We Start 2018 With A Roadtrip To the Southwest

For the first time in several years, winter actually paid a visit to the Midwest.  First we got hit with about 4 inches of snow, and then the cold set in with temps as low as 16 below 0 and windchill readings as low as -26.  But I had a plan in place and so on January 2nd, Val and I hopped in my Tacoma and headed towards the southwest to visit my Dad as well as stop off and visit a friend, both of whom live in New Mexico.

Cold Midwest

Just as I was about to back out of the driveway, I thought it would be good to take a shot of what we were leaving.  So I grabbed the iPhone a took a quick shot.  It was a whopping -11 degrees.  Burr.  But warmer weather would soon be ours.  Or at least that’s what we thought.  It seems a huge cold air mass had swooped down and was covering nearly the entire country.  It would not be warm in the south as we had hoped.  Darn it!

Our first stop was Texarkana, Texas.  To us, the temps seemed pretty good.  They were in the upper 30’s.  More importantly, there was no snow on the ground.  But the locals were froze.  This cold spell had them all complaining.  This cold, that extended all the way down into lower Florida, had the southerners freezing.  How cold was it?  Well pictures have been in the news of frozen iguana falling out of trees.


Our first night’s stay at a Holiday Inn in Texarkana went fine.  Except for the water pressure at the bathroom sink.  I told Val my pee stream was bigger.  That picture really makes the stream look bigger than it really was.  But the shower was fine as far a water pressure goes.

The next day we headed south to Padre Island.  Remember, I wanted to have a nice room on the beach, with a balcony facing the Gulf.  An open door letting the warm air in the room and the sound of the crashing waves hitting the beach.  This I was really looking forward to.  Especially with that cold weather back home.

Gulf Sunset 01

Above is the view from our balcony at sunrise the next morning.  Nice, but we need to take a moment to to remember the events that led to my trip being postponed until now.

I originally planned to take this trip back during Labor Day, lat August and early September.  But unfortunately, a hurricane decided to pay a visit during that time as well.  So I decided to postpone my trip.  I’m glad I did.  The hurricane created catastrophic damage to the area.  It will take many years for the area to recover.

The Holiday Inn Express in which we stayed, was the only hotel open when I made my reservation back in October.  Every other nearby hotel was damaged and closed.  Many have still not reopened.  In fact, the Holiday Inn on the left side of the picture is still closed.  Everywhere we looked we saw terrible damage, still in place.  There was no getting a hotel room on the beach.  This was as close as I could get.

The weather was not cooperating either.  Sure it was much warmer than back home.  But the highs were in the 40’s to near 50 during the day.  And they had hard freeze warnings for the night.  I think we better forego the opening of the hotel balcony door all night.  We found a great little pizza joint called the Brooklyn Pie Company and shared a pretty darn good New York-style pizza.  Give ’em a try if you’re down that way.

In the next installment, we head west towards San Antonio.


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A Fork In the Road

So it was Christmas and I needed to buy a new truck. My 2007 Avalanche had well over 200,000 miles and was beginning to show its age. So as I pondered what to replace it with, I kept coming back to a Toyota Tacoma. 

I have wanted one of these little trucks for many years. They are a bit larger now than they used to be. But they have a pretty good reputation for reliability. 

I have been interested in adding another dimension to my motorcycle travels and a vehicle that has the ability to go off-road seemed just the ticket. I like to take pictures and the ability to go off- road to get to some more interesting locations sounded good for me.

Now truth be told, my interest in overlanding really picked up after I first attended the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona back in 2014.  This Expo had about every imaginable type of off-road vehicle you could imagine along with the vendors who sell all the “farkles” that go along with such. AND, they have lots of classes for you to attend to teach you all about overlanding.

Overlanding, for those of you who do not know, is best described as travel across countries or at least long distances, off road. Or at best, very poor quality roads. You need to specially equip your vehicle to travel for long periods of time off road. And learn how to survive such travels as well. And there may be no better place to start learning all about overlanding than the OEX.

So I traded in the well worn out Avalanche for a brand new 2017 Tacoma TRD Off Road.  I’ve only got about 7,500 miles on it so far. But I have plans. 

So the Fork I spoke of in the title of this little piece is that I am adding overlanding to my travel plans along with motorcycles. Ah yes, the motorcycles.

I currently have five motorcycles. I think that is too many. So I am putting them all up for sale. And then, I am going to buy one new one.

The OEX is coming up in mid-May. This year, I’m taking the Tacoma. We shall see how that goes. 

