Friday, December 25, 2020

No place like home for the holidays; communicate, celebrate kindness

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers are hunkered down, taking small domestic trips,
 keeping their passports at the ready as hope for international travel and a vaccine becomes a reality.


Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers enjoy a holiday
snuggle just the two, wishing they were with family.

 —Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
For no matter how far away you roam
When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home

--Allen and Stillman from a 1954 hit tune

'THERE'S NO place like home for the holidays,” as the classic tune says. And there's no year that compares to the amount of time we spent at home in 2020.
Who knew, a year ago, that we'd be isolating, distancing, quarantining this year? That we'd be spending days on end in the confines of our homes. We've spent months in sweat pants, house coats and gym clothes, or as one friend put it, "Our most crucial fashion decision was when to change from our nighttime pajamas to our daytime pajamas."
AFTER MONTHS of isolation, economic anxiety, and pandemic fatigue, there is good news, though.
The vaccines we've awaited are testing now both abroad and at home; we should all be vaccinated by spring, and ready to hit the travel decks again.
With some modifications, we can still have a happy holiday. We can even venture
Gran Canaria, Cookie and Keller enjoy truchas, coffee, royal headware.
to select,  hygienically proper hotels, with care and caution. In our case, here in San Diego, we're able to stay in hotels in our own state. Out-of-state travelers will be welcome once the latest three-week ban lifts, which is Dec. 28.
 A FUN pastime for us this year has been to sort through photos of Christmases spent in other lands. We've ushered in the Yule in San Juan, with giant sculptures of the wise men and "Feliz Navidad" banners hung throughout the Old Town.
We've eaten splendid holiday fare in restaurants and private homes. One of our favorite culinary memories is of sweet potato turnovers, or truchas de navidad. It's the Canany Islands' answer to beignets. Try making them. Fairly easy and we're sharing our favorite recipe. 
A San Juan street scene celebrates the holiday.
Remember how short our time on earth is.  Call a loved one you haven't spoken to recently. Do something nice for a stranger.
OUR BELOVED "Jeopardy" host, Alex Trebek, passed away in early November.  His last taped show airs Jan. 8 and his farewell to a faithful audience is rumored to be a touching one. Put that on the docket to watch. Meanwhile, some of his best shows are airing, and Ken Jennings is in the wings to host during transition.
Alex Trebek's final show will
air early January, a swansong.
We recommend dressing for a TV movie, or a celebratory dinner.
 We're doing it, just the two of us!
NOW, WE 'VE all spent nearly 10 months isolating, masking, distancing, playing it safe. So the world is  faced with a holiday without the usual family and friend parties, celebrations, dances and general merry making. Try to be introspective. Be kind, imagine a better world.
  So indeed there might be no place like home for the holidays, but we're not all able to be home.
I like to "click my heels" and imagine I'm in Kansas -- or back in Montana.
After all this angst, fear, exhaustion, fatigue and separation, we'll never view our "old life" the same. If we have hope in our hearts, and a generous spirit, we can make the most of a rotten year -- and embrace the future with renewed appreciation of family, friends, our lucky lives!

Thermal pools of Yellowstone beckon for a fresh start in 2021. 

UP NEXT: Yellowstone in winter for the New Year! Do something fun, do something outdoors, keep the faith that we'll be beyond this COVID scourge soon. We bring you an idea for an amazing nature connected trip in the New Year. How about a trip to our nation's first national park, Yellowstone! Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel approach to nature, the arts, travel, family and more at:


Friday, December 18, 2020

LOCKDOWN! California reels, hotels, restaurants close as virus rises

With hotels closing throughout southern California, this beautiful Westin north of San Diego is empty.

