So Long República Dominicana, Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow (Part Seis)

We had one more full day in the D.R. before reality set in. Didn’t do much on this day except exactly what we wanted. What a drag, to do whatever you want. I guess that could get old. Think it might take a while, though.

I’ll leave you with a few random pictures.

Johnny actually had to work a few hours the last day we were there. The rest of us slept late and well, as I said before, did what we wanted, meaning not much. Here’s Johnny’s office for the day, under a little cabana in a quiet section of the resort. We strolled by to visit the poor working guy. Not a bad little office. I think I could work here.

Chess anyone?

Somehow I managed to walk around poolside for a number of days before I spotted this huge chess board. Nothing slow about me, no sirreee.

Sara and I were strolling the beach and whaddaya know, we ran into some celebrities! In full finery, balloons and all! Ladies and Gentlemen, below is a fuzzy picture of Sara and The Spice Girls…

Such a nice group of girls, and so shy, too!

I haven’t mentioned yet all the entertainment in the evenings. After dinner, we went to see the shows, rain or moon shine (not moonshine, remember this is the land of Mama Juana). Every show was entertaining. We saw The Spice Girls, a Jazz show, and a couple of others. The best one was a Michael Jackson revue. It was raining that night, and we were late and had to stand in the very back of the audience, our butts barely out of the rain. The guy was fantastic, but I did not get a picture of him, unfortunately.

Here we are having fun at one of the evening shows.

Sara and Alex loved the D.R. because it was “legal” for them to drink alcohol. Sara was just shy of 21 on this trip, and Alex is 18. So, poor sober Daniel had to put up with all of us all week. Actually, we behaved ourselves for the most part, and in reality, we pooped out most nights and shut down kind of early. Long days on the beach and running from the storms combined with a couple of afternoon toddies every day just made us want to check in early.

Check it out – Alex is stylin’!

Love Sara’s necklace – and such color coordination!

Here are the old farts…

We all had our new bling on except Johnny. He didn’t want bling, but we’re glad he comes along to buy us bling! Daniel decided to heck with us that night and went back to the room for peace and quiet, and a couple of apple pie à la modes from room service. We actually let the kids order room service on a few nights. We have NEVER done that, but figured WHY THE HECK NOT?

Here are a few pictures of the resort…

Inside one of our rooms… the one with the bed still made.

In the lobby area. The huge lobby area.

Thought this was a neat shot…

I loved this carving. Think he needs some coffee,though.

The World Cup score board…

Unfortunately, vacations have to come to an end. Such a beautiful place, and in spite of the rain, what a lovely vacation we had. All five of us together is a rare treat these days in any location, but so fabulous to spend seven days together in paradise!

Here we are at the airport again.

Passing underneath a Big Ass Fan. That is its name, if you can see in the picture above. Although it looks like you can’t read it without enlarging it, Dumb Ass Camera. There were an abundance of Big Ass Fans in the Punta Cana Airport, and I’m convinced there’s not a more deserving place in the universe for them to be.

A little serenade before boarding the plane. I don’t know what they were singing, but they sure seemed happy to see us go…

Bye-bye, República Dominicana! I hope to come back some day!

That’s It. That’s All She Wrote. That’s The End of This Story. Finally.

And the Rains Came Down (R&R Part Four)

Oh, the rains came down and the floods came up.  They really did.  All day long the day after our trip to Saona Island, Tropical Storm Alex let loose on the Dominican Republic.  If you’ve ever wondered what rain looks like coming off of a thatched roof, well, here you go. 

  

I loved the thatched roofs.  What’s even better, they don’t leak!  We sat under them all day and watched the weather.  A couple of us even enjoyed the weather!  If you’ll notice in the background, the workers are sweeping the rain water into drains to keep it from coming into the dining area.  By the way, Daniel was NOT looking at the camera, but rather at something incredibly interesting over there

and again, Daniel was NOT looking at the camera, but this time at something fascinating up there… and Alex was NOT enjoying the rain, and was likely bummed at the prospect of little or no beach time in his immediate future.

Daniel is wearing his official USA World Cup jersey.  If I didn’t mention it before, our vacation began shortly after the World Cup started this year.  We saw World Cup jerseys from many countries, and we heard plenty of World Cup banter in various languages.  Interesting week to be in the D.R.!  

Here’s a little crab who was unfortunate enough to cross our path that morning.  He was kinda pissed at us, a bit crabby, in fact, but we didn’t have so much to do so we had to play with him.

