Sunday, September 30, 2007

Air road-trip to Santa Monica State Beach

It's a wonderful day in Richmond VA. I feel absolutely fabulous. The sun is shining. It's about 74 degrees. It's Sunday!! Everyone feels great and looks great. If you ever feel like visiting Richmond, now through the end of October is the time to be here. Best time of the year all Richmonders agree. Except maybe for those who like paddling in the James. They might prefer August.

Anyway! I feel I could drive forever. So why not take a little drive to Santa Monica State Beach? It's a lovely place and the weather is supposed to be sunny all week. Woo hoo! (SM is "B" in the map. You can zoom all the way in on satellite view. It's almost like being there!)

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Rand McNally tells me the fastest driving route takes 39 hours and 40 minutes. I would drive through Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Stop right there. I would be really close to Wichita where my son lives with his family so I would have to stop off for a couple of days. That's okay. I have all week. Before that I may need to take a couple of hours in Mt. Rogers State Park (in Virginia) because the view is fabulous.

Back in the car until I come to Albuquerque where I would stop for one day to try to locate (again) the scrap of land I own somewhere near Belin. I tried to actually see it once but couldn't find it because I forgot to bring the plat. Oh well. One scrap of desert is much like another.

Then on again through Arizona. Wonder if this takes me anywhere close to Sedona? Seems to be all the rage this year. After which there would be a straight shot to the beach (more or less). I would stay at the Sofitel in Hollywood because it has a weird name even though it's not really near Santa Monica.

In Santa Monica it would be nice to check out the beach amenities, stroll along the sidewalk to the various picnic areas (no barbecuing!) and perhaps play on the gym at Muscle Beach.

Back in reality, there is a beach less than two hours from here. I'm not going today. There's also some lovely mountains not far but I'm not going there either. I'm going to walk the dog to the dog park and do some more home improvement. That is, if I don't pull out a reclining lawn chair and sit out back in the sun and read a book.

Friday, July 13, 2007

time for an air vacation

Time to get away from this life and take a hike. Well, if I lived in Jamaica I could. Probably better to visit. If I lived there I'd also be working there. Terrible bummer.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Vacation Experience in Cancun

My second day back to work I could hear the waves, smell the salt and feel the sun on my head and in my eyes as I sat in my office cubicle. It was almost perfect recall of being in Cancun. Then there were the uneven, irregular surfaces of the patched sea walls and coral islands filling my brain and making me weave a bit in my chair. God, but it was lovely. Being all-inclusive had something to do with it, too. No worries.

The Hotetur Beach Paradise is one of the Mexican Hotetur chain. When I told various assistants where it was, I had to use a lot of variations on Beach Paradise, Hotetur, Beach Paradise Hotetur, and Hotetur Beach Paradise. At the airport they called it by it's old name and the pre-Wilma sign is still solidly there and all lit up. It was definitely the cleanest hotel I ever visited. I didn't think about how much work went into that until I began to notice how the floors were never littered or how the glass in the elevator was never smeared and the lobby windows were always clean. My mother sat in the lobby once and watched a fallen tissue. Within ten minutes after it was dropped a security man picked it up followed by a maintenance man who brought a mop and bucket and washed the floor. Yet none of this was oppressive or invasive.

The food was as good as in any fine restaurant in the US. There was a lot of variety. The servers were always friendly and ready to help in any way. Once they learned my mother preferred the window tables they brought her there every time. If one wasn't available, they took us to a table as close to the windows as possible with a view unobstructed by pillars. The windows filled the top half of the outer wall so really you could sit anywhere and look out.

The buffets were well stocked and never ran out of anything. One of my mother's favorites was having the cook make a fresh fruit drink to order in the blender. My favorite was Yasmina (some kind of fruit drink - don't know the spelling) which I wish I had discovered sooner.

The beach was lovely and directly at the edge of the hotel. There were stairs down to the water but that wasn't a problem for me or anyone else I could see. I suspect the height of the hotel was probably for protection. After Wilma only half of the beach is left. The wind blew almost constantly, but, unlike on Ocracoke, it didn't send sand into my eyes. How is that? Do they make special rules about the wind in Cancun?

We did some shopping and got a massage. Then we went snorkeling on the world's second largest reef. I overhead a man calling it "a real Mexican experience." We ended up with Reef Adventures in a small boat that seated 15. Before they let us in we had to sit in the restaurant area and get a lecture on the fragility of the reef and how protected it was and not to touch it - ever. We also got out flippers and snorkel equipment at that time.

Once we were all equipped we got into the boat. Then came the Mexican part. The engine wouldn't start. The other passengers were taking it calmly but I don't think they understood the ominous sound that told me the battery was two more attempts from dying. When a turn of the key brought no sound at all, the captain had his brother, Julio, swim over to a nearby boat, lift the battery and carry it over his head to us. This battery was definitely dead. Now the captain, Jerry (his professional name, I'm sure) removed the cover on the outboard. Still no panic from the others. I prepared myself mentally for returning to shore. I heard one woman saying, "It is what it is." Jerry tried a joke, "It's not far. You can swim!" Some of us laughed.

Returning to the engine (muttering "impossible" under his breath), Jerry pulled out the fuse. Aha! Julio was dispatched to procure a new one. My mother felt sorry for Julio having to keep jumping into the water but I envied him. The new fuse didn't work so another man appeared with yet another fuse. This one worked and (after getting Julio back on board) we left. A 10 minute ride brought us to the first part of the reef. Julio jumped in with a white life preserver and we were instructed to follow him. This was more difficult than it appeared as the current was strong and there were about 4 other boat loads of snorkelers in the area (all with their own "flag" - one a deflated white ball). I ended joining another tour at one point but soon was put straight. After 40 minutes of fabulous views of fish and coral we were called back on board (those of us still out). We moved to another part of the reef and I was glad to see ours was the only boat there. All the snorkelers had made the fish skittish at the first location.

Julio jumped over again holding his white preserver. Everyone just sat there. I was fully kitted up and ready to go so I jumped. I later learned that one woman didn't make it past the first few minutes at the first stop claiming her mask leaked (my mother suspected she wasn't interested to begin with but just came with her partner). Another lasted about 10 minutes and kept repeating she had been in a wedding with bad shoes and had blisters on her toes. Three more followed me but I wasn't aware of them. Having lost Julio the first time I was determined to keep up this time. There was no current in this area so it was much easier. Also, I became good friends with my flippers and could zoom along without thinking about them. In fact, they worked better when I didn't think about them.

Julio pulled up a conch so we could look at it. It was retracted and the part I could see looked like a dark, red snail but worth seeing anyway. He also pointed out a fish disguised as the sea bed by shooing it around. And he showed us some interesting fish lurking in the holes of the coral.

The trip back to shore was uneventful. Lunch was not quite the all-you-can-eat buffet that was advertised. But I didn't care. There was a black bean mash, fresh homemade flour tortillas, fish in poblano sauce (guessing) and other Mexican food accoutrements. I suppose we could have made pigs of ourselves but the servers looked like they needed the food a whole lot more than we did and everyone was careful not to take very much. There was beer (and other things) for drinking. I believe Sol tastes much better in Mexico than it does anywhere else.

The last day my mother and I took the bus back to a shop at Market 28 in downtown Cancun. We had seen it previously on the shopping tour. Mistake. We should have called a tour guide to drive us. The Market 28 bus stopped 3 blocks from the market. Market 28 is huge. I think it covers at least four city blocks and has four official entrances. Unfortunately, after asking three people the way we ended up at the wrong entrance. It was so hot we had to take a break in an Oxxo convenience store with a bottle of cold water. Fortunately we found the right entrance and the shop pretty quickly and made our purchases. At that point, my mother was ready to pay any price the taxi driver asked but we weren't that heat crazed. Before getting in we agreed on $14, or rather he said "$14" and she said, "Okay!" The taxi drivers were actually quite well organized. The cab was uncluttered and the air conditioning was terrific. The queue was organized and an administrator of some type showed us to our cab.

At 4 am we woke up to a guy who couldn't be bothered to do a damn thing for us. Roberto. Avoid him if you visit this hotel. All he's interested in is the hotel's high speed internet access and cutting off arm bands.

The airport at 5:30 am is full of birds. I thought at first that there were loudspeakers blaring some kind of jungle sound track. Then I realized that the trees were full of birds all chirping as loudly as they possibly could. I was amazed. Since our box lunches from the hotel were like some elementary school nightmare (white bread with crusts cut off, three layers of bread and a couple of slices of ham and cheese) we ditched them for fresh pastries and hot coffee at the cafe before the security check point. Nice cafe.

I'm not going to share the whole security plane trip thing. But I must tell you that you can't tell from my passport that I'm back in the USA. Weird.

