Friday, March 29, 2013

A Coffee Break in Maryville Tennessee

We were out cruising around and exploring Maryville Tennessee, stopping at Tractor Supply, a home decorator’s shop and an antique ‘mall’, with plans to catch a mid-afternoon matinee at the movie theatre.  We didn’t want to spoil our dinner after the movie but we had time to spare and we needed a little snack before the show…

I remembered a coffee house in Maryville that we’d passed on numerous occasions…but we’d never stopped by for a coffee break.
This is the Vienna Coffee House on High Street in Maryville.  This former residence has been repurposed and it is very popular with the locals and especially with the students from nearby Maryville College.

But…don’t let this cozy looking coffee house fool you…it’s much more than meets the eye!
Laurie took this photo from the front door looking back at the bakery counter and ‘home’ of Vienna Coffee’s barista’s.

Vienna Coffee Company not only operates this coffee house, but the company is a Craft Roaster…a member of the Roaster’s Guild of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.  The company roasts coffee daily using gourmet coffee beans imported from the tropics around the world. 
In addition to coffee, the Coffee House itself offers fresh baked goods, a couple of sandwich options, retail coffee sales, gifts, coffee equipment and free internet.  Dawn is on the left waiting for her large no foam skim milk latte.

Vienna Coffee’s commercial roasting operation offers Espresso, single-origin and estate coffees, rich flavored gourmet coffees, Organic, Fair Trade, Shade Grown, Bird Friendly, Rainforest Alliance Certified and Swiss Water Decaffeinated coffees as well as their own private blends.  The company has many outlets throughout eastern Tennessee…selling their coffee by the cup and/or by the bag.  Kroger is a major area retailer for the brand.
This is the little coffee bar near the service counter.  I ordered a cup of black coffee, ($1.49), and filled up here.  I was told that it was a bottomless cup…I could just refill as many times as I wanted.  That is a great deal!

On the other hand, Dawn felt that her large no foam skim milk latte was the same size as Starbuck’s grande version, but it was more expensive.  Also, the barista failed to deliver a ‘no-foam’ latte.
The Coffee Shop has several nooks and crannies for coffee lovers to hang out, work on their laptops, or just converse… The place has a nice comfortable ‘homey’ feeling to it.  The atmosphere makes you want to just sit back and relax! 

Here’s another view of the lounging areas at the Vienna Coffee House.  In warm and sunny weather, there is a large patio area outside for customers to enjoy the outdoors. 

The Coffee House also regularly schedules open microphone and live music events.  It’s located at 312 High Street in Maryville and it’s open from 7 am to 7 pm Monday thru Wednesday; 7 am to 10 pm Thursday thru Saturday, and; from 11 am to 5 pm on Sunday.  
This is Laurie’s Latte with her sugar cookie. (Note the design topping her Latte) Laurie and I really enjoyed the coffee…and we bought a bag of fresh ground coffee to bring home with us!  Dawn had a peanut butter cookie with her Latte and I had a blueberry muffin with mine.  The baked goods did not measure up to the quality of the coffee…

In June of this year, the Vienna Coffee Company will be moving, consolidating their roasting operations and the Coffee Shop in one building.  It will be at 212 College Street in Maryville.  The new expanded 6,000 sq. foot café will offer a conference room and an acoustic music venue, along with similar nooks and crannies that are so popular with the Coffee Shop’s patrons.  Roasting operations will be in the same building…one floor down.  The food menu will be slightly expanded and the facility will have a drive-thru window.  
The new location will only be a couple of blocks away from the current Coffee House in the former Maryville Furniture Company building.  For more information re: the Vienna Coffee Company, just go to
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by to explore this growing business and to share a cup of coffee with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Great Trips – New Zealand IX

One of the highpoints of our New Zealand trip…or adventure…was our visit to Milford Sound.  Milford Sound is a fjord in the southwest corner of the South Island.  It lies within Fiordland National Park, the Piopiotahi Marine Reserve and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site.  Following an international survey, it was listed as one of the world’s top travel destinations by Trip Advisor.  Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination.  Rudyard Kipling had called it the Eighth Wonder of the World!

