Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Return Roadtrip!™ Day Two: "You Can't Beat New"

Winslow, Arizona - Tucumcari, New Mexico

We had a great breakfast in the Turquoise Room at La Posada and hit the road. It was cold, snowing, blowing and drifting snow today on the route east into New Mexico. I had to do some two-hands-on-the-wheel driving.

I had lunch at Blake's Lotaburger in Albuquerque, "a New Mexico owned and operated fast-food favorite with 76 locations statewide". I wasn't too hungry so I just had the Kiddy burger; really good. On the receipt, it said that this was Blake's Lotaburger #10 -- this means that there are only nine in the whole world that came before this one. How exciting is that?! I had never been to a Lotaburger before, and had no idea it was a New Mexico chain. I'll make it a point of trying to go to one from now on when in New Mexico. I like to support and try out regional chains.

We blew on past Santa Rosa, NM because we wanted to get within shooting distance of Tulsa tomorrow. We decided to stay in Tucumcari. But where? It has to be pet-friendly. I was planning on staying at a Comfort Inn, but when we took the exit, we saw a sign for a "Just Opened" Quality Inn at $59. If there is one thing I've learned from my roadtrips when it comes to lodging it is this: "you can't beat new". Last year we stayed at Holiday Inn Expresses on the way down. Uniformly, the new ones were great; the ones that weren't-so-great were the older ones in Branson, MO and Winslow, AZ.

I went in and asked if they accepted pets. "Yes, a $6 charge." Six dollars I can go along with. Pet charges are all over the map. The lowest, of course, is "free" -- pets can stay at no extra charge. Six dollars is probably the next lowest. Then, 10 dollars at La Posada. $25 at the Holiday Inn Express Santa Rosa (ouch!). Whenever I get a big charge like this I tell Robbie that we're going to have to get rid of him, but it doesn't bother him at all. Apparently his theology runs towards the doctrine of "eternal security", and he knows we would never get rid of him! At the Scottsdale Renaissance, the fee was $75 per visit. I didn't mind this too much for two reasons: firstly, we were staying on points so the room for the entire week was "free", and, secondly, it is per stay not per day and we were staying for a week. The highest rate I'm aware of is at the Marriott's TownePlace Suites, which is a hefty $100 per visit. Can you imagine staying there for one night and getting hit with a $100 add-on pet fee!

Back to the Quality Inn. Next, I asked them if the motel was really new. No, it's the old Holiday Inn that's been bought. But the beds are new and the rooms have been made-over. You can't beat new. But if you can't get new, then at least try to get refreshed and refurbished!

The price was right and the motel has two additional features that we value. Both are time-savers. Can you guess what they are?

1. The room is on the ground floor with an exterior door, so you can drive your car right up to the room. Believe me, this saves time when you have a dog and a bunch of stuff to carry in.

2. The motel has a restaurant onsite. This saves time for weary travellers at the end of their day. You don't have to get back in the car until morning!

A third bonus at this place is the sign advertised "Free Hot Breakfast" and at this location that means we get a coupon and a credit at the restaurant in the morning. So I can get eggs and pancakes. I figure this is worth at least $10.

Thank you, Lord, for safe travel today. You are wonderful in every way and we stand in awe of You.

Approx. distance travelled: 700 km.

Return Roadtrip!™ Day One: Beauty on Display

Scottsdale, Arizona - Winslow, Arizona

A take-it-easy departure day. Loaded up the Matrix, programmed the Garmin Nuvi for the Radisson Ft. McDowell and got underway.

I wanted to get to the Radisson Ft. McDowell for the Cowboy Breakfast. I followed the Garmin directions, until it declared that we had arrived -- and we were in the middle of nowhere! I tried re-entering the address, and it could not locate it. Our first mis-adventure with the Garmin. Fortunately, I had a general sense of where we were and where we needed to go. So we got to the Radisson, and I had my Cowboy Breakfast. Of course, it wasn't as good as I remembered it -- it never is.