I'm thinking of driving to Virginia Beach this weekend to get another hit of salt water and snorkeling. But the $800 I just paid to get my car fixed may be a slight barrier. oh well. .. I did have this really great week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My Next Vacation and Alternate Reality

It finally happened: an all-expense paid vacation to Cancun. Woo hoo! I'll be there at the end of April. I can't be pleased though. It still involves planning and traveling and wondering if I'll look okay in a bathing suit. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

I feel so trivial in my pursuits. I just read a bunch of stories about the weekend of anti-war protests. Many comparisons were made to the Vietnam protests. Mention was made of how more subdued protesters are these days. Maybe one day we'll actually get around to talking out our differences. Mention was also made of how protesters were careful not to have their march construed as anti-troops. Good thing. What these protests lacked in numbers they made up for in internationality. I don't remember Madrid protesting the Vietnam war.

I stay away from masses of people. They tend to get unruly. If I had the where withal I would be subsidizing anti-war effort and quite possibly Bush impeachment. The guy has got to go. I was very disappointed to hear Hillary Clinton talk about keeping troops in Iraq/Iran. I had such hopes. Which only goes to show that the disease is deeper than the President. It's entrenched and rotten. There is a high stink in Denmark. Do I smell Bushgate?

Speaking of alternate reality, that's my whole life. I purposefully ignore the news. Still I'm amazed at how little air and space the weekend protests have received. There was nothing about it on the morning TV news and the newspapers carried one, maybe two, stories with not much detail and few photos. Seems kind of like a phenomenon to me when thousands of people world wide rise up on the same day to protest a criminal act and then keep doing it for days. Seems to me there would be more coverage. But what do I know? I live in an alternate reality.

I learned to live in this reality while living in Lebabnon during the 1983 portion of the civil wars. Well, actually some foreign countries were involved like Syria and the United States. There was a dearth of information. There was intermittent electricity and running water. But mostly what got me started on not listening to the news is being part of a conversation among us homemakers one quiet day (read: no shelling). A friend and I were visiting her friend (both ex-pats of Europe). My friend asked, "Are you optimistic?" This was always the question. Well, that and "Do you think it will be quiet today?" or some such variation. Her friend said, "Yes. I am very optimistic." How can you be that way, my friend inquired. "I have stopped listening to the news," she said. Which was a real aha moment for me. Of course the news is mostly depressing. It's always about crap happening and people doing lousy stuff to each other. It gives the wrong focus. I thought she had something there. When you could get reliable news in Lebanon (not slanted by whatever side was reporting) it was generally all about how much ammunition was lofted by whom and how many were killed and the extent of the damage to structures and how important they were. Very depressing. During the fighting there was no other news. Entertainers still entertained and performed better than usual, children still went to school (sometimes), homes were built, couples married. Yet none of this stuff made news. It was all shooting and death. Well, there was the depressing state of the shops: little merchandise, most of it dusty. With no work except killing who had money?

Anyway, I prefer my alternate reality. It's more hopeful and positive. I don't think I'm an ostrich with my head in the sand. I like to think of myself as noticing an alternate reality and living in it.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Back Again, yet thinking of leaving

I've just finished making sure my finances aren't collapsing from my recent real vacation. While checking into the credit card account I checked out my rewards. Way up in the stratosphere is a trip for two on a clipper ship. All I need is 437,500 points and a partner.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

this vacation

I'm in Orlando at the centrally located beautiful Sheraton Vistana Resort. One of my sisters has a time share that she exchanged for this location. I always thought being in a warm sunnny location was what I needed to do in the winter and I do. But getting here entailed way too much organization although now I feel so good I don't actually really care about that anymore. Looking forward to 81 degrees today and hanging out at the pool. :-)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

avoidance, a great time waster

In my quest for perfect happiness, I took a look at some options for learning to be a film director or something like that. I often wish I could be the paint on the wall or the camera operator when films are being made. What goes on there? Anyway, realized that what I'm actually doing is avoiding thinking about my current job. Some days I just want to do nothing and there's not really a way to do that when I have no privacy. So here's my list of film schools I'd like to attend after I sell everything and move into my Bambi.

Most Artistic: London
Most Creatively Inspiring: New York
Most Realistic Option: Maine

Monday, January 01, 2007

happy new year

Ooops. I may have slipped up and pushed the back of my mind to the front. So, there it is.