The lovely outdoor reception areas and bars of many southern
California hotels (here the Westin Carlsbad)

WE WERE WARNED that there would be another COVID spike in winter.
Today -- nine months after the first lock down -- we are locked down again for the third time in southern California.
People continue to gather, spewing germs, disregarding distancing edicts, hosting parties, endangering us all.
The post-Thanksgiving surge of cases predicted before the holiday has arrived.
The United States confirms more than 16 million COVID-19 cases and 300,000 deaths since the pandemic began.  Worldwide, nearly 72 million cases and 1.6 million deaths. 
Masks dangling from their ears for the photo,
Keller and Cookie take a stroll with Nick.
 Nevada is making national news, turning parking garages into an ICU. New York, California, Texas, Vermont are all high, with numbers in Massachusetts, Maine, Louisiana and South Carolina rising, too. Here in California, our numbers are at a record high on top with 21,000 deaths. New cases reached 140,843 this past week, an increase of 41 percent over last week.
THE NEWS IS not good and we're due for another spike after the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays.
Many of our favorite California, hotels and restaurants are closing.  The small mom-and-pop cafes we frequented are folding. So sad. We received notice from two hotels this week warning that travel will be restricted and we might not be able to take our planned holiday trips (to safe, distancing, masking, thoroughly cleaned Hilton brand resorts.) While our holiday hotel reservations are in jeopardy, we are assured that our deposits will be refunded. 
That's the least of our worries.
We tip our hats to those in service and on the
front lines, here at Scripps Green, where 
Bruce Keller has his regular bloodwork.
WE WOULD be happy if our fellow dwellers on planet Earth would help us through this international health crisis as the surge continues with no end in sight. Vaccines for the masses are still months away so until then, please, let's all be careful, considerate and cautious. 
The New York Times reports the daily average of new COVID-19 cases this past week was 211,199. That’s 28 percent higher than the average recorded 2 weeks ago.These few simple steps would make everyone safer:
We found a busker wearing a busker mask

* Get out in fresh air.  Clean hands often, either with soap and water for 20 seconds or a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
* Avoid close contact with sick people. Put distance between yourself and others (at least 6 feet).
* Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
Hilton has been in the foreground
with its excellent hygiene policies,
here a sealer on a pristine room. 
* COVER your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
* Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.
* Wear masks in public settings and when around people outside of your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Masks are important; they help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, and protect you from their germs.
We add these suggestions: avoid shock news, seek facts not gossip or politically motivated opinion.  Follow science.  This is not political. It's a matter of being responsible citizens, of being considerate of one another.
We are sad that so many are suffering. It would help us all if we'd mind these few simple suggestions.
How about it, folks? Can we all give it a shot?

Keller, Cookie in a festive pose with the twins, Nick and Nora,
on last Christmas, for a holiday greeting.
Home for the holidays! This photo was taken "at home on the range," for our card last holiday season, before our beloved Nora passed away from a chronic kidney infection.  We like it because we treasure the Montana memory, and it brings home the beauty of home sweet home. We'll share favorite holiday memories and consider how to make the best of the holiday in these strange, isolating times.  So haul out the holly, the mistletoe, the memories, and make it a safe and healthy holiday season. Catch us Fridays for a fresh spin on family, art, music, travel, health and happiness. Please share the links:


Friday, December 11, 2020

Hummingbird hurrah! Let's hear it for this tiny, tenacious bird

This tiny hummingbird weighs less than a penny. We found him wounded on our patio and helped
him fly again this week. He's returned to his box to visit a couple times. Happy news! 

This hummingbird is probably a broad-tailed variety;
Keller caught him in flight near one of our Montana feeders



Editor's Note: Our rescue this week of an injured hummingbird found on our patio prompted several hundred replies to our Facebook post and a request for more on the hummingbird. Here's to this beautiful bird!


This hummingbird in flight was outside our
San Diego townhouse in the courtyard garden.
I'VE LONG loved the hummingbird, that tiny, delicate, but tenacious creature.  When I was a child, my grandmother let me help her boil sugar water then fill the feeders. (Four parts water to one part sugar, a pinch more sugar; boil gently for three minutes and change the water every few days.)

