Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Arizona Trip Report - Day 4

The last full day in Arizona had a few high points in it. Breakfast again was pretty good - sausage gravy and biscuits. The conversation was good around the table. There were a couple of people around the table that my wife knew. So, conversation was less forced than normal. There were plenty of smiles and jokes to go around. I got the feeling that each of us were feeling the end of the trip and were ready to head back home. It’s been several days now since I have seen Little One and I miss her.
The morning session was pretty good. On stage was Coach Wooden. He had an impressive run of 10 NCAA Division 1 Basketball titles while coaching at UCLA. He was named by ESPN as the "Coach of the Century" for the 20th century. He is in his mid nineties and his mind and body is still sharp. He spoke about team building on individual character.

The afternoon was an eventful 4X4 Jeep ride in the desert. We had a box lunch and boarded the bus just before 1PM. The bus ride was about 30 minutes out towards Fort McDowell. Specifically, it was the Fort McDowell Indian Community. The bus pulls up to the stables there. The activities could have been Hiking, Horseback riding or the Jeep ride. We had chosen the jeep ride. We boarded the jeep along with some others. The jeep took us out a couple of miles and stopped. We along with about 10 other jeep occupants disembarked on a short walk. There two guys talked about the desert and the plants and animals that make it their home. Interesting a bit. I still wished to see some wildlife. But Alas, it is the desert and most animals are nocturnal.

After that, our jeep took us back to the stable area. There was a picnic covered area there. We picked up a cold drink and fruit there. A couple of us sat around and chatted. I got the chance to speak to a couple from Texas about the power of GPS. The guy had been introduced to the GPS in a Boy Scout Orienteering class. I explained the "extras" that today’s GPS offers. Of course the turn by turn directions. But also, the "Find" function. I think this function is what the manufactures should be advertising. A wife/mother broken down - the GPS finds the closest Wrecker service - gives the address and telephone number. Also, she gives the Wrecker operator turn by turn directions from the wrecker service to where she is. Or, a kid is snake bitten while out hiking with his family. You guessed it. The GPS quickly finds the closest Hospital and gives them the phone number and turn by turn directions on how to get there. They’ve called ahead and the hospital is awaiting his arrival. These are 2 awesome "shocking" views of the use of these gadgets. Things the consumer will remember the next time they are browsing at their local Best Buy. Not just the trivial ideas of finding the local shopping mall.
We get back to the hotel with time for a short shower and rest. The closing session was a couple of comedians. Brian Reagan was the head liner. You may recognize him with the skits of: "cup of dirt" science project or "you too" response when not appropriate. He was pretty funny.
With the winding up of our Arizona trip we were tired and really ready to head back home. We missed our Little One. And with this last post, I also hope you have enjoyed your trip to Arizona as told by yours truly.

Good Night.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Arizona Trip Report - Day 3

Day 3 started much better than the previous day. I did awake around 4:30. However, I rolled over and went back to sleep until 7:30. After the daily ritual of getting ready, we headed down for breakfast. The breakfasts here are hit and miss. Some of the food is good and some is just lousy - speaking from a southerners view. The grits and oatmeal are lumpy - I say that really meaning like kernels are in there. Weird. However, we had biscuits and gravy this morning and it was pretty good. Combine that with some fruit and I was satisfied.

The morning general session passed without much hoopla. My wife had signed us up for a 1 mile walk. Thankfully, she didn’t sign us of for the 5K run. We make good time and finish within 15 minutes. Interesting seeing several thousand people walking and jogging.

After our short walk, they serve us lunch out on the lawn. It was a lunch I didn’t eat very much of at all. I didn’t think it was good idea to serve steak and halibut just after a brisk walk or run. I ate a small steak and called it quits.

We left the group to head upstairs. The day was beautiful and I had Geocaching to get to. I quickly changed and kissed my wife bye and headed out. I stopped at the front lobby and got a ride to Horse Lovers park from one of the town car drivers hanging out in front of the hotel $12 for a 2 mile ride - I am living it up!

Horse Lovers Park (Pheonix, AZ)

I am a little disappointed in the desert out here. It is very plain and nothing special like I had envisioned. I thought I would see a little more wildlife. It may just be the small sampling that I have seen. However, to me a man who grew up in the north Georgia mountains. it doesn’t impress me. I am sure there is much more life underground. I walked about 5 miles again today. This time is was all off the beaten path traveling. I didn’t see a single person once the driver let me out. I did see lots of holes and Burroughs in the sand. I didn’t try and dig any up to see wildlife. I am crazy - but not life altering stupid. I say a few birds and rabbits. I will say they have lots of rabbits out here. If you are a rabbit hunter - retire here and you’ll have lots of busy time.