The first challenge is to get to Milford Sound.  Unless you own a large yacht, you have 2 choices… You can drive the 76 miles from Te Anau in a rented car or you can take a tour bus.  This photo from Wikipedia shows the inside of the Homer Tunnel which leads down to Milford Sound from the mountains.

This is the scariest tunnel we’ve ever driven through.  It’s narrow, it’s damp and the walls are unlined granite.  The ¾ mile long tunnel was started in 1935 and it wasn’t completed until 1954…with time off for WWII.  Two RV’s or two busses going in opposite directions cannot pass each other… There are stoplights at each end of the tunnel that operate in the summer but having vehicles line up at the eastern portal in the winter and spring is too dangerous…due to avalanches.
Since we traversed the Homer Tunnel, they’ve added lights on the ceiling, a satellite phone and fire extinguishers.  When a bus caught fire in the tunnel with no lights for the tourists to guide them on their walk to safety, these improvements were deemed prudent.
I almost forgot!  There is one other travel option if you want to go to Milford Sound… Another photo from Wikipedia shows the 2,565 foot long runway at the Milford Sound Airport.  That would be one heck of a landing and takeoff…not to mention the flight over the mountains!
This is the ‘Milford Wanderer’.  The brochure at the time of our visit referred to this vessel as a sailing scow…but my research doesn’t confirm this designation.  This is a sail assisted motorized ship with a fairly flat bottom…  We choose this over the other options in Milford Sound, and there were several, because it was slower, took longer and it had sails.  It reminded us of another time and place…much like Milford Sound. 

From what I could gather from the website, RealJourneys now uses the ‘Wanderer’ and a similar ship, the ‘Mariner’, for overnight adventures.  Rates start at $189.00 per adult.  For more information, you can just go to  The same website offers other cruising options on faster and more modern boats as well.  A 1 hour and 40 minute scenic cruise starts at $70.00 for an adult.
For perspective, here's another photo ‘borrowed’ from Wikipedia… This shows the head of Milford Sound with the town, airport and the junction of the Cheddau and Arthur Rivers.  The population of Milford Sound is about 120.  The small port area to the right of the waterfalls at the left side of the photo is where all of the cruises begin and end… The scenery speaks for itself!
Visiting Milford Sound would be exciting and amazing at any time…but good timing and luck can contribute to one’s enjoyment of the place.  Here’s the conundrum… If it’s all blue skies and there hasn’t been any rain recently, there are only 2 permanent waterfalls falling down the side of the fiord.  If it’s cloudy and raining, there are literally hundreds of waterfalls falling down the cliffs.  We were very lucky… It was both cloudy and sunny and there had been plenty of rain! 

The mountain at the center of the photo is Mitre Peak…so named for its resemblance to the head ware of Christian Bishops.  Mitre Peak is 5,151 feet above the fiord below.
This is just one of the many many waterfalls that we saw during our excursion on the Milford Wanderer… They ranged from those that fell from the cliffs but just blew away in the mist before hitting the fiord to some very impressive waterfalls such as Stirling Falls, (508 feet), and Lady Bowen Falls, (531 feet)…the two permanent falls along the fiord. 
Here’s another view of the water coming off the cliffs along the sides of Milford Sound.  The mean annual rainfall at Milford Sound is 268 inches or…22 feet 3 inches!  A total of 10 inches of rain in a single day is not uncommon.  The town is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world…
Laurie took this photo of a sea cave along the fiord…

