Sunday, July 29, 2007


The mature trees lined the roads, providing shade and calming present as we drove towards Williamsburg, Virginia. It was a pleasant July morning.

The Historic Area has been restored to show case Williamsburg's 18th century glory as the capital of Great Britain's largest and wealthiest colony. There are stores, taverns, trade shops (dressmakers, blacksmiths), and demonstrations of how wooden wheels and carts were assembled. Visitors have many options of either walk around the town at their own pace or ride a horse-drawn carriage or stage wagon while learning how Virginians lived from 1699-1780.
We visited the Governor's Palace, the home of seven royal governors and Virginia's first two state governors, Patrick Hentry and Thomas Jefferson.

The above was re-enactment of when Lord Dunmore arrives in the Capitol, unhappy with the House of Burgesses for their protesting the closing of Boston Harbor by the British government. Confrontations on the streets between the patriots and the loyalists as the citizens of Virginia experienced the turmoil and challenges of a new society and government after the collapse of British Royal government.

In front of the House of Burgesses at the Capitol, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason and other Virginia leaders debated the issues of freedom and liberties for Virginians. These events led to the declarations that the colonies were no longer under British rule and Virginians were citizens of a self-governing republic. The patriots were ready to break free from Great Britain and about to establish a free and independent United States of America. July 4, 2007 marks exactly 231 years since the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


A photo taken from the viewing deck of the CN Tower. I thought the shape of the two buildings on the right was interesting. Actually the tallest building could represent my youngest brother, VL, then the short rectangle is me, always have to be different and the other two buildings would be my sister, CH and other brother, TL. (What am I talking about? Blame it on the lack of oxygen for being in high altitude.)

The above Hippo (sightseeing bus) was a 90-minute tour around the City and then a splash into Lake Ontario. It is operated by the Toronto Hippo Tours. It is costly with $38 per ticket for adult and $25 for children (3-12 years old). It was different compared to the regular sightseeing bus or trolley tour as we were able to see the City both on land and from the waterways. The tour guide told us a way to remember all the surrounding lakes. She said to think of the word HOMES - Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Superior. If your budget permits, consider riding the Hippo as most of the children would enjoy the tour.

This photo was taken while the Hippo was on the Lake (you could see the rear view mirror of the bus). The decoration was part of the upcoming 2nd Annual Chinese Lantern Festival scheduled for July 19th to October 7th. I plan to talk to my brother and perhaps in the future we could attend the Festival together as a family vacation. The annual Festival is a showcase of over forty life-size illuminated lanterns, with nightly entertainment of dance, music and acrobats from China, food and crafts market and other Chinese traditional ceremonies such as Tea Ceremony and martial arts demonstrations. I thought my nephew, JL would enjoy such activity. For more information, please visit or call 1-866-666-8996.

From the top-of-the Arch in St. Louis to the Top of CN Tower. A visit to Toronto would not be complete without a trip to the top of the CN Tower. We were told that the wait would be approximately 45 minutes from the time we purchased tickets, waiting to go thru security plus standing in line for the elevators. Turn out it was not too bad as the lines were moving quickly. Being an engineer, my husband enjoys visiting tall structures. We had visited a few structures such as Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Arch in St. Louis, and the Space Needle in Seatle. While living in New York, I never took the tour to the top of the World Trade Center. Sadly, I thought the buildings would always be there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


A great view of the waterfront and Lake Ontario from the CN Tower's observation deck.

I read somewhere that Americans love their automobiles and we are a country of mobility. How fortunate and blessed that we could pack up our cars, at any moment (forgetting about our stinking jobs and all the obligations), traveling from New York to California, enjoy the beauty of our country, stop when we need to rest with plenty of accomodations along the way.

Tracing the routes we took during our week-long vacation the first week of July, I found that the trip had a shape of a right triangle with the drive from St. Louis to Toronto thru Indiana/Michigan was the largest square (hypotenuse) and the other two legs were the drive from Toronto to Virginia thru Niaraga Falls/Buffalo, New York and the 15-hour driving from Virginia back home to St. Louis thru Indiana/Kentucky. This is the pythagorean theorem formula developed by the Greek mathematican named Pythagoras. (I have no idea what I wrote but it sounded so intellectual. Ha ha)

On Friday, June 30th, my husband and I took the afternoon off. We already packed the day before and were ready for our long trip. We went thru Illinois towards I-70, without normal rush hours traffic, with a couples of reststops, we crossed into Indiana at around 8:30 p.m.