I did tear a brand new button down shirt. I was traveling towards a cache and chose to crawl under a fence and it snagged on my shoulder. Oh well, Thankfully it was clearance $8.50 at Kohls. I just laughed and kept going. I found that one under the overpass of the 101. I am also surprised at the caches out here. Like I said before, I didn’t see anyone while I was out. And all I found in this wasteland of a desert park were micro’s or mini’s. Have they ever heard of an ammo can? Oh, by the way - do you know how difficult it is to find a mini in the desert bushes?
It was an hour and a half from dinner time and I was almost 3 miles as a bird flies from out hotel. No ride back for me - I would be hoofing it. I started back and made it in about an hour. Of course I didn’t walk a straight line. I had to follow a fence line that surely added at least a mile. I returned to a note in our room that my wife was already downstairs. I showered and made my way down.

After a nice diner and some chat with our table, I have retired to the room. My wife is in a night session and I am typing out this report. I am ending today here with me headed for the soft bed and long nights sleep.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Arizona Trip Report - Day 2

The second day of our trip started with me looking up at the ceiling around 4:30AM Arizona time. Seems my body thought I was back in Atlanta and it was time to get up - I wasn’t and it wasn’t time to get up. I tossed and turned - rinsed and repeated until 5:30 when I got up and started typing out day 1 trip report.

I got most of that done and went to post it. I am constantly surprised in life. My wallet holds a Holiday Inn Priority Club Rewards card in it. I got it because I think Holiday in has the best value. I am staying in a Marriott where the rooms go for over $500 a night (not my $500). I plug into the ethernet port on the desk and pull up the internet. The first page welcomes me and asks if I would like to pay $9.95/day for internet service. Heck No. $10 on top of probably $550. Are they freaking out of their minds? Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that the usual clients could probably pay the $10. However, at $100 a night Holiday Inn, they give you that for FREE. I have even stayed in a Holiday Inn in Huntington, WV that had a computer in the room - to use for free. Principles are what I am talking about here. Even their wireless connection isn’t free. WHAT? Have they lost contact with the outside world? So, You are not reading this unless I am back home with my wireless network. (off soap box now)

We shower and get ready to head downstairs. We get down there early and see no one we know. So, my wife and I share a nice quiet breakfast alone. Small chit chat and sweet smiles. We had decided to leave our notebooks in the room as we would have time after breakfast to retrieve them. So, off we go to get them.

We stop at Starbucks and get my wife a tall white mocha before meeting up with Cliff and Laurie before the morning general session. I head to the popular coffee table outside the conference ballroom. I get Starbucks coffee with creamer and caramel flavor for free. We are a little late getting downstairs and all the seats around Cliff and Laurie are all taken. We head off to find some in a very crowded ballroom. We find some on the other side of the room off to the side of the stage.

There were several speakers all with good topics. Encouragement. Hebrews 10 speaks of encouraging one another. One speaker spoke on strengths and weaknesses. His push was to get people to not focus on improving your weaknesses but rather increase your strengths. Made sense in a weird kind of a way. Your weaknesses will always be your weaknesses. Surround yourself with people with strengths that are your weaknesses and each work to grow in your strengths. He even had an example to take that with your children. If they are good in math and get lousy grades in language, work on the language part to improve but recognize that their future is probably better suited for a more successful career around math. So, really work on math and make them the best they can be in their strength.

We sat with Richard and Susan at lunch. Conversation was good. It ranged from British wit to vasectomy. Yeah - wide subject topics. We had tacos, burritos and the likes. Some was good some was okay and some was spit out.
While Richard and Susan ran off to go to work their shift, my wife and I headed to the room. I got all dressed up to go geocaching. My wife was going to stay in the room and read. I got packed and kissed her on my way out the door. I headed down to find a ride. I hit the doors and it was pouring rain. In just minutes to get downstairs the bottom dropped out. The wind was blowing - cold for Arizona. I didn’t get too upset - I looked at it that I was glad it happened then instead of while I was out on the trail with no ride back to the hotel.

So, here I sit updating the trip report waiting and seeing if the rain will go away. I don’t think it is going anywhere anytime soon. I am headed off to who knows where. Catch you later.