The drive up to Winslow, Arizona on Hwy 87c was indescribably beautiful. Gaspingly beautiful. First, the saguaro cacti. Man, do I love them. Now imagine a whole field of them as far as the eye can see. Then, 30 minutes later, indescribably beautiful winter scenese up in the mountains -- the coniferous trees laden with fresh-fallen snow. Divine Creator, take a bow! (Can "wow" be considered a word of worship -- I hope so!).

We arrived at La Posada in Winslow, Arizona for a reprise visit. This time, we are in the Mary Colter room, complete with a lavish balcony. Very quaint. Also, very cold. Still cold after dinner, so we asked to be moved, and got put in the Alice Fay room, where we stayed last March. Smaller, but warmer. We'll take warm.

In the Turquoise Room, we had a special appetizer. It was corn bread made by native Indians, along with a hummus spread. Not just ordinary corn bread, my friend, not by a long shot. Firstly, it was blue, not yellow, and, secondly, it was thin as paper and rolled up, thinner than paper, in fact. Impossibly thin. And extremely fragile. Our waiter, Nathan, told us it is a paste that is put on a hot rock and then rolled up. It was very delicate. Fun to try.

A good start to the return journey.

Approximate distance travelled: 300 km.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Return Roadtrip!™ Day Zero

We've had a great week in Phoenix/Scottsdale and we'll be departing today. Our destination is an easy 1/2 day drive up to Winslow, Arizona -- "It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me!".

We've got the iPod charged and freshly uploaded with Clapton, the cell phone charged, the Garmin destinations written down and ready for entry-- we're ready to go!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Roadtrip!™ Day Seven: "By The Time I Get To Phoenix"

Winslow, Arizona - Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona

A great breakfast in the Turquoise Room at La Posada -- Arizona Green Chile Eggs -- and on our way to Phoenix. We drive west up to Flagstaff and then head south on the alternate route to Sedona. Beautiful God-created Sedona. All caught up with new age delusions. Such a shame. God's word and God's grace cuts through all the nonsense. God is so wonderful in Himself; why do people feel the need to create alternate spiritualities? If they only knew Him...

We get back on to Highway 17 and head south down into Phoenix. The Ponderosa pines of Flagstaff and northern Arizona give way to the Saguaro cacti of southern Arizona.

We get to Phoenix and arrive at the Renaissance Scottsdale Resort. We learn that we have been upgraded to a suite. Yeah! We'll be here a week, so the extra space is great. The bell hop drives in a golf cart thingy to our parking lot area, and then uses the golf cart thingy to drive our luggage up to our room. Robbie, our cairn terrier, seems to know that we have "arrived". He is very excited. We set him up with a blanket on the sofa, and he settles right in.

We are right across from a lovely mall - The Borgata. We choose a Japanese restaurant and have a fabulous, memorable meal.

We have arrived -- thanks be to God!

Approx. distance travelled: 300 km.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Roadtrip!™ Day Six: Groovy Nuvi

Santa Rosa, New Mexico - Winslow, Arizona

I'm not sure if Groovy Nuvi would be understood as English by someone dropping in on the planet from a previous generation, but anybody familiar with 60s slang (groovy) and 21st cc technology (Garmin Nuvi GPS), will get it.

The GPS has sure paid off. Not just in making it easier to navigate through unfamiliar cities on unfamiliar roads. I pressed one of the map-screen buttons and got a whole dashboard screen of information -- including the GPS' real-time satellite calculations of my speed. Turns out the Toyota Matrix is under-calibrated, and when it indicates I'm going 75 mph, I'm only going 72! This allows me to drive a whole 3 mph faster and maintain a good conscience!

Even more important, I forgot to get gas last night in Santa Rosa and the warning light came on this morning, and we were driving the I-40 Interstate, where the GPS instructions run something like, "drive 400 miles and then turn right"! Yikes! I pressed the Garmin, and press, press, presto! -- a list of all the gas stations both behind us and in front of us with exact distances to a tenth of a mile to each! Turned out there was one up ahead about 25 miles. What a relief to know this. Still, I sweated it out as the Matrix gas guage fell to clear below Empty. I eased off from 75 mph to 65. Good thing I did. When I finally filled-er-up at the Chevron, it took a full 12 gallons and a bit. The gas tank capacity on a 2006 Matrix is... 11.9 gallons.

So, thank you, Garmin Nuvi!

We decided to forego our planned side-trip up to Santa Fe, and instead blew by Albuquerque and stopped at the Big Sky Casino to check out the Restaurant. Not really hungry, but who can pass up a six-egg scrambled eggs-with-sausage-and-bacon-etc. breakfast for $3.99?! We shared it (which means for me it was about a 4 1/2 egg breakfast).

On into Gallup, New Mexico, home of the famous El Rancho Hotel, which housed all the movie stars of a by-gone era, and then to the Arizona State line and on into Winslow, Arizona. The scenery through New Mexico is simply breath-taking. I enjoyed every inch of it. We checked in at the historic La Posada Hotel. We are staying in the Jimmy Doolittle room. I'm not sure if the Lord is trying to tell me something or not. I hope not.

We visited the Standing On The Corner Park and helped the two local businesses that abut it by buying a CD at one and a mug at the other. We went for an exquisite meal at the Turquoise Room that is part of La Posada Hotel.

Tomorrow, it's on down to Phoenix!

Approx. distance travelled: 600 km.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Roadtrip!™ Day Five: Chill Out: Green Chile/Red Chili

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Breakfast at the Sheraton and on our way. Stopped in Clinton Oklahoma at the Cherokee Trading Post where one of us bought a couple of pairs of turquoise earrings. Hint: it wasn't me. On into Texas and lunch in Amarillo at the Bourbon St. Cafe. We had steak and eggs. On into New Mexico and its wonderful 75 mph speed limit. Stopped for the night at the Holiday Inn Express. Diner at the American Comet II. We had a cup of green chile which was out-of-this-world-hot, but good! Also a cup of chili con carne. Both excellent.

Tomorrow we plan to detour up to Santa Fe on our way to Winslow Arizona and La Posada Inn.

Approx. distance travelled: 700 km.

Roadtrip!™ Day Four: "Oklahoma City Is Mighty Pretty"

Tulsa Oklahoma - Oklahoma City Oklahoma

This is our "rest day". Drove down I-44 and then got the bright idea of taking Route 66 the rest of the way from Chandler down to Oklahoma City, since we were only travelling a couple of hours today. Delighted to see one of the tiny Phillips 66 gas stations in Chandler. Passed one of the 66 sights -- the rare round barn in Arcadia, OK.

A few miles past Arcadia we came to a modern Route 66 wonder -- Pops, a crazy glass structure that features a glass wall of filled pop bottles; you have to see it to believe it. Outside is a huge structure that is in the shape of a pop bottle, complete with straw. Inside, there is every kind of pop imaginable, including a healthy stock of pop from Mexico.

Down through Edmond Oklahoma to the Sheraton Midwest City, where I had booked ahead at a non-refundable rate. I was disappointed in the location -- it's in the middle of nowhere, but the room was great. Its a convention hotel so it is empty on weekends. When we ate in the dining room, we had it all to ourselves.

I visited Bricktown, a fledgling tourist area, and, more to my liking, the Cattle Exchange, the largest cattle exchange in the state of Oklahoma. What could be better than being around the smell of cattle in a place where cowboy hats are not out of place?

And, on that rhetorical note, we are finished for the day.

Approx. distance travelled: 200 km.

Roadtrip!™ Day Three: Everything's OK in Tulsa OK

Fenton Missouri - Tulsa, Oklahoma

Breakfast at the Drury and on our way. Stopped in Rolla, MO to check out the Drury there and get gas. Stopped in Lebanon MO at the Walnut Bowls superstore, or, at least, one of them. Detoured down from Springfield to Ozark, MO to eat at Lambert's, "Home of the Throwed Rolls". Huge serving of roast beef, complete with a server throwing hot-out-of-the-oven rolls at us -- what more could a guy ask for?!

After lunch, installed the Garmin 680 GPS "personal travel assistant" and whamo -- worked right out of the box with easy set up. What a thrill the GPS was, to see the road before us all mapped out and voice instructions on when and where to turn. Wow!

Drove down to Tulsa and checked in at the Baymont Inn. Ate at the Lone Star. Dropped by to see our friends the Monroes.

Approx 700 km.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Roadtrip!™ Day Two: Obits for Frosty the Snowman

Auburn, Indiana - Fenton, Missouri

The La Quinta in Auburn was an excellent stay - spacious, clean room on the ground floor. Decent breakfast in the morning.

We hit the road around 7:45 am. and drove down through Indianapolis. Stopped at a McDonalds and had to buy an 85 cent container of milk to put in our coffee -- just like last year. I just don't understand why a national chain doesn't have national standards -- and wanting milk rather than cream in coffee is not exactly an unusual choice.

From Indiana down into Illinois, which always feels weird to me because when I think of Illinois, I think of Chicago, and I think of Indiana as being west of Chicago and therefore Illinois. What is Illinois doing south of Indiana?!

Lunch at a Cracker Barrel in Effingham, Illinois. Got some sale items for our Samaritan's Purse shoe boxes. Saw a working oil well.

On down into Missouri and to St. Louis. St. Louis is a tough town to drive in or through. The downtown is ancient and congested. All the routes in and around St. Louis are complicated with ramps going up, down, around, in and out. And to add to the complexity, beside the main highways they have these perimeter roads that run along side of them. But if you take one, you don't have a nice, easy exit -- you are off on this big long road that leads to who-knows-where.

Got to our destination -- Fenton, Missouri, just south of St. Louis, in good time, so I searched out the nearby Costco, and went to Best Buy, thenCostco, then back to Best Buy then back to Costco and finally bought a Garmin GPS unit, or, personal travel assistant I think they call it. Paid more than I wanted to, but I wanted a bigger screen, and the cheaper one didn't have Canada loaded in it. The GPS should be fun, if I can figure out how to get it going.

Dinner at a Bob Evans beside the Drury Inn & Suites where we are staying for the night.

We drove approx. 700 km today.

Today marked the end of snow, but it's still cold. Toronto was January; Auburn Indiana was February, and Fenton Missouri is like March in Ontario; we hope that tomorrow's destination, Tulsa, will be like April!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Roadtrip!™ Day One: Going to the Dogs

Toronto - Auburn, Indiana - approx. 680 km.

Having just finished a New Testament Theology course at Tyndale, we are on our way to Arizona.

We were on the road by 7am. Crossed into the USA at Sarnia, Ontario / Port Huron, Michigan.

Every border crossing is different. This one, the border guard questioned us about agricultural products, or, to the layman, food. Bananas? We were eating the last two as he queried us. Other food? We dutifully declared our egg sandwich and salmon sandwiches without incident. Then he asked us about dog-food. Yes, we had Eukanuba Weight-Control Mature Dog dogfood with us, in labelled plastic containers.

It was at this moment that US homeland security leaped into action to secure the homeland. Dog food of unknown origins cannot be allowed in the US, so we had to hand it over; the agent confiscated it, and we watched him pour a four-week supply into a garbage can.


Once into the US, we took the first exit to look for a Pet Store. We found one and replenished Robbie's supply.

We're getting good mileage out of our iPod, having pre-loaded a J.I. Packer series on Renewal into it. Our song of the day: Chuck Berry's "I'm So Glad I'm Living in the USA". We start each day with Willie's On The Road Again.

We pulled over in Auburn, Indiana, and used a RoomSaver coupon to get a fine room at the La Quinta Inn ($65). A bit of shopping at the WalMart across the street. Dinner at Applebees.

A good first day -- and Robbie has brand-spanking-new dog food for the trip!

We have much to be thankful for.

Friday, January 11, 2008

George Bush Does It Again

If there was ever any doubt that George Bush is E.I. - Evil Incarnate, this should remove it.

Snow has fallen, for the first time in 100 years, on that bastion outpost of George Bush's evil empire -- Baghdad. The dastardly George Bush isn't content to merely overthrow establishment dictators, he is thwarting the world narrative on global warming. Does this man have no shame?!

George Bush. E.I.

E.I.E.I. - Oh yeah!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Taxes, Schmaxes -- Aren't You Glad You Don't Live in Canada?!

I've just spent the last week of my life doing the bookkeeping for my little software training/consulting company. Since I never intend to sell this business, as far as I can tell the sole reason I have to account for every little McDonald's coffee bought on a business car trip from PEI to Toronto is so I'll know how much money to fork over to the government. Perhaps I should put that the other way around -- so I'll know how much money I get to keep.

In Canada, we have a federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is known in some jurisdictions as a Value Added Tax (VAT). It was 7%, but has been reduced to 6%, and now 5% by our Conservative government in Ottawa. Good for them. But, I still have to account for each penny of GST paid for the period September 2006 - August 2007. Which means my eyeballs have been staring at receipts going back 16 months.

We also have provincial sales tax (PST) in Canada, similar to a US state sales tax. The provincial sales tax varies from province to province. You have to know how much it is so you can extricate the GST. Let me give you an example. You buy something in Ontario, and the total cost is $10.00. There was no PST, so the formula for extracting the GST is 6/106, which should give you something close to 60 cents.

But what if there was PST too? Then, the formula is 6/114 - which accounts for a 6% GST and an 8% PST.

But wait! What if you didn't purchase the item in Ontario, you bought it in PEI? Here, the PST is 10%, so you might think that the formula would be 6/116. And you would be wrong! Why? Because in PEI, the amount that the provincial tax is based on includes the GST paid. That's right, the province of Prince Edward Island TAXES A TAX! So, the formula for PEI is 6/116.6. (Note to math teachers reading this: please feel free to use these examples as a classroom exercise!)

Every quarter I have to account for my sales and revenues, and GST collected, subtract GST paid, and forward the ever-hungry maw of the Federal Government the taxes I have collected on their behalf. You heard that right. Every business owner in Canada is, in effect, a tax collector for the federal government. And we don't get paid for doing it. They don't even thank us! Of course, being a very small business owner with, shall we say, limited staff, I only calculate my GST paid out once a year, so I simply pay them the GST I have collected each quarter. The problem with this? Sometimes I have not billed a client within the time frame for which I must report income. Sometimes there are billing issues that can take weeks to iron out. Yet, the government demands this form be completed, and even sends threatening letters from people in high places if I fail to do so! The second problem is, it's just plain inconvenient. I may not be in my office. I may be overseas. I may be ill. I may be indisposed. Yet the grinding wheels of government turn inexorably.

I am always happy to have a business trip to the States or oversees. The accounting is so much simpler!

The time spent performing GST calculations, and the money spent on accountants to deal with the GST, amounts to a huge drain on productivity in Canada -- as is all the minutae of accounting that goes into the reporting of a small Canadian business.

I'm all for simplifying the Canadian tax system.

On the positive side, if you would like to know what I was doing in Calais, Maine on September 11th, 2006, I can give you a detailed blow-by-blow account. And I've got receipts to back it up.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008 is launched!

My Christian music website is now up and running. To check it out, go to

The site was built using iWeb and is uploaded to the .Mac site. It's too easy!

Happy New Year, everyone!

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"