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.

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Mammajuana Snorkel! (R&R Part Cinco)

The rain cleared up the next day, so the snorkeling trip was on. We took a short drive, then boarded a ferry. Up on the top deck, we could see forever. A couple of family shots aboard the ferry.

Ahoy matie, check out this pirate’s ship…

First stop, before snorkeling, was to pet stingrays. I’ll just say right off, I was not too happy about the conditions here. Johnny and I went to the Cayman Islands a few years ago where we took a sailing excursion. We sailed to a sandbar where the water was 3 feet deep, at which point we got in the water, were handed a bucket of shrimp, and stingrays swarmed us like drunks to a beer joint. We stood holding raw shrimp, and the stingrays swam up to us, around us, even over us, sucking the shrimp from our hands as they passed by. This had been my only experience with stingrays, and we were told at the time to just watch where we stepped, and we would be fine. We were, despite the constant screaming from one woman who spent the entire experience atop the shoulders of her significant other, but that’s another story.

This time, I felt terrible for the stingrays trapped in a small penned area just for our viewing pleasure, and for the $$ we bring to the tourism industry. There were nurse sharks in a second larger pen also. I felt guilty for participating, still I wasn’t going to jump the ferry and refuse to join at this point, but I felt kinda sick as we approached. We had no idea what the situation was for these awesome creatures.

The smaller section you see above was where we pet the stingrays. The barbs on these guys had been removed, so no danger, and thus no chance that these creatures could ever live in the wild again if for some reason they were set free. We didn’t have the opportunity to take pictures of the stingrays. The bigger portion of the pen was where we saw the nurse sharks, and Johnny snapped the picture below.

Here are all five of us in the larger pen with our snorkeling gear. Not the person on the right side, don’t know who this is but he/she does bear a striking family resemblance…

Once we left the prison cells of these poor creatures, we boarded the ferry and headed for our big snorkeling experience. It did not turn out to be so much snorkeling, but it was an experience!

We could not take such good pictures under the water because, as you know, the weather had been stormy, and guess things were stirred up. Here’s one, though.

Oh, what’s this strange white long-legged sea critter…

oh wait, that’s me. I’d know those skinny legs anywhere.

Hey there, Daniel!

About this time we started hearing a horn and lots of yelling. We had been in the water for only a short while, and I finally figured out what the commotion was about. They were yelling at us to get back in the boat. What??? Why?

Which boat, where’s the boat…

We suddenly had some serious weather. Seriously. How surprising!

In the chaos that ensued, well, don’t guess Johnny had much opportunity to document on camera, because the pictures stopped at this point. It was pouring, the seas were rolling, everyone was yelling, heads were bobbing, and I was frantically looking all around for my family. People made their way to the boat and jockeyed for position around the ladder. I saw Daniel, and we managed to grab the ladder, but somehow ended up behind it. The waves were knocking me into the boat and I had to brace myself against the boat with my legs. Just hang on to the ladder, I told Daniel, hoping I didn’t sound as panicked as I felt. We waited for others to get on board and tried to squeeze in to line up at the ladder. I saw Sara and Alex off in the distance, and yelled at them to get on the boat. They said, MOM, we are fine. Get on the boat! So, Daniel and I got on the boat, Sara and Alex got on the boat, and I did not see Johnny anywhere.

People gathered under the upper deck of the boat for shelter, except for me. I could still see bodies in the distance trying to get back to the boat. A conversation Johnny and I had before we got in the water was now stuck in my brain. Johnny was intent on signing a waiver allowing him to forego a life jacket while snorkeling since he’s practically a fish. Practically. We discussed this, and whether the kids should do this also… NOT, said mom, and not me either, by the way. I did not remember or really know if he ever signed that waiver.

Rain pouring, I was seriously in a panic by now, visions of Johnny being swept away, and single motherhood looming before me. I yelled at one of the guys working the boat… THERE IS SOMEONE STILL IN THE WATER OUT THERE!!! He said, lady, we’re getting everyone, don’t you worry. BUT I THINK THAT MIGHT BE MY HUSBAND OUT THERE!!! Then from behind me, I think it was Alex, said … Uh, Mom, Dad’s over here…

Oh, really??? Don’t you worry about me dear, I’m just over here sucking down the Mama Juana shots… Well, I’m so glad you’re safe honey!

