Thursday, March 31, 2016

An Extended Easter Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada

To many people Las Vegas, Nevada is "Sin City" with the mindset of "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas."

To us, it is the home of our oldest son Andy, his bride Jenn and our four year old grandson Kevin.

Our trips to the Nevada desert are family get togethers with lots of food and fun and rarely a trip to the famous Las Vegas Strip.

Since it is a five hour drive each way, we always try to pack as much catching-up as possible once we arrive.

Kevin's mantra was simple all weekend long, "Play with me."

So we did.

Saturday and Easter Sunday produced a rare victory for the adults . . .

. . . we wore Kevin out!!!

What were the odds at Caesar's Palace on this happening?

On Monday morning, while everyone else was still asleep, Andy and I ventured into the heart of Las Vegas to visit the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' (UNLV) Spring football practice which started at 8:00 a.m. on the Rebels' first day back from their Spring Break.

A modest sign led us to the practice field
Nice mural inside UNLV's sports complex

Freddie Bastiand, is that you?
The old Rebel decal may not be PC today

 Starting the practice with
a Tackling Circuit

Another Tackling Station

Practicing Defensive Run Fits

Time to Scrimmage

The wind was whipping across the practice field making it quite cold for the non-participating spectators. After about one hour on the field, we opted to check out UNLV's Weight Room.

Not huge, but well equipped

The Rebel

Chains to improve the efficiency
of each rep in the Weight Room

Of course, in Las Vegas, they might serve other purposes.

When we got back home all
were awake

Some were even having fun with Play-Doh.

Eventually, the Play-Doh morphed
into real lemon cookie dough

Chefs at Work

What a team!

While the cookies cooled off, we were off to lunch at a new spot for our Vegas family, Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Instead of crayons, they gave Kevin
a hunk of pizza dough to work

What a charming and different idea. The pizza pan dusted with flour made even more fun. 

Grimaldi's makes GREAT pizza by the way

Post pizza Futbol Fest at
Kevin's nearby park

 Look at that footwork!

Kevin is playing soccer for the first time this Spring.

Mickey Mouse Pancake

One last breakfast and we were on our way home to Camarillo, but first we had to make one stop before leaving the Silver State.

The HUGE Bass Pro Shop

No, definitely NOT for non-alcoholic Moonshine.

I wanted to buy one of those multi-pocketed fly fishermen's vest so, if I ever get to go back to Europe, I can stuff it full of heavier items that will not count against my luggage's weight allowance.

The Las Vegas Bass Pro Shop is the Disneyland for any and all outdoors sports enthusiasts. Probably not a hang-out for the typical PETA member I suspect.

We decided to break up the drive home by stopping by to see my Mother in her home in San Marino, California.

Surprise! Unbeknownst to us, Mike, Vanessa, Jacob and Mary had decided to visit her too!

Small world.

 Great Grandma Chuny feeding
Mary Elizabeth at dinner

Laurie and I are blessed with my Mother, our two sons, their loving wives and three wonderful and, at times, goofy grandchildren.

Reading Is FUNdamental

I can't get enough of this
funny Sicilian Policeman

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mini-Golf, St. Patrick's Day Feast and Not One But TWO Birthdays!

We had a busy weekend to say the least.

Miniature Golf

On Thursday I took Jacob to Ventura's Golf and Stuff amusement arcade for his first taste of the manly game of miniature golf. 

I should have done a better job
explains some of the basic rules

On the other hand, he needed to explain the rules of the various arcade games, also at this site, to me.

St. Patrick's Day

Thursday was also St. Patrick's Day all over planet Earth. Where to celebrate the day you ask?

Why at the Murphy Cottage
of course

Cyndy and Debi Murphy served us a delicious traditional Irish meal and, yes, Guinness was also present at the feast.

Jacob's Birthday

Friday was a very special day for our family as young Jacob celebrated his fourth birthday!

Mike and Vanessa opted to hold Jacob's birthday party on Saturday the Chuck E Cheese's in Thousand Oaks.

It is, by definition, a no-holds-barred venue with kids having lots fun while adults are left shaking their heads.

Star Wars was the Theme

The cupcakes were delicious

 Jacob reveling in the loot

Jacob and Great Grandma Chuny

It's Chuck E Cheese HIMSELF!!!

Chuck and all of the usual suspects

Jacob was dancing with joy!


 The candles were lit . . .

. . . but not for long!

It was now time to open the presents . . .

