Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Sometimes It Rains

January 25, 2012

No kids.  No pets.  No spousal unit.

An invite from Ms. X to go off on an adventure.

A timely coincidence of an e-mail advertising last-minute cruise prices to the Bahamas which were amazingly low.

Sounds like a ‘yes’ to me.

Ms. X was tired of the weather.  Tired of the annoying flapping of gums of her co-workers.  Tired of drama of family and acquaintances.  She needed an escape, but didn’t want to go alone.  Knowing I was prone to scooter off for an adventure or seven, she asked if I wanted to go.  She’s cute, spunky, fun.  Of course I want to go.  A few well spent airline miles and we were on our way to warm weather and sunny skies.

Well, supposedly sunny.

A three day cruise, with a one day stopover in the Bahamas.  I thought it was always sunny in the Bahamas.

We thought we had our ‘bad travel karma’ used up when she forgot her passport on her way to pick me up to go to the airport.  Luckily, since she’s a nervous (some would say “cautious”) traveler, she’d arrived at my place 10 minutes early.  Being a tad nervous…whoops…”cautious” myself, I’d already padded the schedule by 20 minutes.  Plenty of time to rush back to her place, pick up the passport, and still hit the airport well in time to catch our flight.  We thought the rest of trip had to go well since we had our bump ready.

And, mostly, it did.

On board, there was too much food, expensive drinks, cheesy entertainment, and some damn good entertainment.

In the Bahamas?  The cruise ship arrived as we slept.  We woke to blue skies and ate breakfast on the fantail.  We went to the cabin to change and, coming back out, were met by gray skies.

Gray skies...smiling at me...

Still, it was warm.  We were in a beautiful, tropic country.  It didn’t look like rain [cue ominous music], so we rented a motor scooter to tour the island (“Drive on the left, mon.”).

Half an hour in?  Rain.  Lots of it.  We got soaked, but were laughing and having a great time.  The rain tapered, so we kept going to the opposite side of the island.  Stopping to look at the view, it started raining again.  so, we got back on the scooter to return.

I turned the key.  Silence.  I kicked the kick start.  Silence.  I bitched.  Loudly.   Then laughed.  Loudly.  It had reached the absurd, so there was nothing to do but laugh at the situation.

Called the scooter company who sent a replacement scooter.

Headed back to town with dampened clothes, but not dampened spirits. A few drinks in town, people watching, and wandering to see the sights.

Sound advice

Next day, the ship wandered the Caribbean and Ms. X and I wandered the decks.  There was a two hour window in the afternoon of wonderful sun, warm temperatures, and tropical breezes.  There was more entertainment that evening.  And more drinking and eating.

And back to the dock in the US of A the next morning, with no-issue flights home to cold and foggy weather.

A wonderful time, even with weather woes, just because I said “yes” to adventure.

I’m liking these “yes” opportunities.  I’m open to more in my future.

 

Chicago Chicanery

July 31, 2011

okay, so ‘chicanery’ is not really the right word, but i like the alliteration.

had an adventure this past week that will stay in the ‘happy memory banks’ for quite awhile.  took a trip to Chicago to play the country boy in the big city, staring up at the tall buildings, saying ‘Golly!’, with my wallet hanging out of my back pocket for the city folk to pick (they didn’t…it was a very civilized and great place with lots of cool people).

almost there and excitement rising

the purpose was to have a holiday, but a side reason was to meet up with blog folk.  i’ve done so before in Ohio, but this is the first i’ve gone off to meet new folks.  with a friend, Recreational Blasphemy (doesn’t blog, but does comment) as my travel buddy, we wended our way to the Windy City to meet the others.  there?  while i already know the scrumptious Daisyfae, i also met–in person!!–the delectably delightful Nursemyra and the divine Rassles.  i look forward to getting together again, if possible.  but, even if not, it was a true pleasure to get together and get to know each other, wander the city, and just enjoy a holiday.

of course, we sampled the local eateries.  in addition, we hit a street fair in Wicker Park and a free concert in Millenium Park.  and, yes, we did do the other touristy kind of stuff as well. The Fields Museum (dinosaurs and mummies), the Shedd Aquarium (with a really cool jellyfish exhibit), and the Museum of Science and Industry (a real, honest-to-goodness WW II German U-boat!!!!) were great fun.

