From there we got our bags that we had stashed at our hotel (the Hotel Igea did us right the whole stay) and got to the station.

It is time to hit the hay right now and wake up in the Alps. Most of tomorrow will be traveling so probably not many pictures. Then Wednesday we tour Assmannshausen. Chao.

Monday, September 26, 2005

9/25/05 – Vatican and Rome

Today was something of a repeat from earlier days. We started by going back to the Vatican. The difference was this was Sunday. We got there early and went right for the tombs that are underneath the main basilica. We had walked through this area 3 years ago, but it has changed. Now, Pope John Paul II is interned there. That makes this a popular tour. We were just pushed through the tour in about 5 minutes.

From there, we went upstairs into the basilica were mass was being held. This church holds a maximum of 40 thousand people. I think they ‘only’ had about 20 thousand in there today, but that is still massive (pun intended). We got the audio guides today which made the tour much more interesting. The weather outside was much better this time so the pictures are much better this time.

We did go outside for the Pope’s blessing, but the Pope was not in town and a conference call was not what I was hoping for. After lunch, we took a long stroll back toward our hotel, stopping to see the Temple of Vespa, Tibre River, Circus Maximus, and more. We got rained on a bit, but it was still fun.

After a little drying out time, we set out for dinner near the Coliseum. On the way back Tracey was kind enough to let me take some night shots of the Coliseum and the Arch of Constantine.

Tomorrow, we check out of the hotel, but don’t leave town until after 8 pm. That is when we take an overnight / sleeper car back through the alps into Germany for the last leg of the trip.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

9/24/05 – Rome

Today started with the Castle Sant’angelo. I wasn’t expecting much from this tour, but I was very surprised. To start with, the visit was free. Apparently, the last weekend of the month is free for many of the locations around town. I also found out that this castle was originally the mausoleum of Hadrian. Afterwards, the Romans and Popes built it into a fort for the protection of the city and church. The castle also gave us some great views of the Vatican and the city.

The castle tour took most of the morning, so it was then time for an early lunch and then it was a walking tour of the city. We walked back from the castle to visit the Piazza Nuvona, Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon among other locations.

We took a break in the afternoon to rest our feet and catch up on Hurricane Rita as it came ashore. For dinner, we tried to find a restaurant that we had really enjoyed three years ago. Alas, the restaurant was gone, but we found another nice sidewalk restaurant. We were seated next to a very nice couple from Colorado Springs who had been on a gastronomic tour of Italy. Sounds great to me.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Various Things about Erurope

The food is great.
Internet connections are hard to come by outside of public internet points.
Cell phone service rocks. You can get 4 bars at the matterhorn and everywhere else in europe as far as I can tell.
Internet in the laundrymats is a great idea.
You always have to ask for the check at a restaurant, Always!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Vatican City

Vatican City

We started our first full day in Rome at our top destination, Vatican City. The day started out beautiful without a cloud in the sky. We had no problem getting back into the flow of the Roman metro system. Flow is a pun in this case. There are so many people using the two metro lines that the crowd flows like a river. You have to get yourself into the right stream in order to get around effectively.

We got in line at the Vatican Museum at opening time of 8:45. The line at this time was short, only about 3 blocks long. I had time to read and answer emails on my cell phone. The museum was fantastic as always. We found a display of micro-mosaics that was incredible. The painting included works by Raphael, da Vinci, and, of course, Michelangelo.

With the latter, I am referring to the Sistine Chapel. It is always a surprise when entering the chapel. You come up a staircase that is plain and drab, then round a corner and then you are through a door and you are there. The shock of the beauty of the room will make your jaw drop. You are suddenly surrounded by works of art that are familiar from the pictures, but the real thing is awe inspiring.

Another highlight of the museum is The Transfiguration by Raphael. This painting is about 10 feet by 20 feet. It was done completely in his hand (as opposed to getting help from students and the like that most works received) and was the last time he every painted. In fact, it was the face of Christ is where he made his last brush strokes.

From the museum, we walked over to St Peter’s Basilica. As I said yesterday, this may well be to most beautiful and impressive man-made room ever. It is huge and impressive and beautiful. There are many saints and Popes interned there. Unfortunately, the weather turned bad while we were in side. This caused two problems. First, there was very little light inside for pictures. Second was that we couldn’t leave when we were done. We got fooled by the great weather earlier in the day and had no rain gear with us.