We decided to spend a night at Country Inns, a brand new hotel near Indianapolis airport. The next morning, after a quick continental breakfast, we were on our way. We took I-69 towards Ft. Wayne, crossing into Michigan. At the Welcome Center, we picked up a map and learned of the 50th Anniversary of the Mackinac Bridge.

A little more than 7.5 hours later, with an hour stop for lunch in Flint, Michigan, we arrived at the border. After about 45 minutes at the border, we finally crossed into Canada. The lines were long with a bit of confusion because many 18-wheelers that took up two lanes. The border agent asked a few questions such as, “Where do you live? Where are you going? What's the purpose of your visit? How long are you going to be there? Do you have a valid U.S. passport?”.

We received our renewed passports the 2nd week of June. While so many people experiencing delays and problems with their applications, we were lucky that our renewals took only 8 weeks. We did not have to show our passports to get into Canada. I was not ready to show my chubby face photo anyway.

We took Provincial Route 402 East into Ontario. We stayed at the Crown Plaza. When I booked the hotel, the website listed that the hotel was only 10 minutes from downtown Toronto. (Travel tips - when booking over the internet, be sure to check whether the hotel is undergoing major renovations as parking became a big problem for us. The hotel offers valet parking only and the main entrance was closed due to construction.) We learned to take the bus and transfer to the trains. The train system in Toronto is so much simple compared to New York subway.

We visited the Hockey Hall of Fame, CN Tower, rode the Happy Hippo, enjoyed dim sum in Chinatown on Sunday morning and celebrated Canada 140th Anniversay on July 1st. On Tuesday, July 3rd, we drove 1.5 hours from Ontario to Niagara Falls. We took a few photos before crossing the Rainbow Bridge, back home to America.

The drive from Niagara Falls to Pennsylvania was only about 2 hours. We continued on I-79 towards Pittsburgh, then reached Youngstown, Ohio three hours later. We briefly passed thru Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, then crossed into Maryland at around 5:30 p.m.

When we were about three hours from Williamsburg, Virginia, there was a back up due to an accident on the I-70. Both sides of the highway were closed and we were held up there for 1.5 hours. We got out and paced around our car. Most of the people did the same while a few walked towards the area to where the traffic began to back up. A man came back and told us that a front tire of a van carried a family of four blew off, causing the van to roll over several times. As he was telling us, we saw two helicopters landed on the highway to airlift the injured people to nearby hospital.

It was already late into the evening, so we decided to spend the night in Richmond, Virginia. The next morning, July 4th, we finally arrived at the home of CP's brother in Williamsburg, Virginia. We enjoyed the traditional July 4th BBQ and later went to watch the fireworks in Marketplace Square, near College of William and Mary. We enjoyed our visit to Colonial Williams, Jamestown, Yorktown and time with family.

Saturday, July 7th, we were back on the road, driving back to St. Louis from Virginia. We started early in the morning around 6:30 a.m., merged onto I-64 towards West Virginia. After 5 hours, we stopped for lunch and it was my turn to drive as we were to stay on I-64 for about 6.5 hours. As mentioned in previous entries, I only handled the driving when we stayed on a straight road for a few hours with no worry of getting off and getting on to another interstates.

From West Virginia, we crossed into Kentucky, then into Indiana, then Illinois, and finally into Missouri at around 9:30 p.m. We set our watches back one hour to adjust to the time zone. After 8.5 days, 2,418.97 miles, crossing a total of 10 states and two borders, we were so glad to be home.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Please read the entry on June 11th about the wonderful visit from our deer daughter June & the birth of our deer granddaughter, Heidi.

June & Heidi enjoying a beautiful sunny day in our backyard.

A heart warming moment when Heidi stumbles while learning how to run (instead of prancing), June whispers words of encouragement and expresses her motherly love.

Our deer daughter, June and her baby, Heidi.

