We have been asked to make a personal call.

May 27, 2020

People have visited our website with a decorating project in mind.  And we continually hear that it is difficult for them to narrow down the many excellent choices and visualize how compatible they are.  So, the next question is, “Can you visit our property and make a recommendation?”  The answer is yes.

Since we are in the middle of the country using DFW Airport, we can charge a flat fee of $2,000 anywhere in the lower-48 for a full day consultation—all expenses included.  Then, if your order exceeds $25,000 worth of products, you can deduct the $2,000 fee from that order.

Please give a few weeks’ notice and since airline tickets are generally non-refundable, so is our fee, once booked.

We look forward to visiting you.


Our 10 Favorite National Parks; Memorable Experience Guaranteed.

May 12, 2020

We are talking about a trip to a U.S. National Park—national treasures enjoyed by millions of American and International visitors annually.  We have certainly enjoyed the 24 that we have visited, some multiple times.  The Park System was established in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt and since then, the list has grown to the present 61.

Most lists rank the parks by annual visitors and as a result, those closes to metro areas rank highest.  We do not question the beauty and enjoyment you will experience from any of them, but our list is a little different since we tell you why we rank them in the following order.

Yosemite National Park.  We were sold on this park long ago by a portfolio of black and white photos taken by Ansel Adams.  They capture every bit of the incredible beauty and excitement of the park.  Yosemite is our favorite because of the variety of natural wonders.  Dramatic mountains and dense forests.  Massive waterfalls and gorgeous valleys. Reflective lakes and ginormous trees. Unbelievable rock formations and top it all off with a variety of animals lucky enough to call Yosemite home.  The park has it all and is presented in such a magnificent way that it’ll remain in your mind forever.  If your budget allows, a night or two at the Ahwahnee Lodge, if available, will be frosting on the cake. Travel warning to people who do not like heights.  We mistakenly flew to Oakland and drove along miles of pleasant valley.  And then we hit the switchbacks that lead to the park.  Switchback like I had never seen before. It is hard to drive with white knuckles. Tip, if you share the fear.  fly instead to Fresno (FAT) and flat!  You’ll enjoy the huge sequoia trees on the southside of the park as you approach the center of Yosemite.

Yellowstone National Park.  The pools, geysers, streams, steam, vegetation and animals are all unique and beyond your wildest imagination.  You must see this place to believe its splendor.  During winter it is a totally different, yet equally exciting experience.  Crowds are down and it has a personality quite different from the summer edition.   We are certain you will enjoy both and any return visits down the road,

Grand Canyon National Park.  Let’s face it.  Where else can you see a sheer wall over a mile deep?  The expanse, colors and formations are hard to comprehend.  And when you realize (from well over a mile away) it is all because of a 300 foot- wide ribbon called the Colorado River, it is even more amazing.  Imagine how wide the river must have been thousands of years ago!  Today the canyon is up to 18 miles wide.  There is no close second to this wonder.

Denali National Park.  As deep as the Grand Canyon is (6,093 feet), Mount McKinley, highlight of the park, is 3.3 times higher (20,308’). Wow.  The display of snow and glaciers adds to the incredible elegance.  Save up before your trip and, weather permitting, tale a plane “tour” to the top of McKinley and see if it doesn’t knock your socks off.  Back on the ground, the Denali bus tour (lots of sheer drop-offs, so if you are squeamish, keep your eyes closed) will amaze you with the beauty and wildlife. Hard to fall asleep after these adventures.

Teton National Park.  This was a great place to visit.  Then when we looked at the photos that recorded the beauty, we were even more impressed.  Kinda like when your Mom used to say, “it tastes better the next day.”  We can only guess that our mind overloaded on a real time basis and we couldn’t comprehend the vast experience.  It has such an overwhelming variety of color, vegetation and picture- perfect mountains that any position or time of day produces a perfect image—rain or shine.  Teton precedes arrival at Yellowstone for most visitors which may diminish the immediate satisfaction but over the many miles of wonderment, this is a keeper.  And the fact that you can visit two incredible parks in a single trip is an additional bonus.

Volcanoes National Park.  Depending on your timing, this park can have dual personalities.  When active, it is like nothing you have ever seen before.  Stream of lava flow continually into the ocean.  The result?  Intense heat.  Vivid colors.  Furious noise.  Massive pillars of steam.  The park is far and away the best example of something that man can only experience, never control.

Haleakala National Park.  From the Big Island to Maui, this park is a huge crater, the result of ancient volcanoes, described above, which formed the Hawaiian Islands. If you travel to Maui, this is a must see.

Katmai National Park.  This is the only national park inaccessible by car.  You either boat in or fly.  We chose the latter which weather didn’t allow on the first day.  The next day brought good weather and the visit proved it was worth waiting for.  From the seaplane, landing on a huge body of water, you go directly to “bear school” where you are taught how to behave if you encounter one of the 800# beauties.  Make lots of noise.  Don’t look them in the eye. Don’t run because they are 0-30 mph in a matter of seconds.  (Only time to run is if you are faster the next guy.)  After receiving your diploma, it is a mile and a half walk on a blacktopped sidewalk to a viewing platform on the Brooks River to see, in person, what we have seen in a multitude of documentaries and television commercials.  Brown bears are snatching salmon that are spawning in the falls.  According to the Rangers, the bears consume 10-12 whole salmon a day and then eat only the skin of any additional salmon they are lucky enough to snatch,  The skin has the vitamins and protein that gets them through the long winter sleep.  Supposedly they will not bother humans if they follow the rules learned in bear school.  We didn’t test them.