I've rescued hummingbirds from cats' paws and   Yorkies' jaws. I gently directed one from the rear of the garage when he flew in then couldn't find his way out. (I used a large red silk scarf to guide him.) This week, we helped a hummer recover from a fall on our patio. We fixed his dislocated wing, fed him, nursed him until he could fly. He's been back twice that we know of.
I'VE WATCHED with fascination as hummingbirds compete for the feeder.  I've been dive-bombed by hummers while gardening with a red or pink scarf on my red hair. "Why do they like red?" I asked my grandmother.  She explained that the bird's sense of color has to do with its dense concentration of cones in its retina. 
This hummingbird was enjoying geraniums
at the Montana place, in early July.

Amazing to me is the fact that the cones contain pigments and oil droplets in shades of yellow to red. Scientists say those drops act like filters, serving to heighten color sensitivity in red, yellow and orange, while muting colors such as blue, brown and green.
I TIP MY hat to hummers; they are small but mighty. They've also been around millions of years. The first hummingbirds developed 22 million years ago, arriving in South America from Asia.  They spread through that continent, then migrated to  Central America, the Caribbean and eventually North America. We've admired them on several continents, always marveling at their endurance and beautiful colors. We've logged five varieties in California, four in Montana. 
This little guy was at rest
at an Idaho rest stop.
To make a day's rounds of 25 miles, the hummer must beat its wings two million times. They must carry enough "fuel" to make a 24-hour flight and can travel as much as 645 miles in a single haul. (That's about twice our car trip driving limit of 325 miles a day.) They've been known to migrate several thousand miles with only a few stops.
Our little friend has been back twice to the box in which
he recovered from his accident earlier this week. 
HUMMERS HAVE predators, particularly free-roaming domestic cats. Their other enemies are windows, buildings, stationary objects. Sometimes, they're hit by cars, and they can encounter problems during migration and lousy weather. Like all of us, they also succumb to disease. 
Hummingbirds do return to a favorite feeder year after year, and can live three to five seasons. A few live long enough to die of old age.
 I WAS DISHEARTENED to discover that the male has little to do with the female or the young, once he mates. But no species is perfect. Keller defends the male hummer's actions, saying, "He's doing a lot.  He's carrying on the species."
We hope our little visitor lives long and prospers, and that he continues to visit us again and again.
He worked his way into our hearts in these few days, and we treasure the gift of his magical presence.

Many hotels in southern California are empty this week.

UP NEXT: With the first COVID vaccines being tested, and COVID deaths rising at an alarming rate, California is once again in lockdown. We look at the effect the pandemic is having on the travel and hotel industry.  A photographic foray through southern California this week documents the sad fact that many of our hotels are closing, with staff put on furlough, and beautiful rooms, pools, conference halls and restaurants empty. We explore these challenging times with a nod to science and the good that may come of it. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays at: Please share the link with like minded people.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Motorcycle madness: Evel Knievel's fame lives on in Idaho Visitor Center

Butte, Montana, native Evel Knievel tried a jump in this spectacular canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Jumpers enjoy a tamer form of entertainment --
 still with an element of danger. This is 
a popular adventure at the bridge.



THERE'S SOMETHING attractive about a daredevil. Even when we know know there's danger involved in his recklessness, we watch -- fascinated, if a little afraid.  And so it was for millions of us watching Evel Knievel 46 years ago -- on Sept. 8, 1974. 
That's the date when, with much media fanfare, the famous daredevil attempted his most ambitious feat.
He failed to leap the mile-wide chasm of the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, on his specially engineered rocket motorcycle. Gravity and a malfunctioning parachute cut his death-defying jump from 1,600 feet to 500 feet but Knievel still made $6 million from the stunt.

The Twin Falls Visitor Center is worth a visit.

