2018 and Merry Christmas

Welcome to my website if you are visiting for the first time. You will notice a menu with the pictures of our Southwest Trailer Trip to Arizona for the Giant’s Spring Training and then on to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Kodachrome Canyon and then Bryce canyon. We also visited Zion National Park. Just click on the Southwest gallery.

These are some of my best photographs as i continue to improve in that area. So enjoy the pictures and if you are interested in any of them, just drop me an email, text or call.

I was very fortunate to sell my first few (5) photos this year. As an amateur, I use the money to pay for my hobby and I save the rest for better lenses.

Zenetta and I wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy 2019

Trailer Nation Travel

In 2012, we entered the Fleetwood nation. If you find this in front of your house, it may be us. Camping not, RVing yes with this beast of a tent-trailer (popup).

We have taken this camping (uh, RVing) to several National and State parks and also private campgrounds. One round trip to Michigan and the Upper Peninsula and even Canada.

At the time of this post (2018) we had put over 12,000 miles on this puppy. Now I am considering selling it or at least getting it out of our garage. The cool thing about this Fleetwood Niagra Highlander is that I can store it inside my garage and that has kept it in good shape.

Grand Canyon, yes it has to be experienced in person

Grand Canyon, yes it has to be experienced in person

The south rim of the Grand Canyon is a marvelous experience. It can be crowded during the season; but we visited in late March and it was relatively uncrowded. We took the GC Railroad train from Williams and stayed overnight. This gave us several hours for us to enjoy the rim trail without congestion. The buses and the train arrives closer to noon.

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Puntarenas, Costa Rica where they speak Spanish but ...

This cruise has an appealing itinerary. From Long Beach straight to Costa Rica—4.5 days at sea (the ship sails in the afternoon.  I love the sea days and the “ScholarShip@Sea” program. They offer several classes that appeal to those who want to learn or try out a subject.

If offered, spanish, is taught by a member of the cruise directors staff . The classes are designed to provide “los viajeros” (travelers) with a few basic expressions—i.e. How to  count from 0 to 10 (cero, uno, dos, tres…etc.) ask for directions to the restroom, “donde está el bano?”, ask for your  restaurant check “La cuenta, por favor”, you get the idea. The decision was a no brain-er for me this time. Since the classes were only on sea days, we had four classes before we stopped in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

The classes on this trip were taught by Patricio Gonzales from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Patricio speaks four languages and is learning a fifth (Russian). Since I had taken 16 weeks of beginning spanish @ Santa Rosa JC, I have a elementary understanding of the language. I am able to read and understand at the level of a three year oldmaybe.

It turns out that these classes were exactly what I needed. Patricio based his approach on speaking the language. No hang ups on the punctuation. Just speaking spanish with the proper pronunciation. The classes at the JC are only 1.5 hours long which does not leave enough time to actually speak spanish. I am to the point that I need to speak it daily to keep it fresh in my 63 year old brain.

Included in this blog post is a story of over confidence and my awareness that I will attempt to communicate with any one who speaks the language.

After four spanish lessons at sea, we docked in Puntarenas. I believe Zenetta briefly told the story of the “glue stick” to her friends. This is the other side of the story…my side…it goes like this…

We had breakfast and waited for the tours to leave the ship, then embarked on a leisurely day of shopping. There is a long berth there, so we strolled along the pier into town, trying to decide which way to turn when we got to the beach.

At the beach, we spotted a few local boys, showing their sand art to get tourists to take photos (and of course asking for a dollar in return).  The 3D sculptures of turtles (“tortugas”), crocodiles (“cocodrilos”) and a young woman (“mujeres atractiva”) sunbathing. These kids know how to market their art. They always had people stopping to take pictures. We finally  chose to turn right (“derecha”), directly to downtown.

