Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays...From the Wafflers

Well, it's that time of year; the partying, the gift giving, and the wishing for a full stack of waffles. Wouldn't that be a gift!

I had an interesting story come my way recently, not of a holiday theme, but something humorous, and appropriate for this blog, because it concerns whiskey. As you may or may not know, the Wafflers profess an appreciation for, and desire the occasional taste of, a fine single malt scotch whiskey. Now it so happens that there once a man names Noah S. Sweat (Jr to be specific) who also had an opinion of whiskey. This man was a distinguished member of the bar, a respected judge, a law professor, and, to top it all off, a representative to the state legislature in the State of Mississippi. In 1952, he shared is opinion of "the water of life" with the state legislature in this now historic speech. If only today's politicians were so forthright and honest. The speach unfolds as follows:

"My friends,
"I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.
"If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
"If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
"This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise."

Happy Holiday's from the Wafflers. We hope this season gets you full of the holiday spirit, but please don't drive when you are.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Twin Trainers...of DOOM!!

This fall Bike Nashbar, a good source for low priced bike stuff, was having a sale on bicycle trainers. For the uninitiated, a bicycle trainer is a device that attaches to the rear wheel of your bike, so that when you pedal, you pedal against a roller that may have some resistance, as opposed to the bike moving forward. So when I inquired of fellow Waffler, Bill, his opinion on getting one, his reply was “Yeah, you should get one. It’ll be good for you to ride on a trainer during the winter.” This statement should have set the alarms off in my head immediately. Anything Bill thinks will be good for me never starts out to be fun, but my desire to be a better cyclist won out over my fear of pain, and I got a nice, inexpensive trainer.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I got a call from Bill about doing the traditional, pre-Thanksgiving ride. The object of this ride is turn burn at least enough calories to get down that extra piece of pumpkin pie. This ride is normally a mountain bike ride, which can have a bit of a cold and wet component to it, and it was getting dark out early, so a ride on the trainer in the toasty warm indoors was starting to sound good.

I hauled my stuff up to Bill’s place, and after some fiddling around got the bike hooked up to the trainer. My trainer is pretty no frills, but Bill has a really nice one with all the bells and whistles. And as the icing on the cake, it came with a training DVD. I would have preferred cartoons myself, but at least we would not be pedaling staring at a blank wall. It turns out I was right, cartoons would have been better. The “host” of the video was annoying beyond words. I truly get bent when some who is not on a bike himself is yelling, “Come on, let’s keep that cadence up. Pedal faster!” For a while, I was able to amuse myself by hurling insults at my video tormenter, but eventually, I had to conserve my breath for the act of pedaling. As I dismounted the bike, my seat in pain, and my legs like jelly, I quietly hoped that it would be “good for me” soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Wafflers Ride Again!

And ,amazingly, nobody got hurt! Although there was a lively discussion about what constitutes a "slight pitch", and what defines a hill. On the ride were myself, fellow Waffler Biker Bill, and his fiancee, Kory. A small but lively group.

All in all, it was a good ride. We had some really great weather, and mountain biking is one of the best ways I know to see some breathtaking fall foliage. If you have never done it, I highly recommend it. The trails take you to places that people don't generally set to, and the fallen leaves put the scent of autumn in the air.

It's really about the simple things in life. Beautiful scenery, a sturdy bicycle, and friends to enjoy it all with.

Monday, September 17, 2007

To All of the Faithful

This will be the last post for this blog. As promised, there is a link to what turns out to be a small sampling of our China Adventure.

I hope this blog was entertaining to all who read it. I know I enjoyed sharing our adventures with you. I hope you all will tune in again for the next big adventure, whenever that may be.

Until next time...

Waffles, Bob!

Monday, September 10, 2007

One Last Shanghai Surprise

The only way to describe the acrobatic show last night is breathtaking. The dedication that these people have to their art is nothing short of heroic. I hope the pictures I took do it justice. After the show, we took our new Texan friend Gary to the Little Horse Bar that we found the night previous, to try to run out our remaing yuan.

This morning our little group broke up. Most of our group left in the morning for the airport, while we left at noon. We were sad to part with out new friends, however, we will try to stay in touch, and we will always treasure the memories.

We used the morning time to get our bags in order, and then left with another group on an hour long journey to the airport. On our way out, the local guide pointed out the maglev train, which at 430 kph, makes the trip from the airport to Shanghai in just 7 minutes! Our new mission, ride that train. So we wasted know time getting checked in and set off on our last Shanghai adventure (for this trip).