HE ATTEMPTED his leap employing a unique "skycycle" which he helped design.  The stunt made him a household name around the world -- he was already a star in my native Montana.  Although few knew his birth name -- Robert Craig Knievel -- everyone knew "Evel" Knievel and we were proud of our Treasure State's most famous daredevil.  In his life he attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
 Some of the more famous include flying over the fountain at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, jumping over busses at London's Wembley Stadium, and that abortive trip across the Snake River Canyon in his wild, steam-powered vehicle. 
Now,  just past 13 years since his death on Nov. 30, 2007, in his Florida home, we celebrate this Butte, Montana, native, for his guts,  daring and his sense of showmanship.
A bronze statue pays tribute to
Idaho Falls champion and
founder Ira Burton Perrine.

Thoughtfully planned walking and viewing areas lure
tourists to enjoy the Snake River from on high near
the well designed and modern Idaho Visitor Center.

Butte born, Knievel came full circle. His grave site is in his hometown of Butte, south of town in a grove of trees. His tombstone, with its cartoon rocket car, was chiseled in 1974 and ready in the event that he perished duringn his much publicized jump attempt over the Snake River Canyon. Evel lived through many broken bones acquired in his crazy stunts. His last leap was a gentle one, s to his rocket car tombstone in 2007 at age 69.
 Knievel's Idaho jump
 WHILE KNIEVEL is a star at the Visitor Center, Twin Falls is equally proud of its founder, Ira Burton Perrine, who is immortalized in a lovely bronze and gave the bridge its name. The
center also has an artfully displayed souvenir and gift shop featuring locally-sourced products. There are also a variety of exhibits showcasing the natural features and history of the region. An interpretive center includes a display of settler and civic booster Perrine stagecoach, exhibits about the agricultural history and geology of the Snake River Canyon, and a pleasing array of photos
Although he was born in Montana, Evel
Knievel is immortalized in Idaho, near
the site of one of his few failed jumps.
His Butte tombstone also carries
his famous "rocket cycle" logo.

 and information about the abundant recreational opportunities in the area.
A tribute to Evel
Knievel is one of the
  interesting displays
The Center also serves as a centralized location for exhibits about the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Minidoka National Historic Site, Craters of the Moon National Monument and City of Rocks National Reserve. 
DURING OUR visit, folks were relaxing on the center grounds, and hiking a well developed trail system. We wandered up to a scenic overlook along the Snake's canyon and watched as jumper parachute from the 486-foot-tall Perrine Bridge.
Evel Knievel pulled off a lot of crazy stunts during his lifetime — so many in fact, that some fans actually were disappointed when he and his motorcycle easily jumped over a pyramid of more than 50 smashed cars on the Coliseum floor in 1973.

This tiny hummingbird had a dislocated wing which
prevented his flying from our patio.  We nursed him back.
UP NEXT:  We saved this tiny hummingbird this week, rescuing him after he landed on his back on our patio.  We had no idea there was such hunger for a good-news story, so next column, we salute the hummingbird, our favorite tiny fellow traveler. Its tenacity, prodigious flying talents and attention to its young make it a worthy subject, not to mention its ability to endure swings in the winds and weather. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, the arts, family and more. Please share the link with like-minded friends: 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Road trip wonders -- stopping to 'smell the roses' from Montana to California

 Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park can be worked into a driving trip east or west.

The Wapiti Valley on the approach to Yellowstone
National Park's east entrance, outside of Cody, Wyo.,
offers strange and beautiful rock formations.

CHIEF AMONG the pleasures of road tripping are the surprises. On this Thanksgiving week in America, we appreciate our country's roadside attractions.
We relish stopping to admire the landscape, perhaps exploring a bluff or bridge we haven't noticed before. We smell the roses, as Keller says, "as we stroll through the garden of life."
Often we pull over to give ourselves and the dog a break. This leads to taking a few photos, studying a roadside plaque or grabbing a milkshake at a newly discovered diner. 
An international array of visitors stopped the
day we did at the Piedras Blancas Elephant
Seal Rookery on the central California coast.
OUR RECENT driving trip included a side trip through Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a stop at Evel Knievel's Snake River jump site in Twin Falls, Idaho and a two-day layover to savor an ocean view and photograph the elephant seal Piedras 

Blancas rookery on the central California coast.
We treasure that "unplugged" feeling a road trip offers. For us, the trip is the journey and the destinations are part of the trip, enhanced by the experience of being together, visiting, listening to books on tape and studying the region with tour books and our Triple A literature.
THIS LATEST driving trip also included an overnight in Cody, Wyo., for a mock gunfight outside the historic Irma Hotel and an hour-long tour on Cody's entertaining trolley. 
We advise mapping your driving trip around interesting towns or stops where you'll have something to do -- whether it be a few hours in a
Buffalo Bill Center of the West has several world class
museums and is a great reason to overnight in Cody, Wyo.

museum, such as Cody's fabulous Buffalo Bill Center of the West, or an hour in a small historic museum such as the ones in Nevada towns.
With a bit of homework, you'll have an entertaining diversion or two during your nights on the road.
WHEN WE hit the road, we have hotels booked for each night, and we follow a strict rule that we go no further than 300 miles a day. Three or four hours driving time is our max, building in an hour or two for stops -- gas, meals, dog walk, miscellaneous discoveries. We find that after a few hours of driving, our attention spans diminish. Overnight breaks help keep us fresh and interested on our way!

Daredevil Evel Knievel's abortive attempt to jump the
Snake River is incorporated into a fine Twin Falls,
Idaho, museum, well worth a stop on a road trip. 

UP NEXT: While we're roadtripping, we're making a couple of stops for more in-depth stories. Evel Knievel is famous for his daring motorcycle escapades, including one that didn't quite work, over the Snake River, at left. We'll explore the legendary daredevil's jumps, including one that failed. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more: -- and share the links, please.



Friday, November 20, 2020

Plush Cavalier digs, elephant seals enhance cozy stop on Central California coast


The view from your private balcony at Cavalier Oceanfront Resort on the Central California Coast 
is stellar. You will find you don't want to leave your room, but there's lots to see if you do.


Small, clean, comfy, Cavalier Oceanfront Resort
has all the comforts of home -- plus ocean views.

YEARS AGO, we were looking for a mid-way stop between our niece's home in Redwood City and Port Hueneme's lovely harbor, where we'd spend a few days before heading into the home stretch for San Diego.
The beautifully rugged coastline of Central California has long been a favorite of ours, and during that long ago autumn, we discovered Cavalier Oceanfront Resort.  We've been regulars ever since. It's private, offers fresh air and spectacular views, and especially in these COVID times, it's a healthy way to travel, stay protected and safe without flying.
The town of San Simeon is most famous for the temporarily closed Hearst Castle, that stately and eclectic masterpiece designed by architect Julia Morgan for newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. But while COVID has put a halt to castle visits, there is still much to recommend this beautiful area.
Gorgeous sunsets await in Central California,
where the ocean views and walking are tops.
CHIEF LURE for us is the resort, nestled on a scenic seaside bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You'll never want to leave your room, with its comfy balcony rocking chairs, spacious relaxing interior complete with desk if you're on a work trip, and splendid day-long views.
   Located on picturesque Highway 1, the laid back but top service hotel is dog and family friendly.  It also attracts wedding parties and families on holiday or reunion.  And it's a favorite romantic stop for couples, including regulars like ourselves.  It's a great base for exploring beaches, the nearby Paso Robles wine country, and the quaint seaside village of Cambria with its fun shops, historic homes and fine restaurants. And yes, elephant on.
WE LOVE the Cavalier for its gorgeous ocean view rooms.  Among bountiful amenities are a welcoming fireplace, with unlimited wood blocks, a smart little bar-frig stocked with a dozen beverages, and plentiful munchies for a kicked-back stay. 
Ocean view rooms, a fireplace and comfy arm
chairs and balcony rockers so you can enjoy
the sea from inside or outside your room. 