Poor Sara was a little under the weather on this rainy day… get it, she was under the weather?  Weren’t we all?  She more so than the rest of us, though.  In fact, she stayed in the room most of the day.  We checked on her from time to time when the monsoon eased, and brought her medicine.  She finally emerged in the late afternoon, still feeling a little iffy.

Meanwhile, the rest of us had already drank our weight in alcohol for the day (well, not Daniel).  He’s only 14.  I’m not that bad of a mother.  My personal favorite was called a Banana Mama.  Not to be confused with the Mama Juana, which I’ll talk about next time.  The Banana Mama is practically fruit in a glass, with rum, of course.  See below for a possible recipe I snatched from this website:  http://www.gasblender.com/recipes.htm#BananaMama

Banana Mama

1-1/2oz. light rum
1/2oz. dark rum
1 oz. banana liqueur
1 oz. cream of coconut
1 oz. fresh or frozen strawberries
2 oz. pineapple juice

1.  In blender, combine light rum, dark rum, banana liqueur, cream of coconut, strawberries and pineapple juice with 3 oz. crushed ice.

2.  Blend until smooth

3.  Pour into goblet, and well, you know what to do next.

That’s one of the many recipes I found, but it sounds about right.  A wedge of pineapple on the side was the only visible fruit, maybe a cherry.  Should have taken a picture of one, darn!

So… we had a decent buzz going.  When it rains, you gotta do something.  Drink and play cards, I say! 

We purchased this card deck from the little store at the resort since our cards were in our room and we were not.  This deck was labeled Naipes playing cards.  Numbered 1 through 12, the cards had some funny pictures, and no face cards.  I just thought it was a Spanish deck, but I now see several descriptions of Naipes playing cards on the net (including tarot cards) so who knows what we were playing with.  I’m not sure if I’m going to hell for playing poker, playing with tarot cards, or drinking excessively.  I’m pretty sure neither of those things are acceptable tenets of Methodist doctrine…

In between games and watching the rain, we took pictures and walked around when it wasn’t pouring.  Here are a couple of more pictures of a flamingo.

and a turtle…

Here’s a picture of Sara, feeling much better!  Or could be she was under some kind of spell after that card game…

Until next time…  Stay tuned for our snorkeling excursion!

Alaska, Part Three (Skagway, or How We Survived the Crazy Train)

All Aboard … ahahahahahahahaha …

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.  Who knew this would be about Ozzy Osbourne???  Not me!  It’s really about Skagway, and the White Pass train ride.  Ok, maybe not so crazy, but I did feel a little crazy when I looked down.   For the record, Ozzy is still on the crazy train …

20090708_007 (Small)

Here’s what we saw when we stepped off the ship in Skagway.  Graffiti!   Hard to tell from the picture, but all over the face of the mountain, up and down the dock, are hand-painted pictures, each with the name of a ship, a symbol, usually a year dating back decades in some cases, and the name of the ship’s captain.  Dozens of paintings, perhaps even hundreds.

Here’s a close-up of the side of our ship, and another ship in front of it.  Did you know they can parallel park these things?  Hmmph.  Doesn’t say too much for my driving skills. 20090708_006 (Small)

A picture of my tiny husband next to our super-sized mother ship …

20090708_177 (Small)

We chose a different excursion than the rest of the crew in Skagway.  Crew, get it?  a little sailing lingo???  The rest of the family wanted to get up close and personal with some Alaskan sled dogs.  Even though it’s not winter, you can see how the dogs are raised, hold the puppies and, in theory, ride on a dog-pulled sled on wheels.  It was too warm for the dogs to pull the sleds, or something like that, but they did get to hold puppies, I think.  So, while I’m sorry I didn’t get to hold puppies, I’m glad I rode the crazy train!

The crowd was unbelievable in Skagway.  Four cruise ships were in port and it’s just an itty bitty little town!  That’s about 8,000 extra people in a little town all beating a path to the little stores to pick out little souveniers.  We went in this store, along with a few thousand of our closest shipmates …20090708_011 (Small)

 

 20090708_010 (Small) 

Ok, so where are all the people in this picture?  I told you, they’re all in the Alaskan Shirt Co. store!

… and here’s a cool car. 

20090708_009 (Small)

 That’s about all the pictures I have of the town, but here is our crazy train.