Purchasing a round trip ticket each, we only had to wait a couple of minutes for the train, since they run every 15 minutes. The timing worked out well. From the time the train started, to the time the next train brought us back from Shanghai, only twenty minutes had past.

We are now back in Chicago, and Bob and I have gone to our separate terminals. After 12 days together, it feels a little empty witout him with me. Hope to see you soon, Bob.

I will do one last post after I can get some pictures loaded to Flickr for you all to enjoy, so check back one last time this weekend!

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Last night we safely arrived in the beautiful city of Shanghai (home town of good friend Xiao Fei), and on our ride from the airport to the hotel, we got to see some of the city lights, and it was marvelous.

We got checked in a little too late for dinner, however, we did get out and find a nice little local bar where we could have a Guiness, and enjoy some classic Elvis songs.

This morning, we left hotel to the old silk factory, where we had an education on how silk was made, and had an opportunity to purchase items from the factory. From there, we wnt to a location called the Bund, which lies along a tributary od the Yangtze River. It was a very scenic view of the Shanghai skyline, and an education on what is to come for the city. We then went to a very scenic garden for some great photo opportunities, and then hit the Bazaar. It is a really crazy shopping area, and for those of you who like to haggle, it can be alot of fun.

After loading our accquired goods onto the bus, the main tour group headed back to the hotel for some R&R. That would not do for the Wafflers, though. While our local guide escorted the group back to the hotel, we arranged for Hong, our national guide, to take us on a side trip to the Jade Buddhist Temple. She was quite happy to take us, and we had a good time. After she got us back, we headed out for dinner at a local restaurant.

We are now preparing for an evening trip to see the acrobatic show, which we are told is quite spectacular and not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

To Our Last City

First, to answer a question about the hanging coffins in the caves along the Yangtze River. Yes, I believe there are actually bodies in there. Ancient settlers along the river used these caves for burial sites. Why, and how they hauled these coffins to these heights remains a mystery. Some of these coffins have been moved to museums, since the Three Gorges Dam Project will flood and cover this site, as well as many farms of people living there now.

Last night was our farwell banquet on the Victoria Rose (our ship), and then we were treated to a caberet show by the crew. No one from the guest list volunteered their talents, but there were some audience participation opportunities toward the end, and then some general dancing. A great time was had by all who attended. And our friend Erik the bartender successfully recreated the martini recipe we imparted to him without assistance.

This morning we took an excursion to the Dam, and then continued sailing to Yichang through the rain, where we disembarked. Although we were excited about moving on, there was some sadness as we had, in true Waffler fashion, made many friends among the crew that we were sorry to part ways with ( and not just the bar staff). There was Lewis, our waiter; Minseng, Lee, Erik, and He Yao from the bar; and Fan Yi and Xiu Ping from the fromt desk reception. We will miss them all.

In Yichang, we visited a local museum and farmers market, and now off to Shanghai!

Friday, September 7, 2007

City of Ghosts and the Three Gorges

Greetings again to the faithful followers of the blog! Alot of folks have asked about pictures, but unfortunatley, we have tried to get some up there and were unsuccessful.

Our trip yesterday to the Ghost City was a tremendous experience. We declined the use of the ski lift like cable car, and hoofed it up the hill to the city. Apparently I misunderstood the guide before. The City represents the Chinese idea of heaven and hell, where they go when they die. They do not believe their ghosts actually go to that city. But we saw the three judgement tests, and also a Dante like interpretation of punishments in hell. We returned to the boat for lunch, and then got back underway. We were treated to a series of Chinese cultural lectures, and then in the evening, a fashion show by the crew showing different period costumes, as well as clothing for the different ethnic groups in China.

This morning after a healthy TaiChi workout, we passed through one of the Three Gorges. We then got onto a smaller boat, and took a cruise up a side river (stil in Chonqing province), where the scenery was breathtaking. We saw villages on the side of mountains, where they have terraced of farmland to grow food, and the famous hanging coffins. We then got onto an even smaller boat, to go a little further up to see even more breathtaking sights. If we would have had an extra day, we could have gone even further to do some white water rafting!

We again returned to the boat and got back underway to pass through the second Gorge, and will do the last of the Gorges. Tomorrow we will visit the Three Gorges Dam Project (we will try not to break anything).

Ths evening, the crew, all of who are very nice, will put on a caberet perfermance, and will invite up any guest who wishes to display their talent. Bob wanted me to break my leg so he could set the bone for the audience, but I declined to volunteer for this.

Until the next post...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

And Now For the River Cruise

This morning was our last in Xian. We took a trip to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (not to be confused with the Small Wild Goose Pagoda), which is an active Buddhist Temple, so we tried to be respectful of that while we where there. The temple and gardens are quite breath taking, and well worth the visit. There are also some renovations going on, so we got to witness some good old fashioned hand craftmanship. Xian is also the only city still having its old city wall and we concluded our trip with a visit to that.

We took a one hour flight to Chonqing, which served as the captial of China during WWII, or as they call it, the Anti Japanese War. We visited two museums relating to that war, one for General Stillwell, who was an American General attached there, and another for the Flying Tigers. We are now aboard the cruise ship "Victoria Rose", and steaming down the Yangtze River. In addition to the excursions, they will be hosting a series of cultural lectures, which should be interesting.

Tomorrow's excursion will be to the Ghost City, where we have been told that many Chinese believe their spirits go when they die. Hope to have another exciting installment tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Whirlwind Two Days

The last two days have been incredible, and incredibly busy. Yesterday was our last day in Beijing, and we had a free morning. So we checked out of the hotel early, and hopped a cab to the old section of town, where there were no tourists except for us. We stumbled across a tea house where we saw a tea ceremony performed, and we visited a Confucian Temple and a Lama Temple. That afternoon, the group joined back up, and we headed for the Summer Palace Gardens. We concluded our stay in Beijing with dinner, and then headed for the train.

The overnight train ride to Xian was a bonding time for our little group. We had a bottle of single malt that has been travelling with us, and we also accquired some beer and wine, and made a party of it. ANd then up again this morning in time to pull into Xian.

We dropped luggage at the hotel, and then without stopping to check in, began our tour of the city. We spent some time at the National Museum, which was OK, and then headed to the sight of the Terra Cotta Warriors, which was spectacular. The entire sight was amazing, and the stories behind it even more so.

We returned to the hotel to get checked in, and even though we were all bushed, some of us got up the energy to go to a dumpling dinner, and a show composed of dance and music from the Tang Dynasty. The dumplings were folded in such a way as to show what was in them. Pork dumplings were folded to look like pigs, etc. And the show was colorful and entertaining. It was well worth staing up for. Tomorrow we visit the Wild Goose Pagoda (a Buddhist Temple), and the City Wall, after which we hop a plane to Chongqing (home of good friend Hou Li) to get a boat for our river cruise. I am truly sorry we cannot stay longer in Xian, but I look forward to the cruise.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Great Wall is Steeper Than It Looks

Ths morning's trip was to the Great Wall of China. It is an amazing sight, and even more so to be on it and looking out. Bob pushes me to overcome my rampaging fear of heights to do quite a bit of climbing on it. The thing is built on the mountain side here, so there are many stairs to go up and down, but the view was worth it. We made a quick trip to a jade factory, where we got an education and some lunch, and then of to the tomb of a Ming Dynasty Emporer.

Tomorrow is our last day in Beijing. We will have a free morning, which we will use to do some exploring, and then we will visit the Summer Palace in the afternoon. Then it is on to an overnight train to Xian.

So far it has been a great trip, and I think it will continue to be so.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Boy Is It Hot Here!

The temperature was high, but we drank alot of water, tried not to think about the heat. This morning after breakfast, we went to Tianamen Square (where Bob accquired two Chairman Mao watches for us for a total of 100 yuan so we can know tell time again), and then walked into the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is HUGE, and one morning was probably not enough to see everything, but we saw alot. After a nice Chinese lunch, served family style, we spent the afternoon at the Temple of Heaven, where we were invited to join in with some local dancers in the park there.

Tonight we will seek more adeventure on the town and the world famous (so they say) Bar Street. Until later...

Friday, August 31, 2007

On Ward

After arriving safely yesterday, Bob and I hit the town. We are off to the Forbidden City now. More to follow.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Day Of....

We are enroute! Bob and I have met up at Washington-Dulles Airport, where we enjoyed a bit of breakfast, and we are now touring the airport, as we have a couple of hours to kill until our Beijing flight. We are both a bit tired, as I did not sleep at all, and Bob only crashed for about an hour on the sofa, but we will have all that flight to snooze. And went we hit Beijing, we will be rested for a night on the town.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Day Before

We are down to the day before, and the excitement is building. It will be worth getting up at 2:00 AM to catch a flight. This is the trip of a lifetime for me, and I am extremely thankful to have this opportunity.

Everyone is asking if I have finished packing yet, and the answer is, "Of course not!" For this trip, however, I will refrain from waiting until the car arrives to start throwing stuff in a suitcase.