Our shopping list included “crafting supplies” (scissors and a glue stick) toothpaste and tweezers. Before we left the ship, I had turned to my trusty iphone and looked up two of the words “en espaniol”. glue =”pegamento, scissors=”tijeras”. I was feeling confident that we could locate and purchase at least two of the four items on our list. We had been to Puntarenas in March and felt familiar with the area.

I was declared the official interpreter by my wife (mi esposa). The pressure was ON!

Zenetta studied latin (in high school) and has the ability to interpret spanish signs faster that I can!  (Not wanting to discourage me, she allowed me to try first, then inevitably correcting me when she felt it necessary for my “educational growth”—my words, not hers).

It was December 20, (Era 20 de diciembre) Some of the stores were closed for the Christmas week. We walked until we located a  pharmacy open for business “farmacía albierto”.

Here is where the story takes a big turn!

We looked behind the counter, and saw one of the items on our shopping list! You guessed it, not one of the two words I had looked up— tweezers. I reached in my pocket to find nothing.  Listen… I said I found  NOTHING. In my haste to leave for town, I forgot my iphone! CRAP!

It has my spanish to english translator. I immediately felt like Linus without his blanket!  I lost my confidence. The sweat began to appear on my forehead. Now the clerk was asking what we wanted (in spanish).

Zenetta gave me that look (it basically said…“well, here’s your chance to prove that you have learned something in spanish. Now is your chance big guy…(these are my words— not hers!).

I failed. I had no spanish word  for “tweezers”.S

SomehowZenetta was able to communicate through sign language. Visualize pinching her fingers together on her  eyebrow like some kind of crustacean! Finally, after what seemed like minutes, the clerk pointed to the “tweezers”. Trying desperately to recover, I asked the “Cómo se dice en espaniol?” (What do you call this in spanish?)

I think Zenetta heard the response. I didn’t.  I was a nervous wreck. No iphone to look up the word “tweezers”.  I still don’t know the word  for tweezers in spanish.

Listen… This story gets even more humiliating for me...

Through the fog in my brain,  I remember standing at the cash register asking what the exchange rate was. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. Unfortunately I was asking the pharmacist the exchange rate for PESOS!  Much to his credit he politely responded by informing me that the exchange rate for Colones is 490 to one. (OOPS …Costa Rica currency is in Colones…NOT PESOS!  CRAP AGAIN! Strike two! Senior moment big time!)  I was able to recover somewhat by repeating what he said in spanish “quatro cientos y noventa colons” to the US dollar. He smiled. Wish I had a penny for his thoughts , NOT.

After licking my wounds, I gathered enough courage to continue shopping. I asked the pharmacist if he knew a store “con papel y lapiz” (with paper and pencil). He said that  three blocks down, there was a store which might have what we were looking for.

We continued down the street and found the store, but it was closed. We continued on our adventure. We had secured two of the four items on our shopping list. Then we discovered the mother load! A grocery store (mercado) that was open. We purchased eggnog, diet coke, lime flavored peanuts and  hot (picante) tortilla chips. Snacks? Does this make sense? We were buying food to take aboard a cruise ship! What’s that all about?

To prove that even dumb squirrels find acorns, we stumbled onto a large store with decorations and craft items. With the help of  the clerk and  the spanish word “cola” we were led to: the area of the glues.

Finally,  THE GLUE STICK STORY

The young girl who waited on us tried her best to help. She took us over to the counter and Zenetta spotted the glue sticks. Whoo hoo!  We found them! According to the girl, they were priced at “one dollar” .  I got a little suspicious when she brought the stick out and mimed putting the glue on her arm as if it were a deodorant. I had no idea how much our clerk understood us. Z needed a single glue stick. Problem # 8 or 9 by now (I lost count)…we had no change…no dollar bills… no 490 colones…only a twenty (that’s almost 10,000 colones!)  Benetton, meanwhile had asked if they take credit cards. They said yes. So, we felt a little guilty charging just a dollar; so,  like good “norte americanos”, we proceeded to shop some more. That’s when I turned to the Christmas row to try and increase the amount we were about to charge. While I was looking at colorful Santa decorations Zenetta had spotted a larger yellow colored box which had the same look as the box that had glue sticks. Always the bargain shopper, she took the box from the clerk to purchase. After picking out the best Santa, we took them to the counter and paid for them with our card. Terrific! Our adventure had ended. We now had three of the four items on our list, and we had stories to tell about our day in Puntarenas.