It ended up not being a big deal. We hung around until it eased up and beat a path to the Metro stop. It had stopped by the time we got to our stop. That was a very successful day. Tomorrow the plan is to tour the Coliseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, and Captoline Hill.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Today was mostly a travel day. We caught the 10:44 departure for Rome. That was one fast train. I didn’t get an exact speed, but we got up a head of speed between Florence and Rome such that I thought the thing was going to fly. In the last hour of the trip, we had a major failure of Tracey’s Ipod. It just stopped working.

We found the hotel without any problems and immediately got directions to the nearby Apple store. In 5 minutes, the attendant in the store had shown us what the problems was and the day was saved. We have been using the Ipod to listen to recorded books during our travels so a failure there would be a MAJOR problem.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the Coliseum and Roman Forum. We had the best dinner so far at a near by sidewalk cafe (that was much cheaper than any in Venice) before heading back to the hotel for the evening. Tomorrow we plan to visit the Vatican Museum and Saint Peter’s Basilica. St. Peters is the most impressive man-made place that I have laid eyes on. Pictures to follow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I'm having some trouble uploading pictures. Perhaps I will have better luck in Rome tomorrow. Chao!

September 19, 2005

Yesterday was so bad that I couldn’t bear to write about it then. It started out well enough. We had asked for a wake-up call that did not come, but I just happened to wake up on time and that was a minor bump. When you have to catch a train, you can’t afford to oversleep or be late. The sky was still overcast and spitting from time to time. When we got checked out of our room, we found out that our hotel needed to get us and another group to the train station for the same train and didn’t have enough room to take everyone at the same time. Tracey and I decided to go early so that there would be no conflict. We got to the train station and got lucky that we had arrived early. The train was very full with reserved passengers. The group that was to come after us didn’t make the train.

We got to Brig about an hour before our train to Venice departed. This train wass very crowded, not so much with people, but with baggage. There is very little room for large bags on the trains and many people use the trains for vacation travel. There were bags in the isles, bags in between cars, and bags in the overheads. Again, no big deal. I got Tracey’s bag a space when we got on and found a place for my bag at the first stop. Otherwise, the trip went well and we arrived in Venice/Mestre around 3 o’clock.

We checked in, put our bags down and booked it into Venice. That is where things turned south. When we went out we started getting wet. At this point I had been in Europe for a full week and had yet to see a sunny day. This sucked. We got to Venice and found a nice pizza place. After that we headed south through town toward St. Marks Square. It was starting to rain harder, but we soldiered on, winding our way through the narrow streets and over the cannels. It was when we made it that far and decided to head back is where the trouble really started.

Because it was raining, we decided to leave the book with the street map in the room. Night had settled in and, it being Sunday, almost nothing was open. I had nothing to navigate by. No map, no sun, no stars, and no one to ask where they keep the train station. And is started raining harder. Long story short, we wandered around town for about an hour (seemed like 5) and asked for directions to the stationi 5 or 6 times. By the time we get to the station I feel like a kid who is missing Christmas. My whole vacation is being rained out and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. First no Matterhorn and now this. YUCK (and I didn’t take a single picture all day). To be fair, I must mention that Tracey’s attitude never wavered. She never once complained and always believed that the weather would clear up.

We get on what we think is the next train back to Mestre and our hotel and it doesn’t leave for 40 minutes. The entire trip back to the hotel from the time we started heading that way took something like 3 hours.

That is the bad news. The good news is that Tracey was right about the weather. The weather was mostly overcast with a blue patch or two. Our objective was to tour the area around St. Mark’s Square. We took the number 1 water bus down the Grand Cannel to the Academia and walk to St. Marks. That went like clock work. We arrive at the square to see people feeding the pidgins and getting pidgins and more all over them (see picture). I also found out that my wife had better sense that to get involved in that mess.

The line into the Basilica di San Marco was quite long and we had to step over what looked like a long low stage to get to the line. I guess it took 30-45 minutes to get inside. Thank goodness that it was not raining. Once inside we were seriously impressed. The entire place was decorated in gold mosaics and historic works of art. The highlights of this visit was the burial place of St. Mark who’s body had been stolen from Alexandria Egypt in the 7th century. He is the patron saint of Venice and his lion is everywhere. There was a room where they display several dozen relics from various saints. If you know enough about Catholicism to know what I am talking about, you understand that this can be moving in more way that one.

As we are leaving the basilica, we notice that the front room of the historic church is under about 6 inches of water. We continue outside and see that most of the square is under water. The water is coming up through he storm drains. So that is what that low stage thing is for, it is the line to get in and the only dry escape getting out.

Next, we took the tour of the Doge’s Palace. It was long and extremely impressive. There were pretty serious about not letting guests take pictures, so I didn’t get many. J The rooms are some of the most incredible spaces that I have ever seen. They must have made a show of the power of Venice to visitors in the 15th and 16th centuries as well. We got to cross the bridge of sighs and tour the old prison. By now, the sky was almost cloudless and the temperature was perfect.
We also toured the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.and it’s art works by Titian and Tintoretto. We stopped on the way out of town and had a nice spaghetti dinner in a channel side table. We go back to the hotel without incident and we are not resting and planning tomorrow. Pray for good weather.

Some Random Thoughts from Today (9/17)

We ran into many hikers on the trails around Zermatt today. There are people from so many countries here, it is impossible to know how they will greet you or how you should greet them. It is fun to just blurt out a greeting in the language of your choice. Guten Tag, Guten Morgan, Halo, Alvetizane, Buon giorno, or Good Morning work equally well. Unless you get very unlucky, they will not know the difference. So I was wondering, what if I threw out something totally random or off-the-wall. I thought "Umpa-lumpa" would work wonderfully. I’ve practiced saying it a million times, so I know I can say it with conviction. Ah, but I was with my wife who does not appreciate a spectacle. That one will have to say unused, at least for now.
We had a funny exchange with a foreigner on the road back from Moos. He asked me something that sounded something like is the road open. I thought he was asking something about the weather up ahead. I told him with my best southern drawl that I only speak English but that the weather ahead sucked, or something to that effect. I embellished the forecast by pointing to my camera and waving my hand like "not good, not good at all". After we passed down the road a few steps, my wife states that she think he was asking if the restaurant was open. Oh well. He should have learned to speak English like most educated folks.

The Day in Zermatt

Out luck turned against us today, at least weather-wise. The sky is cloudy and gray. The rain is very light, just spitting, as we say, but it is enough to cloud the extrodinary views that we know are around us. It is very rare that Trace and I have bad weather, but today was one of those days.

We did our best to make the best of it. We started with a nice breakfast at the Hotel Romantica. I don’t think our reservations on mentioned a free breakfast, but it is available.

Next stop was to do some shopping that Tracey had promised a coworker. Our object was a Coo Coo Clock. At the second shop we stopped in, she found the clock that she wanted to buy, and I decided to have a little fun. To hear Trace tell it, she was looking at the clock when she heard laughter from the girls that worked at the store. She turns around to see me taking pictures of the Matterhorn, or more precisely, taking pictures of the pictures of the Matterhorn. I had decided that I had come to Zermatt to take pictures of the Matterhorn and I was just following through on my intentions.

After the shopping, we headed out hiking. We hiked to such places a Z’mutt, Furi, Moos (we were thinking of you, Rich), Winkelmatten, and Schuluhmatte. What we could see of the scenery was very nice, but the clouds stayed low all day and the grand scenery that we had seen the day before stayed hidden.

Zermatt is an interesting place. Some of the buildings look extremely old. Those look like ole houses or ski chalets. They are build on stilts with a cap on the stilts that is designed to keep the varmints out. All of them in Zermatt are surrounded my very nice and very new building. There are hotels on every block. Every block also contains restaurants, ‘gift’ shops, watch shops, and one or more outdoor gear store. It is touristy beyond belief. Anything you want with the image of the Matterhorn on it is available in Zermatt. Were it not for the scenery that we had expected, we would probably not have come here. But everyone is so nice and the town comfortable once you get used to it, I hope to come back one day.
Switzerland, one the other hand, gives me an unusually good feeling. In just one day I have felt that this place is a great mix of the old and the new. Everyone we have met has been as kind and helpful and friendly as I have ever seen. The scenery across the entire country is spectacular. It is a place that is old enough and confident enough to not worry what the rest of the world thinks. It does what it does very well, whether that is watch-making, banking, herding sheep, or running a hotel. On that note, I would highly recommend that readers come to Zermatt and work with Michelle at the hotel Romantica for your reservations.
I think we made the best of a bad day, filling in the rest with a nap, beer, burgers and pizza. Tomorrow, we head out early for Venice. Just looking through the book on Italy, Venice looks like it has a ton of things to go see, architecturally and artistically. The weather can slow us down, but can’t steal it completely.

Ramstein to Zermatt

Today was train day. Tracey and I spent all day getting from Ramstein in Germany to Zermatt in Switzerland. It took 5 different trains from 9:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening. My best call of the day was the first one. We awoke to find out the, once again, it was raining. The clouds were high and broken, so it was tempting to try the 10 minutes walk to the train station instead of playing it safe and get a cab to take up up there. This was day one of the vacation part of the vacation, so I opted for the cab. As soon as the time came to leave for the train station (same time whether you walk or ride) the rain kicked it up a notch. It would have been a bad start on the day had we walked.

The rest of the trip when much smoother than I had imagined possible. I had many nightmare scenarios in mind. We have reservations for all of our train rides, so if you miss a train, we may not get a seat, or at least a good seat. We made one connection by the skin of our teeth, but we made it.

As we ride, Tracey and I are listening to a book on tape titled Courting Trouble. So far it is making the train rides go by very quickly.

The highlight of the day was the ride from Brig to Zermatt. The Alps are amazing. I snapped a few pictures, but they won’t do the scenes justice. The sky is very blue, the mountains are very steep, and the villages very quaint. You get beautiful scene after beautiful scene.

We are in the Hotel Romatica. The room is small but very nice. The bathroom looks like it has been remodeled recently and the view is very good. There is no internet access which means that this post is going to be late. There is satellite TV, but that won’t get much use from us.

Tomorrow is sightseeing in Zermatt which hopefully includes the Matterhorn and hiking. What ever we do, I will get more pictures.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Heidelberg II

It was back to Heidelberg tonight. We visited an old druid site high on a mountain overlooking the town.

Then it was down into town to partake of some of the local flavor, specifically brats and bier.

The city is particularly beautiful at night.

Tomorrow, Tracey arrives and I finish up with the work portion of the trip. I have no idea what kind of internet connectivity I will find elsewhere on this trip. I'll do my best to post the best pictures and stories as we go along.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bad Derkheim

I don't have much to write today. The weather was generally rainy so there aren't many pictures either. The work part of the trip kicks into high gear tomorrow, so there may be some stories, but no pictures are likely until Friday or Saturday. The pictures below are from a wine festival that we went to in Bad Derkheim near Mannheim. Later.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Airline Seats

I know that this is a subject that had been well covered before. Today I flew on US Airways. The seats are so close together, if the person in front of you reclines the seat, you don't have enough room to think, much less read a paperback or use a laptop. That is the fault of the airline trying to jam too many seats into a finite space. But the person in front of my knows that this is a problem.

Where I have my objection is when the person reclines the seat and leaves it there for the duration of the flight. If they lean up to eat, the seat stays back. If they get up to walk or visit the potty, the seat stays back. This is just another function of people not caring for eachother. Please don't be one of these people.

In Germany

I arrived in Germany at 1 am, er, make that 07:00. It just seems like 1 am. The flight from Charlotte to Frankfurt was direct, which was good and bad. It was good for the obvious reasons, short as possible, no connections. It was bad in that I had to put up with my seat neighbor the whole way. There was no landing to trade him in.

He was a big older man who didn't give a shit about anybody else in the world. If he poked me with his elbow once, he poked me with his elbow a billion times. Everytime he moved, that elbow was hitting me somewhere. The first time I asked if he would "give me some space". The second time I uped the ante by telling him that I paid for my seat and wanted the space that went with it. I knew he would get the hint then. About half way through the flight we had a heart-to-heart talk where I explained to him that I don't want to be touched and to stay on his side. Childish? You bet. Effective? Somewhat. He hit me less which was good enough. Just add that to the ways that people are rude to each other.

Next post: Reclining Seat Backs

Friday, September 09, 2005

Another NC Poker Player makes the big time

From today:

"Las Vegas player Doshi Suresh came into the finals today as the chip leader with an almost 2 to 1 lead over George Tallas in the second spot. Doshi cautiously guarded his chip stacks and never relinquished the lead, finally going heads up with John Harris of Staley, North Carolina for the money, ring and title. The heads up action had barely begun when John went all-in and was immediately called by Doshi. John showed pocket Fours while Doshi turned over his pocket Kings. The suspense was short-lived when the flop was 5,K,K giving Doshi quad Kings and John no outs."

This action was from Harrah's World Seriers of Poker Circuit Event #3. The event began on Wednesday with 140 players and a prize pool of $135,800. John's take was $27,160 for second. You can read more about the event at

I don't know John, but I want to wish him congratulations. That is some tough competition. He should be very proud of his accomplishment.

Add John's name to the list of players from NC who have found success in the big time. The other names that come to mind (thanks to TripJax) are Mark Cole, Mike Gracz (see TripJax's Poker In Arrears for their stories).

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Baseball in Tampa Bay

Just trying out Flickr for posting photos. There is probably a lot more to know about this tool. I hope some kind readers will help me out by sharing what they know. Anyway, it's a start.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Getting Ready for Europe

As vacations go, this one is a biggie. I'll be in Europe for 3 weeks starting Sunday. The first part is business and the last 2 weeks and 2 days are pleasure. I've purchased Eurail passes for me and my wife, made hotel reservations, and purchased airline tickets. You would think that I'm ready to go. I would too except for these nagging worries about how are you going to get around, what are we going to eat, etc., etc.

I guess most travelers learn that it isn't really that hard to get where you want to go and there are hotel rooms where you are going. There really isn't a problem that a high limit on your credit card won't fix. In the back of my mind I know these things. As a matter of fact, if it were just me traveling, I would do the dumbass thing and just go.

The fact is that it is not only me traveling. My wife is going along and she does not deal with uncertanty while traveling. She deals with problems fine and is a real trooper when necessary, but don't push it. That is the main reason that I am doing everything I can to pin down details.

I have made train reservations for every possible trip. I think we are riding abound 15-18 different trains in 2 weeks. We, of course, have plane reservations and tomorrow I must schedule a shuttle to take my wife from the airport to the hotel when she arrives. With a little bit of luck, the whole thing should run like clockwork.

So where are we going? I have business near Frankfurt, Germany, so we start there. As soon as my business is done we move down to Zermatt in Switzerland. That is the area near the Matterhorn and other wonderful scenery. It is a very touristy area which doesn't speak well for our sense of adventure, but hey, we are blazing a lot of new ground here. After Zermatt we head for Venice for a few days and then Rome. We have done Rome before. It was such a mind blowing experience we must go back.

After Rome we are taking an overnight train back through Switzerland and Frankfurt to Assmannsomethingorother. This is an area near Frankfurt on the Main river. There is a castle or two and some hot springs in the area. We rest for a day there before heading home.

I will blog the trip here if I get a chance and an internet connection. I guess they have wi-fi in Europe. We'll see. If not, look for a killer picture post here and at my space at MSN. Just for practice, let me try to post a couple of Rome.

Trevi Fountain

See ya.

Michelangelo's Pietà

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Straight Flush #3

Last night, while playing pub poker at Angry Ale's, I hit my third ever straight flush. This was the second time I've hit one in a live game. This one was done the hard way with a J7 of diamonds in the big blind. I would usually not play this hand, but there was no raise and I saw the flop for free.

It was early and I've got about 1000 from a starting 1200. Blinds are 20-40 or so. The flop came out 9d 8d Blank giving me a flush draw, and inside straight draw, and the straight flush draw.

I check on the flop. I'll mention that the caller to my left was a beginning player who had been calling everything down all night with nothing at times, raising with any pair and generally playing poorly, but he was just coming off a big suck out, so he had some chips to play. He bets 50, the other player calls, as do I.

The turn comes with another 8 and I check again. Lefty bets 50. Call. Call. The river, of course, comes with the 10 of diamonds completing the SF. I know it is a tell and a half, but I go back to my cards to double check the SF. I check. Lefty bets 200 and gets a call. I go all in for 650 more and lefty calls. The other player folds.

Lefty turns over 10 10 for a boat. I exclaim "you don't see many of these" and turn my hand over. The table reads my cards and pushs the stack to lefty. I can't believe that I have misread my hand, so I look again. "WAIT", I say. "That's a straight flush!". Then I hear various "Oh my God"s and "Holy Shit!"s around the table.