FYI… Milford Sound is 9.3 miles long…stretching from the town to the open sea.  The sound or fiord is lined by sheer rock faces on either side that exceed 3,900 feet.  In addition to Mitre Peak, other notables mountains along was include ‘The Elephant’ at 4,977 feet and ‘The Lion’ at 4,272 feet.
This is the view from the mouth of Milford Sound… You are looking west across the Tasman Sea toward Australia.  The Tasman Sea is about 1,200 miles wide.  If you were to look at a map, Milford Sound’s closest city in Australia is Hobart, the capital of Tasmania… Milford Sound is actually more southerly than Hobart.  It was windy and blustery as we entered the open sea. 
This was a great tour up the fiord!  No rushing, very few ‘bus tourists’ due to the length of the cruise, laid back passengers, sails raised near the Tasman Sea… Plus we had a nice mix of clouds, drizzle/light rain and sunshine.  Laurie actually joined the crew to help them raise the sails!
This is Stirling Falls…one of the 2 permanent waterfalls mentioned earlier.  The captain of the ‘Milford Wanderer’ gently slid the bow of the ship under the front edge of the waterfall.  The passengers loved it! (Photo borrowed from the RealJourneys website)
In various places the cliffs and mountains along the sides of Milford Sound alternated bright green with vegetation versus rock slopes stripped bare.  The vast amounts of rain soften the soil and moss’s hold on the cliffs and avalanches periodically strip segments of the slopes of all vegetation. 
Lucky tourists can view penguins, dolphins, fur seals and occasional whales while cruising on Milford Sound.  We did see quite a few New Zealand Fur Seals basking on the many giant rocks along the shore of the sound.  Technically, they are Australian Fur Seals…but in Australia they’re referred to as Southern Fur Seals.

Although they were once hunted and endangered, these animals are no longer listed as a threatened or endangered species.  The average female weighs between 66 and 110 pounds and they measure 5 feet long.  A typical male weighs around 277 pounds and they’re about 6.5 feet long.  Males as large as 550 pounds have been reported.  These seals are great divers…with the females able to dive over 1,000 feet and stay down for 9 minutes…and the males able to stay down for 15 minutes and reach depths of almost 1,250 feet.  That’s close to a quarter mile under water! 
Yes… I did lift this photo from Wikipedia… This is one last look at Milford Sound on an almost perfectly sunny day.  Spectacular!!  Be sure and enlarge this photo...
After a great day on Milford Sound, we drove back up NZ Route 94 for our second night at Te Anau.  I do believe that I forgot to mention that this drive has been rated as one of the most photographic drives in the world.  We’re sure glad that we didn’t take a bus!

In the next edition, we’ll be headed south…to Invercargill and the edge of civilization.
Just click on any of these photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing another segment of our New Zealand adventure with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, March 25, 2013

Back Roads Dining Opportunity…

Another early spring day… Laurie, Dawn Marie and I were out exploring Meigs County Tennessee.  Dawn Marie used her fancy Samsung Galaxy 3 smart phone to plot out all 38 of the county’s sites that are listed in Wikipedia as being included on the National Register of Historic Places.   We treated the experience much like a scavenger hunt!  How many listed places could we find and 'count coup' on…?

I’ll be blogging more about our search and our historic ‘finds’ in future blogs.  The key fact for this particular blog is that sometime around 2 pm, we found ourselves in Decatur Tennessee. (Decatur is the Meigs County Seat)  We were hungry and we started searching for a place to eat.  I hadn’t found any places in town that were recommended in Trip Advisor so we cruised up and down through town for a promising looking restaurant…
We settled on this restaurant, the Shoreline Café.  It looked nice on the outside and it was obviously really well built.  It’s just south of downtown Decatur on Tennessee Highway 58.

