Road Trip!

The summer is soon upon us and we are thinking about getting in the car and driving. The Saab is still in good shape (for a 13 year old car) and so we are getting into planning mode. As Sue told you in her last post, I have started a new job where, horrors of horrors, they actually expect me to show up and work. Not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to this. But, I have now been there 2 weeks so it is time to explain to them that every summer I need to be on the road for (hopefully) 3 weeks.

This year, we have to be in Boston in late July for a wedding, so our thought is to drive there via Canada. The outline of the plan is to head for Montreal via Toronto, then to Quebec City to see three great Canadian cities. Then drop south into Maine and visit Acadia National Park. After we hang out with the blue bloods in Bar Harbor (pronounced Bah Hahbah) for a few days, will set our sites on Boston for the wedding.

Thank you SomeEcards for capturing my sentiments perfectly.

While in Boston, we will (hopefully) have time to go to Fenway (and lustily root AGAINST the Red Sox). From Beantown, we will head to the Big Apple (home of the Yankees–the greatest baseball team EVER (he is delusional) and Sue’s team–the Mets!!!!!!!), because we both love that city. From New York, it is pretty much a straight shot westward across Pennsylvania, Ohio & Indiana until we get back home to the Windy City. All in, about 2,500 miles and 42 hours of driving. Sue would to go to Nova Scotia from Quebec City, but that will add another 700 miles and 10 hours of driving, so we will see.

All in, I figure it is a 20-day trip, give or take. That assumes a minimum of 2 days in each city and no driving days of more than 6 hours. We haven’t really started to do the nuts and bolts planning (hotels, what we want to see, odd ball places to stop, etc.–ahem, who’s going to watch that giant beast of a dog?), but I think we will probably start that pretty shortly–once I ask for the time off…

El Avion

El Avion

Reading the news today, I saw that Oliver North was stepping down as the President of the National Rifle Association. This reminded me of something that made the Hotel Costa Verde unique and fun.

You may recall that when we were staying there, we spent one night in the cockpit cottage. They also had another “room” called the 727 Fuselage Home which was constructed from the fuselage of a 727 built in 1965. Additionally, they had one other airplane themed attraction. A restaurant called El Avion.

The thing that makes this restaurant so interesting is that it is built around an entire C-123 Fairchild cargo plane. “Big deal,” I hear you say (or maybe it was “What is a C-123 cargo plane?”). Either way, the type of plane is less important than its history.

For those of you who do not remember Ronald Reagan’s presidency, let me spend a few lines enlightening you. The Iranian people had overthrown the Shah in favor of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Hezbollah, an Iranian backed organization, was fighting a civil war in Lebanon and had taken a number of Americans hostage, Nicaragua had elected the socialist Sandinistas for their government. The president and his advisers were trying to support a group called the Contras who were attempting to overthrow the Sandinistas. Iran’s government was using American weapons bought when the Shah was in power to fight a war with Iraq and was desperate for resupply. It was illegal for the US to provide money or arms to both Iran and the Contras.

In steps our friend Oliver North, who was a lieutenant colonel and member of the National Security Council. Through a complicated web of transactions, he facilitated the illegal sale of weapons to Iran, and then diverted the money to illegally fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. All was going well…until people found out. There were Congressional hearings; various members of the executive branch were convicted of various crimes, then pardoned; the Contras attempt to overthrow the Sandinistas collapsed; and Iran’s war with Iraq continued for another 3 brutal years and ended in a stalemate.

So, back to the restaurant: The C-123 plane is one of the ones that Oliver North contracted to ferry the arms to the Contras. Here is how they tell the story.

The restaurant surrounds the plane and is like so many places in Costa Rica, open-sided. We sat upstairs with a beautiful view of Pacific Ocean and had a very nice dinner.

Ceding Control on a West Coast Jaunt

oakland2porttownsendUsually I am writing about my decisions or my future decisions about travel or how we decide what we’re going to do and where we’re going to do it, but much of my next trip will not be up to me. I did decide to go to Oakland, Calif., to see a very dear friend who is having a party (I love a good party!); therefore, the timing was not up to me. Then, we toyed with the idea of different road trips from there, and while I was leaning toward heading up the coast, she cemented it. So off we will go to Port Townsend, Wash.

I had a hand in most of that, but I am going to leave the rest of it up to my friend because she is bringing her dog and–surprise, surprise–most likely a foster teen (14 hours in a van with a teen?  – soooo pleased I won’t be there!). I am happy for her because she has been in the application process to be a foster mom for some time and she is very excited. Since I work with high school students all school year, I like to keep my distance in the summer, but it’s part of the adventure. Maybe it’s a good thing that my driving experience will be one-way, since I am flying back out of Seattle to cut some time off the trip.

My friend has already rented a Jucy, a vehicle I had never heard of; it’s a mini-RV, complete with beds and a little kitchen. I’m told they are very popular in Australia. 

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Two friends, a teen, and a dog–should be fun!

Close quarters, but better than riding all that way in her sedan. (I was wondering how that would work and she was one step ahead of me.) I’m going to leave the details of the itinerary up to her, also, unless she really wants my input. I’m practicing relinquishing control (Steven, add snarky comment here  Moi?  I NEVER have snarky comments – especially about the idea that you might need some control over things… ), but I also think it will be fun to follow the travel plans of someone else and experience travel from someone else’s perspective. I know there will be hiking, good food, and friends. What more do I need? (Prozac? Lexapro? Thorazine? – oh wait you were talking about for the trip?  Nevermind.)

Opening Day!

The spring has arrived. I know this, not because it has stopped snowing in Chicago, but because baseball season has arrived. As Josh & I continue our tour of stadiums, we are attending opening weekend at Chase Field in Phoenix. Number 18 on our tour. We decided to attend the first two games of the year.

Chase Field

For those of you who do not remember or know, I am a die-hard Yankee’s fan while Josh follows the Atlanta Braves. Usually, we would be particularly vested in rooting for either team, but the Diamondbacks were playing the Red Sox, so I was working hard to help them win. The two greatest things in baseball? The Yankees winning and the Red Sox losing.

The first game of the season is always a somewhat special, the stadium is all decked out, both teams are introduced, and awards are presented. Friday’s match up was Porcello (Red Sox) vs. Godley (Diamondbacks) and was a slugfest…for the Diamondbacks. They jumped out to a 14-1 lead by the end of the 6th and it was all over after that. Boston scored a bunch of late runs, but the game was never in doubt. The one great thing about the game
other than a true beat down of the Red Sox with tons of Red Sox fans
is that we got to see a position player pitch. Eduardo Nunez, a former Yankee who now plays for Boston, pitched. This is the first time we have seen that.

Saturday morning we decided to go to Taliesen West, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture school in Scottsdale. The tour took about an hour and was very interesting. They explained lots of his philosophy and how he used the shape and size of space to both move people and create a spaces for people to stay.

Saturday night we went to a second Diamondbacks/Red Sox Game. This one was much closer. The starting pitchers were David Price for Boston and Luke Weaver for Arizona. The score was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th and we were thinking there would be extra innings. However, Eduardo Escobar got a single and then reached 2nd on a passed ball. Alex Avila singled to right and Escobar turned the corner and headed home, but was thrown out at home on a beautiful play by Boston. Avila reached second on the throw. Chris Kelly singled to left and brought Avila home for a walk off single! Great ending to a great baseball weekend.

Last Full Day :(

We said goodbye to our gracious hosts, Karl and Guiselle, and headed back around the lake to La Fortuna. We wanted to hike the old lava flows that remain from the Arenal Volcano. Somehow, we passed by our original target (the Costa Ricans haven’t quite gotten the hang of giant signs and billboards with arrows and neon lights for miles, so sometimes you have to actually be paying attention), but that was OK, because we ended up driving a little farther and finding another hike with lava flows. This one, the lava vieja (yes, old lava) trail, began at Arenal Observatory Lodge. The idea was a view of Arenal Volcano and a nice, 2-hour-or-so hike before lunch. The trail technically leads up Cerro Chato, another volcano, but the Costa Rican government has banned hiking up it because of the danger. We asked, but were told that the police patrol frequently. We weren’t sure if was true or not, but weren’t willing to take the chance. Maybe next time.

If you are imagining a U.S. style switchback trail, think again. Think rainforest even in dry season can be a bit muddy. Overall, the trail was well-maintained and marked so it was fine, but it was no easy stroll. We were going up, sometimes a bit steeply. I enjoyed this hike because it seemed secret, although I’m sure it’s not. It wasn’t in the national park or the commercial site next to the park, and got to see some more of Costa Rica’s fabulous flora and fauna. Plus another couple from Illinois. No one wants to be here at the end of March.

Flora

Fauna

Oh, and there was another hanging bridge.

When we got to the top of the trail, we were rewarded with … fog and clouds. As Karl put it, “Arenal is a shy volcano.” A bit disappointing, but in no way am I complaining. The view of the valley, lake, and forest were spectacular. All-in-all, a great beginning to our last day.

Our best view of Arenal Volcano, from the road to La Fortuna.

After the hike, we drove to La Fortuna for lunch and a wander. After examining the options, which mostly consisted of variations on “tipical food” and pizza, we settled on a place that Steven’s eagle eye for food noticed: The Corner, right a cross from the main park and, of course, on a corner. We had a delicious salad with lettuce, onion, pineapple, papaya, cashews, tortilla strips and ginger soy sauce dressing along with frozen ginger lemonades with the accent on ginger. Steven had a chicken crepe and I broke my vegetarianism for shrimp tacos. If you happen to be in La Fortuna, we highly recommend it. Next we wandered some souvenir shops, but didn’t find anything of particular interest, and then hit my target: the chocolate shop. Chocolate Fusion, with artisan chocolate designed for the American dollar. I would never spend $5 (HEY, HOW MUCH WERE THESE? $5 A BAR) for less than 2 ounces of chocolate at home no matter how good it was, but vacation dollars are different. Plus, this is really good chocolate. We bought a few bars and then went to the market to buy some snacks for the trip home. Did you know you can buy Smucker’s Goober Grape in Costa Rica? Finally, we hit the road, returned the car, and had a painless Uber (they say You-ber) ride to the Studio Hotel near San Jose airport.

Water World Part 2

 

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Yesterday morning we set off on our second water adventure. Sue booked us an ocean kayak and snorkeling trip. We decided to drive to the tour company rather than have them pick us up as the drive home from the white water rafting included about an hour extra to drop off the other rafters. This way, we figured, we could drive to Quepos, the town where Iguana Tours has its offices and then when were done with the kayaking, we would wander the town.  We arrived at 8 a.m.  for our tour (yes, on vacation Sue booked us early morning activities every day so far) and were pleased to find that we were the only ones going. A driver took us to the beach and we met Alex our tour guide. A quick lesson on how to paddle, a safety lesson (stay in the kayak) and off we went. The water was beautiful: clear, calm, a bit of wind, but nothing that made paddling hard. We kayaked for about a mile, which took us about an hour. When we reached the snorkeling spot, we tied the kayaks together (ours and Alex’s), he tied them to a buoy, and we hopped into the water.

IMG_20190326_103022745_BURST000_COVER_TOPThe snorkeling was great, huge schools of small, colorful fish were all around. It felt like we were swimming in a tropical fish tank (which I guess we were –just a very large one!). Unfortunately, I forgot my GoPro, so I didn’t get any pictures/video of the fish. We snorkeled until we had our fill, hopped into the kayaks and beached on a nearby peninsula for a snack of fresh pineapple (which Alex cut up in front of us), cookies and lots of water. While we were relaxing, we had a visit from a troop (or barrel) of monkeys.  They hopped from tree to tree eating the leaves.  One of them had a baby on her back, while another small one seemed to be trying only very long (and scary) jumps.  Alex said that once we left, they would come down and eat the remains of the pineapple (and if they didn’t, the iguana’s would).

Once we were done, we hopped back in the kayaks and paddled our way back. All in we spent about 3 hours on the water. They tour company provided us with lunch in Quepos (typical food!).  After lunch we wandered through the town for about an hour and were ready to leave.

We walked back to our car and found to our dismay that it wouldn’t start. Luckily,Alamo, whom we rented the car from, was next door. We walked in and let them know we were having a problem.  After about 20 minutes the mechanic came out and walked over to our car.  He took one look, grabbed a new battery, and we were on our way. Whew. If you have read our blog before, you know that we have had car trouble on several trips and have been extremely lucky each time. Fingers crossed that streak holds.

 

I Love My Dog, But…

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Here’s the ball; what are you waiting for????

Who doesn’t love their dog? Rosie has been part of the family for 9 of her 10 years. She’s a little (little is not a word we should be using with Rosie – in any context) crazy in a German shepherd way, but she’s loyal and she gets me out of the house even when it is -5 degrees outside. The biggest problems with dear, sweet Rosie is that she doesn’t get along with other dogs and has never spent a night anywhere but our house since we got her. This makes travel, which I finally am more free to do, difficult. I can’t leave her in a kennel or with a dog-sitter who has other dogs.

I am happy to say that my son has a life and although he can help me out some of the time, he can’t do it every time I think I want to take a break. A few weeks ago, I couldn’t take the weather or the few-block radius that I live in when I hunker down. I had the brilliant idea of a weekend staycation. I looked for hotels and events and then … I remembered we have a dog! That was the end of the staycation.

img_20190303_195449859-1I have even toyed with the idea of finding a cabin that accepts pets, but Rosie is a 75-pound, barking pet with a nervous stomach, so I am reluctant to try it in case it’s a disaster. Besides, it reminds me of when I would travel with my son when he was little and I would spend many hours trapped in the hotel room for naps and bedtime. I would either have to take Rosie everywhere or leave her in her crate, where she only spends time if we’re having a party and there’s likely to be easily stolen food. Rosie needs a fenced-in yard because she’s outside, she’s inside, she’s outside, she’s inside (and that was just in the last 10 minutes). I can’t imagine her trapped in a small space without a door to whine out for outside access.

Plus, as you can see from the photo above, Rosie is used to making herself comfortable (on Steven’s side of the bed). I know I am a sucker, but I don’t think she’s suddenly going to turn into one of those dogs on an SUV commercial who hops out of the car ready to hike a mountain off her leash. Rosie would love the hike, but bark furiously at everything around her and try to chase every animal from a squirrel to a mountain lion if she encountered one. She’s 10 now, so she might not get very far, but she certainly would not stick valiantly to my side, trot a few paces and wait for me to catch up.

Pets are fabulous and I can’t imagine life without one, but she’s definitely put a crimp in my wanderlust.

6 weeks – 4 trips

I have a busy few weeks ahead: four trips scheduled in the next 6 weeks.

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA uptown cityscape.The week after next, I am deserting Sue and travelling to Charlotte, NC, for a business trip. I leave Sunday night and return home Thursday night. I would like to tell you that I really like the city of Charlotte, but truth be told, our offices are outside of the city and so I have never been downtown. I am not sure how many of you have been on business trips, but I do not find them particularly fun.  The routine is pretty simple, have breakfast and bad coffee at a generic hotel, go to the office early, spend all day working, back to the hotel for a couple of hours, dinner either alone or with some colleagues at a random restaurant, back to the hotel to work for a few more hours, watch “The Daily Show” & “Late Night with Stephen Colbert,” go to sleep then rinse and repeat.

I arrive back from Charlotte on Thursday afternoon, spend Friday doing my laundry and packing for the next trip. Saturday morning, we leave for our spring break trip to Costa Rica.  We have booked the flights, hotels and many of the day trips, so those are all taken care of.  In the next week or so, we will look at the map and plan the driving portion of the trip, but I will leave that for another post.

chasefieldWe return from Costa Rica on Sunday, March 31.  On the following Thursday, I am once again abandoning my lovely wife to head to Phoenix with my son, Josh.  We are going to the home opening weekend of the Arizona Diamondbacks (Abi:  that is baseball –yay sports!).  We have tickets for two games, Friday, their home opener, and Saturday.  They are playing the Boston Red Sox.  We hope to see Zack Greinke and Chris Sale pitch.  One more stadium off the tour list.

Two weeks later, Sue and I are going to my sister’s house in PA for the weekend.  The entire extended family will be there.  My sister, her husband and all four of her kids; my brother, his wife and three kids; my mother, son and his wife; and potentially some of the other kids’ partners will all be there. We are not a quiet family, so there will be a ton of noise and general madness. It is always great fun.

After we return from PA, it is a quick 6 weeks or so and school is done.  I guess we need to start planning our summer trip…

 

 

This is not ‘Nam…There are rules.(*)

I was meditating on what we should do around the Arenal Volcano and my conclusion is that we should honor the gods and toss a virgin into the volcano. However, Sue informs me that this is against the rules.  I am very disappointed. (I hope no one is thinking of taking Steven seriously–ever.)