I am back. As I finished up the segment above, I noticed my lovely wife asleep with her book by her side. I quietly gathered my things and headed out the door. I went down to where the buses were shuttling people to another hotel and jumped bandit style and hitched a ride. It took me to the Keirland Westin Hotel and spa. No. I didn’t go in. I got off the bus and headed straight out into the wide open for a cache run. It wasn’t raining over there. I have to say that the area was definitely upscale. I hang in Peachtree City and this place made it look hickaberry hill.
First off, the condo’s being built next to the Westin were advertised as starting in the $700,000 range. Ouch. I hope that doesn’t mean someone is going to be forking over that for a small studio condo. Double Ouch.

Next up, were all the upscale shopping that was very apparent. I wasn’t in Kansas nor Atlanta anymore. Buckhead - keep trying, you’re way undervalued. I hope to download pictures as I upload this back home. However, if I am amiss with all the updates. The cars - wow. All major luxury vehicles were everywhere. I snapped a shot of a Ferrari. That is one sleek car. I walked about 5 miles total on my little geocaching adventure and saw lots of upscale restaurants and stores. I never saw a McDonald’s nor a Wendy’s. Incredible.

I returned to the hotel and got a quick shower. My wife and I toured the grounds of the hotel in the daylight and got some good photos. We headed out to the pool area. I say pool area - meaning the pools. There are about 4 pools, 1 lazy river and a small lake. That, in combination of simulated waterfalls and rushing streams, made for an area you could easily spend endless days lost in serenity. The area is also surrounded by a wonderful arrangement of flowers and shrubs.
We met up with Cliff and Laurie for dinner. It was the typical conference food. Its’ presentation is really nice and colorful. Its taste is lacking - well taste. I am sure that’s why the super rich are usually skinny. If they go places that feed them food like this, then they probably don’t eat very much. I didn’t eat very much.

There was a concert in the ballroom outside the dining hall. However, my wife and I, along with Cliff and Laurie sat at the dinner table for a couple of hours talking with a couple from Nashville Tennessee. She is a restaurant owner and he is a pilot for American Airlines. Pama is her name and she is a hoot. Her husband is Steve. She is very interesting and full of good stories. When she talks and goes through her stories she uses many facial expressions that keep you drawn into the conversation.

Not sure if you remember a flight from the west cost to the east coast that landed in Oklahoma City under emergency. Well, if you do, Steve was the pilot on that flight. Hearing the stories of this couple kept us on the edge of our seats until late in the night. The wait staff had cleaned the dining hall and was just hanging around awaiting for us to leave. I enjoyed the time spent after diner more than any conference session.

It was 11:00PM as we retired to our room for some needed rest.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Arizona Trip Report - Day 1

Our first day traveling and getting settled was good. We were at the airport bright and early. This year we used one of the offsite park and rides. They were polite and delivered us promptly. My wife and I made it through the kiosk check-in at Delta and checked our luggage. Our largest case weighed in at a whopping 46lbs. 4 lbs shy of the 50 limit before extra charges apply.
As we circled the Delta counter and headed for the security check-point, I remembered the Garmin was still sitting on the dash of the van back at the park and ride. I went into shock mode. Here I am carrying Computer, Palm and wires out the ying yang and it’s for nothing if I don’t have that device. I stop and tell her to continue through and I will meet up with her at the terminal.

I caught a quick ride back to the van and picked up the GPS. I made it back to the airport and headed for security. I was making good time. I was standing in the line when it was my turn - I had forgotten to take off my shoes. STOP the line take off my shoes and step forward. Bells and whistles go off and the security guy asked me to step back remove my belt. Okay, no problem. I am a little frustrated with the GPS thing and I just want all metal off me. So, I start taking off my ring, my belt and my watch. That’s when the proverbial crap hits the fan. You ever have one of those moments when you know someone has power over you and you are helpless. This guy comes from the other side of the screening machine and starts barking orders at me like I am a recruit in basic training. "I didn’t tell you to remove your ring or your watch". " You’re not listening to me and we are going to have problems." I look him square in the eye with no emotion. I wanted to hit him but thought better of it. As I listened to his orders to place only my belt in a gray tub and step back through, I felt helpless. You read of those stories where people lose it with these people and now I am about 5 seconds from laying this punk on the floor with a good old fashion southern butt whooping.

Okay, belt in tub and me back at the portal. The same bells and whistles go off. A#*&$. He says "step back". About this time another man walks up. He asks "do you have a computer?". I respond in my extremely mild mannered "yes". "You will need to take it out and lay it in a tub by itself. Luckily, there are about 5 empty tubs there. I pick one and quickly get the computer out and in it. Back to the first guy. He says "place your watch in the tub". Back to my original wanting to get all metal object from my body - but resisting. I place the watch in a tub and walk through. Sing praises and shout glory - I make it though. However, I feel half naked and my stuff is scattered in about 4 different tubs. I grab the computer and bag and get all that stuffed back together. Then my belt, watch and shoes and find a corner to collect myself and get dressed for the second time of the day.