By the way, I define the term ‘back roads’ as anywhere more than a couple of miles from an expressway or a large city. (i.e. on roads less traveled)
It’s a 2-story restaurant…as shown above...with a balcony area above the entrance and in the back.  The main seating area is open to the 2nd story ceiling.  The waiter told us that the building had served as apartments, an ice cream shop, a restaurant, etc. before the current operator took over…
Chalk boards both outside and inside, plus posted signs listed a number of specials.  I particularly liked the specials shown above.  I should have asked about the “Catch Your Limit” sign while we were there…but I figured it out after re-examining the menu.  The terms “Large Mouth” and “Small Mouth”, refer to the sizes of Shoreline Café’s hamburgers.  The smaller burgers/’small mouth’ are only $2.99 each and the French fries are $1.49 each. The deal offered is a $2.41 discount vs. individual pricing for the burgers and fries…

I do know that $10.99 for all of the Fried Fish you can eat…with French fries, hush puppies, white beans and cole slaw…is a good deal! 
Dawn Marie first ordered a burger…but after learning that ‘medium well’ was her best option…she prefers her burgers and beef no more than medium rare…she went with the Meat Loaf Sandwich on Texas Toast with Mayonnaise…plus cole slaw, ($3.99), and a side of Shoreline Signature Battered Fries. ($1.99) The meat loaf sandwich was just fine and the fries were OK… (I tried them and really liked them)
Laurie ordered the Catfish Platter, (fried), with cole slaw, battered fries and hush puppies. ($7.99) This was quite a bit of food for the money…and Laurie liked it all…even the hushpuppies! (Hushpuppies generally aren’t her favorite)

The prices at the Shoreline Café are very reasonable.  Other entrée options included a Gulf Shrimp Platter ($8.99), Chicken Your Way ($7.99), and a Hamburger Steak and Baked Potato ($7.99). There were no individual items on the menu, whether it is a sandwich, salad or entrée that cost more than $8.99!
There are 5 “Meal Platters” on the menu.  This is the Southern Fried Chicken version… Other choices are Pork Chops, Chicken Fried Steak, Hamburger Steak and Meatloaf.  All of these sizable meals are priced at $6.99.  These entrees include your choice of meat, 2 sides and a dinner roll or corn bread.  I chose the corn bread (ok), mashed potatoes with white gravy (nice), green beans (also nice) and a fried double boneless chicken breast.  The chicken breast was very nice indeed!

OK…This isn’t fancy food, but it is solid satisfying fare at very reasonable prices!  We enjoyed our meals…and service was friendly and helpful.  If we’re in the area again during the meal hour, we will stop by again. 
Shoreline Café is located at 18194 Highway 58 North in Decatur Tennessee.  Phone: 423-334-2361.  I couldn’t find a website but for those of you that are on Facebook, you can go to for more information.
Just click on any of the food photos to share lunch with us…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, March 22, 2013

American Warships – ca. 1900 to 1920

When I was going through my postcard collection and writing about my hometown, Jackson Michigan, I ran across a number of interesting and historical postcards.  For this blog, I thought that I’d write about a few early 20th Century United States naval vessels…while covering those who wrote and received the postcards.

This postcard was mailed in May of 1908 to Miss Therese Hildmer in Frankenmuth Michigan from Will D. in Los Angeles California.  Other than providing a new address for the writer, all Will did was to provide the comment on the card above. 

This is the USS Kearsarge, the lead ship in her class of pre-dreadnought battleships and the second of 5 US Naval vessels using that name.  The first 'Kearsarge' was a sloop of war from the Civil War.  This was the ship that finally ran down and sank the CSS Alabama, a Confederate raider that managed to sink or capture 65 union vessels before being sunk.
This 2nd Kearsarge was commissioned in 1900, decommissioned in 1909, refitted and re-commissioned in 1915 and then finally decommissioned again in 1920.  The ship was 375 feet long and had an average crew of 554 men.  Her main armament consisted of 4 – 13” Guns plus 46 others and 4 torpedo tubes.  Guests who boarded her in her early years included King George I of Greece, King Carlos of Portugal, the Prince of Wales/later King George V of Great Britain and Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany.  The USS Kearsarge was also part of America’s “Great White Fleet”, but more on that later.