I go on to finish 6th on the night.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Me - I love a good hummer!

Starting a new site

Like so many other, I started a blog. Like so many others, I like to play poker. So, like so many others, I write a blog about poker. I actually enjoy blogging much more than I expected to. I love looking up the activity, seeing if any comments have been left, and that sort of thing.

I tried running my first site at MSN Spaces, but the traffic was lacking. For a reader to leave a comment, he or she had to have an MSN passport. I like hearing from readers so I'm looking for a better host. I've seen many other poker bloggers using blogspot, so here I am.

I try to concentrate on the things I enjoy. I already mentioned the the poker. I will tend to write about poker happening here in North Carolina. That doesn't amount to much, so I'll find other interesting (to me) topics in the poker world. I travel a lot in my job, so I'll write up some info about the places I play.

You'll also see a lot of my photography. I'll post some greatest hits to get that started. We'll also discuss politics and people. Let's have some fun starting now.

Everything from here down is from my old site for your convenience. :)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Finger Pointing

Politicians across the country are starting to point fingers of accusation about who should have prevented the catastrophe in New Orleans. One of the most popular targets (especially from the left) is the President. That may be justified or not. Time will tell.

I wonder how long it will be until the finger gets pointed at the Louisiana legislature. Being a citizen of Charlotte, NC, I remember well that it was the LA legislature that decided to spend millions of dollars to attract the Hornets NBA franchise away from Charlotte. One would think that they could have spent that money on the levies in NO, but they made their decision. Now they will be counting the cost in lives. Shame.

Now if Charlotte wants to turn the mirror on itself, it will fare much worse on this point. They have spent hundreds of millions over the past few years to buy a new NBA franchise. What will they do on their rainy day?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Poker Room Review: Palm Beach Kennel Club

I just completed a trip to Florida. Though this was a business trip, I was able to squeeze in time at the poker room at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. As the name implies, the place has something to do with dogs, but not the 72o kind. It is a dog racing track in Florida’s grandest tradition. With that in mind, I didn’t expect much from the poker room at such a place.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. This was a very clean, nice poker room. The seats were comfortable and the personnel were very friendly. When the girl at the front desk found out I was a first timer, she told me that they only played ‘Go Fish’ in the club. Yuck, Yuck.

Food is allowed at the tables, but I think all they had to eat was sandwiches. I had chicken salad on rye which was very tasty. They do not server comp drinks. Soft drinks are $1.50 and beer in $2.50. Not sure about liquor, but it was served.

The games are mostly low limit. They spread $1-2 spread and $2-2. They only used one blind, so playing is cheap. They also advertise “new higher limits” on their billboards. I couldn’t quiet figure out what they were talking about. Did they used to spread $.25-.50? I think they were referring to their ‘Turbo’ tournaments which are $40+5 Sit-n-go No Limit tournaments. There was also Omaha and Stud, but I didn’t pay any attention to these games.

This was some of the fishiest action that I have ever run into, outside of Vegas, that is. I started at a new table and the hands I saw played would make most players skin crawl. 83o won more than two hands. I got caught by more than a couple suck outs, but I was patient, and it paid off.

From a starting stack on $60, I got whittled down to $22 and then I stared winning. I played every hand expecting to be shown down, and I was almost never disappointed. I could not believe that I could sit at a table for over an hour without playing any hand except the BB and then suddenly raise and still get 5 or 6 callers. Un-B-Leavable. In about 5 hours of play I ended the night up about $120.

The poker room closes at midnight, so we made an early exit for the hotel. On the way out we ran into a half drunk who was having a bad night. He was doing well at the tables but the story of getting to the table had me in stitches. It was raining a typical Florida monsoon when he arrived. Parts of the parking lot were under 3 feet of water. He didn’t realize this until his car stalled in the middle of it. Then, while getting out of his car and sloshing through the water, he dropped his cell phone which busted on the pavement. Later in the evening he returned to run the battery down trying to start it up. Me and my Maine man Chad (yea, he’s from Maine) gave him a lift back home to Jupiter (Florida, that is).

But back to the poker room: To summarize, The Palm Beach Kennel Club is a nice, comfortable room with good food and a friendly staff and schooling patrons. I’ll be back.