This one was from Andy, Jenn and Kevin

What is it?

. . . his name framed with Star Wars
themed letters
 Cousin Max was in the house!

Gigi with little Mary

Jacob with his cousins Nicholas,
Nathan and Max

Life in the ever popular

Nathan and Jacob mesmerized
by an arcade ride

 The cousins sharing the
driving duties

 Jacob and Great Aunt Marilyn
killing aliens by the scores

Although I think that everyone had a wonderful time, Jacob may have gone over the top by the end of the afternoon.

 See what I mean

Sophie Johnson's Birthday

On Sunday we drove down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway to Gladstone's Restaurant which is located right on the sand of the Pacific Ocean for a birthday brunch.

On this occasion we celebrated the 20th birthday of Sophie Johnson, the eldest daughter of our long, long time Seattle friends Mark and Susie Johnson.

Sophie's sister Mallory and three of Sophie's classmates from her school, BIOLA University, also joined us for food, fun and friendship.

 A fun loving group to be sure

 Our birthday lady,
Sophie Johnson

We always have so much fun when we get together with the Johnsons no matter in what part of the globe we meet!

Reading Is FUNdamental

Death to ALL gang rapists

I'm sure that Donald Trump would back me up in this sentiment.

If he does, we finally have some common ground.

Italian art, cuisine and
a tour of Siena at Palio time

What was not to like in this book?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Southeast Wing-T Clinic and Much, MUCH More in Georgia and Alabama . . .

In my seemingly never ending pursuit of American football knowledge, I opted to fly across the country to Atlanta, Georgia to attend a Hybrid Wing-T football clinic.

When I first planned this excursion the team that I was scheduled to coach in Poland was still afloat and this seemed like a good way to investigate combining Wing-T running game principles with cutting edge Spread formations.

As followers of this blog know, the team in Poland folded about a month ago due to financial issues but regardless, the clinic topics were of great interest to me and a lot of my reservations were non-refundable so it was off to Georgia!

I did not want to simply fly down to Georgia, attend the Friday-Staurday clinic and then fly home. Thus emboldened, I opted to fly out on Wednesday and come home on Monday giving me ample time to do a little extra sightseeing of both a football and non-football nature.


After an uneventful flight early Wednesday morning and a delightful two hour drive through rural bliss, my first stop in Georgia was the . . .

Andersonville National Historic Site

This was the site of the notorious Confederate prison for prisoners of war, where nearly 13,000 Union soldiers died due to the horrendous, overcrowded conditions.

There is also a somber military cemetery at the site.

Where the prison once stood

None of the original structures have survived.

 Marking a corner of the original
prison stockade

 A reproduction of a small portion
of the prison

 Miraculous and Much Needed

The conditions were deplorable, as stated, and basic needs were in short supply. On August 14, 1864, during a heavy rainstorm, a spring with crystal clear water suddenly appeared on this site that probably saved a few lives and surely eased a lot of suffering.

This pavilion was erected in 1901.

 Dead soldiers . . .

. . . LOTS of dead soldiers

Instead of being buried in caskets, the fallen Union soldiers were buried side-by-side in open trenches. This is why the grave markers are only inches apart.

Sad Conditions

Lots of Monuments

Iowa's Sons

 One of thousands . . .

Markers everywhere

 Overseeing his comrades

Finally, 45,000 Union troops were sent to Andersonville and, as stated earlier, about 13,000 died in prison. The survivors were found to be in a "Nazi prison camp state" when they were liberated at war's end as this photo of a survivor grimly attests:

After touring the Andersonville Historic Site, I drove just a few minutes down Georgia's Highway 49 to the city of Andersonville, population 255. There they have a small Civil War Village with one monument of interest and a good place to eat dinner.

 Andersonville Civil War Village
Monument to . . .

Captain Henry Wirz

This was an interesting choice for a monument as Wirz, a Swiss born Confederate officer, was the commandant of the Andersonville Prison from February, 1864 to March, 1865. 

Capt. Henry Wirz

He was executed by hanging after the war on November 10, 1865 after a two month military trial that, to this day, has many detractors. He was the only person executed after the Civil War's end.

Scenic Andersonville Village

They make a GREAT pulled pork
sandwich here with sweet BBQ sauce

My waitress and the chef/owner

Good, friendly people like these two were all that I met in the south.

Can you say "Southern Hospitality?"

A interesting visit on many levels

After dinner, I drove just an hour farther to spend the night in Columbus, Georgia.


I was up early and I was anxious to visit another Civil War site this time in Columbus. 


A reproduction of the CSS Water Witch

 Cannons all around us

I'm going in!

No I'm not, they don't open for another hour.

Cannon on the Georgia side of the
Chattahoochee River

The other riverbank is the state of Alabama. I had time to kill so I wandered across the street to a mega-sized sports complex that was truly impressive.

The Sports Council knows what it
is doing it seemed to me

Golden Park for baseball

There were also about ten softball fields and a magnificent and newer softball stadium that is a scaled down version of old Golden Park.

It has a nice American football field too

Natural Grass

Arena Ball in Columbus

They play their games in the large sports arena located in the sports complex as well.

All of these facilities in one location were quite impressive but it was time for the Civil War Naval Museum to open.

 Buffalo Soldiers

Confederate Navy Battle Flag

 The remains of the CSS Jackson

 Model Replica of a CSS iron clad 

 Weapons of War

Pistols for Everyone

Naval Flags of both the
Union and the Confederacy

 Blasting away from within an ironclad

 A Cannoneer's Tools

Actual remaining hull
of a Civil War ship

Art and the Naval aspects of
the Civil War

It was a small but interesting museum that was well worth the visit. Now, it was time for lunch . . . can you say "pulled pork?"

This Columbus hot spot looked good

The aromas were inviting too!

Their pulled pork sandwich with a sweet mustard based sauce was incredible. Limited seating inside and zero ambience but I came for the Q! I highly recommend this spot.

Once fully sated, I drove over the Chattahoochee Bridge into the sovereign state of . . .

The itinerary now called for an overnight visit to the campus of one of the ever powerful South East Conference (SEC) schools.

Who do you ask?

Clue #1

Clue #2

Got it yet?

Yes indeed, time to visit the
"School on the Plains"
in Auburn, Alabama

Two National Titles

One Mega-Stadium

Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium had a capacity of 15,000 spectators when it opened in 1939. Expanded over the years, today it can accommodate 87,471 fanatics on an SEC game day.

My first stop on campus was the Jonathan B. Lovelace Hall of Honor located inside of the Auburn Arena.

Tiger mascot uniforms over the decades

 2010 National Championship Trophy

Auburn Arena

Auburn's 1958 Outland Trophy winner
as college football's best lineman

 Jordan was the Auburn Head Football
Coach from 1951-1975

Jordan's record as Auburn University's football coach was 176-83-6.

Amazingly, by today's standards, he was also Auburn's Head Men's Basketball Coach from 1933-1942 and again after serving in World War II in 1945-1946. His overall hoops record was 136-103 which includes his being the Head Coach at the University of Georgia from 1946-1950.

 The 1957 the Auburn Tigers were
National Champions

 1957 gear on the left,
2010 gear on the right

The Tigers were National Champions both years.

I remember this Iron Bowl Game

Auburn blocked two Alabama punts that day for TDs in beating their arch-rivals 17-16

Auburn's first ever bowl game
in 1937 was in Havana!

The Bacardi Bowl was held on January 1, 1937, at La Tropical Stadium pitting the Tigers against the Villanova Wildcats. The contest ended in a 7-7 tie. 

It was a hot day and I had done a lot of walking around campus. I needed a lemonade STAT!

 Of course, a campus icon!

Toomer's has Tiger Pride

I consumed what is generally
regarded in these parts as the
Best Lemonade in the World

Traditionally, after Auburn football victories, Tiger fans come to Toomer's Corner on the edge of the campus and TP the huge, old trees across the street. 


After Auburn won the 2010 National Championship, an Alabama fan by the name of Harvey Updyke was so incensed that in the middle of the night he drove the 30 miles from his home to Auburn and poisoned the trees so that Tiger fans could never celebrate in their traditional way again.

Apprehended and convicted, Updyke was sentenced to six months in jail and five years on supervised probation. Additionally he was fined $800,000 of which he has paid $99.

The trees did die and new ones have been planted but it will be awhile before the new ones are ready to be rolled in TP.

On to an Auburn Tiger Spring football practice!

I parked near Jordan-Hare Stadium and spotted many interesting things including three statues honoring Auburn's Heisman Trophy winners and Coach Heisman himself!  

QB Cam Newton
2010 Winner

RB Bo Jackson
1985 Winner

John Heisman
 Auburn's Coach from 1895-1899

 QB Pat Sullivan
1971 Winner

Massive Jordan-Hare Stadium
in the middle of the Auburn Campus

Rent-a-Bike just like in Lyon, France

 Football Headquarters

 First thing you see as players exit
their locker room

 Reminding the players
of their heritage . . .

. . . and past greats

Auburn's natural grass practice field
the building on the left  is . . .

The Tigers' indoor turf field 

 One-on-One's were big today

 Practice segments kept rotating
from outdoors to indoors

Auburn's Weight Room


The end of a great, up-tempo practice

I stood next to one of their players, Senior Jordan Diamond, who is a 6'4', 304 lbs., offensive lineman from Chicago. He was lean looking as his heavily tattooed biceps each weighed about 50 lbs. He is an amazing looking athlete!

The Best Name Award on the Auburn roster easily belonged to a 6'8", 250 lbs. redshirt Freshman defensive lineman from Elmore, Alabama, one Prince Tega Wahogho.

There was lots of energy and some intense competition. I left excited but hungry.

The Answer

Pulled pork, a few ribs and some
hearty, traditional Brunswick Stew

I'm not sure what the meat was in the stew but according to the internet, the usual recipe calls for squirrel meat.

Don't ask, don't tell.


After a good night's sleep in Auburn, I was off on a three hour morning drive through more rural splendor back into Georgia to the site of my clinic in the city of Dublin.

Here is my list of Speakers

Session 1  Hancel Phipps OC: Wake Forest HS, NC
1:00-1:50   Transitioning from the Traditional to Pistol Wing T
2:00-2:50    Buck Sweep Series from the Pistol Wing T
3:10-4:00    Belly Series from the Pistol Wing T

Session 2 Christian Hunnicutt: HC East Jackson HS, GA
4:10-5:00   Offensive Line Drills & Fundamentals
5:05-5:55    Weekly must for Offensive Linemen/Hudl homework for OL

Session 3 Josh Floyd: HC Hewitt -Trussville HS, AL
7:00-7:50    Fast paced No-Huddle run game using various formations & motions
​8:10-9:00    Two Back Play Action Passing Game in Gun Wing T
9:05-9:55    Running an effective No-Huddle system using different paces & communication

Session 4  Lance Helton: OL Dublin HS
6:45-7:45 AM Q & A:  Ask how Coach Helton Drills & Teaches Wing T Blocking Techniques

Session 5 :  Scott Meadows HC: Pigeon Forge HS, TN
8:00-8:50   Being Successful in the Gun Wing-T with Smoke & Mirrors
8:55-9:45    Buck Sweep and QB Buck Sweep from multiple formations in the Gun Wing T
10:05-10:55 RPO'S and how to stretch the Defense in the Gun Wing T

Session 6  Krossover Presentation: Anthony Lepore & Dan Shirley
11:10 – 12:00  Krossover: Helping coaches with gamefilm breakdown
12:05 – 12:45 Lunch Provided by Clinic

Session 7 Drew Cronic: HC Reinhardt University, GA
12:50 – 1:40  Why No Huddle Up-Tempo Wing T
​1:45 – 2:35    Gun Jet Sweep and Counters  
2:40 – 3:30    Play Action Passes in the Gun Wing T

A quaint town with . . . 

. . . GREAT Football Tradition

The intense clinic schedule did not leave me much time to sightsee in Dublin but here are a few things of interest.

The South loves these huge fireworks 
warehouses al year around

 Of course Dublin is having a
Leprechaun Contest

 A Civil War Memorial
in these parts is a MUST!

 Hosts of the Clinic

Entrance to the Football Stadium

 This was worrisome to see

I'm ok with this

They catered the clinic lunch on Saturday

Is it possible to eat too much BBQ pulled pork in a week?

The clinic was great and met all of my expectations. Well worth the time and effort!

I am convinced that all football clinics should feature high school coaches from the Deep South. They are both extremely knowledgable and full of great quotes.

For example:
On tenacity: "Hang in there like a hair in a biscuit."

On playing against a particularly good lineman: "He's a real boy-dog, he eats children."

On being a dominant player: "Beat him up and kiss his Momma."

On being a good offensive lineman: "Be a pass blocking Jessie."

On a slow QB: "He can run all day in a shoe box."

On deciding which defensive end to attack: "One's a real War Daddy, the other one's the Governor's son."


 After the clinic, I drove back to
Georgia's Capital city

On Sunday morning I was out the door for a three pronged attack on Atlanta.

First up!

Laurie and I took the kids too see the College Football Hall of Fame back in 1989 when it was located in Kings Island, Ohio. Frankly, it was a bit disappointing.

Definitely not so at this new incarnation, it is so well done!

 In the door when the museum opened

Oregon representing the PAC-12

There is a chance we may go to this game

A full sized helmet of every college team in the USA greets you as you enter the Hall

So does this HUGE mural

Some helmets closer up


Entryway view from the Third Floor

The first class was inducted in 1951

That initial Class included a former Husky player and a Husky coach.

Here are the twelve University of Washington players and coaches who are members of the Hall in the order of their induction.






Well Dressed Lineman
with an early Boom Box







I do want to include one more inductee with Washington ties.

He is in the Hall for his accomplishments as an end at the University of Oklahoma but he was the coach at Washington when I was in the program. His back-to-back victories in the 1960 and 1961 Rose Bowls put West Coast football back on the map after years of domination by the Big Ten schools in the annual Pasadena classic.

Syracuse's Ernie Davis
The first Afro-American Heisman Trophy
Winner in 1961

Well dressed fans

Husky Cheerleader outfit

Legendary Coach Pop Warner

Two years later, equipment bags were invented.

One wall was full of quotes from famous coaches.

Jason Johnson was our QB in Catania, Sicily, Italy in 2008. He is still a good friend and his Grandfather Frosty Westering is in the Hall. I had to find him to be sure.

I met him shortly before his passing,
a good man.

 That is a LOT of wins!

Academy football is special

Love the stripes

How mant concussions back then?

 Yep, definitely a stripe man

Why did they have trouble passing
in the old days?

 I like it

From Grambling and also a
Los Angeles Rams great

 7 OTs, OH MY . . .

One of the great ones to be sure

 Sad that there was a need for this
in our country's history

USAFA showing concern for their
opponent's health

 Purest Rivalry in College Football

Speaking of Rivalries
Read it and weep Cougar fans

One of the greatest moments in
College Footbal history

 Lincoln Kennedy
2015 Inductee

From the University of Washington

 Ricky Williams of Texas
also a 2015 inductee

As is Brian Bosworth of Oklahoma

Thanks to the Hall's Bill Ellis
for taking this photo

Bill was a big help getting me pointed in the right direction at the start of my visit. This museum is a MUST for every college football fan!

Next up, the Boston-Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves Museum and Hall of Fame located at Ted Turner Field.

Ted Turner Field

 An appropriate address for the Field

 Where the historic HR landed in the old Atlanta-Fulton County Coliseum

The site is now in the parking lot of adjacent Ted Turner Field.

Unfortunately, I found out too late that the Museum was closed today because the Field's parking lot was the staging ground for the huge Atlanta Walk for Hunger.

Thus, it was on to my final stop of the trip.

Everything Atlanta

The Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech

Laurie's favorite team

My main focus would be the Center's excellent Civil War exhibit.

"A War of Ideals" was the exhibits theme.

Lots of Uniforms

Lots of Epaulets

 Old Drum

 Field Tent

Battle Flag


Uniforms and Artillery Shells


 More Weapons

 Confederate General

America's Deadliest War

Another sobering Civil War exhibit that I was glad to have visited.

Next Center exhibit up . . .

 Robert Trent Jones
of golfing fame

It was a small exhibit, so I moved on to another one.

Olympic Host City

I like Baseball

 Cuba won the Gold Medal
at the 1996 Olympics

Thus ended a full day of sightseeing in Atlanta, only one more thing to do, eat dinner.

An Atlanta eating tradition
since 1928

 Near the Georgia Tech campus

 Always packed with diners

Order up!

This was the fourth time over 30+ years that I have eaten at The Varsity. It is a bit over-rated in my opinion and I would have to rank it as the culinary low-point of this trip.

I don't foresee ever making another stop here for sustenance.

Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium

About four short blocks from The Varsity, it was closed on a Sunday afternoon but impressive none-the-less.


I was up early for the flight home on Monday morning. The car rental return, monorail to the airport and the security process were a breeze.

I just wish that the Los Angeles International Airport was as smooth to maneuver as Atlanta's.

In Culver City, California

A perfect spot for sustenance after a long cross country flight and the disappointment of The Varsity.

Reading Is FUNdamental

Religious Cult Murders
in Scandinavia

Another solid effort by Nesser, I finished it about five minutes before touching down at LAX.