So stay tuned. More fun is just up around the bend. Thanks for following me. 

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Does McDonald’s Coke Taste Different

Does McDonald’s Coke taste different than everyone else’s Coke?  That is a question I have had for many years.  And apparently many other people have asked the same question over the years.  Earlier today, I came across 17mar02mcdonalds_mealand article by Fox News that was recently written about this very topic.  Here is a link to that article:  Foxnews

Now just to be clear, I am not promoting anything here and to be fair, I really don’t normally watch much regular TV, especially the news.  Well, with exception of CNBC which I have live on my brokerage account TV so I can follow the Market and converse back and forth with my friends in the investing world and on TV.  But this article popped up on Twitter today and it brought back some old memories.  So I thought I would share them with you.

If you have a few minutes, sit back and read this little blog.  But, if you have a short attention span, you may find this a bit lengthy.  So you are forewarned.  So let’s get on with it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that if you are a soda drinker, or maybe used to be one, you will likely agree that there is something different about the Coke served by McDonalds versus that served everywhere else, including that which you can purchase at the local grocery store.  It seems, well, as McDonalds put it, more refreshing.

If you read the article in the link I provided above, you may decide that it explains why Coke does indeed taste different than anywhere else.  And I am not going to argue that the article is or is not correct.  But, I am going to share with you a little information I was given many years ago that, at least for me, might have at least some truth to it.  So here is my story.

Back many years ago, I happened to be indulging in some “cocktails” with a certain Coca Cola Executive.  His name escapes me now, but this would have been back around mid-1981-82, somewhere in there, which is probably a good thing as I was sworn to secrecy and have actually kept my word until now.  But let’s just say this fellow would have had the connections to know what he was talking about and we will leave it at that.  Besides, I’m sure he is long since retired, well, maybe even dead.  That’s it!  He’s dead so he won’t come after me.

So we are discussing how it is that Coke can provide this syrup of theirs to everyone around the world and it is the same everywhere around the world, yet the very people who are making the syrup do not know the formula.  How is that possible?  Well it is, but that is for another story.  But, it is key in understanding what I am going to share with you.

Back to the story.  As we sat and discussed the marvel of just how well accepted Coke is all over the world, this fellow shared a “secret” with me.  He said Coke had a new product coming to market in a few months.  Something that was so big, it would revolutionize the industry.  It would be huge. HUGE!!!!  Well, what is this new mystery elixir?  Do tell me more.

I was then told that not only would he share with me what it was, but that he had some and if I would promise not to say anything to anyone, he would share some with me.  He said he had a sample out in his car.  And so we worked our way out to the parking lot and as we meandered towards his car, he said that to demonstrate just how big this product would be, he would do a bit of a blind taste test with me.  I agreed to be a taste tester, but I warned him that I am a bit different than most people, so the results he might get from me might be different than what he expects.

So once we got to the car, I was instructed to face away from the car whilst he put the whole sample thing together.  When instructed to turn around, he told me that I would drink first from cup A and then follow up right away with cup B.  And then, I would tell him which cup had the real Coke in it.  Okay, right.  So both cups have similar tasting products in them.

Cup A was first consumed.  Then I quickly followed with cup B.  One tasted like good ol’ Coke and the other tasted like soap.  And that was pretty much what I remember telling him.  Yuck!  Give me some more of the first one.  I need to get that second one’s taste out of my mouth.

Well, in case you have not guessed it yet, that new top secret product was going to be called Diet Coke.  Yep.  The Diet Coke many of you may still drink today.  I find it revolting and it leaves a horrible after taste in my mouth.  But I give him credit.  Diet Coke did become HUGE!  Just not to me.

Now as we stood out there in the parking lot on a beautiful Wednesday evening, we continued to talk more about the Coca Cola Company.  I remember it was a Wednesday evening because the bar we were at had a special on well drinks every Wednesday evening.  And we were there to take advantage of such.

So back on Coke, I commented about the fact that Coca Cola was a bit like McDonalds.  One of the most important requirements McDonalds maintained, even to this day as far as I know, is that a Big Mac is a Big Mac anywhere you go.  It must taste the same everywhere.  Coca Cola must do the same thing with their Coke. Well, that got him talking about a secret he claimed virtually nearly no one in the world knew.  At least according to him.

He said I was spot on.  Even more so, both Coke and McDonalds had a secret that even pretty much everyone who who works for either company knows anything about.  A pact,  created years ago.  It seems McDonalds wanted to “modify” the Coca Cola recipe so it tasted different than anywhere else.  A sort of signature taste that would set them apart from other competitors.  They had played around with Coca Cola and had figured out what they needed to change to get a more “refreshing” taste.

So a discussion was held between a few people within each organization and a pact was made, secured with only a handshake so no documents would be shared or secrets let out of the bag.  I wonder if they  had a secret handshake too?  The pact, would be that McDonalds would be allowed to use a modified formula and in return, McDonalds would never serve any non-Coca Cola Company drinks in their stores.

Now remember way back at the beginning of this story, I mentioned how Coca Cola syrup was somehow made, yet the people who made it did not know the recipe?  Well, in this same manner, the recipe for Coca Cola meant for McDonalds is used, but the people who make it don’t know that it is different from the original recipe.  Better yet, the people at McDonalds don’t even know their recipe is different.  At one time, a few may have known.  And maybe today there are a few people who know.  But the idea was to never let it be known that this special recipe for McDonalds even exists.

Is this possible?  I don’t know.  But to this day, there is a special division within the Coca Cola Company just for McDonalds.  Hmmm. Sounds like an Area 51 kind of thing to me.

But I was sworn to secrecy and I have kept my word all these years – at least until now.  I have no reason to doubt the person who shared this with me.  I don’t have a clue how he knew or why he would share it with me.  Well, maybe the cocktails had a bit to do with it.  Nevertheless, I still to this day maintain that there is something different about Coke at McDonalds than anywhere else.  And I’m not sure the reasoning given in the article linked above explains it all.

I had a conversation with a Pepsi executive a few years ago.  Nothing related to this.  But he pointed out that if you were to put a typical Pepsi dispenser next to a typical McDonald’s Coke dispenser, and then see which one will fill a cup first, that Pepsi will win every time.  Something about how fast the little aerator where the mix comes out and into your cup can properly mix the carbonated water with the syrup.  He said he thought McDonalds had some requirement about how that thing worked, or something along those lines.  His attempt was to say that Pepsi’s was superior and he didn’t understand why Coke didn’t just put a similar type aerator on their units.  I call that thing an aerator, but it is probably really called something like a nine syllable word.

So am I letting a cat out of the bag?  I don’t know.  Maybe the article is right.  Or maybe some variation of the article and what I am sharing with you is the truth.  You might think I would look this stuff up on the Internet.  But somehow, I never have.

Maybe it is because I want to believe some super secret story was shared with me some 35 years ago.  The guy was right about Diet Coke.  They did publicly announce the product within a few weeks after our conversation.  It became available a few months later.  And it did become a HUGE thing for the Coca Cola Company.  Even if I still think it tastes like soap.

Take what I say with a grain of salt, or maybe in this case, with a glass of Coke.  But the next time you drink a Coke, especially if it is at McDonalds, think about my story.  Let me know what your thoughts are.  I really would like to hear. Do you think the Coke at McDonalds tastes different compared to other sources?

Thanks for reading this little blog.  I’ll see you next time on Where In the World Is Jim.

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Things and Places Around Home

Spudnut Shop Cinnamon Roll

In a town near me, Pekin, Illinois, there lives a donut shop that has been around since what seems to be forever.  Named the Spudnut Shop, they have been creating delicious donuts for at least as long as I have been around.  Maybe even since the beginning of the company back in 1946.

The name says it all.  Spudnut.  They use potato flour to make their donuts and rolls.  This gives them a different consistency than other donuts and rolls.  They sure are good.  I took a picture of this one this morning.  I didn’t purchase it though.  It is nearly a foot long.  I didn’t measure it, but it was not the longest one on the rack by far.

There is a long history of the Spudnut Company available on the Internet if you are interested.  There was over 600 of them around the country at one time.  Now, I think the number is less than 50.  One thing that is consistent with them all.  If you want a Spudnut donut or roll, you have to come early.  the shops are typically closed by 10 AM each day.

I noticed the shop I stopped at this morning had the largest selection of donuts and rolls I have ever seen still available at 8:00 in the morning.  I understand business is picking up, so they are trying to make more donuts than what they used to make.  The parking lot wall full.  Well, it is a small one though.

Anyway, if you are not familiar with Spudnut Donuts, look them up on the internet and find one along your next trip route.  Each donut is hand made, so they don’t look perfect like the ones you will find at the typical franchised donut shop.  But they sure do taste fine.

