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Sunday, September 25, 2016

I have a special request. Most of my readers know that I lived in Ecuador for two years. We made many friends, both expats and locals during our time there. Not too long after we returned to the US, Ecuador suffered devastating earthquakes on the coast.

A devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake has struck Ecuador resulting in death and massive destruction. Among the most impacted towns is Canoa, Manabi; just a few miles off the epicenter of the earthquake, leaving it 90% destroyed.

Our good friend Sara Coppler, who has experience in disaster relief, relocated from Cuenca to Canoa to aid in the recovery. You can read more about her efforts here. Other friends aided in the initial relief efforts by collecting food, money and clothing.

But the need will go on for a long time. Author Scarlett Braden, a close friend, came up with the idea of creating an anthology of stories written about expats by expats with 100% of the proceeds going to benefit Proyecto Saman, a project that provides housing and a safe living environment for people whose lives were shattered by the earthquakes.

Many of my expat friends have written non-fiction accounts of their encounters and a few more have written short fiction stories. For those interested, I have an unusual short fiction story that differs from most. I hope you enjoy mine and all the others.

If you can't buy the book, I hope you will tell all your friends about this extraordinary effort (and share this blog post). I bought it and I will be gifting a couple of copies as well. Thank you!

Ciao for now!

Cruising, Friends and Stormy Weather

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Waiting to board on 9/11 - honoring those who are gone but not forgotten.
The good, the bad and the ugly.....

THE GOOD - what an amazing time we had cruising with our good friends Pauline and Earl. This was a first for me, Stu and his late wife cruised to Hawaii with friends. I feel blessed to have friends like these - arms open in friendship when they first met me back in 2008. We are excited as they transition into retirement west of us (by a couple of hours) in Tennessee.

Stu forgot he had ordered birthday decorations for the room (since it was my birthday cruise) and we laughed about that. The best part was the warm chocolate chip cookies!

We talked, we laughed, we ate, we walked, we vegged. The sunsets, the full moon, the skies, the water - so many beautiful things to see. Here are a few pics:

Leaving the Port of Baltimore
Evening sky
Sunset from the back of the boat
Grand Turk scenery
Grand Turk - amazing water colors
Watching the horse excursion from the boat
Yes, it was hot so I imagine this was refreshing
Our cabin decorated for my birthday
THE BAD - Tropical Storm Julia decided to force the captain to cancel our third port, Freeport Bahamas. We still have one really rough day at sea but it could have been much worse. Our final sea day was gorgeous!

We arrived on time in the port of Baltimore but were stopped from docking for about two hours due to police activity around Fort McHenry. They even closed a section of I-95 while they searched for a suspect reportedly carrying a rifle. It was really nothing for us, we planned to stay on board until the last call anyway (shorter, quicker line time). A little good with the bad, they opened up several of the lunchtime food venues and we got to eat before we got off - which was after 1pm.

I was laying in bed (all day - took 5 hours worth of naps and still slept that night) and shot this video of our slightly open balcony curtains. We were a rocking and a rolling!

We also went on an excursion with our friends - a glass bottom boat ride in a lagoon in the Bahamas (Half Moon Cay was the port). While the guide was excellent and we saw some fun things, we were all somewhat disappointed in several things. One was the disorganization on shore, the worst we had ever seen. Second was the boat. Small wasn't the issue, it was the styling. We all expected a flat glass bottom enabling us to sit and look straight down. Instead, there was a wall around the glass, forcing us to lean way forward to look down and see anything. Not the best design.

Here are a couple of photos from the excursion:

That's our boat on the left.
We fed the fish bread and I wish I could have caught a photo of them jumping out of the water to get it.
Upside down jellyfish...they are the round circles with black blobs on them. LOL!
THE UGLY - Our room. No, not actually our room but our room location. We usually book mid-ship, have done closer to the front but this time we booked at the very back of the ship. It gave us a bigger balcony so we thought, why not.

Why not - Because less of the balcony was usable as the partition was slanted way inward rather than straight up (where it was perfect for me propping my legs up).

Why not - Because of the constant shudder. Here is a little video I shot of the frog towel animal on our bed. This shuddering was 24/7.

Never again! The constant motion didn't help the rough seas on our missed port day. In fact, I'm still trying to get my brain adjusted to being on land and NO shuddering. LOL!

Here are a few more highlight photos, as always, you can see all the photos (and videos) in our SmugMug album.

Stu enjoys sushi with our friends, Earl & Pauline. Me - nope!
Trying for some quiet time while most folks are in port, I end up with the Camp Carnival kids sitting across from me.
Our balcony after Stu dives in Grand Turk.
This is as dressy as we get for formal night. LOL!
Hidden jewel, quiet area on a lower deck beneath the theater, continues around the back and down the other side of the ship.
We asked for the same wait team every night we were in the main dining room (MDR). Wonderful folks!! We so enjoyed chatting with them.
Carnival's famous Chocolate Melting Cake with a side of peanut butter. Pauline and Stu loved this!
Nonthaphon, our waitress - aka Smiley!
We didn't book another cruise while on this cruise but we have several more waiting for us in the months ahead. Next up is flying to LA, spending a couple days with Stu's former partner, Bill, and his wife, Dotty, before heading out on the Carnival Miracle. Seven day Mexican Riviera followed back to back with fifteen day Hawaii cruise. Can't wait!!