The Kearsarge served primarily as a training ship during WWI.  In 1920, her armaments were removed and she was converted into a ‘crane ship’, and was later designated Crane Ship I. (Photo above) With her 250 ton crane she continued to work for the navy until around 1950.  She was scrapped in 1955…after 55 years of service in one form or another. 
Incidentally, in the honor of the first Kearsarge, this battleship was the only battleship not to be named after a state.  Also, my brother Robert served on CV-33, the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge during the Vietnamese War.
This postcard was mailed in April of 1908 to Miss Melena A. Norton in Kenesaw Nebraska from Katie W. Thrall in San Diego California.  Katie wrote: “We are in San Diego.  We have had a good time.  The fleet was grand.  Love to all…”

The USS Vermont was commissioned in 1904 and decommissioned in 1920…and then scrapped in accord with the Washington Naval Treaty which attempted, unsuccessfully, to limit the size of the world’s navies.  She was 456 feet long and had a crew of 880.  Her top speed was 18 knots and she was armed with 4 - 12” guns plus 54 other guns!  In 1913, she and 4 other battleships entered the Mexican port of Veracruz to ‘protect American interests’.  Her landing force of 308 men and 12 officers engaged in a pitched battle with the forces of the Mexican dictator and our troops earned 2 Medals of Honor.  During WWI, the Vermont served as an Engineering Training ship in Chesapeake Bay and at the end of the war, she made 4 voyages to Europe to bring home 5,000 of our troops.

The USS Vermont and the USS Kearsarge were both part of the Great White Fleet. (Shown above at sea) Today this would be called 'gunboat diplomacy'.  Teddy Roosevelt put together a US Battle Fleet to circumnavigate the globe…16 battleships in 2 squadrons plus escorts.  He wanted to demonstrate America’s military power and especially our blue water capabilities… Japan was his primary concern.  The hulls were painted white as that was our peace-time color scheme.  Much was learned about design, gunnery, refueling, etc.  This ‘exercise’ stretched from December, 1907 until February, 1909.  
This postcard mailed in May of 1908 to Mrs. E. J. Kistenmacher, aka Aggie, in Davenport Iowa from her sister, ‘Helen’ in Holstein Iowa.  Helen wrote about ‘Rollo’, the baby and pretty much the whole family having whooping cough.  It sure didn’t sound too promising.  I hope that everyone survived…

This is a Pennsylvania Class Armored Cruiser, the USS West Virginia.  She was commissioned in 1905, decommissioned in 1920 and scrapped in 1930.  This ship was 504 feet long, had a top speed of 22 knots and a crew of 830 men.  She spent most of her time in Pacific Fleet/Asiatic Squadron until WWI.  During the war, she was outfitted with 4 seaplanes and catapults and served on convoy escort duties.  She also made 9 troop and supply trips to and from Europe.  In total, she brought 12,000 veterans home after the war. 
Two other US Naval vessels have been named after the state of West Virginia.  One was a Colorado Class Battleship that served during WWII and the other is an Ohio Class Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine.  The submarine is actually longer and heavier than this armored cruiser was…
This postcard was mailed in September 1907 to Mrs. J. L. Lankford in Springfield Illinois from a Mrs. Marsh in Bremerton Washington.  Mrs. Marsh wrote that “We were on this boat.  It’s fine.  This is 16 miles from Seattle across the sound.”