20090708_174 (Small)

… and here are a few of the  lunatics inside:

20090708_047 (Small)

 Skagway was sort of the “jumping off” point of the gold rush in the late 1890’s.  It was the port where hundreds of gold seekers arrived before braving the brutal conditions into the Yukon through White Pass on horses.  Before the railroad was built over White Pass, hundreds of horses, overburdened with gear, died on this trail when their riders drove them in horrible conditions until they died, and then left them to rot and continued on their way.  The area where this tragedy occurred is known as Dead Horse Gulch.  Yessirree, gold just brings out the very best in people …

We had alternately foggy and clear skies, but we heard that a wildfire was burning somewhere (60 miles or so away) which accounted for the fog.  Looking back at the cruise ships – I only see three here, but the missing fourth ship is hiding behind the mountain to the left.  It was the one parallel parked in front of our ship.

20090708_027 (Small)

 Apparently, some pretty “sick” rapids through this area (as the kids like to say).  That phrase has taken me by surprise, but I finally get it.  Anyway, I don’t think these are Level 6 rapids, but I remember hearing something about Level 6 rapids somewhere along the Yukon river.  To be honest, I’m not even sure this is the Yukon river, but seems reasonable to me.  Geography people out there, please feel free to tell me what river this is …  

20090708_021 (Small)

 20090708_022 (Small)

  A couple of family pics:

20090708_045 (Small)

 20090708_070 (Small)

More beautiful scenery …

20090708_073 (Small)20090708_084 (Small)

20090708_147 (Small)

…and the camera flash on the rock as we’re going through this tunnel.

20090708_087 (Small)

 

20090708_156 (Small)

20090708_094 (Small)I don’t know if that’s an eagle on top of the rock, but let’s just say that it is.

 We actually crossed the border into Canada, but because we never stopped, we didn’t have to go through customs.  Then the train turned around and returned to Skagway.

20090708_157 (Small)

Not so noticeable in the pictures, but the landscape changed as we crossed into Canada.  The land was flatter, plants were much smaller, a little more snow in the crevices.  Tundra, they called it, although I always pictured tundra as a giant expanse of flat solid ice.  Guess I slept through the lecture in 5th grade on seasons in the tundra.  Anyway, the trees were tiny, but some were hundreds of years old.  Not much survives through the winter here, but whatever does survive is severely stunted. 

20090708_126 (Small)

20090708_159 (Small)

Here are a few pictures from the return trip to Skagway.  When we weren’t worried about the crazy train running off the rails (heh heh), we were seriously worried about our lungs.  The wind was, shall I say, not in our favor on the return trip.  We were in the first car behind the engine, and I learned not to ever, ever, ever ride in the first car behind the engine ever, ever, ever again.  The wind was blowing the exhaust from the engine straight into the car we were in.  So we had the choice of staying in the sweltering car with the doors shut and no air flow, opening the door in the hopes a little fresh air might come in with the carbon monoxide, or going out on the landing for the full assault of exhaust mixed with fresh air.  Not such a great choice!  We did it all, and none of it worked!

20090708_161 (Small)

Some of us did get sleepy on the ride back.  Or it could have been the carbon monoxide …

20090708_165 (Small)

If you look real close, you might see the grave of the most notorious scoundrel in Skagway’s history, Soapy Smith, who got his name selling soap (yep, the fearsome and dangerous soap salesman) … ah, it’s complicated.  I’ll let you look it up.  Anyway he and another fellow shot each other and both of them died.  Soapy was buried outside of the city limits far away from respectable folks, including the respectable fellow he shot.  Nah, you can’t really see it …

20090708_170 (Small)

The crazy train didn’t go off the rails and we finally made it back to solid ground.20090708_172 (Small)

Poor kid, Daniel didn’t get the memo …

Stay tuned, Tracy Arm Fjord is next!

Alaska, Part Two (for real this time)

Here’s where all our luggage went, aboard the Serenade of the Seas.  It’s a miracle this beauty can float. 20090706_012 (Small)

It’s also a miracle that our luggage found its way to our cabins.  It’s a miracle WE found our cabins.

The pictures below were taken after we had been sailing for a couple of days, our first stop … Icy Strait Point.20090706_014 (Small)

  20090706_015 (Small)

 

20090706_016 (Small)

… and now you’ve seen Icy Strait Point!  Beauty lurks behind these buildings, and apparently, a mile or so down the road (road, really?  I didn’t see a road?) is Hoonah, a Tlingit native village of about 900 people.  Today, Icy Strait Point is mostly a tourist spot, with the main attractions being the longest zip line in the world (so they say), a salmon cannery museum, shops, and a couple of restaurants.  You see, I know considerably more about Icy Strait than I did about Vancouver.  That’s because I brought home a cheat sheet!

Excursions were planned before the trip, and nope, no one in our crew did the zip line.  We almost felt guilty we didn’t let the kids do the zip line, almost.

We hiked a trail behind the mini-town of Icy Strait.  Below are my nephew Jake (on the left), and my kids, Sara, Daniel & Alex.20090706_050 (Small)

 20090706_051 (Small)… about face, forward march …

 

Unfortunately this next picture doesn’t tell the story I intended.  I’m including this shot because I wanted to show that just one of these leaves was as big as my head.  It would have been more dramatic to place someone’s head next to a leaf.   Especially severed … now that would have been dramatic!  Just joshing, of course!20090706_029 (Small)

 Here are a few family shots from the trail:20090706_033 (Small)

 20090706_035 (Small)

 

20090706_048 (Small)

20090706_061 (Small)

While hoofing it down the trail,  we ran into this sign:20090706_043 (Small)

Squinting to see who were the goofs for whom rules don’t apply, I said to Sara, I wonder who those two goobers are?  She said, why that’s Alex & Jake!  Naturally …

20090706_046 (Small)

Busted!

20090706_047 (Small)

While hiking back, Johnny snapped these candid pictures through the trees of his parents, Jack and Nancy, as they were enjoying themselves on the trail:

20090706_055 (Small)

20090706_056 (Small)

Our excursion at Icy Strait Point was a whale and mammal cruise, which was fabulous-o!  We wicked parents redeemed ourselves with this choice!  Lips zipped and no zip lines further quipped.  Yeah …

Silly girl … see Daniel pointing?  The whales are outside of the boat …

20090706_071 (Small)

We stood on the deck of the boat and waited for Humpback whales to surface.  They’d surface on one side of the boat, and we’d run to that side and ooh and aah and take pictures, then they’d surface on the other side of the boat, and we’d run over to that side and ooh and aah and take pictures, then they’d surface back on the opposite side … well, you get the picture.  Luckily, the boat was a weeble.  Weebles wobble, but they don’t tip over!

It’s hard to get whales to cooperate, but here are a few that did:20090706_077 (Small)

20090706_100 (Small)

 

20090706_153 (Small)

and eagles, too.   Beautiful, but equally uncooperative! 20090706_086 (Small)

Time to get back on the big boat, our home away from home.20090706_165 (Small)

Stay tuned … Skagway is next!

Turkeys & Loose Skin

Here’s my motley crew at the truck stop on our recent trip.  A truck stop is the only place you can guarantee finding potties and a wide assortment of healthy junk food – like peachios, for instance.

new-camera-refile-004-small

Peachios are a must on every family trip, except this truck stop was out of peachios.  Alex opted instead for strawberrios & applios or some such otherios (well, not Cheerios, as the days of satisfying my children with a baggy of sweetened Cheerios have long since passed).  Sara went for cheesy popcorn and ultra healthy vitamin water.  Daniel was even healthier with a double dose of fruit snacks.  Only rubbery fruit & cheesy corn will do nowadays. 

Before we raided the snack isle, of course, we checked out the potties.  I certainly won’t go into particulars here, except for the hand dryers.  You could hear the dryers from the other side of the store … I SAID YOU COULD HEAR THE DRYERS FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORE.

Sara was the first to experience the master-blaster-blow-the-skin-right-off-of-your-hands hand dryer up close.  She freaked.  Then I used the hand dryer.  I freaked.  The hot air blows so hard that skin swims around the top of your hands!  Alien sci-fi stuff!  If only I had shot a short video of our hands under the dryers, but I’m not inclined to take out my camera in a truck stop bathroom.  Someone might get the wrong idea, and well, eeewwww.  I’ll leave that to the authorities. 

No, that wasn’t the highlight of the trip.  Of course, the highlight was the turkeys … I mean, the family!  Just teasing, beloved family!!!!  We had a great time, and of course the highlight was our visit with Johnny’s extended family, and the turkey & trimmings.  I just realized that this mid-trip break at a truck stop is a ritual on our family trips.  The truck stop, the trucks, the truck drivers, the junk food, and the strolling around looking at all a truck stop has to offer.

Turns out, truck stops have plenty to offer.  Sometimes we have to turn a quick corner down an innocuous isle so Daniel doesn’t contemplate too long a particularly meaningful phrase on a t-shirt or a cap.  Gotta keep his mind on the fruit snacks and out of the gutter, you know.