Besides large rooms with comfy beds, we are delighted at the efficient room service with a surprisingly complete menu. (We dined in one night on a tasty Caesar salad, terrific clam chowder and decadent chocolate cake.)
The Cavalier has some interesting
touches, including this column,
once part of Hearst's collection.
an extra day so we could visit the amazing critters who inhabit Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery.  Since we discovered the hotel, we've made an annual pilgrimage to see these gentle giants up close and in their element. These magnificent marine mammals lie on the beach, and occasionally swim and frolic, just off Highway 1, along the coastline a few miles north of the Cavalier. The rookery is free, and open to the public, year-round. The rookery hosts the largest seal in the northern hemisphere, and these elephant seals migrate there twice each year.  While offshore, they spend eight or nine months diving down to 5,800 feet, feeding for hours at a time. The rest of the year, they mate, birth, molt, and rest onshore. What a life.
We see them right near the Cavalier, about 90 miles south of Monterey.
THE BUSY but not over-crowded viewing areas are open every day, are wheelchair accessible and free. The nicely designed viewing areas are part of the California Coastal National Monument, protected by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

 The magnificent elephant seals of the Central California
Coast near Cavalier Oceanfront Resort are a wonderful sight.  
WE COUNTED several hundred seals of the estimated 24,000 the rookery hosts during the year.  We spotted several baby elephant seals and a couple giant 5,000-pound adult males, who sport that odd bulbous nose. Females weigh about 1,800 pounds, and newborn pups about 70 pounds. The animal's name comes from the male nose, which resembles an elephant’s trunk. This crazy looking proboscis impresses other males during during mating season when the guys sound a loud loud call to challenge one another. We heard a few!  
A stay on the Central California coast, at our choice,
Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, offers an opportunity to spend
time with the fascinating elephant seal, here snoozing.
 WHAT MAKES the rookery special to us is that the elephant seal is a real  comeback kid.  The species was almost wiped out by hunters. Like whales, they were slaughtered by the thousands from the 18th to the 20th century. Using blubber for oil nearly drove the elephant seal to the extinct list. At one point, only a single colony of 50 seals remained on an island in Baja.
IF YOU CAN pull yourself away from the Cavalier's ocean views, a first-class coffee maker in your room, cocktails in the frig, a fire place and that fabulous bed, the helpful folks at the front desk will guide you to the elephant seals, just a few miles up the road.
They'll also encourage a visit to Cambria, a nearby village worth a few hours. There's also beach time, wine tasting and hiking possibilities.
Even with Hearst Castle's temporary closure due to COVID, there's plenty to do and see. And you can always consider Cavaliar a friendly yet private place to just "plunk down" for a few days. The hotel is a lovely destination in itself.;

An uncrowded bird's eye view from a perch above the Pacific, 
near scenic Point Arena, in northern California.

UP NEXT: We've assembled some of our favorite scenic shots from this current road trip. Come enjoy the rivers, woods, beaches and off-road wonders that can be yours on a safety-minded, short or long driving trip during COVID times.  As we avoid the virus through healthy, cautious living, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more:

Please share the link, too! We appreciate the exposure.

Friday, November 13, 2020

'Jeopardy' host Trebek's passing leaves tall shadow on popular show


The set of "Jeopardy" is familiar to fans of the acclaimed daytime TV show.  Host Alex Trebek worked up until days
 before his death earlier this week. His final episode will air Christmas day.


Alex Trebek, right, will be remembered for his grace, perfectionism and kindness, staffers say.

Trebek, Burton photos courtesy studios
Speculation is that 96-year old announcer
Johnny Gilbert will not return.


of Alex Trebek's passing this week hit millions of us faithful viewers hard. He's been part of the family since the 1980s when he took over the job as the show's second host.
Although Trebek wasn't known for hyperbole or displays of emotion, he was visibly touched by a several contestants' comments in the past few weeks. One wrote for his final "Jeopardy" answer: "What is 'We love you, Alex'?" Another said he learned English while watching "Jeopardy" on his grandfather's knee.
I MET Trebek a couple times --  at a TV sweeps week and again at a fundraiser, both in Los Angeles. Then there we were -- front and center -- hearing Johnny Gilbert's familiar "This IS Jeopardy." Speculation is that the show's 96-year old announcer will retire now that Alex is gone. For his replacement, actor, children's TV host LeVar Burton seems to be leading the pack. 
He'd be a winning replacement, with his pleasing voice, genuine nature and stellar reputation in the business.
LeVar Burton is our pick for next
"Jeopardy Host." He is known for "Star
Trek," an imaginative children's show
and his debut "Roots" performance.
 MY "JEOPARDY" days began when the show debuted in 1964.  I was a high school freshman, and I watched with my grandmother Olive. She loved language, game shows, and critiqued the contestants. She thought actor Art Fleming handsome.  Indeed. The first "Jeopardy" host stayed with the show until its 1975 hiatus. It was briefly revived, then shelved in 1978.
LONG TIME HOST Trebek, was a reporter in his native Canada in 1984 -- covering everything from horse races to politics -- when creator Merv Griffin asked him to come on board. That was 20 years after Gran and I first blurted out answers and played that catchy theme on the piano. 

WE'LL MISS Trebek but are thankful to have spent several days at Sony Pictures Studios on the "Jeopardy" set, witnessing behind-the-scenes action of the hit game show. Trebek's grace, sincerity and kindness were what kept the show's ratings high and his reputation as a "nice guy" solid.

Fun travel tips, cruising, hotels, nature pieces, at whereiscookie

Photo right: Ken Jennings with Alex Trebek. Jennings earned over
a million dollars on the popular show.

  "Jeopardy" provided a departure from traditional quiz shows by asking contestants to give answers in the form of a question.
Cookie waited patiently with other fans
for a guide to take viewers to the studio.
Bottom right, she takes a spin on the set.
Johnny Gilbert works the house during
several breaks in "Jeopardy" filming.

JOHNNY GILBERT is a story in himself, a legendary game show host with more than 65 years in show biz. It was fun watching him work the house, joking with the audience during breaks for advertising. We watched make-up artists touch up the contestants and Alex joked with the audience, too, and a couple times crossed the stage to help contestants who were having trouble with the signaling device. Since several shows are taped during a day, we observed costume changes -- on both Alex and winners who advanced to more games.

We also enjoyed watching a panel of judges and consultants checking answers. Twice during our visits, Alex adjusted a contestant's score.   
MY GRAM WOULD be thrilled to know that with over 
6,000 episodes aired, "Jeopardy" has won a record 31 daytime Emmy awards and is the only daytime game show to be honored with the prestigious Peabody Award. In 2013, the program was ranked No. 45 on TV Guide's list of the 60 greatest shows in American television history. "Jeopardy" has also gained a worldwide following and has been the subject of hilarious sketches on "Saturday Night Live."
Because the show is taped weeks in advance, viewers will continue to see Trebek, until his last episode airs Christmas Day.
A touching eulogy was delivered Monday, before the show began, by its executive producer, Mike Richards:
"Today we honor Alex Trebek. For over three decades he brought integrity, humor and intelligence to his duties as host of "Jeopardy!" He will be in our hearts forever." 
Amen, and RIP, dear Alex.     

UP NEXT: While we're in a California frame of mind, we're stopping by the central California coast's elephant whale rookery near San Simeon. Thousands of these playful, enormous creatures return to the protected environment of the rookery each year.  We caught them recently on our way down the coast from San Francisco to San Diego.  Join us and remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, family and the arts. Please share the links you enjoy at: