Friday, August 31, 2007

Arecibo Observatory

Marty took a break from making Lola's new tables and we went to the obsevatory at Arecibo, an hour or so east of here.

The observatory has the largest radio telescope in the world. It has been featured in major motion pictures including Contact with Jodi Foster and the Bond flick, Goldeneye with Pierce Brosnon.

It is difficult to get a sense of how big this thing is. The main reflector - the "bowl" - is 305 meters (1000 feet) in diameter. It is 51 meters (167 feet deep) and covers an area of about 18 acres, more than 26 football fields. The Georgian dome - that bell-like thing hanging from the suspended platform - is six stories high and weighs 68 metric tons (150,000 pounds). The platform itself weighs 630 metric tons and is held up by 18 cables suspended from reinforced concrete towers. It's so sell balanced, under normal wind conditions the platform moves only a fraction of a centimeter. It is awesome!

There are more pictures on Flickr.

The drive back into the observatory is pretty awesome in and of itself. This was one of our few (so far!) excursions into the interior of the island. Once you leave the autopista (expressway), the roads are typically narrow and wind around and over and up and down the mountains. It's a beautiful, really interesting drive. At times the heavy vegetation hangs over the road so you're driving through a living tunnel. Other places the vista opens and you can see across several mountain tops and down into the valleys between them. Carr. 10 (Route 10) the major north-south road across the center of the island, reminded us of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Smokey Mountains. Just beautiful.

We'll be taking more trips to the interior soon!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New KAP photos

I finally shot some new KAP (kite aerial photography) photos this weeks that I'm happy with.
First time I've been happy with the photos since the 4th of July set. I've been out a few times since then but came back with dreck. Shot a construction site: boring photos. Shot a hay field - deleted those as fast as I downloaded them. But a couple of days ago I got some new stuff on the beach I'm pretty happy with. There are a few new kite surfing pics as well. The best of the lot on on Flickr.

The underwater camera housing issue is nearly resolved. We're still waiting to hear from Canon but Elaine (bless her heart!) ordered a new Ikelite housing for me. That should be here soon - maybe today!

This week not having an underwater housing hasn't really mattered much. The ocean has been really rough and cloudy. We went snorkeling at Crashboat this morning, thinking that would be a little flatter. It was flat but visibility was about two feet. Pretty much like snorkeling in the lakes in Michigan - only warmer. So, as soon as the ocean clears up, I should be able to get new snorkeling/diving pictures. Thank you, Elaine.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A puppy in paradise

I call this our "portrait in paradise" tree. I've taken several pictures of Elaine on this tree. It has a great curve and an obviously wonderful background. Jazz likes to chase lizards up the tree. I've tried for months to get him to "stay" put on it. Finally, yesterday he did. I got two shots - this is the best.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Latest "upgrade" takes shape

First, thanks to our friends Jen and Jason, we got the new Ola Lola's surfboard sign. Then we got new, more comfortable deck chairs for Lola's. Then Elaine added the wonderful, now- famous dips to the Lola menu. This week our good friend and master woodworker/furniture maker Marty Glista came to visit - and to help create new tables for Lola's. The best we can offer is a makeshift workshop but Marty is creating beautiful, stable hardwood tables. The new tables will make their debut this week. Thank you, Marty. Thank you SO much!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

We're back - again!

Wow! Finally we're back. No, Hurricane Dean didn't knock out our internet. Apparently, contractors hired by the cable company to string new wire knocked it out. We've been without internet service - despite three repair orders and service calls - since last Thursday.

But we're back now.

After an initial scare, Hurricane Dean was pretty much a non-event for us - thank the gods! For a while it looked like it was headed right at PR but it went a couple of hundred miles south. We got some pretty good winds Friday night/Saturday morning but by late Saturday morning, it was just another day in our little paradise. The ocean was choppy and churned up and surfers were looking for waves, but other than that...Anyway, all is well and we're back to what passes for normal here.

Gotta run 'cause we've got visitors from the States. More soon. Just wanted to let y'all know Lola's and all the dogs, horses and people are fine.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Birthday, Boyd

Ola Lola's in full party mode!

Last Sunday we hosted our friend Boyd's surprise 30th birthday party. "This is just such a special place for us," Boyd's wife Kendra said. "This is THE place to have his party."

To maintain the surprise, Kendra blindfolded Boyd and drove him around for nearly an hour before finally arriving at Lola's.

Kendra and Elaine worked together to put together a festive menu from our new menu of dips and make sure Lola's was properly decorated. Since Boyd is a surfer (one among a long list of adventure sports), we got a surf board to use as a serving table. (Thanks to our friend Elaine Irizarry at Fusion Art and Floral for the surf board.)

Many of the guests had never been to Lola's before. It's a pretty safe bet many of them will be back. And, at least three other people said, "I want to have MY birthday party here!" Cool!

The party reminded Elaine and me of the kite festivals we used to produce in Michigan - a lot of up-front prep, madness and chaos getting ready the day of the event, huge fun and joy during the event, and collapse in exhaustion after the clean-up. But it was great fun. Thank you, Kendra, for choosing Lola's.

And Boyd - Happy Birthday! Feliz compleanos!


Dean is now officially a hurricane with sustained winds over 75 mph. The current predictions have Dean crossing into the Caribbean on Friday and strengthening to Category 2 (96-110 mph). The GOOD news is the current predictions moved the storm track well south of Puerto Rico. the "cone" of the predicted path now just skirts the very southern tip of the island. In the latest forecast we have only a 40% chance of getting tropical storm-strength winds. That's GREAT news for us. If the current predictions hold, it's not good news for Jamaica or the Yucatan peninsula. You can track Hurricane Dean on Weather Underground. There's also a link to Weather Underground on the Ola Lola web site.

In the mean time we keep on keepin' on, snorkeling, riding Chocolate, swimming with Amber and Jazz. Today is restock-Lola's day. It reminds me a little of the 1950's post-apocalyptic novel and movie "On the Beach" - going on with everyday life while waiting for the inevitable. It's obviously not that bad or serious here, especially since it looks like Dean is going to miss us entirely.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taking aim at PR

Tropical Storm Dean is right now about 1490 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, headed west at 23 mph. Maximum sustained winds are 40 mph, but are expected to strengthen as Dean heads west. Predictions now are Dean will develop into a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 96-110 mph by Sunday. Puerto Rico is well within the cone of Dean's projected path. At least one predicted path aims Dean directly at the southeast corner of the island.

That's the bad news. The good news (for us anyway) is that that is as far away from us as you can get. We have the whole island and the mountains between us and the projected path. Also, the "mountain," the cliff, we're tucked against also provides some protection. So we're respecting the storm, we're taking precautions for us and the animals, but we not scared of it. We'll see. It's another chapter in the adventure.

You can follow the storm by clicking on the "weather" link on the Ola Lola web site.

Stay tuned. We are.

Sunrise, 70 feet down

Saturday morning I dove with my dive instructor/dive buddy Darryl at Natura (aka El Natural). It's a beautiful, very popular dive site just around the corner of the island, just north of Crashboat beach.

We met at was has become "the usual" time, 7:00 am. By the time we "geared up" and got in the water it was 7:2o. Full light out, but because Natura is around the corner, the sun has to get pretty high over the cliff before it reaches the water. So we had plenty of light but it was very flat, with little direction (except down, of course).

About halfway through our nearly hour-long dive, just before we turned to start the return leg, we were about 70 feet down when the sun came over the mountain and hit the water. The whole reef lit up like it was in a spotlight on stage. Big barrel sponges were back-lit by the sun were in silhouette except for the bright edges. Little lavender-colored corals, looking like grape hyacinth in full bloom in the spring, glowed in the early light. A big hawksbill turtle swam right underneath me. He was in a big banking turn through the water almost like an airplane banking through the air.

Natura is a VERY different reef from the ones off Shacks, right out here where we usually snorkel and dive. Rather than the canyons and caverns of the outside reef at Shacks, Natura is a long sloping reef that drops from about 30 feet to 75 feet. There are none of the elkhorn coral that are so common and so beautiful at Shacks.

On the other hand, there are big barrel sponges and different finger corals waving in the current. All in all, it's another amazing dive site within just a few minutes of home. And while there are many great boat-trip dive sites nearby (the islands of Desecheo and Mona and off shore at La Paguara, for example), these sites are walk-in-right-from-the-beach dives.

Sorry, still no pictures. Still no resolution with Canon about the housing and camera issue. SOON! (I hope - I'm going crazy without it.)

Monday, August 13, 2007


There’s a lot of life around here – some of it shows up rather unexpectedly. Some of the critters appear to have been domesticated at some point or to some degree, but have either been abandoned or wandered off. Here’s the latest of these that are either a definite part of Lola's Corner or who have simply shown up in our neighborhood recently.

First we have the three piratas, three very Chihuahua-like Puerto Rican satos who appear to be related and have decided to move into the calle (small road) that leads to the beach. We call them the tres piratas because they lay in wait and ambush us as if to steal our treasures whenever we go by. This includes when we walk the dogs on the beach, go to snorkel ourselves, or ride the horse. This behavior is repeated with anybody who dares pass by. They are liable to lunge at you from behind, yapping away, although they back off quickly when give a loud “Psst!” sound or when the horse turns towards them.

Then we have our latest aviary-type added to our hummingbirds, banana kwits, swallows, and evening bats. He’s a rooster…yep, rooster. He moved in to the lot next door two days ago and although the city-side myth of life tells us that roosters crow at dawn, this is in fact only a very small part of the story. He (in keeping with others we have met on the island) crows all day – from pre-dawn until dark. Sometimes he crows as often as 4-5 times a minute. Apparently, this attracts chicks…or more precisely…chickens! Because we’ve now seen at least one chicken wandering the parking lot in search of the machismo man of her dreams. Now…if we can just figure out where she’s laying eggs, we will have either baby gallinos running around or fresh huevos for breakfast!

Jazz is officially in charge of keeping the Puerto Rico Lizard Warning System (PRLWS) working. He goes into full point regularly when he sees a lizard and while he rarely catches them, it’s not for lack of trying. He particularly likes to find and stare down “Dobby,” our house lizard on whichever wall or ceiling he’s on during the evenings.

Then there’s Gilbert. He’s our garden toad. Weighs in at about 5 lbs. near as we can tell and can be quite intimidating when he’s standing in front of the Ola Lola bathrooms. And, speaking of bathrooms, we have our Coqui Cleaning Crew signs in there which explain that the coquis, tiny Puerto Rican tree lizards which are in there at times (under the toilet seat and in the sink drain), are inspecting the premises for cleanliness. (This may not be entirely true, but they are harmless and we just want people to smile rather than scream when they see a tiny frog jump off the wall into the sink.)

These are just some of the critters in our yard and the lot next door…later we’ll talk about the mongooses (mongeese?), pelicans (or Puerto Rican “penguins” as Elaine calls ‘em), land crabs, fish, terns, egrets, and iguanas. We got ‘em all!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Busy week

It's been another busy week here at Lola's Corner, what with all the horseback riding on the beach, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, running dogs, and - oh, yeah - running our little bar.

I've been SCUBA diving two or three mornings a week with Darryl (my dive instructor) and Trevor Young (owner of Villa Tropical) and anybody else who shows up. We meet at 7:00 am and see where it's best to go, usually to the outer reef right off Shacks Beach. I've written before about how great snorkeling is on the outer reef. Diving there is just amazing. In the last week we've seen three full-grown nurse sharks and a baby nurse shark, a 5 or 6 foot eagle ray, a big barracuda, grey angelfish, queen angelfish, French angelfish, amazing coral (including a pillar coral that looks like a sandcastle perched on the edge of a mountain of coral) Sorry I don't have pictures of any of this to post (yet). Canon and I are still having discussions about leaking housings and flooded cameras. As soon as that is resolved, look out!

It's been a lot like January here the past few days. The winds are pushing pretty big (for this time of year) waves. We also have those tropical late afternoon rains. Between the wind and the rain, the ocean is pretty churned up and cloudy. Visibility on the dive yesterday morning was okay, not great but not terrible. By the time Elaine and I went snorkeling late yesterday afternoon, it was terrible. Still, we saw three reef squid, a good size snapper, and a cool porcupine fish. Not a bad day all in all.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A new chapter opens at Lola's

After months of waiting ('til Elaine got here full time), we finally rolled out our new food menu last weekend.

We wanted to do something different from all the other little roadside places. So, no pinchos (grilled pollo [chicken] or cerdo [pork] on a stick), no pastillos (fried turnovers with various fillings), no pollo al carbon (barbequed chicken). After a lot of discussion, we decided to serve dips in a kind of cross between appetizers and tapas.

Right now the dips we're serving are: Sassy Salsa Bean Dip, Scrumptious Caesar Crumble Dip, Perfectly Pizza Dip, Awesome Asiago Artichoke Dip (the top picture), Oh Wow Olive Walnut Dip, Tasty Thai Peanut Dip, Orange-Pineapple Sweet Tickle, and Happy Mouth Honey Butter. The last two are sweet, kind of dessert or kids' treats. In fact there are special children's-size servings of Happy Mouth Honey Butter and Perfectly Pizza dips.

We also have Lola's Sampler (bottom picture) which includes Awesome Asiago Artichoke, Sassy Salsa Bean and Scrumptious Caesar Crumble dips.

Like everything else at Lola's, it's part of the adventure. The dips have all been really well received. It's only the first weekend but so far the Sampler, Asiago Artichoke and Caesar Crumble are the early favorites.

The dips have been so successful a couple of our friends are planning a business get-together at Lola's, just so they can show off our new dips. Well, that, and the fact they love Lola's and it's a great place to bring friends and clients.

We've also added new drinks to the menu. We've always made one of the best Pina-coladas anywhere (no brag, just fact, supported by MANY testimonials in the guest book). We've added our own special twist and come up with the Pina-LOlada. It's getting rave reviews. We could tell what the secret ingredients are but then we'd have to blow up your computer and erase your memory (a la Men in Black).

We're upgrading the furnishings at Lola's as well. We replaced the plastic chairs with new canvas folding camp chairs. They are MUCH more comfortable. As one friend said, "Now it's just like sitting on my own deck, except the company is better!" We're having new tables made later this month. Don't know yet exactly what they will look like yet because our dear furniture-maker friend is coming down from Michigan later this month to design and build them.

We'll post the entire new menu and pictures of the new furnishings on the website,, soon.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

One year ago...

It's hard to believe it's August already.

One year ago today we flew to Puerto Rico, starting the trip that ultimately brought us here, to Ola Lola's.

We'd been here several times before, staying right on the beach down the road at Villa Tropical. That's where we -well, I - fell in love with the northwest corner of Puerto Rico. (Elaine actually visited here a couple of years before with our daughter Amy and always wanted to come back.) In December, 2005, we decided we wanted to move here. We came back in August to begin to look at houses, property, jobs, and to try as best we could to see what living (as opposed to vacationing) here would be like. We also defined just what was really important to us - close to the beach, within walking distance of someplace to walk the dogs, etc.

When we got here in August, we found out Ola Lola's was for sale. Like so many others, we drove or walked by it many times, every time we left Shacks beach. It was usually closed when we went by. But we saw the "se vende" signs and one morning we walked down to take a look. A friendly voice called "hola!" from the garden and we met Katy, the former owner of Ola Lola's who is now living in Japan.

Over the next two weeks we spent a lot of time with Katy, learning about the garden, the house, the bar, and becoming friends. We told her we really really loved the place and wanted to buy it but it did not appear there was a way to make that happen that worked for all of us. So, we returned to Michigan still friends, still dreaming about moving here, but thinking it was not going to happen any time soon.

In October - surprise! - we got an e-mail from her reviving the discussion. Over the next couple of months we did some furious financial figuring and lots of discussion and negotiation. Some time in November we came to an agreement. On December 19, 2006, we flew back to Puerto Rico. On December 21 we closed on the property and in January 2007 with lots of help from Katy, we re-opened Ola Lola's.

The rest is not quite history because the history is still being written. In fact a new chapter opens tomorrow. But that's another story and another post.