Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ziplining redux

Our Tuesday Adventure was a return (for me at least) to Batey Ziplining up in the center of the island. Our friend Kelda's brother was visiting and she wanted to take him and friends Cassie and Alfredo on the tour. This time Elaine went along. I think she liked it.

As always, getting there was part of the adventure. Those of you who have been to Puerto Rico know the roads are not always well marked. Okay, we got a little lost. Because of the way the roads twist and turn up in the middle of the island, there are three intersections of routes 129 and 111. The directions said to turn at the second intersection but the one you want is really the third intersection. We took the second. It didn't go where we wanted to go. You'd think that eventually you'd wind up in the same place anyway but apparently not. For a few minutes it was like being in the Twilight Zone.

And then there are the roads back to the zipline. They are an adventure all by themselves. But we made it and had a great time. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The horses

Elaine back from a ride on KTJ...

and Chocolate horsing around.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Old friends, new friends

Our friend Susan (on the left in pink) came back for a short visit. She used to live at the other end of the beach road but she traded in sun and sand and warm for a cottage in the far northwest of Minnesota(!). To be fair Susan was originally from Minnesota and moving was a kind of going home for her. It was great to see her back on the island, even if only for a couple of days.

We also have a new friend in the 'hood, Maura. Maura is a flight attendant (and SCUBA diver and fledgling surfer) and just moved into Bajuras. Welcome to the party, Maura!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

100th Dive

Today did I did my 100th SCUBA dive! I led the dive and that completed my stuff for Advanced certification. How cool is that? SCUBA diving is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid watching Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges (father of actors Jeff and Beau Bridges) on TV. It took me a while but here I am, living on a tropical island and diving as often as possible. I LOVE IT!

Thanks to our great friends Darryl (my teacher and dive mentor), John D. (one of my idols), Patti and our new-ish friend and dive buddy Robin for sharing my 100th dive with me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Waitng to catch a plane

Spontaneous Combustion came back to Ola Lola's for a late jam session while they were waiting for their even-later flight out of Aguadilla. What a great way to spend some of your last few hours on the island- having a couple of beers and jammin' with friends. Thanks, guys. It was great fun. Hopefully, we'll see you back in the fall.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy 1st birthday, Kaiden!

Saturday we helped celebrate our grandson Kaiden's first birthday at the local splash park. We all had a great time. Kai and big sister Kennedy love water and especially this splash park. The park itself is very cool - very kid and family friendly. Amy and Miguel take the kids there almost every week. I'm sure this isn't the last time we'll be there with them either.

Happy birthday, Kaiden!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy birthday, Steve

Today is our son Steve's birthday. Happy birthday, Steve. We love you! Wish you were here to celebrate but we'll have one (or two) in your honor. I'd find a bottle of Jamison's somewhere! (BTW, he's the one with hair.)

We also missed the chance to say "Happy birthday" to our good good friend Darryl - although we had a great party for him on his birthday last Saturday at Ola Lola's. That's Darryl, in the middle singing with the band. Hey, Darryl - the whole "no photos, no video, no DNA , never happened" thing is now history. We have photographic proof of you singing with the band.

And one more party to acknowledge: On Thursday we went to a St Patrick's Day party at the Thai restaurant here in Puerto Rico. The band lives in Hopi Indian country in the Four Corners area of Arizona/New Mexico/Colorado and has a fiddle player from Bali. The hosts, Andy and Nasstasia, are of German/Scottish/Irish and Mexican descent. We LOVE multiculturalism!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sincerest flattery

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We received this photo in an email from some friends in Bethany Beach, Delaware. They said,

"...we decided last to start having "Ola Lola" parties under our home at Bethany. We try to replicate the same casualness and your inviting spirit.

Attached is a picture we took...I hope we are not violating any trademark's you have registered :)"

Thank you, Ted. We are flattered and honored. Hope your Ola Lola parties capture some of the Ola Lola vibe.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nothing like a bout of the flu...

I spent most of last week crashed out with a strain of the flu. We even closed Ola Lola's one night because of it. This a weird strain. It moved back and forth between my chest and my head. the worst part about it was the constant headache that nothing would ease. Imagine your worst hangover. Multiply by 5 to 10 (depending on how much ibuprophin you've had). Stretch out over 6 days. Welcome to my world.

But all is better now.

Sunset view from the deck at Llave del Mar.

We - Elaine, our friend Kelda and I - had a Tuesday adventure for dinner. Of course, so many restaurants around here are closed on Tuesday that Tuesday dinner is always an adventure. We went to Quebradillas and found a seafood restaurant right on the cliff overlooking the sunset and ocean. It wasn't the restaurant Elaine and Kelda planned, the one where they had dinner last Tuesday (while I was home nursing my non-hangover headache). That one was closed this week. But we found another one we enjoyed, Llave del Mar. The seafood was really fresh and delicious and the service was great. The only thing that was a bit strange were the three mounted hunting trophies - two stuffed deer heads and a bear head, not the sort of thing one thinks of at an oceanview restaurant on this island.

On Wednesday, Elaine and I had another adventure, this time off to San Juan. Not for fun or pleasure, but so Elaine could file all the paperwork needed to get her Speech-Language Pathologist's license her in PR. The first part of the adventure was finding the place. Elaine did a great job of navigating us there. We landed just a block short of where we needed to be. Most of the paperwork went quickly. The only hickup was finding an attorney (!) to notarize the documents. Normally, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an attorney's office but we walked five blocks before we found one. All in all, this was a very smooth encounter with a government agency. We got there, got our business done and got out with very little hassle, delay or waiting in line. Rebecca, the woman in the licensing office, was very helpful. And, we - that is, mostly Elaine - did the whole encounter in Spanish!

We had one more adventure on our San Juan trip. We were very close to Plaza Las Americas, the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean. We had to stop. Now I can (finally) say I've been to Plaza Las Americas. I can also say if I don't go back for another four years (or more) I will be just fine with it. It's actually very difficult to shop there. As our friend Tito said, your head just spins. There is so much stuff competing for your attention and so much sparkle and just so MUCH, it's hard to concentrate on anything. Even the bookstore, my favorite store in any mall, was overwhelming. Guess I'm just an out-island beach bum who can't take the big city.

And I'm okay with that.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dunja and José

We are very fortunate to have met so many wonderful people in our four short years here. In our world fill with great people, some stand out because in they touched our hearts and lives in a special unexpected way.

It is the nature of this area and our lives that many of these people are here for just a short time and then move on, either to return to their homes or on to some other adventure.

One such couple is Dunja and José. Originally from Switzerland, they came to our little corner of the world as part of an extended around-the-world vacation. José is a windsurfer and came to play in the tradewinds at Shacks Beach. Dunja LOVES and works with horses in Switzerland and in Spain. Wherever she goes in their travels, she finds horses and horse people. We are so lucky that on this trip, she found Elaine. They bonded in a very special way, caring for Chocolate and KTJ, riding together, and just spending time "talking horse." Dunja's leaving has left a totally unexpected hole in Elaine's life. (And BTW, José created the "no te vayas" ["don't go"] dip special on this week's menu.) We wish them well and safe, wonderful travels. And Elaine is counting the days until her horse buddy comes back in February, 2012.

An update from Dunja

When Dunja and Jose left us in PR, they headed for Maui where they are staying in a friend's beachhouse. In the aftermath of the horribly devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Dunja sent us this first-hand account of the tsunami n Hawaii:

"We are fine on Maui, but yesterday it was kind of adventure. At 10 the siren started to haul and all the people living by the beach (we're living very very close) had to move upcountry, because the tsunami was expected to hit hawaii around 3 o'clock in the night. Not a lot of sleep and watching tv all night long in a friends house, we finally returned in the morning to our house to have a look what happened.

The tsunami took everything around our beachhouse away. Washingmachine, dryer, outside-shower, hotpot, tables everything floated away or was damaged. But we had a lot of luck that the house is still here. The sea level was arising 6 feet higher then hightide and our place was one of the worst on the whole island. So today we spent the whole day with cleaning and we carried all the rubish together.But finally no people, no animals are hurt, and everybody is happy. All people here helped and I cooked a big pot of spaghetti.

Today we will sleep again in the beachhouse. But I'm not very relaxed. Right now, the water is just 10 feet away from our veranda and the wind is blowin! But all the people around us told this is fine; no pasa nada....


Watching the videos of the tsunami in Japan give us pause. We are 330 yards (measured by a golfer friend's rangefinder) from the ocean. We live in a fault zone. There are small (2.3-3.5 magnitude) earthquakes around us every day. They are so small and usually far enough away we don't even feel them. In the last year local officials have put up signs about the tsunami danger zones along the coast. When officials came by a year or so ago passing out information literature, their advice to us was "if you see a tsunami, run very fast up the hill."

Which kind of point outs how pointless such advice is. How would we know if there was a tsunami approaching? I don't know how we would get the kind of warning time our friends in Maui got. I have not seen or heard warning sirens here. By the time we saw a tsunami it would be pretty late to "run very fast up the hill."

In October, 1918, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake rocked the ocean floor about 15 kilometers (less than 10 miles) west of Puerto Rico in the Mona Passage. The quake destroyed buildings in Mayaguez. Just moments after the quake, a 12-foot high wall of water devastated Aguadilla, killing 40 people. The greatest wave height, 20 feet, hit Punta Boriquen, the beach area just below the cliff where the golf course is today. That tsunami destroyed the Spanish lighthouse whose ruins can still be seen along the road back to Wilderness Beach.

From Ola Lola's Garden Bar
Punta Borinquen was the hardest hit area in the 1918 tsunami.

Like many things in Nature, the possibility of a tsunami is something we are aware of but don't live in fear of. We just hope those little shocks keep releasing enough pressure between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates so there isn't a big quake and a tsunami.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Back to The Wall

Seven of us - Darryl, John D., Patti, Suzanne, Jen, Charlie and I - went back to The Wall at La Parguera Sunday, diving with West Divers. West Divers have been around for a number of years but recently reopened with new owners.

We had a little boat trouble on the ride out (water in the fuel) and ended up abandoning the second dive but the first dive was amazing.

I love diving The Wall. The Wall is actually a 28-mile-long cliff in the seafloor about four to five miles off shore. Yesterday we dove a site called Efra's Wall, one of more than a dozen recognized dive sites along The Wall. The drop off the boat is to about 60-65 feet. You swim down a gentle decline to about 75 feet and then the bottom falls out. You swim out over the edge of the cliff. the bottom is another 65 to 80 feet below you at 130 to 160 feet. (A little further out is another vertical drop to over 1,000 feet deep.)

As I swam over the edge of The Wall and looked toward the bottom below, there was no sense of fear, no sense I might fall. My friend Darryl and I talked about the feeling as you move a little away from The Wall, separating yourself from "land." It is as close as we will ever get to being in space. I was suspended, weightless, motionless, unconnected, peaceful. Then the beauty of The Wall drew me back and I swam on.

Most of the dive along The Wall is between 80 and 100 feet, depending on the divers. You then come back up The Wall and swim back to the boat at 55-65 feet along the edge of the cliff.

Colors are naturally filtered out as you get deeper, starting with reds and yellow so many underwater photos appear more blue and green than normal. The deeper you go the more pronounced this filtering effect is. But the reverse is also true: As you come up, there is less filtering. So as you ascend from 85 to 55 feet there is more apparent color in the corals and fish. It's interesting to watch the colors "reappear" as you ascend.

You can see more pictures from the dive on our Flickr page.