Back to the ship with our bounty. Toothpaste, tweezers, eggnog, diet coke, chips (picante), lime peanuts, a box of  glue sticks and pictures of Santa Claus to hang in our state-room, we celebrated our return “home”. You can imagine the surprise we had when Zenetta opened the box of  glue sticks and found a tube of unknown glue. We then realized —- the young clerk  hardly  understood a word we had said.

Laughter is the only balm for stupidity….Hasta luego!

For 'Ye Land Lubbers

Yes we like to cruise. I’ll try to describe what it is like on board the Coral Princess. This is our second Christmas season cruise through the Panama Canal. We have been through the Panama Canal twice before, and as I write this, we are three days from making our third trip through one of the ten wonders of the world. 

So you may be asking “why?” No doubt you are looking forward to next week for various reasons. Celebrating Christmas at home or a relative’s home. Shopping for gifts to exchange or preparing nice meals to share with loved ones and friends. I hope for you, it is all you expect and fun. I wish you a warm heart at Christmas. 

It’s not about the canal, or the ports, or the food, or the scenery and what about this “Christmas cruise?” Can it be a real holiday on the ocean? Well,, quite frankly, it is! There are movies about “skipping Christmas” and “lonely times away from family, etc…” We miss being with our son and daughter-in-law and not sharing the sparkle in the eyes of our grand kids when they open their gifts. We get those feelings vicariously.

Yes, we have children on board, many nationalities of sons and daughters. Each with their own family traditions. A few of the ship officers and staff have their families on board. It will be fun watching them on Santa’s lap.  Yesterday morning, the chief engineer’s son (about FAB’s age, was crawling throught the bar stools on the floor. The way they were aligned, made a real neat “tunnel” as he crawled on his hands and knees. His mom and his younger sister in her carriage could not see him. His dad, finaaly saw him on his second trip “through the tunnel” and cracked a big smile. All boy and his father enjoying the cruise.

Today, when Zenetta and I were getting our morning exercise, I realized that most of the staff and a few passengers will be missing their families. It comes with the contract at sea. They are used to being away from home. But most have smiles and seem to enjoy their work.

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and it is in thoughts and feelings of sharing love that really matters. The Princess Cruise lines will see to it that their spirits (and ours) will rise to the celebration. It is fun to share at this time of year. I suppose that is why I’m writing this longish note about our trip.

Z shared a line from one of the short stories she is reading. It went something like this…”Jewish people don’t get to celebrate Christmas, and they were the ones who started it!” Happy Hanukah to all my Jewish friends.

So what about this cruising stuff. I wish I could adequately explain it. We just watched the moon set over the western horizon. It looked like a big slice of an orange. The reflections in the water danced toward it’s winking eye, aglow in orange. It is now 04:30 am and I am sitting on our balcony with my lap top, occasionally staring at millions of bright stars. It’s 75ºF, and there is a very slight breeze. The ocean 80 miles off the coast of Nicaragua is smooth as glass. The sound of the waves as this ship moves ever so gently through the salt water is pure magic. Wish you were here with us so you can experience it for yourself. 

To quote a very bright young grand son…”You couldn’t believe it, grandma!” Hope you find yourself in a very happy, loving place to celebrate Christmas. It can be “en corazon” (your heart) at least. Many on board have this in their hearts already. To Brendan and Susannah, FAB and Sophie, I especially wish you were here with us. Maybe some day celebrating just that…being together. 

What is it about this cruising thing? It is all of the above…Feliz Navidad