Ciao for now!

A month? It can't be true...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Curvy Road Ahead Sign clip artWell it has been a month, almost, since we last posted. A lot of things contributed to not posting - poor internet, my not feeling well, travel, motorcycle rides, family time, holidays, doctor get the idea. LOL! So this is our catch up thread - lots of photos but even more in the links at the end of the post.

When we last left you, we were at the KOA outside Watertown, NY. We had a nice drive to our next destination in the Finger Lakes region of New York. We parked at Sned-Acres Family Campground and spent several delightful days investigating the local area. We had a site with a great view, saw a spectacular moon, visited several microbreweries and just generally enjoyed ourselves. We had great Directv reception from out site but internet was poor. They had free wifi but it tended to be a bit flaky. Yes, we would stay again but we would try one of the lower sites so we didn't have to do quite so much to level.

The Finger Lakes have long been known for their wineries but now they also are known for many distilleries and microbreweries. We loved it and stopped at several microbrews. One of our favorites was just down the road and we attended a festival on Saturday to benefit the local volunteer fire department. We left with several t-shirts, a growler full of delicious Scottish Ale and two Adirondack chairs with a turkey tail table. (see photo) Thank you Boatyard Beer Garden!

We also found a great ice cream spot not too far from our campground, Cayuga Lakes Creamery. Delicious!

Lots more photos in the link at the end of this post.

Sned-Acres Campground, Ovid, NY:

Our campsite view....

The moon....

Stu at Firehouse Distillery...

Boatyard Beer Garden and our future chair set (they ship)...

Next was another short move to Milton, PA where we stayed in an out of the way campground. We went through Watkins Glen which was packed with tourists. I did catch a shot of the Watkins Glen State Park Entrance.

Watkins Glen State Park Entrance...

Our final stop was at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park™ at Shangri-La in Milton, PA. We had a great campsite and even managed to get a weak signal for Directv. Internet and phone were all but non-existent. Close to town and nice riding area, we enjoyed out stay, taking several evening walks around the campground.

Set on a river, those sites mostly occupied by seasonals, they also offer cabins in several sizes. Activities galore for the kids and we took to heart the warning in the printed materials to go inside your rig if you were sitting outside around 12:30. The hay wagon picked up all the kids as well as several staff members and rode around spraying everyone with water. The kids loved it!

The road in was a little hairy - one lane and full of pot holes, but we made it. Worth the drive for the setting, we would stay again. (more photos in link at end of the post)

Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park™ at Shangri-La 

Our campsite...


Our next move was back to Artillery Ridge in Gettysburg, PA - back where we started. The site was had last visit was taken so we ended up in the very back in a fairly new section that was perfect for us. Long pull-through with good satellite access. Finally, a good Directv signal and decent internet.

We enjoyed local riding but our best day was spent at the Eastern Museum of Auto Racing in York Springs, PA. Free but donations accepted, this was a surprise find. Very well done, supported by donations and the gift shop as well as the labors of a dedicated group of volunteers. Stu really enjoyed himself.

Once again, we found an great ice cream stop just down the road from our campground. Yeah!

Artillery Ridge Campground, Gettysburg, PA:

Our campsite...

Eastern Museum of Auto Racing, York Springs, PA:

Then it was time to move on to family in Delaware. The grandkids had already started school so we didn't see too much of them. That didn't mean there was nothing to do. Oh no, plenty to do! We were about 30 minutes out from Greenwood and our home driveway when the serpentine belt on the Freightliner went out. Repair number one on Stu's To Do list! He also went to Seaford Harley-Davidson and ordered a paint matched front fender to replace his dented one. Then there was grocery shopping, laundry and catch-up stuff. We also had great satellite for TV but abysmal internet access. One again, we were forced to use our Verizon phones as hotspot - thankful we upped our data limit for the summer.

We took one nice riding day and went out for the day. We started at Dogfish Brewery in Milton, DE and then just rode, enjoying the nice weather.

Dogfish Brewery, Milton, DE:

On Labor Day, we moved over to another family driveway where we will stay until lat in October (when we will head to Florida for the winter). We did get to see our youngest grand baby at Cracker Barrel. She is a ham!

Then we began the rounds of our annual doctor appointments. No cataract surgery for either of us yet, we are both just below the guidelines from Medicare. Maybe next year. We both had some meds added by our primary care doctor and I have the "joy" of a colonoscopy in early October to check out some issues I've been having. Yeah, joy....LOL!

I will leave you with some photos from our current cruise - we left Sunday (early) for our cruise out of Baltimore. We are cruising with good friends from the Annapolis area who are in the process of moving to Tennessee, maybe 2-3 hrs from our property. Whee!!!

The cruise is going well and our cabin was all decorated for my birthday. Sweet! All four of us had dinner in the steakhouse last night, perfect birthday dinner. Then I came back and tried to acknowledge almost 450 birthday messages on Facebook. No, I didn't make it...but I did try.

Leaving Baltimore - looking back at the Bay Bridge from our cabin:

It's my birthday!

Sunset at sea:

View of Grand Turk (Turks & Caicos) from our balcony:

Links to our photo albums at SmugMug - all campground selections also include photos from the drive there as well as day trips in the surrounding areas:
Ciao for now!

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