A lovely photo of our deer granddaughter, Heidi.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Thanks to my brother VL for his continued support and encouragement, I finally overcame my technical shortcomings and learned to upload photos onto my blog.

In previous entries, I wrote about my husband's Thunderbird and how much he loves the car. I also mentioned strangers making comments such as "Beautiful car", "Good looking T-bird", and people, mostly men, stopping to discuss at length about the car while I waited patiently.

I don't mind that CP spending time regularly washing and keeping the T-bird in perfect and spotless condition. It is not another woman. It is only a car and I could always sell it.

Here is an excerpt from an entry entitled, "You can't take it with you" on August 19, 2006. It was from my early days as a "rookie blogger" -

"It is a 2004 Ford Thunderbird with the right color, burgundy. CP saved his money for 2 years, waiting for the right moment. He searched the internet but both times when he found the car of his dream, the sellers told him that the dream cars were already sold. The first seller was in Colorado and CP called immediately after he saw the posting in the Auto Trader website. The seller told CP that someone also called about five minutes ago and they agreed to the terms, no haggle or price negotiating. The second seller was in Buffalo, New York. Again the seller told CP that a buyer already called and was on his way to pick up the dream car.

The third seller was from Chicago, Illinois. CP called me at work around 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday (August 2005) and told me that he found the dream car and the seller agreed to sell the car to CP if he could get to Chicago the next day with a certified check. I said without hesitation knowing that CP has been waiting for this opportunity. I told him that I would go to the bank and transfer the money. I could hear CP excitement and relief that I did not question his decision. The next day, CP drove to Chicago (5 hours from St. Louis) in a rental car with a certified check over $20K."

There you have it, the story of how CP becomes the proud owner of the Thunderbird.

Monday, July 09, 2007


When we plan our vacation during for the first week of July, I did not know that we would participate in many celebrations. My husband works at a local, privately-owned manufacturer of plastic moldings. Most of the products the company produces are automotive items and office supplies. CP works in the quality control engineering department. As with most manufacturing companies, the first week of July is usually scheduled for maintenance and employees are asked (required) to take vacation during this time. Only sales department is working to take care of orders and minor shipping requests.

We arrived in Toronto in time to celebrate Canada Day on Saturday, July 1st. We learned from the banners and from local television news that it was Canada 140th Anniversary. We did not realize that Canada was such a young country. At the tickets window at CN Tower, everyone was given a small pin of Canadian flag, we gladly put the pins on our shirts to be gracious visitors and as Americans we always consider Canadians more as our cousins than just Northern neighbors.

As we walked around downtown Toronto, we exchanged pleasant greetings, "Happy Canada Day" with others. Even for me, a Vietnamese-Chinese-American, I did not feel out of place as Toronto very own Chinatown is prominent located in downtown and a large population of Asian-Canadians live in the area. I checked the phone book at the hotel and found three pages of the last name Nguyen, a couple of pages of Tran, Ly and Ngo. My uncle, TR, and his family live in Toronto but with our tight schedule and my husband not speaking a word of Vietnamese/Chinese, I did not feel it was appropriate at this time to visit Uncle.

After two days in Toronto, we drove to Williamsburg, Virigina, again in time to celebrate America's July 4th Independence Day. How appropriate to celebrate July 4th in Virginia and to celebrate Jamestown's 400th Anniversary. While Jamestown was known as the first permanent English settlement in America, 174 years later at Yorktown (15 miles away) the American Revolution under the command of George Washington set the stage for a new government and gained independence for a new nation.

While visiting Colonial Williamsburg, we were told that a movie "John Adams" was being film and will be available thru HBO channel. Previously my brother and I have planned a family vacation but again our tight schedule and a mixed-up did not permit our get together. I thought my brother VL would enjoy visiting Williamsburg for its rich history and educational activities for his son. There are many family activities such as wagon rides, costume rentals for children, interpretations of colonial life, and re-enactments throughout the day and special evening performances.

Another celebration that brought wonderful memory is the Mackinac Bridge, Michigan celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. The "Mighty Mac" connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas at the Straits of Mackinac, spans over Lake Huron and Lake Michigan and is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. (We also walked across the Royal Gorge Bridge, another suspension bridge while visiting Colorado last July.)