Glacier National Park.  We visited on Memorial Day and most facilities, including the Going-to-the-Sun Road were not opened for the season.  Nonetheless, the part of the park we saw is pristine and dramatic and we were able to visit the Canadian portion of the park (Waterton).  Both should be a stopover when you are in the area. 

Everglades National Park. This one is in a class all its own, unlike any part of another park.  It’s similar but not matching to swampland and home to some animals not found elsewhere on earth.  Some you’ll see, especially with the boat tour.  In Everglades you’ll spend more time driving and boating, far outnumbering your hiking hours.

Here are the other parks we visited, in our order of enjoyment:
Big Bend National Park, TX

Redwoods National Park, CA

Badlands National Park, SD

Saguaro National Park, AZ

Mesa Verde National Park, AZ

Sequoia National Park, CA

Wrangle Saint Elias National Park, AK

Virgin Island National Park, USVI

Acadian National Park, ME

Everglades National Park, FL

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Hot Springs National Park, AR

Guadalupe National Park, TX 

Biscayne Bay National Park, Fl

Gateway Arch National Park, MO

Last thought.  The Park System has great hotels and other accommodations in a wide range of prices.  Staying in a park gives you more time to explore it.  But you must book early.  Rooms are limited and last-minute bookers are generally disappointed.


Bed & Breakfasts are Special

May 1, 2020

Yep.  We have visited many of them over the years along with castles, lodges and other pre-Airbnb independent accommodations and had a great time doing it.  Notice the word visited.  Past tense.  Rarely do we do it now.  And there are a couple of simple reasons why.  As we got older, we based the first factor in judging an accommodation on sleep quality.  Generally, the mattresses and linens are not quite as good as in the chains.  And all too often, the window coverings are not successful at “covering.” (Worst time and place to experience this is in late June in Alaska).  Then there is the issue of elevators, rarely on of the B & B amenities.  So, if your room is on an upper floor, you will quickly discover that being your own bellman is not fun.  And finally, the bathrooms do not seem to have the conveniences of a purpose built one.

Then there is the flip side.

Boy, do we miss them.  It used to be so much fun to arrive at 4:00 and visit with the owners in the kitchen, glass of cab in hand. You get to know them while they prepare dinner for the guests that evening.  So many have interesting and memorable backgrounds and almost all have a special passion to be an outstanding host and/or hostess.

And dining with the other guests from all over the country or the world, and exchanging stories and experiences is a real treat.  Often the visit extends will into the late night, same cab glass still in hand.

Our advice.  Experience the B & B’s while you are young because you eventually run out of the “stuff” to make the experience as enjoyable as it should be.


Yes, they are stone faced but…

March 16, 2020

We were regularly knocking off the number of states we had visited until we hit # 48. And it stopped at 48 for about ten years.

So after “standing still” for a decade, we decided to make the Dakotas disappear from our list.

The trip to Rapid City, SD is easy with good air service and a nice airport when you arrive. We opted to stay at the Hotel Alex Johnson in downtown. It’s a Hilton property and very comfortable with a lounge on the top floor where the visitors are friendly and the conversation lively. Most guests are tourist and all of them agree that South Dakota is indeed a beautiful and interesting state.

The unique feature of the hotel is that it is haunted. Many guests over the years have had encounters. So at check-in, the unusual question is asked, “Do you prefer haunted or non-haunted?” (Finally got rid of that stupid smoking question. Now this!) We opted for the latter and had great sleep every night we stayed there.

There is a lot to do in area. Go east about 40 miles and visit Wall Drugs. Who hasn’t seen a bumper sticker “We’ve been to Wall Drugs?” They are reported to have been seen in every state and supposedly, several countries in Europe. It is funky; a “must see” and after lunch we think it is also a “must eat” with good home cooking.

After lunch it is off the Black Hills–heading south from I-90. They are not rolling hills covered with green grass or wildflowers but instead a variety of rugged geological formations of various shapes and sizes (PGG 6269 & 6270) that when combined, result in a range of mini-mountains. They are stark, rugged but as a total experience there is a real beauty to them. The further you drive the more variety you experience and the more you appreciate the beauty of this geological wonder that stretches westerly into Wyoming.

Back in Rapid City the town has a unique feature. Each downtown block is enhanced with a life size bronze statue of a past President. Imagine the thrill of having your photo taken with Millard Filllmore! They are one-of-a-kind, very well done and a pleasant surprise for a downtown.

Next day we took a short drive to Mount Rushmore to see the faces of four Presidents carved (with dynamite) on the side of a mountain. Very impressive. Well organized. Convenient. Something to check off the bucket list. We were somewhat surprised to learn that Teddy Roosevelt has a chip on his shoulder.