This is the USS Charleston, a “Protected Cruiser”, the first of its type to be built.  It was built in San Francisco by the Union Iron Works based on a British design.  She was 426 feet long, weighed 9,700 tons, cruised at 22 knots and had a crew of 673.  Her main armament was 14 - 6” guns.  She was part of the Pacific Squadron.
In 1906, the Charleston carried Secretary of State Elihu Root to South America on a series of goodwill visits.  In 1907, this was the first US Navy ship to attend Portland Oregon’s Rose Festival…a practice that has continued through the years.  During WWI, The USS Charleston saw lots of convoy escort duty.  She was part of the 1st American Expeditionary Force to France.
When the Charleston was scrapped in 1930, her hull was first used as a breakwater at the mouth of the Powell River at the north end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada.  However, when it appeared that it might sink in the channel, it was towed and beached on the island…where the rusted hull can still be seen today.
This postcard was mailed in May of 1908 to Miss Etta Roche in Chicago Illinois from someone in San Francisco who apparently just used their initials…”RJOR” is my best guess.  Based on the length and depth of the message, the postcard must have been sent by a male...  It read “This ship is in the bay here now…with love to all.”

The USS South Dakota was commissioned in 1908, was renamed the USS Huron in 1920, and she was decommissioned in 1927.  She is a Pennsylvania Class Armored Cruiser.   The South Dakota was 504 feet long, cruised at 22 knots and had a crew of 830 men.  Her main armament consisted of 4 – 8” guns…but she had 46 others as well plus 2 torpedo tubes.  Much of her time was spent in the Asiatic Fleet but she did provide escort service and guarded South American ports during WWI. 
When the USS South Dakota was scrapped in 1930, she suffered a similar fate as the USS Charleston.  Her hull was sunk in the mouth of British Columbia’s Powell River to serve as a breakwater.  The hull later sunk completely following a storm.
Just click on any of the postcard photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for this review of early 20th Century US Navy warships plus a bit of history.  Obviously, the use of warship postcards was all the rage in 1907 and 1908.
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Looking For Pizza! Casual Dining…

Laurie and I keep looking for a good thin crust pizza here in East Tennessee.  Living in St. Louis, and Chicago, plus having consumed some very nice pizza pies in upper New York State and in south Florida, we’d like to find something comparable here in our new home stomping grounds. 

We’ve tried a lot of local places to no avail.  The Palace was only OK and Big Ed’s just isn’t what it used to be… Of course, we realize that everyone has their very own opinion and taste when it comes to pizza.  It’s partly what the pizzas are like that you’re used to eating as well…
We went out to for a casual dinner the other night with our friends Edera and Dennis.  Our choice was the Smoky Mountain Brewery in Maryville Tennessee.  We stopped there with friends a year or two ago when another restaurant that we’d planned to eat at was closed.  We had vague memories of a decent pepperoni and sausage pizza...and we hoped to recapture that impression.

Laurie and I have stopped for lunch a couple of times at the Smoky Mountain Brewery in Turkey Creek/Knoxville Tennessee.  We had some pretty decent burgers… 
This is the inside of the restaurant.  Sorry for the dark photo…I took it…but you get the idea.  The Smoky Mountain Brewery is a casual brew pub/sports bar setting. 

The 4 area Smoky Mountain Brewery locations are part of the Copper Cellar family of restaurants.  Other company restaurants include Cherokee Grill, Chesapeake’s and the popular Calhoun’s locations. (Note: Neither of us cares for Calhoun’s BBQ, which is one of their specialties.  Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by our Kansas City and Memphis experiences as well as by the BBQ we’ve had from our friend Larry, aka ‘Big Dude’.
Dennis ordered from the Snacks and Appetizers menu.  He had the Roasted Chicken Quesadillas with green peppers, onions and cheddar cheese as his entrée. ($8.50) He said that it was just OK…and that it had a vaguely ‘off’ taste that he just couldn’t pinpoint.  (Dennis was in the restaurant business for many years) 

Both Dennis and I sampled one of the Brewery’s beers.  We liked the fact that they gave us a taste of our selected brew before actually ordering a stein of beer.  The beer was quite nice…
Edera ordered the Brewmaster’s Club Salad. ($9.50) She said that it was a nice salad.  She’d figured that it was a safe bet.  It included ham, roasted chicken, bacon, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, black olives, banana peppers and cheddar cheese.  She had her blue cheese dressing on the side…