Make sure you get there early!


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America’s 25 Most Beautiful Scenic Byways – House Beautiful


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My Memorial Day Weekend

So I hope you all have a great Memorial Day weekend. I took a trip up to DesPlaines,IL to purchase some real lumber to for my outdoor kitchen cabinet currently under construction.  But once there, I realized it would cost about $1,500 to purchase the wood. I decided that was realistically more than I could justifying, so I came back home with a new plan to use ipe wood instead. So that will be ordered today.


While I was in the general area, I stopped at Oakbrook Center and did some shopping for some new shirts.  Happy to see I timed the trip just right, by accident,  as Brooks Brothers was having sale.  After purchasing some shirts, I made another stop at Nordstrom , and then hit a few other stores to check out how the retail traffic looked. I do this as many retailers are having tough times these days as more and more shoppers turn to the internet to make their purchases.

As an investor/trader, it is good to keep a handle on how much foot traffic the different publicly traded companies are doing.  One of the ways to do so, into visit their stores and see how many people are in the stores, and how many people are actually buying.


Not a lot of motorcycle news right now. I should have spent last weekend in Flagstaff,AZ, but due to a few other issues, I canceled that trip to stay home and work on my house.  Looks like I really missed a good time.  I need to take the time off as I help my son move to college later this summer.


Back at home I headed over to the American Legion on Sunday morning to meetup with some of my friends in my local BMW MOA Club for breakfast. I was not the first there, but as witnessed in the picture, I arrived ahead of many.  The lot was full of bikes just about a half-hour later.  We had a good breakfast and many were headed out for a ride.  Not me though.



I’m now back home and ready to get to work in the wood shop.  This door is made of cherry and curly maple.  It has no finish on it yet.  But at least it is now hanging.  Behind these doors is a small closet that will serve as a backup pantry for the kitchen.  You know, the kitchen that still has no cabinets built yet.  But I’m getting closer!

I’m currently building two cabinets, matching the wood as well.  Then onto the passage door, door trip and crown molding. This is all for my new laundry room. Wood finish will consist of several coats of boiled linseed oil, shellac and then top-coated with varnish. The finish process takes about a month to complete, once started.  Slooooow process when working with oil.

So that is and update for now from my world.  More later and ride safe.  Oh, one more thing, as Steve Jobs used to say.  More motorcycle stories are coming.  And new trips are planned for 2017, including another trip up to the great state of Alaska.  So stay tuned.

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Take Look At My Home Page Picture

You may recognize this picture.  Then again, maybe not.  I took this shot of my bike along the side of the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada back in 2013 as I made my way to Alaska.  That is a glacier working its way down the mountain in the background.  What you don’t see is how I took the shot.

There really isn’t anyplace to stand at this location across the road from where the bike is parked.  So  had to stand down on a narrow ditch, right near the edge of the Parkway.  Cars were passing past me and this had to be a quick shot, since I didn’t want any cars in my picture.

So as I often do in many of my shots, I ran across the road and found just enough time to click off a shot or two before traffic filled the screen.  This is a hand-held shot, not a tripod shot.

For whatever reason I’ve found that many if not most all of my best pictures are taken in a kind of spur of the moment with no or at least very little pre planning.  I don’t know why, but  the shots I take that involve planning and lots of setup usually don’t come out to good.

So as I lay here in bed tonight I thought I would share a little tidbit with you tonight.  More to come soon.  And thanks for viewing.

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Where In the World Have I Been?

Fall Colors_Small

Hi Everyone.  Sorry for stopping my Alaska trip mid-stream.  I’ve been working on a major remodel of my house and it is taking all of my free time.  I took the above picture this morning and as you can see, fall is in full color.  Which means winter is on its way.  And I’m in the middle of building a 700 square foot patio addition with an outdoor kitchen.  I’ve got to get it done before the snow flies.

So hang tight.  I’ve got plenty of updating to do.

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Next Update On It’s Way

Sorry to have taken so long to get another blog update uploaded.  I have been busy with my house remodel and have only had a little bit of time to work on the blog.  But the next update is nearly complete.

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Alaska Trip Blog Update

Alaska Trip Blog Update

Hey Guys. Don’t give up on me. I’m still working on the Alaska Trip Blog with another chapter soon to come. But I am also back to working on my house as I must have the remodel completed by Thanksgiving. So A lot of my time is being spent working on the house. But Chapter Three, Riding Across the Northern Plains, will be published this weekend. So stay tuned.

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