Friday, December 31, 2010

A great anniversary adventure



It was a gift anniversary gift from Elaine but she didn't go with me share it. (She's currently looking for more hammock time, not more adrenalin.) But I had a great time with friends (although I missed Elaine; I love sharing adventures with her).

Batey Zipline Adventures is way up in the mountains about an hour and a half from us. Over the past seven years Jorge and his family and friends have built an amazing nature adventure park in some of the most beautiful property I've ever seen.

Like rural mountain areas everywhere, things are different here. The adventure begins on the road in. The road is (mostly) a solid one-lane wide, flanked on one side by the vertical stone side of the mountain and on the other by a steep, several hundred-foot drop. I've been in the Smokie Mountains and in the Rockies and I don't think I've ever seen such steeply pitched roads. There are four things your vehicle needs: good brakes, a strong transmission, lots of low-end torque and a good horn. You drive up a steep incline. As you reach the top. it's like a good roller-coaster: you literally cannot see what is over the crest. Does it go down in a steep drop? Is there a curve? Is there another car coming? (This is where the good horn comes in to play.)


Once we got to the office, we looked across a spectacular karst valley to Jorge's house. We didn't know it yet but that's where the Zipline Adventure begins. We piled into the back of a 4x4 pickup for a short ride down a dirt track that was just like the road we came in on - without the pavement. We stopped above a ford across the river (Rio Tanamá) and piled out of the truck. Rather than ford the river we crossed on a suspended swinging bridge then climbed up to Jorge's house.

At the house we put on climbing harnesses, climbing helmets and gloves then a short climb/walk to the first zipline start platform. Jorge - and seven-year-old Alyssa - were the first off. Jorge zipped to the other side to be the "catcher" for the rest of us. Paulo stayed on our side to make sure we were hooked up properly.

All the zip lines are double. That is, there are two cables and two wheel rigs each time you zip. Before he took off, Jorge showed us how to "steer" using the caribiner at the top of our harness. "But", he said, "you don't have to steer or even hang on. Whether you're sideways or backwards, I'll be on the other side to catch you."

Zipping is awesome! With each successive zip, we got more comfortable, letting go, even hanging upside down (well, some people did).

After the third zip, we got to rappel down a 70-foot cliff. I've never rappelled before and this was something I was really looking forward to. Hmmm - I was much more nervous about it than I thought I would be. I let myself down slowly and it was only when I reached the bottom that I realized how tense I was. But I loved it. I want to that again. I'll be a lot more comfortable next time. (And there will be a next time!)

The last two zips were across the river. Wow - just amazingly beautiful. Once we "zipped" to the river level, we got in two small boats and paddled up river and through the river's cave. All along the route, Jorge gave us information about the land, folklore of the area, and a bit of geology. In the cave, in addition to bats nesting high above us, we saw plastic bottles and bamboo jammed into crevices, left there by the last flood. This cave, more than 20 feet high in places, completely fills with water when the river floods.

On the up-river side of the cave, Jorge showed us a spring with clear drinking water pouring from the hillside. Jorge caught water in a cup made of a leaf to share.

We drifted back through the cave to just below the swinging bridge. Another ride it the back of a four-wheel drive pickup brought us back to the starting point. but the adventure wasn't completely over yet. There was still that drive back out to the main road.

If you can't tell, I am completely taken with this adventure. It's definitely in my top five fun things. I am really impressed with the way Jorge has built this playground into a spectacular natural setting. Thank you, guys, for a great adventure. And thank you, mi querida, for making it possible. Next time, you're going along.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Mi Querida



Six years ago on beach in Barbados, we said "I do." Thank you, mi querida, my amor. You are the love of my life.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!


and Happy Boxing Day! (For those who don't know what Boxing Day is, more on that in a minute.)

Ola Lola's was open Christmas Eve and what a night it was! We set a new record for number of food orders. One of our regular guests told us it was a great Christmas party. We're really glad. Frankly, we were too busy to notice.

We spent Christmas Day with our daughter Amy's family. It was so much fun being with two of our grandkids on Christmas Day. (We hope the other two grand kids had a great day as well. We missed them.) We had dinner with Amy's family and some of our extended Puerto Rican family. Totally awesome Christmas! No snow though. Oh, yeah. We live on a tropical island.

Boxing Day: "Despite its name, Boxing Day, which is celebrated on December 26 in Great Britain, has nothing to do with pugilistic competition. Nor is it a day for people to return unwanted Christmas presents. While the exact origins of the holiday are obscure, it is likely that Boxing Day began in England during the Middle Ages.

Some historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes.

Church Alms Boxes

Another theory is that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened and the contents distributed on December 26, which is also the Feast of St. Stephen.

As time went by, Boxing Day gift giving expanded to include those who had rendered a service during the previous year. This tradition survives today as people give presents to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters, and others who have helped them." --from Factmonster.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy birthday, George

Last night we joined a bunch of friends to celebrate George's birthday. We won't tell you how old he is - we'll let Mary have the pleasure.

Happy birthday, George! And many many happy returns. May all of them be celebrated in Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice!

We didn't get to see the eclipse last night because of cloud cover, and so no picture. A bit disappointing but I've seen eclipses before.

Today is one of a series anniversaries in Puerto Rico. Four years ago we started our own adventure in paradise. We landed on the island on December 19th. On this date, the 21st, we sat in an attorney's office and closed the deal and took over Ola Lola's. We spent another week getting things ready and reopened Ola Lola's (which had been closed since August) on the 29th.

The 29th is not only Ola Lola's anniversary, it's also our wedding anniversary. You could say that that was really the beginning of our adventure but that's another story for another day.

Enjoy the lengthening days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The copper-colored sky

The light this morning at sunrise was the most amazing beautiful copper color. The sky and the whole land- and seascape had this amazing color. There are no filters or Photoshop trickery here. Both the photo above and below were taken with the camera's white balance set for "daylight." the bottom photo, taken just seconds later, was taken with the white balance set for "tungsten." Eerie, eerie light. But, to repeat myself, amazing and beautiful.

Speaking of sky, I hope it clears up so we can see the eclipse tonight.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today

Ah, must be winter. The trade winds are blowing and the kitesurfers are out at Shacks and Jobos and Montones.

The front that gave us cloudy chilly (okay, chilly be our standards) weather the last few days seems to have moved on. Today was beautiful - warm, sunny, breezy. Just the way it should be this time of year.

The big waves of the last few days have calmed down as well. Waves were big but not particularly surfable. I went out yesterday to look for surfers but nobody was out anywhere. Today I did catch some kite surfers at Shacks but only with a point-and-shoot camera. Maybe tomorrow I'll the DSLR out. Of course, since our desktop computer is in the shop until at least Monday, I won't have anyway to process them but what the heck. At least I'll have photos. Something to work on when we get the desktop back.

Hmmm... I wonder what tomorrow's photo will be.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New photo of the day


When I first got to PR, I used to post a "photo of the day." It was a way to keep in touch with with people back in the States - especially Elaine who was still in Michigan - and a way to keep exploring our new home. It also was a way to keep writing and posting something just about everyday.

I've obviously gotten out of that habit and I want to get back into it. So here's the first of the new photos of the day.

This from a portrait session Sirah and I did before she left. We were shooting at the lighthouse ruins near Wilderness Beach. The sun was setting and the light was just about gone. We hurried down to the rocks below the ruins to get the last of the sunlight behind her. Using a single flash we created this dramatic portrait.

Sirah is an wonderful young lady. She's smart and beautiful and a joy to work with. I wish we'd started making pictures before just a couple of days before she left. Hopefully, we'll get to shoot some more when she comes back to the island. We will miss her presence as a friend and at Ola Lola's.

You can see more from this portrait session on our Flickr page.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Long time no see

Hmmm. So where have we been this time?

It's been a bit of an emotional and physical rollercoaster. Some of it has been hard to write about so I haven't.

We had our car broken into, right in our driveway. We don't keep much in it so there was much except the registration and all the receipts for repairs to steal. Worse, at the same time, a friend who was staying with us had her rental car broken into. She had just arrived at about 3:00 am. The thieves smashed the car window, broke into the trunk and took her suitcase which had her laptop and camera as well her clothes. Then they stole the car we have been "car-sitting" for some friends in the States. The stolen vehicle was reportedly seen hauling ass out of Bajuras at about 6:00 am.

While we were dealing with the fallout from the break-ins and car theft, Elaine had to make a family trip to Ohio to help with her ailing father. He's not out of the woods yet but her two weeks there really helped her sister who has been dealing with the issues for over a year.

She did get to experience real winter for the first time in almost four years. Cold, icy winds, snow, blizzard and white-out conditions. Her response? "I don't miss it!"

To top it off, we have to find replacements for both of our Ola Lola helpers. Lisa is spending more time at her other job and our amazing young friend Sirah is going back to the States to go back to school. Hopefully, Elaine will get to spend more time riding with Lisa. And Sirah? We wish her nothing but the absolute best. Go fly, girl! Soar on those amazing wings of yours. We hope we'll see you back here much sooner rather than later. We will miss you.

Has anything good happened? Of course. Elaine is back safely. We have several excellent possibilities for help at Ola Lola's. Our granddaughter Kennedy spent the night with us the night before last and then spent the day with us yesterday. (We definitely need more Kai time though.) Last night we had a wonderful dinner of grilled mahi-mahi with Sirah and her mother and three sisters (who are here to escort her home).

Today it's windy, blustery, spitting rain. But it's 72 degrees. It's rain, not snow. There's a high surf advisory for today. Surfing doesn't look too good today but forecasts show the surf cleaning up and good for the weekend.

Life ain't all bad.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The picture says it all!

But in case you missed it, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAM!

We had a little birthday party last night for our favorite caballera. Even Chocolate got into the spirit of the party.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kelly is still here

Ten-time world champion Kelly Slater has been surfing some of our other surf breaks since winning his tenth title and the Rip Curl Pro Search last Saturday. Yesterday I had to honor of photographing Kelly and local surfers Brian Toth and his brother Wesley as they ripped it up, catching barrel after barrel at Survival Beach. You can see more pictures from this session on our website and on our Flickr page.

If you've been on the beach horseback ride near us, then you've been to Survival Beach. The rocks at the end of Survival, where the trailride ends, mark the boundary between Survival Beach and the east end of Surfers Beach, called Table Tops. Not many people surf the wave around the rocks. It's not easy to get to and the waves pounding around the rocks are dangerous. This section doesn't "go off" all that often. But when it does - and it has been going off for the last two days - a few in-the-know surfers head there. That's where Kelly Slater and friends were yesterday.

I went along with the entourage of friends, photographers, videographers, and spectators and had a great time photographing one of the all-time greats in the sport. I only wish my photos could do his surfing justice.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Rip Curl Pro Search

It's been quite a week here in Isabela. Rip Curl (a surfing marketing company) brought a major international surf competition to Middles Beach for the first time ever. Middles and Puerto Rico delivered, big time. Great waves, great atmosphere, great support, great crowds - especially the final two days. (The KAP photo above is from the first day of competition. Ther crowds were much bigger the final two days. I wanted to KAP the beach during the finals, but alas, no wind.)

Rip Curl for their part brought the best men and women surfers in the world to Isabela. They put on a surfing exhibition like nothing most of us have have seen. Australia's Stephanie Gilmore not only won the women's event she also claimed her fourth consecutive world title here. Kelly Slater put his name in the record books (again!) when he did the double: He took the men's event title and wrapped up his unprecedented tenth world championship. Along the way we got watch the likes of Stephanie and Carrissa Moore and Coco Ho and Dane Reynolds and Taj Burrow and and Mick Fanning so many more. And we got to meet Carrissa Moore, Rosanne Hodge, Roy Powers, Damian Hobgood and Kelly Slater.

One of our local surfers, Dylan Graves, earned a spot in the main event by besting 15 other Puerto Rican surfers (including his brother Josie) in the Local Trial event. Dylan made it through to the third round where he was paired with none other than Kelly Slater. Dylan surfed very well and in fact led for much of the round. Kelly, the ultimate professional, did what he needed to do to advance. This produced what was for me "the moment" of the event when Kelly Slater paddled over to congratulate Dylan Graves:


You can see more pictures of the event on our website, www.puertoricosurfphoto.com and of course all over the Internet.

I've been involved with special events for more than 25 years. I have to say, this was one of the best organized, best put together events I've ever seen. Few controversies (there are those who believe Dylan should have won his heat against Kelly), heats ran like clockwork, the announcing and information was very good. I've kind of disparaged some of the other surf competitions I've seen but this was first-class all the way. I still don't understand the judging but oh well. I knew what I liked when I saw it.

I think in the long-run this will be good for surfing and tourism in Puerto Rico, especially here in the West. As for short-term business, several businesses seemed to get a lot of traffic from the event. Many of us did not. We got a small but welcome trickle. Since some of the surfers aren't leaving until Tuesday or Wednesday maybe we'll get a bit more.

All in all an impressive fun week. We're going to miss the excitement this event has generated. The surfers all seem really stoked about what Puerto Rico has to offer. Maybe they'll create an event and make this a regular stop. We can only hope.

We now return your surf breaks to the regular surfers.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

RIP Andy Irons

I've been trying to find time to write about the Rip Curl Pro Search surf tournament this week at Middles Beach (about two miles from Ola Lola's). The best men and women surfers in the world are right here in Isabela. Stephanie Gilmore, 22, from Australia, won not only the women's competition but her fourth consecutive world title (in four tries). Kelly Slater is on track to win an unprecedented 10th world title.

Yesterday, the joy of having the competition in our back yard was eclipsed by the news that three-time world champion Andy Irons died in a hotel room in Texas. Andy was scheduled to compete here but he withdrew before the competition started due to illness. He apparently contracted dengue fever at a competition last week in Portugal. Right now, pending information from the autopsy, dengue may have killed him (although there are questions surrounding his death).

Today more than a hundred surfers paddled out at Middles Beach - the last break, the last wave Andy Irons surfed - to honor and pay respects to one of their own.

It was an amazing, emotional moment. I'm glad I got to share it, even from the shore. You can see more photos on our website, www.puertoricosurfphoto.com

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The boardwalk


The Municipio de Isabela is building a "paseo lineal" - a linear pathway - from Villa Pesquera west to Jobos. The trail is complete to Middles Beach but construction continues from Middles to Jobos.

Most of the trail is at road level but near the western end the trail rises to the top of the rock at Jobos on this board walk. I wanted to KAP the construction since I first saw the posts going in. We haven't had any appreciable breeze, certainly not enough to KAP, until this week. Finally I got to KAP the project. The project is farther along than I wanted but I did manage a few "forest in the trees" shots of the posts.


You can see the best of the shoot in a set on Flickr.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So, where we been?


It's been a very busy couple of weeks since we got back. There was a ton of work to do to reopen after being away, getting ready for the "Everybody in September Birthday Party," having company from the States for a week, dealing with rain and minor flooding courtesy of a couple of hurricanes passing by. You know - just the usual.

WHOA! We interrupt ourselves with some great news: Ola Lola's got mentioned twice (in a good way) in a New York Times blog/article. We met author Seth Kugel a couple of weeks ago when our friend Laura brought him to Ola Lola's and introduced him. Of course, Laura just introduced him as a friend; we had no idea he was a writer for the NYT. Then she sent us an email telling us about the article. How cool is that? Ola Lola's has gotten some great "press" this year. The NYT article comes right after the great recommendation/review in Fodor's Puerto Rico 2010 which was published in August. (When you get to the page, click on "Look inside." In the search box type Ola Lola's. You have to scroll down just a bit to read our review.) And we had a great review (written by a local chef) in La Isla Reader, a new magazine in the region. Awesome!!

Next week, by request, Elaine is going to be "guest burger chef" at a United Way fundraiser at a local company. That should be fun!

We're also gearing up for a major international surfing competition coming to town at the end of the month. Kelly Slater just won a major competition in Portugal. If he wins here in PR, here in Isabela actually, he will win his 1oth consecutive world title. You may have read about Kelly recently - "the most successful athlete you've never heard of." If he wins this year's title, he will be the winningest, most successful athlete ever in any sport. And he's going to be right down the road from Ola Lola's (somewhere). Hmmm - I wonder if he eats burgers. Maybe we could name one after him. The Kelly Slater Slider?

Monday, September 27, 2010

We interrupt "Notes from the road"

Middles Beach hosted the annual Corona Pro competition this weekend. It's the first time I've seen this event with actual waves. There are a number of local photographers who cover this event so I do something different: I photograph the event from my kite. Mostly I shoot beach and crowd shots rather than photographing the surfers themselves although there is one surfer shot in the set. You can see the best of the photos from this session on Flickr.

This was my first KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) session since July 4th. I felt very rusty. I picked the wrong kite for the conditions which lead to a lot of camera bounce and movement. My aiming skills were so-so. I don't use a video downlink like some KAPpers use to see what they are shooting. I prefer the surprises when I download the pictures at home. Still, with practice, you get a pretty good idea of what you're pointing out. I am way out of practice. That just means I need to get out and do it more.

I guess we missed some epic surf (and absolutely NO diving) while we were gone, courtesy of Hurricane Igor. Ah, well. There will be more surf and more competitions. We're gearing up to host two major international competition at the end of October. More about those as we get closer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Notes from the road - Chihuly at Meijer Gardens

We heard Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was hosting an exhibit of works by glass artist Dale Chihuly. We've seen Chihuly's work before, at Meijer Gardens and elsewhere, and that became a "must-see" on our trip.

As we drove through driving rain, we wondered how much of the exhibit we'd be able to see. The "exhibit" is actually a series of installations of works around the garden and sculpture park grounds. It wasn't going to be a lot fun in the rain. Just before we got to Meijer Gardens the rain stopped and left us with a comfortable but cloudy afternoon.

One goal of Meijer Gardens "is to unite the art of humankind with the art of nature." This seems to be a passion of Chihuly as well. In 2002 Lisa C. Roberts wrote in the Portland Press:

"Imagine a garden of glass, planted under glass, nestled among lacy ferns, soaring palms, spiny cacti, and fruiting bananas. To see Dale Chihuly's magnificent artwork displayed amid the plant kingdom from which so many of his forms seem to emanate is to see both art and plants in a new light. Each reflects the other in a shimmery mix of tendrils, buds, and fronds. The fact that this dance takes place within the walls of a historic glasshouse makes it that much more resonant, as though someone had subverted the boundaries between the house and its leafy occupants.

"And why not? Conservatories are, after all, exquisitely crafted re-creations of natural environments. Introducing Chihuly's glasswork takes the manipulation to another level, one that aspires to stimulation, not simulation. It startles expectation, stretches the imagination, and provides a new way of experiencing both plants and art."

Roberts could have been writing about the Meijer Gardens installations as well. At Meijer Gardens however, the installations are both inside the conservatories but outside, placed in specific environments in the gardens and sculpture park. In these installations the hard, man-made glass seems to grow from the softer natural environment.

One of the wonderful things about sculpture is its existence in three-dimensional space. You can move around it, view it from different angles. Each new angle is a new experience. In the Chihuly installations, the space itself is part of the sculpture, not just a neutral background. Moving through the garden space around each sculpture changes not only your view of the sculpture but of its place in the landscape. Each new view is a surprise.

We took a whole bunch o' pictures of the Chihuly works. You can see the best of them on our Flickr page. The exhibit has been extended through October 31. If you are anywhere near the West Michigan area, go see it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Notes from the road - Frank Mots International Kite Festival


The reason we started the trip in the first place was to perform at the Frank Mots International Kite Festival in Milwaukee. We've performed at this festival for a number of years. We are fortunate and very grateful event producer Scott Fisher invites us back each year. We LOVE Milwaukee! We posted several videos on youtube of our friends performing: iQuad, Fire and Ice, and Yves LaForest flying a huge 140-foot-long octopus. BTW, there is some loose talk about Yves and friends bringing their giant kites to a beach in Isabela in late 2011. We'll let you know.

There is on video of us flying as part of a megateam. Many of us fly Mamba kites built by Ken McNeil of Blue Moon Kites in North Carolina. Ken made an unexpected appearance at Mots and this megateam of 12 Mambas was formed to thank him. You can see a video of the mega team here. We're flying the yellow, red and black kites near the end.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Notes from the road - It's just not the same

We stopped for a beer at a little bar called "I-5's" beside a marina on Lake Erie. I mean, the place had a big sign that said "It's 5 o'clock somewhere." How bad could it be? Turns out, pretty bad. The decor mixed Caribbean - or more Key West, really - with bad tiki bar. And the metal palm trees just didn't fix our jones for the palm trees in our yard at home. But the beer - Landshark, no less - was cold and tasted good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Inspiration

We stopped at Bearden's on our quick trip across northern Ohio. Bearden's is the diner Elaine and her family went to when she was a kid. The Bearden's peanutbutter burger is the inspiration for the Ola Lola's peanutbutter burger. I finally got to taste the original.


I gotta say, as good as it was, Elaine's is better. Once again, she's taken a good thing and made it better. And because the peanutbutter burger is a little unusual, ours comes with a guarantee: if like peanutbutter and you don't like our peanutbutter burger, the peanutbutter burger is free and we'll buy you a different burger. With more than 250 peanutbutter burgers sold we've only had to honor that guarantee once (and we think the surfer was poor and hungry and wangleing for a free burger).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Herald of fall

What the...!?! This doesn't look like Puerto Rico!

It's not. This staghorn sumac in southern Michigan. We're wrapping up a quick trip to Ohio and Michigan to see family and friends after performing at a kite festival in Milwaukee last weekend.

Staghorn sumac is always one of the first trees to change color in the fall. Red staghorn sumac and cooler temps (it's 57 degrees and thunderstorming as I write this) are sure signs fall is here in southern Michigan.

That, and fresh Honey Crisp apples in the farm markets.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Happy belated birthday to my father. If he were still alive, he would have turned 86 on September 1. He always said his birthday was easy to remember: it was the same day World War II started. (Hitler and the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.) We'll stick to celebrating the birthday.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Back after Earl


So between the preparation for Hurricane Earl and then two days of no electricity and then two more days without Internet after Earl brushed by us, we haven't had much chance to write about Earl.

Fortunately, Earl did in fact brush by us with tropical storm-force winds but nothing near the 140 mph Cat 4 winds he was packing. We had a little rain (very little for a hurricane) but nothing major. In fact it was much less than we'd actually prepared for. The biggest problem was the inconvenience of not having power (which usually also takes out our cell phone) and not having Internet. We were fine but didn't have anyway to let the rest of world know that.

The photo above is the waves pounding Shacks Beach taken Tuesday after Earl passed by Monday afternoon and night. If you look closely, you'll see the spray off the top of the wave is blowing west to east. For two days after Earl went by the winds blew backwards, that is, west to east. The east-to-west trade winds are so common here we all get a little crazy if the winds blow "backwards" for very long.

Earl did us another favor: he sucked a lot of the moisture and the energy out of the atmosphere so the next storm back, Fiona, was pretty much fizzle. Gaston, the storm behind Fiona, fizzled out also but looks like it may be reforming. We'll keep an eye on that one.

For now, it's a beautiful day in Bajuras. We're just going to enjoy that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

They call her "Dances with Reef Squid"

One of the highlights of snorkeling with Don and Linda was an "encounter" with reef squid. We LOVE the reef squid. They are beautiful and fascinating to watch. If you put your hands together and extend your arms, mimicking their tentacles, they will "dance" with you. You can mirror their movements and they will "accept" you into their pod.

Elaine loves to dance with the reef squid, hence her Taino name, "Dances with Reef Squid."

Monday, August 23, 2010

What a great weekend!


We had a lot of fun this weekend. Our friends Don and Linda came to the west side of the island (from their home Fajardo in the east) to celebrate Linda's birthday. In addition to "hanging out" with them at Ola Lola's we took them snorkeling on "our" reef. Much of the conversation - besides how beautiful it is - was about how different the reef here on the west side is from the reefs they snorkel on the east side of the island. Now we can't wait to go visit them and check out their reefs.

It was another good weekend at Ola Lola's as well. In addition to spending time with Don and Linda, we met new friends Ollie and Beth and Robert and Cory. Both couples are from New York, down here visiting. Well, Robert and Cory had a greater, special reason for coming here - they got married on the beach at Villa Montana. Congratulations to the newly-weds!

It's been a beautiful week here on our little corner. Here's hoping it continues for a while!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bloggers blogging on our blog and on Ola Lola's

Any relationship that starts with "You're our hero!" can only be great.

Last week our new friends Tim and Beth, their sons Auggie and Elliot, and their traveling companions Russ and Jane and their boys Sam and Ike, came to Puerto Rico and Ola Lola's for the first time. Our relationship really did start with Beth saying, "You're our heroes!"

When they were researching places for a family vacation, they happened on a travel blog I wrote when we were just vacationing here, before we moved. That got them to this, the "new" Ola Lola blog and the Ola Lola web site. They wound up coming to Puerto Rico and the one place they had to visit was Ola Lola's. But rather than my telling you their story, it's much better if you read yourself in their own words on their blog:

http://www.bookerdog.com/index.php/2010/08/ola-lolas-garden-bar/

Speaking of blogs - do you write a blog? Have you written about Ola Lola's? Please let us know, either in a comment here or via email. We would love to read and share your blog with others. Thanks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A great last day

Jason (above) and Jason (below) teeing off on the amazing 13th hole at Royal Isabela.

Monday was Jason and Jason's last day with us. I think it was a good last day for them. They had the rare opportunity to play the golf course at Royal Isabela. I've written about this amazing golf course before. Every time I get chance to see the course it just gets better and better. It is a very challenging course as the two Jasons found out. But it's incredibly beautiful and just to have the opportunity to play it is an honor.

The Jasons are back home now in Michigan, settling back into their lives as we settle back into ours. I hope their trip here was a wonderful for them as it was for us. We love showing off our "new" home. (Is it still "new" after almost four years? Yes! And sharing it with visitors keeps it fresh and new for us.) Snorkeling, SCUBA diving (with a manatee!), playing golf at Royal Isabela, hanging out at Ola Lola's and meeting our cast of characters. All in all, a pretty good vacation I'd say.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Not a bad first day on the island

Our son Jason and his best friend Jason got here in the middle of the night Tuesday night. Yesterday was a pretty good first day. We took them snorkeling (first time for both of them) at Shacks in the morning to (very successfully) get over a little "ocean-phobia." Now they are both hooked. I mean, what's not to love? Their first time out, in addition to the "usual suspects" (blue tang, ocean surgeons, sergeant major fish) they got to dance with reef squid and watch two different flat worms dance.

We took them for a second snorkel to one of our favorite sites, Wishing Well. Viz was okay but wow! So many fish. Ballyhoo. Blue striped grunts. A porcupine fish hanging out under a ledge. Baby brown chromis-es. And to top off the day, they got to swim with a hawksbill turtle.

This morning I'm going to take them to New Hole at Shacks and then we're hoping they're going SCUBA diving with Darryl later today.

It was a great first day and the second is shaping up to be just as good! Oh, and by the way, it was great just to see them!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

On "The Wall"


Despite all the rain, July wasn't all bad.

In mid-July I got to dive The Wall off the southern coast of the island again. This time we went with Island Scuba out of Guanica. We were all really impressed with their operation. The people - boat captain, dive master, everybody connected with it - were just great. And I liked their boat better. It's a little heavier than the others we've been on, made for and more stable in heavier seas. Since I am prone to seasickness, I like that.

And of course diving The Wall is just awesome. This time we limited our dive to about 95 feet so we could get a little more "bottom time." Our second dive was on a shallower reef. That too is just beautiful! We had four "shark encounters" with nurse sharks. Like any animal, nurse sharks can be dangerous if provoked. We just enjoyed hanging out with them and watching them. This one got a little tired of us and swam away.

I don't know when I'll get back to dive "The Wall" again but you can be sure I will. I just love it!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Drying out

The end of July was WET! We broke 50-year-old records for rainfall, more even than during hurricanes. We have a sump-pump that we used to pump our yard and the brand new corral we just built for KTJ and Chocolate. The pump ran pretty much 24 hours a day for more than a week. We didn't get flooded from the river; the ground was just so saturated it couldn't take any more water. Since that corner of our yard and our neighbor's yard (where the corral is) are low spots, water just pooled there.

The last week has been dry and windy and beautiful. The ground has finally started to really dry out. They are cutting hay in our neighbor's field. And we're using the new corral and KTJ's new "stall." She loves it! she goes right in at dinner time.

There's a new tropical storm on the horizon we're watching. It looks like it going well north of us. Here's hoping it takes its rain north with it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Photos never taken

Rain rain rain. We broke a 50-year-old record for rainfall this month. If all the rain we've had this year were snow, we would have nearly 27 feet of snow. We've been pumping water out of our yard and out of the brand new corral almost constantly since last Friday. But yesterday and today we have sunshine. Maybe, just maybe, things will start to dry out.

But I really don't want to talk about rain. I want to talk about pictures, especially beautiful brilliant photos I've never taken, that only exist in my head.

Yesterday I "took" one of those photos.

Darryl and I met at Crashboat for what was supposed to be training deep dive (100'-125') for one of Darryl's students . The student didn't show so Darryl and I went anyway. Because of all the rain we've had, we expected marginal visibility so neither of us took a camera. But visibility was much better than we expected.

At one point on the way back up, the sandy bottom has kind of a sharp slope up and in is covered with green seagrass. We'd been swimming with a hawksbill turtle for a few minutes . Then he (or she) took off ahead of us, swam up the grass-covered slope and then on up above it. We both stopped for a moment to watch the turtle soar above the bottom silhouetted against the bright blue water/sky behind him. It was a magic moment. And of course, no camera. So it goes into my file of amazing photos never taken.

Monday, July 19, 2010

KTJ comes home

And somebody is pretty happy about it!

Two months ago we adopted a three-year-old filly. She was rescued from the racetrack here on the island by our friends at Hacienda Siesta Alegre (Save The Horses). Elaine first rode her about six months ago and just absolutely fell in love with this horse. For a variety of reasons KTJ has been staying at Ramey Riding Club (aka, "the ranch") up on top of the cliff behind us. We spent most of the last week - with much help from our nephew Ben - building a "stall" for her and a corral sturdy enough to contain both horses when our neighbors, the property owners, come to use the house.

Yesterday we brought KTJ down from the ranch to her new home. She and Chocolate met for the first time. "Dark chocolate" and "milk chocolate" appear to be a great combination: it was love at first sight. Of course, there's plenty of horseplay that goes with that as well as figuring out who's herd leader when it's just the two of them. So far Chocolate, although a pony by comparison, seems to be the dominant one. We'll see how long that lasts. KTJ seems to have quickly and easily adapted to her new home and new companion.

Next on the list will be her first visit to the beach - happening later this morning. Updates to follow... :-) :-)

You can see more photos of KTJ's homecoming on Flickr.


Monday, July 05, 2010

Hope you had a fabulous Fourth

We kept alive our now annual tradition of KAPping (Kite Aerial Photography) one of our local beaches on the 4th. This year is was Jobos, a beach about a mile and an half from Ola Lola's.

Jobos is a popular beach on any summer weekend but gets insane on holidays. Traffic past the beach and parking in the Jobos area get so bad, the police close the road. While the holiday spirit on the beach is fun - music, bar-be-ques, partying, swimming - the trash that gets left behind is tragic.

Except for taking pictures, we tend to stay away from the crowded beaches like Jobos. We much prefer our little beach where a "crowd" is a hundred people on two miles of beach. But it is fun to KAP at Jobos. It is colorful. As we walked along the edge of the beach taking pictures, Elaine remarked, "It's like being inside a gumball machine." That's a great description.

You can see more pictures from this set on our Flickr page.

Oh, happy 4th of July, a day late.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Friday, July 02, 2010

A day for adventures

Yesterday started early and ran late as we crammed several adventures into one day.

First up, we went to Rincon to do the horse trail ride down there. We've done the trail ride down the road from us several times (and Elaine rides some of the same route almost every day) and we wanted to see what the Rincon ride was like. The Rincon ride, Pintos-R-Us, has great well-mannered and well-cared for horses. Julie, the owner/trail guide, was wonderful with our group of eight riders. The ride wound through some beautiful trails through forests and along the beaches around the point of Rincon. The Rincon ride doesn't spend as much time on the beach as the local ride nor does it have as much opportunity for riders to trot or canter if they wish. All in all it was fun, easy ride. It was a different experience from the local ride, which is what we expected and actually what we hoped for.

From Rincon our adventures took us south to Mayaquez and the experience of two hours of pre-holiday shopping and standing in line in Sam's Club, then back north for another hour or so in the Amigo grocery store (which is owned by Walmart). I'll leave that adventure to your imagination.

Then last night Darryl and I did a night dive through "The Caverns" here at Shacks. The reef at Shacks is pretty much like Swiss cheese with holes and tunnels and caves all through the reef. Many of them are "swim-throughs," passages a diver can literally swim through. We use several of these as passages between Blue Hole and the outer reef. "The Caverns" is a tour through the swim-throughs in and around Blue Hole. Darryl has done this tour many many times in the daylight, but this was his first night tour. Darryl was great. I, on the other hand, had a mild-to-medium panic attack. Don't know why. Everything was going swimmingly and suddenly I just kinda freaked, breathing hard, brain spinning ohmygod ohmygod! But between us Darryl and I got me calmed down enough to finish the dive and come out safely.

I think it was a learning adventure for both of us. Darryl has a better idea of how to lead a night tour through The Caverns and I have a better idea of how to deal with my own panic under water.

Our last adventure took us to 110 Thai. We weren't going to go but we remembered we were supposed to meet our nephew Ben there. He'd been waiting since about 8:00 and we remembered about 9:30. So off we went. It was a fun late evening, unexpectedly running into a number of good friends.

So, up this morning about to set off on a whole new set of adventures. It's gonna be a fun holiday weekend at Ola Lola's!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy July

And happy Canada Day!

How did it get to be July already? It really feels like we missed most of June. June, until the last week, was mostly cloudy and kinda gloomy and wet thanks to a couple of tropical low pressure areas (one of which became Hurricane Alex.)

Elaine divides her time taking care of and working with KTJ, her new Thoroughbred rescue, and riding Chocolate. I managed to get some diving in. We had such a good time diving at Desecheo two weeks ago we went back again. I posted some pictures from that dive as well as the best pictures from other dives so far this year on Flickr.

I haven't done a lot of photography lately. It feels like it's been months. I gotta work on that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

SCUBA at Desecheo

Desecheo is a small (1.5 square kilometers or just over 1/2 a square mile) island some 21 kilometers (14 miles) west of Puerto Rico. It is easily seen from Aguadilla, Rincon and Mayaquez riding on the horizon.

Two sites at Desecheo are listed in the top 10 Puerto Rico dive sites by Scuba Diving Magazine. The first is called "Candyland."

"Remember that old-school board game from your childhood? We dare you to tell us the huge, funky-shaped coral mounds don't look like the ones you remember from the Candyland game. There are a kaleidoscope of colors on this must-see reef, embodied in gigantic sea fans, lettuce corals and sponges . There are also crazy amounts of tropical fish, adding to the already surrealist vibe here. The maximum depth is about 80 feet." - Scuba Diving Magazine

Almost adjacent to Candyland is "Las Cuevas" - The Caves.

"Swim-through junkies, this is your spot. Welcome to a water wonderland of canyons and arches, where as many as 20 of you can explore at once, to your heart's content. Check out the triangular-looking windows that resemble Darth Vader's mask." - Scuba Diving Magazine

It's about a 45 minute boat ride out of Rincon to get to Desecheo. The ride out in the morning was pretty easy with light seas and beautiful sunshine. The ride back was a bit rougher through four-to-six foot seas. But it was really no problem for Cap'n Frank and the crew from Taino Divers in Rincon.

It was a beautiful pair of dives, a great day and a great time with Darryl, John D., Trevor, March and Ruchie from Technical Dive Center here in Aguadilla.

The two things that are most impressive about the Desecheo dives are 1) the 100-150 foot visibility and 2) the incredibly blue water of the Caribbean. The great visibility is due in large part to the fact that there are standing bodies of water and no rivers on Desecheo so there is no runoff. And there is a reason just about every paint company has a "Caribbean Blue" paint chip: it truly is spectacular. The minimal current, at least on our dive is also an advantage.

All that said: Diving right here, right off our beach at Shacks is a very similar dive to Candyland through the coral canyons of the outside reef. And the swim-throughs of the cavern tour around Blue Hole is actually more impressive than Las Cuevas. We frequently have 60-80 foot visibility here at Shacks. If Shacks has one disadvantage, it is the surge that sometimes comes up in the canyons. But that's a small price to pay for having dives that we can walk to from home.

Our local shore dives don't get much publicity from the magazines. The magazines get their information about dive sites from the Puerto Rico Tourism Company which in turn provides information from and about its paying members. That's okay as far as it goes but it means that magazine readers get a very limited view of what's actually available on the island. Some of the best dives are never reported. But in a way that's good: it slows the wrecking of the beaches and reefs and means less crowded dives for us locals. I'm okay with that.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seeing double

"Well, I look out my window/what do you think I see?/I look out my window/and it's strange, so strange."

I thought I was seeing double! But it's just Lucky with Chocolate. Chocolate has a play-buddy for a while, until KTJ is ready to come down from the ranch. Lucky is our friend Sam's horse. She brought Lucky down to keep Chocolate company and so she could ride on the beach. So Elane and Chocolate have someone to play with and to ride with.

Oh yeah - Amber has two new swim buddies.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Adios, Sahara


This morning our friend Francisco took Sahara/Wavy-now-Lola up the road to her new home at "Hacienda Sanchez." (Francisco is the son of our dear dear friend and horseman extraordinaire Tito.) Many people thought this little filly had fallen in gravy when we rescued her. She's really in it now!

Francisco is himself a great young horseman. He sees a lot of possibility and has great plans for "Lola" (his name for her). He's planning to train her to show as well as to be a good little trail horse. He will work her hard but she will be so well taken care of. Francisco will give her the work and the training she needs to become the great little horse we all believe she can be.

The biggest reason for the move in the first place is to make room for KTJ, Elaine's new Thoroughbred filly. KTJ is up at the "ranch" (Ramey Riding Club) probably for another week or two while we get things ready for her here - not the least of which is strengthening the corral fences.

In the meantime Chocolate is a lonely guy, already missing his bud. He doesn't know KTJ yet. He doesn't know he's getting a new stablemate, only that his friend isn't with him.

We'll miss Sahara/Wavy/Lola too but we know she's got a great new home. And she's only half a mile away. We can always go visit.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Set the Wayback Machine for April

It's time to join Mr. Peabody and his pet boy Sherman and set the Wayback Machine for April.

Our friend David, the golf course designer, visits us once a month or so. (That's David in the pink shirt and straw hat.) Occasionally his wife Liane joins him. (Liane is the lovely lady next to David trying to hide from the camera.) In April, David brought his daughter Melanie and her beau Mark (Mark is in the purple shirt on the left; Melanie is next to him) and granddaughter Stephanie and her husband Joe (the only two left besides the fish) to spend some time on the island.

This was a belated honeymoon/first anniversary trip for Stephanie and Jon. So from all the gang at Ola Lola's a twice-belated (once because it took them a year to get here and once because it's taken me so long to write this) CONGRATULATIONS! and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

By all accounts the gang had a great time PR. We hope they'll all come back and a visit again, with or without David.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Congratulations, Ana

Last night we had a great celebration at Ola Lola's: Our good friend Ana is graduating from college and we got to host her Graduation and Commencement Bash-o-rama. The celebration included the first (and hopefully last) performances by the Celebratory Durr-Durr Band. "Dr." John Delametter, "Dean" of the department of "FUNdamental Science," presented Ana with an official, framed diploma from "Loy-ola Lola University." And the commencement address was delivered by none other than Forest Gumpp's mother's ghost. Everybody had a great time, especially the new graduate. Congratulations, Ana!

All the drinks last night were served "shaken, not stirred." If you have friends in Puerto Rico on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably already read about the earthquake last night. A 5.8 magnitude quake hit Moca at 1:16 am. We are 12 km (7 miles) from the epicenter. I was just getting to bed after Ana's party and definitely felt the house shake. It felt like being right next to a major road and having a bunch of big heavy trucks go by very slowly. A lot of people we know slept (including Elaine) slept through it.

From what we've heard so far, there was some minor damage to buildings but no one was hurt. There were however a lot of freaked out people.