Recreational Blasphemy and I also tried to recreate, a bit, the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” tour.  some things were not possible.  for example, there was no parade that week with someone singing Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen”.  nor were the Cubbies in town.  and there is no “Chez Quis” restaurant where we could pretend to be “Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago”.  But we did get up in the Sears Tower – –

damn that's a long way down!

and wandered the Art Institute.

RB recreates Cameron falling into the pixels

much more, but still in the after glow of a great holiday.  great times.  wonderful adventures.  grand companions.

i am definitely going to go back.

My Unmisspent Youth

November 1, 2010

We interrupt the normally scheduled recounting of my frolics on stage doing “The Producers” in order to recapture another summer event . . .We will return to our normally scheduled theater blogging next time.

I may have mentioned before on these pages that I led a very vanilla and unremarkable youth and early adult life.  I was the good kid.  Didn’t get in trouble.  Didn’t even do stuff that should have gotten me in trouble.

As I enter this phase of my life, I’ve wanted to not only explore new and fun things, but recapture some of those things I should have done when younger.

One of those is the purchase of a motorcycle.

My cousin had a dirt bike that I was allowed to ride a few times in the fields behind his house.  It was great fun…until it got stolen.

My sister-in-law bought a big bike (I honestly don’t remember what, but it was 750cc-ish) and, on a visit back when I was around 19 years old, was allowed to take it out for a morning wander through the plains of Montana.  Again, great fun and freedom.

But, between a limited budget (having this silly penchant for wanting to learn to fly) and life just rolling on, I never indulged in actually getting my own bike.  Oh, that and my ex- and I would’ve likely had an all out brouhaha over my decision (which, in retrospect, would likely have been very good for my psyche and led me down a different life path).

So, now, it is my turn to play.  This spring, along with Dear Friend, I took a motorcycle safety class.  The end result of this class was that passing it counted as passing the state driving test.  Yeeha!!  And, it stoked a fire to actually get a bike to ride.

Commiserating with friends and colleagues, plus having to roll back expectations in order to fit it into my budget, I settled on a 2000 Honda Shadow 750cc.  She’s beautiful.

tucked away safely in the garage

After a few hours practice over the course of a week, done behind the Lowe’s shopping plaza near my place, I was ready to hit the road.

Ex.  Hil.  Er.  Ation!!!

But the big thrill came on my third ride out on the roads when I became recognized as being “In The Club”.  Motorcycle riders will, on passing another motorcyclist going in the opposite direction, remove their left hand from the handlebars and flash a wave… outstretched hand or a clenched fist or (in my case) a peace sign (a good summary found here).  All are acknowledgment that we are a small, unique group (albeit most MUCH more experienced and worthy than I).

So, on a back road, when oncoming motorcyclist initiated this salute to me, I was luckily stable enough (mentally, emotionally, gravimetrically) to return my own salute.

…and I laughed out loud in my helmet, grinning like a fool…

James Dean… Marlon Brando… Peter Fonda… GnuKid!!

the gnu wild bunch

Aquatic Irony

July 5, 2010

The ocean has a way of teaching us all Mother Nature is really in charge, not us.  We pitiful humans can have grandiose schemes of controlling and manipulating the oceans, but they always seems to win in the end.  Note especially the painfully long and arduous process of trying to cap the leaking well in the Gulf (graphically portrayed and ‘splained by Daisyfae here).

On my recent adventure to Costa Rica, there were a couple dive experiences that reminded me of this as well.

On one dive, I got to dive on a wreck of a fishing boat.  It wasn’t too deep…60 feet or so.  And the boat had been down there long enough that the ocean (and likely treasure hunting or salvaging scuba divers) had devoured all but the shell of the boat.  What struck me as ironic was that this boat, built and used for the sole purpose of dragging the fish from the sea, gasping, in order to feed the humans on shore…was now happily populated by schools of hundreds of fish.  What once was the bane of the fish, was now respite and cover for whole herds* of them!

Now owning the Captain's wheel house...

The ocean is winning...

Home sweet boat

The second event was when my deputy, adjacent, assistant, auxiliary dive buddy got caught in a wave surge underwater while taking pictures.  The surge drove her into the coral face where we were diving.  Not too roughly, actually.  But, unfortunately, right into a large sea urchin.

Looking something like this one...

She thought she’d been cut on the knee, as it hurt like a mother.  But, an examination underwater of the site revealed no blood (thus preventing her from being chum for the local sharks).  However, on return to the surface, when she removed her swim skin?  Here’s what she found…

Ewww....

Each blackened mark had a little spike embedded in it.  And it still hurt like the dickens (well, she said it did…I felt fine, thanks for asking [chortle]).  The next day, it looked like this – – –

Tattooed for life?

Still looked nasty, but feeling much better.  The following day, the black dots began to disappear.  No permanent scarring.

Great fun, still.  And will definitely be going again.

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*Yes, I know it’s ‘schools’…I just enjoy mixing my metaphors, phrases, and stuff like that.  You know, a penny saved is worth two in the bush.

Language Issues

June 30, 2010

Our Costa Rican tour guide was wonderful.  Carlos knows the pitfalls and danger spots in the country (actually, not too many), as well as knowing where the ‘best’ prices were for we touristas.

Carlos spent some time in the States, earning cash to afford to start up his tour business.  So, his grasp of the English language is pretty good.  And, actually, so is his accent.  We rarely had to ask him to repeat anything.

There were, however, some very obvious exceptions.

On arrival, as we were all getting settled on the bus, Carlos informed us he had soda drinks for us.

Carlos: “Okay, peoples*, we have some Cock and Diet Cock for you!”

...and they're even available in cans!

He also had a slight pronunciation problem with the word “Folks”.

Carlos: “Okay, Fucks, here’s what we are doing next…”

Or, then again, maybe he DIDN’T have trouble with pronunciation…hmmm….

One of the couples on the trip went into town alone while the rest of us lounged by the pool.  They stopped at a place where the road was full of potholes.

Carlos: “Okay, Fucks, be careful of the buttholes out there.”

Unfortunately, my deputy adjacent assistant auxiliary dive buddy** pulled Carlos aside and corrected him so he didn’t say it after the third day.

Spoilsport.

Oh, and a couple more pictures – –

the sharks we got within 15 feet of...

croc teasing

Monkey Head Island...yeah, it does look a bit like one

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*He did tend to pluralize plurals….peoples, gentlemens…much fun!

**My preferred dive buddy being unavailable, on an adventure of her own, and sorely missed on this trip.

A Fine Farewell to ZA

June 3, 2010

One of my regrets…if you could really call it that because the trip was wonderful even amidst credit card stuff and all…was that I didn’t get to see one of the big cats.  ZA has lions, leopards, and cheetahs in their parks.  But, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any.  Amongst other things, we did get to see some hyenas eating an elephant carcass – –

Carnivores - - Oy!

And, we did get to see the after effects of a lion feast – –

A zebra in the REALLY buff

…but no big cats.  [pouty lip]

Daughter Person came through, though.  She made reservations for an overnight stay at a very cool lodge, then a morning tour of the De Wildt Cheetah Center, for the preservation and breeding of cheetahs and other endangered wildlife.

After a near panic at not being able to pay because of the credit card issue, we did finally get to take the tour.

First on the tour was the running of the cheetahs.  Every morning they take three of their cheetah and exercise them by running them, having them chase a meat-filled sack being pulled by a winch and pulley setup on the ground.  After watching the first one with my jaw dropped, I regained enough sense to video the next two.  Hope this works – –

Afterwards, we got a short tour of the facility and watched them feeding the cheetahs in their cages.  Costing a bit extra, but worth every penny, was getting to pet a cheetah.  They took one of the cheetahs who is used to humans, plus ran and was fed (thus making them tired and full), put a leash on him, and let us pet him.

It. Was. Remarkable.

Shaka - King Cheetah*

The Cheetah is the only big cat that really purrs.  And could he purr.  He had a V-12 of happy purring away.  Take a look at his face.  If you’ve ever had cats, you recognize that contentment.

After that, we walked to some of the near cages that held other animals, including an albino honey badger.  Then a quick stop at the toilets before the rest of the trip…

Surprised he's not crossing his legs

Then we hopped on a truck to take the long tour of the facility.  Lots of animals in separate enclosures…some small-ish, most quite big…held a variety of critters — wild dogs, hyena, vultures, serval, wild cat, monkeys.  Oh, and a random ostrich that followed us around like a beggar…

Chow time

At each enclosure, they fed the animals.  This allowed us to get a good close look.  While the other animals were fun to watch, my favorite were the cheetahs.    A couple of pics of them, taken from 6′ to 10′ away–

Glad he'd already eaten

Post meal snooze in the shade

Yep, Girl Child came through.  But, still, hoping to see big cats in the wild next trip.

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*King Cheetahs are still cheetahs, but a recessive gene that gives them a unique appearance.  De Wildt has had quite a few of these beasts.

Credit Card Follies

May 31, 2010

Okay, consider this a public service announcement for those very few of you who’ve not figured this out yet.

Having not traveled much in other than official business capacity…and not much overseas travel even at that…I learned a few things on this trip to ZA.  Yeah, even at my tender age of mumblety-three.

So, first – – Show of hands…which idiot forgot to tell the credit card people that he was going to ZA?  Yep, I’m the only one with my hand up in the air.   I got to the end of the first week there and, trying to make a purchase of a day petting the elephant (no, not a euphemism), was informed that my Visa card had declined any further purchases.  Okay, on the good side, they did notice a ‘slight’ irregularity in spending and shut down the card.  That irregularity being that 98% of previous purchases were made in the Wilds of Ohio (the other 2% within the confines of the U.S. of A.).  Actually, I’d prefer they shut down the card if there were charges starting to pile up from Notusualkastahn or some such.

On the bad side?  They shut the card down at the end of the business day on Friday.  No one to talk to that could start the card back up until Monday.  Now, come to find out that there IS a number to call, separate from the main bank office.  Just never knew (since, again, I never called to let them know).  We had tons planned, but little cash money to do anything.  Yeah, I had an AmEx card, but not a lot of folks accept that because of the higher than normal fees they charge the merchants to accept that card.

Finally getting it straightened out on Monday, I was again able to use my card…just in time for the number to be scammed somewhere (I’m guessing it was the grocery store, but really can’t be sure).  Since the second week was mostly at Girl Child’s village, I didn’t need to use the card much.  Until we tried to pay for something the following Saturday.  Now that was festive – –

Called an automated number I’d gotten from the bank on Monday to find out why the card wasn’t working.  That call went something like —

“We’d like to confirm your last 5 charges.  Please press ‘1’ if you did make the charge and ‘2’ if you did not.

“$124.15* from company XYZ?”  [pressed ‘1’]

“$43.50 from company MNO?” [pressed ‘1’]

“$4,315.90 from company ABC?”  [SMASHED key ‘2’]

“$2,540.70 from company JKL?” [CRUSHED key ‘2’]

“$32.30 from company RST?”  [calmed enough to press ‘1’]

they looked **just** like this, i'm sure

Ended up having to call back to talk to a human to get the card canceled and the charges refused.  And back again stuck with what little cash I had on hand (plus the meager cash reserves of Daughter Person) and the AmEx (hoping I could find places that would take it).

So, tip #1 from your Uncle GnuKid?  Call your credit card company to let them know you’ll be spending money in another country.  They’ll be less likely to freak out and shut down your card.

Tip #2?  When you call, make sure you get an international number you can call, even on weekends, to work out any issues.

Tip #3?  Careful of over-reliance on AmEx to save your butt.

Tip #4?  Plan extra cash on hand (knowing full well you don’t want too much cash…there are issues there as well…).

My tip for avoiding getting your card number scammed?  Sorry, troops.  I’ve got nothing.  Neither did the credit card company.  If someone really wants your number, they’ll figure a way to get it.

In the end?  All was well enough…the trip was not ruined (though did have a blemish).

And to the twit who tried to charge some R30 000 on a credit card that wasn’t yours?  Thank you… your greed actually saved me from having to pay.

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*yes, a bit weird that I was making purchases in Rand, but the system already converted them to Dollars for the phone call.