Then it was off to a work in progress, Crazy Horse Memorial (PGG 6263 & 6264), 17 miles from Mount Rush more. “Carving” started in 1948, so chances are that none of us will see the finished product but you can see how far they have gotten in 72 years. When you are attempting to create the second largest sculpture in the world, you can’t expect it to be done overnight even with overtime.

So the next stop was Custer State Park, about 30 miles from Rapid City. It is home to a huge herd of bison (PGG 6265) and other native animals including deer, goats, elk and many others. But bison dominate. The lodge is comfortable and the restaurant quite good. It’s an unusual, great side trip.

Then we moved toward our next destination, Deadwood. It is about 40 miles from Rapid City and absolutely breathtaking on the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (US 4A). Deadwood, is a town marketed as “full of dead trees and a creek full gold.” It is a fun place for a night or two especially if you like to gamble.

Finally, on to Sturgis, home of the annual Harley Festival, this year in its 80th year. From Sturgis, it’s back to the airport for a flight to visit our 50th state. But as we sat back and thought about the South Dakota experience, we both asked, “What took us so long? That place was really fun. An exceptional experience.”

Fargo, the movie was released in 1998. Fargo, the town still bears the image. (How much wood would a wood chop chop, if a wood chop would chop wood instead of….)

It is a nice, clean city on the eastern border of North Dakota with a population of 125,000–17% of the state population. Rush hour has little road rage.

Best part of the stay was staying at the Hotel Donaldson or as the locals say, “The HoDo.” Story is that a downtown real estate developer gave a vacant building to his wife to develop as a hotel. She built out and painted each of the 17 rooms in a flat white paint, then offered the rooms to local artists as a blank canvas to finish as they saw fit. The result is an array of eclectic rooms, each more unique than the last. If some of the rooms are still not occupied when you check in you can view them-sorta like a trip to a contemporary art museum. The restaurant is equally creative and offers a great menu fulfilled with outstanding dishes. End the day or evening in the rooftop “sky” lounge on the fourth floor. While the elevation won’t likely give you starburn, the folks who frequent it are friendly and fun and you can almost guarantee a great experience. As mentioned on the home page, I have thousands of room nights in hundreds of different hotels and the HoDo is one of the most memorable. You’ll be sorry if you stay anywhere else in Fargo.

Or eat anywhere besides Toscana, a block from the HoDo. It is one of the few places I have ever enjoyed two meals in the same place on the same day on my own. Sure, there are those “captive” dining experiences where you have no choice, but I’ll bet that you too will multi-visit Toscana. It’s that good.

So now we’re members of the 50 State Club, referenced on the home page, after a delightful trip to the Dakotas. Don’t wait as long as we did to make the visit.


Get the Lay of the Land

February 24, 2020
No matter how well you plan a trip there is always a surprise that you did not know about or had not planned to see. That’s why we take a Grayline, Hop-a-Bus or other comprehensive tour first thing, when we visit a new destination. And if we haven’t been to a certain place for a while we do a repeat tour. Things change that quickly There are also new tours, such as the Chicago Architectural boat tour or the Chip and Joanna tour in Waco.

If you have the resources or if your arrival airport is a long way from your destination (big cab fare) we have often arranged with our hotel for a private driver to pick us up at the airport and take us on a private tour on our way to our destination. This is really handy if you arrive early in the day and your room won’t be ready until mid-afternoon and/or you are on a tight schedule with little time to explore. Often the driver will work a good deal with you to take you back to the airport for your departure at a special rate.

This method also beats sitting on a hot tour bus 45 minutes while one of the tourist buys a post card.


Why this website now?

February 2, 2020

Okay.  You’re right.  The internet is filled with soooo many travel websites.  But this one is a little different.

You see, when I started in the oil and gas business 44 years ago, I didn’t have any true passions.  And things were different then.  As I was sent overseas for two weeks at a time and allowed to “call home” from the local Post office on Saturday morning for one weekly family call at a very high price, I needed something to do the rest of the weekend.  The solution was to hop a bus or train and explore.  And take photos.

Eventually, this led to two of three current passions.  Photography.  Travel. Puppies.  This blog will only focus on the first two.

In all of the time since, I have had the opportunity to explore many places.  The gentleman who hired me said, “You’ll have the opportunity to travel to many interesting places with your job.  Do so and enjoy it and always tack on a place you likely would never visit—put it at the end of your trip.”

So as the years passed, there was an accumulation of photographs, travel experiences and visits to some pretty nice places.  Definitely upper middle class please—no hostels or budget hotels  but also no weekends on private islands, though we once experienced that on Georgian Bay, Ontario and it was special.  So, what I hope to do for you is to interest you in more travel and staying at some of the better but affordable places.  And satisfy your interest in the wonderful things this world offers.  The beauty, the mystique and the feeling that what we have available is truly a special gift.

At the end, you’ll make your own decisions but if our short visits can improve your experience even by a percent or two, we’ll feel we did our part.

So please sit back, enjoy and visit often.  No high pressure—just subtle tips on what has kept us so interested and intrigued.