In addition to Snacks and Appetizers and Garden Fresh Salads, other items on the menu include Wings, Sandwiches and Subs, 6 Brewery Entrees, Burgers, Vegetarian, Italian Selections (pasta), plus of course, Pizza and Calzones.  FYI, the most expensive item on the menu is the 12 oz. ribeye steak with mashed potatoes and the choice of another side. ($22.50)
Then of course, there are the sections entitled 'Hand Tossed Pizza and Calzone' and 'Specialty Pies and Calzone'.  That of course, is what Laurie and I were looking for!
So, as planned, Laurie and I ordered a large 16” pizza…our usual with pepperoni plus double sausage. ($23.50) Pizza tastes are much like politics…everyone has an opinion!  Laurie and I agreed that we couldn’t taste the pepperoni.  The pizza looked good, the sausage had a nice flavor and the crust was pretty decent.  However, we both felt that there was too much tomato sauce…she felt that the sauce was too sweet but I didn’t think so… We also thought that the pizza lacked the requisite amount of cheese. 

Wait a minute!  Didn’t I just say that the most expensive item on the Smoky Mountain Brewery’s menu was the Ribeye at $22.50?  A large plain cheese pizza is $14.50 and it’s $3.00 per additional ingredient…or $23.50 for our pizza.  Based on that scale, a large meat lovers pizza, with ham, bacon, sausage, pepperoni and ground beef…would cost $29.50! 
Our search for a really good thin crust pizza here in East Tennessee continues… We welcome any suggestions regarding restaurants in the area that serve a really good pizza!
The Smoky Mountain Brewery in Maryville Tennessee is located at 743 Watkins Road.  Phone: 8656-238-1900.  For more information, go to the website at
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, March 18, 2013

Great Trips – New Zealand VIII

Continuing south from Kingston and Lake Wakatipu, we ventured further into New Zealand’s South Island Lake Country.  There are at least 9 major lakes in the Otago, Fiordland and Southland areas of the island.  One of them, Lake Hauroko is 1,519 feet deep.  In the USA, only Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe are deeper.

While we saw a plethora of sheep farms and a number of deer farms, this was the only elk farm that we came across. 

As in the USA, New Zealanders introduced many exotic animals over the years, many for hunting purposes.  New Zealand’s only native mammals are bats.  There are literally thousands of deer farms, mostly red deer, throughout the country.  Elk farms are much less numerous.
Because of their unique native flora and fauna, New Zealand has few hunting restrictions re: season or bag limits.  This effort to protect native plants and animals seems a bit too late…but hunting is now very popular.  In addition to Red Deer and Elk, (Wapiti), those so inclined can hunt Fallow Deer, Rusa Deer, Sambar, Sika Deer, Whitetails, wild pigs and Tahr…a Himalayan import related to wild goats.  
Along the road to our destination for the evening, we came across this cruise boat on Lake Manapouri.  We wanted to experience one of the fiord cruises and this was one of our options.  The Doubtful Sound cruise sounded great but we had a timing issue so we passed up this option for the one we’ll share with you on our next New Zealand blog.  We wish we’d had time to take both cruises…

The Doubtful Sound cruise begins with a ride across Lake Manapouri…another of the big lakes on the South Island.  Then you board a bus lakeside, (elevation 583 feet), and cross over the Wilmot Pass, (elevation 2,201 feet), and then descend to Doubtful Sound.  Based on the photos, the view of the sound from the pass is very impressive.  For information on Doubtful Sound cruises, just go to
This is the view of Lake Te Anau from our Bed and Breakfast in the town of Te Anau.  This lake is the 2nd largest on the South Island at 133 square miles.

Te Anau, (the town), has a fixed population of around 2,000 and it’s on the east shore of the lake...with the mountains across the lake.  In season, the town’s head count can swell to 5,000 on any given night.  Of note is the nearby Te Anau Wildlife Center where bird lovers can view the Takahe…a very rare flightless bird. ( We did see it but our photos don’t show much as it stays in high grass in its enclosure.  
This was our Bed and Breakfast in Te Anau…The Cats Whiskers.  Our accommodations were very nice and they served us the closest thing to an American breakfast that we had on the entire trip.  Current rates appear to range between $115 NZ to $180 NZ.  That converts to $95 US to $150 US.  For more information, you can go to 
You might ask…Why is this Bed and Breakfast named the Cat’s Whiskers?  Well, if you don’t like cats, this inn won’t be your cup of tea!  As we were unloading our rental car, this cat decided to make herself home in the back window of the car.  She didn’t really want to leave either… There were several other cats on premises, although not in the inn itself.  As it happens, we like cats so this encounter was a little treat for us…
One big attraction at Te Anau is the limestone caverns on the other side of the lake.  The photo above is of the stream flowing from the caves into the lake.  You can see the tour boat beyond that took us across the lake.  The caves closest to the lake contain a glowworm colony.  Part of the experience is being poled on a punt or flat bottom boat through the cave with the glow worms doing their thing on the cave’s ceiling above you.  It was interesting and it is a popular tour.  The adult tour rate is $75 NZ or roughly $62 US.  For more information, go to  I’d show you a photo of the cave but they just didn’t come out…
This is actual proof that we were both on this adventure!  Some nice tourist offered to take our photo… On this tour, Laurie and I met the only people we’ve ever come across from New Caledonia in the South Pacific.  We also met a number of young men and women, often traveling alone or in pairs, who were off on a post collegiate exploration of the rest of the world.  Sadly, we didn’t encounter more than one or two young Americans on one of these adventures…
One more photo of Lake Te Anau… Te Anau is the starting point for 2 of New Zealand’s famous walks, hikes or treks.  New Zealanders refer to this as ‘tramping’… The Milford Track, (33 miles, 3 – 4 days), and the Kepler Track, (37 miles, 3 -4 days), begin here… So does the 76 mile road to Milford Sound, our next destination!

If you're into hiking, for additional information on the Milford Track, just go to  For the Kepler Track, check it out at
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for another glimpse of a portion of our New Zealand adventure!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, March 15, 2013

Brunch Construction w/Leftovers!

Cereal gets boring… Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches aren’t bad, if you eat them once a week.  Toast and peanut butter with or without some jam is nice now and then.  I make cheese eggs and toast about once a week…

But, every now and then, I check to see what’s leftover in the fridge…and instead of a breakfast, I make up or create a brunch for myself. (Note: Laurie usually avoids these creations!)
The other day, I took some leftover pasta with peas and chicken, browned it in the frying pan…covered it with a couple of slices of pepper jack cheese and then I placed two over-easy fried eggs on top. 
To complete this brunch, I added my usual shots of Tabasco.  The eggs and cheese made the dish nice and creamy with the Tabasco and pepper jack cheese adding a bit of pop to the creation.  I’d rate this brunch at about an 8.0 on my flavor scale.
Just yesterday, I put together another brunch creation.  This time I started with a couple of Laurie’s English muffins...toasted and buttered.  Then I fried/reheated a slab of leftover meatloaf.  It too was a ‘creation’, as we’d experimented with taco flavored pork sausage instead of the usual hot pork sausage with the ground beef in Laurie’s most recent meatloaf.   
OK…It’s an English muffin topped with a slice of meatloaf, then covered with chili sauce that is normally used with hot dogs, plus a layer of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and then finally topped with 2 over-easy eggs. (I did add Tabasco after taking the photos) This brunch topped my flavor scale at an 8.9…a bit higher than my previous creation!

Just click on any of these photos to enlarge them…
I never promised pretty or light brunches!  Thanks for stopping by and risking heartburn and clogged arteries with me.  I’ll have to eat healthy foods for a couple of days just to detox the system…
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave