Monday, September 30, 2013

A couple of good dives

Wow! Scuba diving two days in a row!

On Saturday, I tagged along on a discover dive with newlyweds Rusty and Jessica from Atlanta. This was my 199th dive and they had a really good time.

In spite of Rusty's claiming they don't need another expensive hobby, they are planning to get certified.

On Sunday Darryl and I took our friend Marie diving the outside at Shacks.

Marie has been a certified, very experienced diver for a long time but she hasn't been diving at all for about five years. So this was her "welcome back to the water" dive.

And it was my 200th dive! Thank you Darryl and Marie.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

New post from St. Lucia

Here's a new post from Elaine in St. Lucia:

An amazing morning - went with a group of parents and their children with cerebral palsy and 6 kids got to ride horses for the first time at Hoofprints Stables here in St. Lucia (thank you, Winston!) SMILES so big they reached the sun and back and kids with spasticity were showing relaxed limbs and improved trunk support. And add to that the little guy I came with (who is 4 and non-verbal) started imitating me in the car. We will be doing speech therapy starting Tuesday after work...this kid is ready to talk! (that's MY smile to the sun and back!)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A little ocean threrapy

I finally got in the ocean, more than a week after I got back to la isla. I came back with strep throat (I think) and just felt like crap. Between that and having so much to get done, I just didn't get in the ocean. I've been on the beach with the dogs and took KTJ swimming, but not in the water for me until today.

All I can say is, "ahhhhhh!" I missed the salt water.

I don't normally do "selfie" photos. This is an exception - and as good a reason as I can think of to not do more.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Swimming with a horse in Puerto Rico

No photos of this one.

I took KTJ swimming in the ocean. Two things I can say about the experience: one, it seemed like a good idea at the time and two, it was a good walk, in that all beings returned home unharmed.

Walking her down the the beach was pretty uneventful. When we got to the water, she was a little reluctant but eventually worked her way in and swam a bit. But coming out - holy cats!!!

She started rearing, bucking, throwing kicks every which way.  And when that girl throws a kick and she's fully stretched out, she must be 20 feet long! At first I just hung on to the lead rope and danced with her to stay beside - not in front of or behind - her. After the third or fourth time, I started yelling at her to stop which she kind of did. Crazy! 

Then these two guys ask me if she went in the water. I said yes. The started shouting, "I want to see!" I said, "no! Look at the way she's acting." Then they started walking up behind her!!!! REALLY crazy! 

But as I said, it was a good walk: she got exercise, she got in the water and everyone came home safe and unharmed. 

I probably won't do that again soon.

Finding a new rythm for my life

Now that Elaine is not here, I have full responsibility for the three dogs and at least two of the horses. These are some major changes to the rhythms of my life. I need to find new rhythms to swing to.

As one beginning, I took KTJ swimming in the ocean by myself this morning. That was an adventure!!

She was a little hesitant at first but then she went in. We had a good time splashing. 

Coming out though! Oh boy. Rearing, bucking, throwing kicks every which way. At first I just hung on to the lead rope and danced with her to stay beside - not in front of or behind - her. After the third or fourth time, I started yelling at her to stop, which she kind of did. Crazy! 

Then these two guys walking on the beach asked me if she went in the water. I said yes. They started shouting, "I want to see!" I said, "no. Look at the way she's acting." Then they started walking up behind her!!!! REALLY crazy! 

But it was a good walk: she got exercise, she got in the water and everyone came home safe and unharmed. She got a full-on bath.

Everything's good. Now it's off to take the dogs for their run on the beach.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Swimming with a horse - in St Lucia!

Well, I couldn't wait any longer....had to ride a horse again. And it turned out I got to take him swimming too. He is a stallion named Bourgeois and he makes the same happy groaning noise like KTJ when he swims ! He belongs to the owner of the International Pony Club!

This is from Elaine's first horse/trail/beach ride in St Lucia.

Elaine's first post from St. Lucia

From time ti time we'll share posts from Elaine in St. Lucia. This is her first.

First 48 hours in St. Lucia has been lovely! Great apartment in Rodney Bay, walking distance to beach, shops, post office, bus stop. Went to my first St. Lucian party - JUMP UP in Gros Islet (held every Fri. night - street party with food, vendors, drink and dancing all night). We were there from 10:30 pm to 2 am and I danced my legs off. LOL! Have been snorkeling in Rodney Bay...great the first time, bad viz yesterday afternoon (a little like Crashboat on a bad day). 

Thank you to everyone for well wishes - miss all my friends and family.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The new adventure begins

 On it's landing approach into St. Lucia Elaine's plane fly past The Pitons, one of St. Lucia's iconic landmarks.

There is actually more from the trip north to catch up on, but the new adventure has started and that needs to take the floor.

I'm back in Puerto Rico holding down the fort. Elaine made it to St. Lucia. She's already settling in to her new apartment. One of her coworkers met her fight - very nice since the "big" airport is a Veiux Fort in the southern part of the island and the apartment, job and home are some two hours away on the northern part of the island.

And then there is that whole driving on the "wrong" side of the road thing. (Since St. Lucia is a former British colony, driving is on the left side.)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two days in Kalamzoo

We certainly managed to cram a lot of wonderful into our two short days in Kalamazoo.

We had a fabulous dinner with our son and daughter-in-law.

We had an amazing evening at Bell's Eccentric Cafe with so many friends. (I am truly sorry - for my sake - that I didn't spend more time taking pictures of everyone.)

More time with our son and daughter-in-law:

A fabulous reunion with our daughter:

Martini's pizza (hands down the absolute best!):

Water Street Coffee Joint (several times actually):

And we finally got to meet Wrigley:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A train themed week

It was kind of a train themed-vacation. First we went on the CVSR ride.

From Ohio we took a side trip to Michigan to see more family and friends. The first night in Michigan We stayed with our friends Erin and Jason. Their four-year-old son is into trains in a big way! His favorite movie is The Polar Express. When he was three, his parents took him to a train show where he fell in love with a "G" (for giant, I think) gauge Polar Express train. Ah, a bit too old for him. But fortunately his grandfather is a good friend of Santa's and a marvelous woodworker to boot. As a special favor to Santa, Papa made a wooden Polar Express train which was duly delivered on Christmas Eve.

This is just one of several handcrafted wooden trains Papa has made for him. And he loves them! Here's another:

Even our visit to Kalamazoo had trains in it. Here's Amtrak's Wolverine leaving Kalamazoo. We we're waiting to cross the tracks to get to Bell's Eccentric Cafe.

I love trains. I love the sound of them, the feel of them even the gritty smell of them. And I have to say, I think it's ridiculous what this country has done to railroads. Rail is still - by far - the most efficient way to move large amounts of freight from point to point over land. For that matter, it's the most efficient way to move people as well, although passenger traffic has never been a moneymaker for the railroads.

I could tell immediately when we turned off U.S. 23 onto I-94 in Michigan. The right lane was a nearly solid wall of 18-wheelers. It looked kind of like a train with a whole bunch of little tiny (relatively speaking) engines, each with it's own "engineer." Two things always come to mind when I have to drive among these trucks: the menace to drivers in much smaller vehicles and how much better a train carrying all that cargo would be. Nostalgic maybe, but very practical as well. Ah, well. When I rule the world.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy birthday, mi amor!

Today is a hard day for many people. The tragedy of the events on this date - and the fact that the media has made franchise out of reminding us - simply overwhelm other considerations. It is doubly difficult for anyone who seeks to find any joy on this date.

Despite the tragedy, there are reasons to celebrate and to find joy. Today was my love's birthday long before it was a day of tragedy. So we are celebrating the fact that she is here with us, in our lives, and she came into this world on this date!

We don't forget, we don't diminish, but it was her day first!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

On a train

I love trains. When I went to work for the old PennCentral (later part of Conrail), I was the fourth generation in my family to work for the railroad. If my mother is to be believed (and she is, and since she's no longer with us she's pretty hard to argue with), I was conceived on a train. I have railroads in my blood.

As a special treat, Amy got us discounted tickets on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway. After Kennedy's soccer game, we loaded up Titi Amy, Tio Dan, Kennedy, and Kai and headed north for a train ride through the valley.

Things have sure changed in this beautiful valley since that day in 1969 when the seriously polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire, a fire ironically started by a spark from a passing freight train. (That fire by the way was the inspiration for Earth Day.)

The river and the valley have been cleaned up. Hundreds of miles of bike and hiking trails follow old railbeds and the towpath for the old Eire Canal. The CVSR follows the route of the original railroad that helped bring an end to the Eire Canal.

One of the cool things about the CVSR is the Bike 'n Ride option. They have a special car with special attendants so bikers can take their bikes on the train to various trailheads along the route. For $3 you can take the train to whatever trailhead, get off, ride, and either ride back to your car or for $3 more catch the train back. On this Saturday afternoon there were a bunch 'o bikers. I can't imagine how many there will be and how crowded this train will be in a month when all the fall colors are out.

We don't have trains in Puerto Rico anymore. There used to be trains to haul sugar cane and they added passenger service to get people from "la isla" to San Juan. But no more. I miss the sound of trains, the feel of trains. This was a great adventure for me and to share with our grandkids. I absolutely loved it!

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Our first game as soccer grandparents

Okay, okay. I know - after many years a soccer parent, coach and referee - I know it's supposed to be all about the kids.

But sometimes it's not all about the kids. Before and after this game, Kennedy's first soccer game, it was all about her. But during the game, on the sideline, it was all about us - the grandparents and parents. It was our first game too.

We yelled more than any of the other parents. We cheered more than the other parents. Amy yelled more instructions to Kennedy than other parents yelled at their kids (we told her she needs to be a coach). It was all very surreal.

Even though I was born about two hundred miles from here, into a world populated by people like the other parents on the sideline, I realized I am more comfortable in, and have more in common with a room full of native Puerto Ricans than I do this crowd of northern Ohioans. I felt out of place. I can only imagine how our son-in-law Miguel feels.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Silent and cold!

We woke up our first morning in Elaine's sister's house to - silence. Total silence.

We are used to waking up to the wind rattling the palm trees outside our bedroom and living room windows, the sound of the ocean, the sound of birds, the sound of Jazz thumping his tail and rattling the door to hs cage.

The absolute silence was a bit unnerving.

And honestly, the cold is a bit unnerving too. I've been wearing jeans and a fleece shirt ever since we got here. I haven't been n temperatures this cold (mid-50s) in seven years.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Ignorance is everywhere

We were moving quickly and and ran into a nearby Burger King to grab a quick sandwich (not a burger, by the way).

Somehow in the course of the transaction Elaine mentioned to the person behind the counter that we are here visiting from Puerto Rico. The counter-person said, "Oh, are you missionaries to the poor natives down there?"


Elaine really wanted to go educate the poor fellow but we didn't really have time. We talked about it and brainstormed possible responses. Our best one was, "No. We're missionaries from Puerto Rico here to help ignorant norteamericanos.

In the end we decided to leave it alone, that this particular reeducation task was just more than we could take on.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

El Coqui and TSA

A bag of El Coqui coffee was almost our undoing with TSA in San Juan. Our bag went through the scanner and the agent said, "I have to look in this bag."


She rooted through the case and pulled out our foil bag of El Coqui, a gift for Elaine's sister. They rescanned the bag. Turns out it was something else they saw, a game for the kids. But it was the El Coqui they took out. Fortunately, after sniffing the bag to make sure it was really coffee, they gave it back to us.

Hey! It's all fun and games until TSA starts taking your stuff.

Musical chairs on the airplane

Sunset over the Atlantic

Because of an online error, when our flights were booked, we wound up on different flights. Elaine was scheduled to fly out of Mayaques at 10:00 and out of San Juan at 1:00. I was scheduled to fly out of Mayaguez at 1:30 and out of San Juan at 3:00. We would then meet in Miami for the flight to Cleveland.

The "station agent" in Mayaguez was very nice and said, "Sure you cn both get on the early flight." So we got to fly to San Juan together. When we got to San Juan, the flight Elaine was overbooked and they were asking for volunteers to tak the next flight (the one I was booked on). So Elaine got bunmped and got a $300 voucher. So now we were on the same flight to Miami but seated in different rows.

When a got to my seat, there was a woman siting in it.She was obviously sitting with her family and her young child. She said, "would you take my window seat so I can stay here?" Of course! No problem! So I started back to my new seat and Elaine started for hers. A man stood up and offer his seat so we could sit together.

We ended up sitting together in totally different seats than we were assigned on on flight we we'nt supposed to be on together. And we got $300 for our trouble!


Flying out of Mayaquez

Mayaguez airport a little airport with pretensions.

We decided to fly out of Mayaquez airport this time. It's a bit less money than flying out of Aguadilla but without the hassles of driving to San Juan. And it's a lot easier to get someone to take you to Mayaquez than it is to ask someone to drive to San Juan.

There is literally none of the usual airport security in Mayaquez. A quick glance (if that) at an ID. No TSA. No scanners or X-rays or metal detectors. No taking your shoes or your belt off. No unpacking (then repacking) all your myriad electronic devices. Just a nice guy who comes out to get you when it's time to go because you're sitting outside on the bench in the sunshine.

When we got to Mayaquez, we were actually booked on two different flights, Elaine at 10:00 and me at like 1:30. The same nice guy put us both on the earlier flight. Not that that was any big problem: there were only three other passengers. But then it was a tiny plane.

From Mayaquez it's a short 35-minute flight, mostly along the coast, to San Juan. In San Juan, it's back to travelers' reality, TSA. dragging luggage through the airport to the check-in counter and all that.

All said and done, I don't think we'll fly out of Mayaguez again though. It was an experience, an adventure, but I don't think it saved us much time or hassle. I would still rather fly out of Aguadilla even with the middle-of-the night departures and arrivals. We can usually find someone who will pick up our car so we don't have to pay to park at the airport and then drop it off the night we come home.

 This the VIP  lounge in the Mayaguez airport.