I make my way to the terminal and my lovely wife is there awaiting her idiot husband. She greets me with a smile and we head off to find something to eat for breakfast. No man should have to go through all that before he has had his first cup of coffee and a biscuit in his stomach.
Our flight is good. I watch the travel channel and alternate between checking our air speed and elevation with the GPS and playing games on the Palm TX. My wife reads a book and she makes it through (she has difficulties flying - motion sickness).

We arrive at the beautiful JW Marriot in Phoenix and get registered and a bite to eat. My wife had to do her duties from 2 until 3 PM. I walk about the resort getting acquainted with my surroundings. I head back up to the room just in time to see some punk take Tony Stewart out of the Daytona 500. Soon, my wife returns and we head down to the Expo to meet and greet. After seeing several people and sharing photos of the kids (theirs and Little One) we decide to head back to the room to rest and freshen up before dinner.

We meet Cliff and Laurie outside the ballroom and head inside for dinner. The spread was caesar salad (Yuck), asparagus (okay), grilled chicken (better than it looked) and lasagna (I didn’t go there). There were some other items but I didn’t give them a second look.
After dinner we walked around the resort. We showed Cliff and Laurie the rabbits that are outside. We walked around to the pool area and took a few photos - they are a bit dark.
The last thing for the evening was a love and respect marriage speaker (Mr. Emerson Eggerishs). He was good. He talked about how women need to know their husbands love them and men need to know that their wives respect them. Nothing to fancy or earth shattering.
There was coffee and desserts out by the pool area after the speaker. We decided after the day we had that we would retire to our comfortable room. It was 10:00PM Arizona time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Phoenix on the Horizon

A trip to phoenix is coming up soon and I have begun the preparations. No I haven’t purchased toothpaste or shampoo. I haven’t done laundry or started to pack the cloths I will need. I have though started downloading GPS coordinates in and around the hotel where we will be staying. I have to get my priorities straight. I think I have. Next up will be to charge the Palm, Camera and phone. Take a few extra set of batteries for the Garmin® GPS. I need to do some laundry – my hiking shoes need a run through the washer. A trip to a Geocache that had me wade through water in a tunnel under I-85 got them a wee bit dirty. It was a good one.
While in phoenix, I should have plenty of free time. I just hope I can make it to some of the nice parks and hiking trails out there. I may have to take a couple extra bucks for cab fare or car rental. Phoenix seems to be a Geocaching nut place. They seem to be everywhere. Wish me luck there.
Poker: Haven’t played a lick since returning from Tunica. I skipped out on last night’s tournament – being all close to Valentine’s Day and stuff. I am not sure I will get to play in the next couple of weeks either.
On the poker subject – Reading Daniel’s blog lately it is easily seen that “Hollywood” has truly invaded the Vegas card slingers lives. The talk about rumors and someone talking about someone else is overwhelming. Sounds like the Hollywood I know. Gossip is king. Someone writes an article critiquing another players’ skill and someone else talking about that person – whew. A mess. Boys (and ladies) it’s life. You should not let the “talk” consume you – let it go.
Stocks – Garmin is back up around $52 a share. I don’t own it. Sold it a while back on a high and didn’t buy back in on its late January low. Garmin, while a great stock, doesn’t fit squarely in my stock strategy. That’s not to say there is no room for it. It just sits on the fringes of my long term goals. The price increase is there; however, I am turned off by the low dividend rate. Can you make money on it – you bet. GPS is here to stay in the worlds lives – it will continue to grow for many years to come. Good growth outlook. Come off the hip for more dividends and I am a really happy camper.
Okay – make that $58 a share – what an opening day for Garmin. Currently seeing 12% increase in early day trading on good earnings outlooks. We will see what the rest of the month holds for them. Right now the P/E ratio is sitting at 30.14. That’s a little high for this old timer’s stock evaluator.
I am looking to diversify into some transportation stocks. I have mentioned this before. The US trade deficit is growing. I read yesterday that the exports would have to grow at 50% to just keep the deficit even. WOW! Okay. On that news – if we are bringing goods in from around the world, it leads me to think that we will have to move those goods throughout the country. Railroads and solid trucking companies should be well positioned for this. Even a few ocean liner companies. I am probably about 7 years later than I need to be into this area – but good growth is due to this sector.

I received an email with the quote below in it. I thought it was cute so I included it here today.

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them. -Phil Pastoret

Enjoy the rest of the week.