Instead we are going to have to look at Sue’s list of things that we are “allowed” to do.  (Did I mention how disappointed I am with the whole you can’t throw a virgin in the volcano thing?)

cavesSpelunking in the Venado Caves Apparently there are a series of caves somewhere near the volcano that are about 2 miles long.  The photos look cool and how could it not be fun when they require you to bring an extra set of clothes and knee pads! As you all remember from our summer trip out West, I do not like heights. We will see if caves bother me! (Steven has forgotten that we have been to Mammouth Caves.) Oh yeah, the website offers a “​​Experimented photographer” to follow you around and take photos/videos. My question is what sort of experiments were done on the photographer.  😉

Ziplining. As I mentioned above, I am still afraid of heights, so of course we are planning to go ziplining. There seem to be a few places that do it both in around Manuel Antonio and Arenal. Given the things that we are planning when we are near Manuel Antonio, I am thinking that this insanity will have to wait until we are near the volcano.

Hanging bridges. High (literally) on our list is going over some/all of the many hanging bridges that weave their way through the rain forest around the volcano. I saw a note on one called “The Waterfall Bridge” which is 60 meters high.  I am so glad that I have gotten over my fear of heights…

waterfallLa Fortuna Waterfall. There is a waterfall called La Fortuna. It is 200 feet tall and the hike is only about 15 minutes from the front gate. However, it is down 550 steps, so while the hike down is only 15 minutes, the hike up is by my calculations (factoring in our ages, physical condition, and level of internal grit) 22 minutes for Sue and between 6 to 8 days for me.

Hot Springs. I am not sure how this fits into the whole “I am scared of heights” motif that I have been weaving, but the idea of hiking a bunch and then lowering my old, fat sore muscles into a hot springs sounds like a keeper. One of the places offers various spa treatments including both Chocolate and  Volcanic mud wraps.  Seems like too good of an idea to turn down.

Fuck it Dude, let’s go bowling.

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The very quotable Walter Sobchak

For those of you who don’t know the line above and title quote it is from the movie “The Big Lebowski”…many thanks to Walter Sobchak.

 

 

 

Oh The Things We Will Do & See

We (read Sue) did quite a bit of planning for Costa Rica this weekend.  Usually we try and organize quite a bit of our excursions before we go, or at least we sketch out what we are doing.  For this trip, we decided to plan what we wanted to do but then pretty much try and book on the day or the day before.

The first few days we are staying near the Manuel Antonio National Park. While there we will certainly go white water rafting on the  Upper Naranjo river.   We found a company call Pro Rafting Costa Rica and plan to book through them.  Some other things we are thinking about doing are:

Nighttime walking or boating tour in the National Park. The nice thing about the walking tour is we will be right in the ju03ngle, so close up to what ever we find. On the other hand…we will be close up to what ever we find!  The boat tour sounds more leisurely, but that isn’t usually our style.  Either way, it should be fun–in the jungle, at night.

Mangrove kayaking. There are lots of mangrove swamps and kayaking through them looks like it will give us a daytime view of the jungle at a safe distance from the land-based wildlife.  Sue tells me that the alligators don’t usually eat people as long as they stay in their kayaks. Hmmm: Could she be planning something?  One of the tour operators offers this at night, too.S o alone in a swamp, that is in a jungle, in a foreign country, where we don’t speak the language (Hey, I have been doing Duolingo for 64 days and can say useful things like: Do you work in a factory?) and separated from man- human- (?–yes, human, unless you think they are trained to eat only men) eating animals by a few millimeters of plastic. Sounds perfect.

Ocean kayaking/snorkeling. This tour takes us out into the ocean to kayak and then do some snorkeling.

Segway tour. Segway tour?  Really, going all the way to Costa Rica to ride a Segway?  Well, there is some history to this one.  Before started our blog, we traveled to Morocco (BTW: fabulous trip, fabulous place, a really great vacation for anyone with a small amount of adventurous spirit). For my birthday, Sue organized a Segway tour of Marrakech.  Unfortunately, the tour guide no-showed on us.  Needless to say, it is all Sue’s fault and she owes me a Segway tour.  Maybe we will do it in Costa Rica.

cano-island-costa-rica-scuba-300x216Scuba Diving.This is a long shot.  Sue didn’t really love diving when we did it in Hawaii, but perhaps she will give it another try.  (I said I would. I was just cold and seasick from the boat fumes.) One of the downsides to it is that there is a 10-mile boat ride to the island and she gets seasick (a very terrible feeling) so we will see.

Hiking.We will be going hiking, in the park, near the park, and anywhere else we can find.

Enough for today.  We will write about the things we will do near the Arenal Volcano for our next post.