According to the Official Michigan Transportation Map, it cost $99.8 million to pay for the construction and financing of the bridge. Visit for information about the bridge, the annual Bridge Walk and commemorative items and activities. The Mackinac Bridge will also be featured in the Discover Channel with an episode of "Dirty Jobs" with the host Mike Rowe showing how the workers take care of painting the bridge.

I remember fondly the early years of living in Michigan when we were young and able to endure many camping trips (tents and pop-up tiny camper, not those fancy luxury RV). We used to camp in Frankenmuth (headquarters of Bronner's - the World Largest CHIRSTmas store), Ludington, Traverse City in Michigan and Amish country in Shipshewana, Indiana. For about three years (91-93) we camped in Mackinaw City (located at the south end of the bridge) on Labor Day weekend. The morning of Labor Day, we got up at 4:00 a.m., drove from our camp site to a designated parking lot near the bridge. Together with approximately 50,000 or more people, with Governor John Engler leading the way, we walked across the 5-mile long bridge spanning over 552 feet above the water. The walk itself took only an hour and 1/2. (If you decide to participate in the walk, be sure to take care of business before the walk because there is no accomodation on the bridge.) When we got to the other side of the bridge, there would be a bus to take us back to our cars while others who were young and strong, walked back across the bridge instead of taking the bus.

Recently my brother mentioned in his blog that for some reasons his son also enjoys camping. It runs in the family, just like eldest Auntie!

Monday, July 02, 2007


I was ready to stop shots from Mark Messier.

I came, I saw and I touched the Holy Grail. It was heaven on earth.

I finally visited the Hockey Hall of Fame for the first time. The Hall is located in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada (of course). I now am able to cross off one of the items on my list of places to visit before I die. (I borrow this sentence from a book by Patricia Schultz, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die".)

Travel tips - Even though the Hall opened on Canada Day (July 1st), all the shops at BCE Place were closed and only one restaurant opened. Almost half of the shops in downtown area closed but CN Tower and museums were opened.

My most favorite activity was taking part in the interactive games in a simulated rink, Be a Player Zone. The virtual game allows visitors to test their shooting skills by going one-on-one using real pucks (not foam), a full-size regulated hockey stick, against a life-sized computer-simulated Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour. Belfour spent his career in the early 90’s with the Chicago Blackhawks and later with the Dallas Stars. Belfour replaced Curtis Joseph when Cujo left the Toronto Maple Leafs. Belfour currently is listed with the Florida Panthers. The nickname “the Eagle” came from the impressive art work of Eagles adorned his goalie mask. I am proud to say that the speed of my shot prompted Belfour to respond twice in an effort to make the save.
Next I suited up with full size gloves and full size goalie stick for a realistic life-size, live-action against video images of real hockey players such as Mark Messier, the retired captain of the New York Rangers. Messier has been selected to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this coming November.

The top photo above showed I was in position ready to stop the sponge pucks fired at me by Messier at speeds up to 70 mph through one of the openings in a 8-by-10 foot video screen. I am proud to say that I stopped two of the five shots.
I also enjoyed suited up in full goalie uniform in a replica Montreal Canadiens dressing room.
Next was the Broadcast Zone where I let my husband talked me into a 30-second recording of a message to my favorite hockey team or player. Without much time to prepare, I rambled about how much I loved the Detroit Red Wings, about Stevie Yzerman as my favorite player, and I also liked Datsyk, Osgood and hoped that the Red Wings will bring back Slava Koslov. My husband watches the video whenever he needs a good laugh. He said that I looked so enthuse and that I had the look of a kid in the candy store.

Next we visited the NHL Trophies room where we took photos with the Stanley Cup and all other trophies. My favorite trophies besides the Stanley Cup were the Verina Trophy (award to the Top Goalie) and James Norris Memorial Trophy (award to the Best Defenseman).

At the end of the tour, we went into the Spirit of Hockey store. I am glad to report that we did not spend much money as I did not see many choices of clothing specifically for ladies. Most of the shirts designed for women were skimpy, not appropriate for a middle-age chubby woman.


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