It was a sight. Boat rocking, rain pouring, music blaring, the dancing had begun. The rain had slowed by the time this next picture was taken. I only show it to illustrate what a shot of Mama Juana can do for you. It doesn’t make you beautiful, but it can make you lose all manner of dignity and not care that you’re not beautiful, and have great fun doing it.

On second thought, this has to be someone else, it could not possibly be me…

So, in spite of my distaste for the penned up stingrays and nurse sharks during the first part of this excursion, I was grateful to the tour operators for saving our scrawny butts from the storm. It was dicey, and they did an admirable job of getting everyone back to the boat safe and sound. They were also incredibly entertaining!

Mama Juana, by the way, is defined below by Wikipedia, that indisputable source of superfluous information:

Mama Juana is a drink from the Dominican Republic that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. The taste is quite similar to port wine and the color is a deep red. It is seen and advertised as an aphrodisiac, with many natives of the Dominican Republic claiming that the drink has similar effects to Viagra. Women have also claimed that Mama Juana enhances sexual desire.”

I can vouch for the port wine taste, but that’s as far as this discussion will go…

One more post ought to do it, final thoughts and pictures regarding our experience at the resort, and our departure. You gotta stay tuned for the finale!

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!

Mammajuana Go to Saona Island (R&R Part Three)

Life keeps getting in the way of my blog, yet I will eventually finish this tale, if you will just hang in there with me. 

Our first “excursion” on this vacation was a trip to Saona Island.  It took a few hours to get there from our resort.  More than an hour by land, and then the rest by sea, as you would expect because it is, well, an island. 

 

Our bus picked us up a little bleary and unfed (the dining rooms weren’t open yet) early, early in the morning and, lucky us, we were the first stop.  Meaning we spent probably 45 minutes just picking up other people at other resorts.  Nap time for Alex…

Once everyone was aboard, our driver took us through the beautiful Dominican Republic countryside and educated us a bit on the history and the lives of the people in this country. 

The native people are descendants of Spaniards and Africans.  The Africans were brought to the D.R. as slaves in the early 1500’s, as the world seemed wont to do during that period.  Most people today are poor and live in villages.  Their houses are what we in  the U.S. might refer to as shacks.  The nicer houses are made of concrete, and painted in various colors. 

Farming is the main industry in the D.R., the chief crops are sugar cane and tobacco, but also fruits such as papayas, mangos and bananas.  Cattle farming is another big industry here.  While in the U.S. meat processing takes place beyond consumers’ eyes, not so here.  They skin the bodies right on the street, which we witnessed outside some of the shops that we passed by.

Not many cars in the D.R.  Most people travel by scooter, if they have a vehicle at all.  They carry multiple people on these little scooters and transport EVERYTHING.  Our driver told us that he once saw someone toting a washing machine on the back of a scooter, and we did see several people carrying propane tanks on their scooters.  I tried to get a picture, but moving targets, you know.

We drove through the main city in the region, Higüey, past the shops and daily commerce.  As you can tell by the clouds and the wet roads, it was raining off and on.

Here is a park in Higüey.  Note the murals of the Disney characters!

…and the most famous and significant landmark, La Basilica de Higüey, the religious destination of locals and foreignors alike.  Except for us.  We were on our way to an island, but the driver slowed down so we could snap pictures.  Apparently, the interior is also a marvel to behold.

During our ride, we were cruising down the road and heard a loud snap, of sorts.  Not such a good noise.  We stopped, and the driver got out and examined the bus, then came back to tell us we had ourselves a situation.  While it was not a mechanical emergency, we had a choice to make.  We could limp to a little store and wait for a new bus, or we could suffer to our destination and a new bus would be there at the end of our trip.  We chose to suffer, and suffer we did.  No air conditioning.  As I mentioned earlier, the humidity in the D.R. is incredible.  We put on our big girl panties and endured.  We were not so sweet smelling when we finally arrived at our drop off point, but we finally arrived, sweat and all.  I don’t remember what this place was called, but it looked a little like a bombed-out war zone.

 

This was a resort under construction, but the developer was stopped for non-payment of taxes.  Not an uncommon sight in the region.

We walked down the path you see in the picture above to the pier to catch our speedy ride to the island.

Back to the deep blue sea.  You can see our ride at the end of the pier in the picture above, but here’s what we looked like while we were riding…

This was actually another boat on the same excursion, but as you can’t get a picture quite like this of yourself riding in a speed boat, we’ll just have to assume that we looked way cooler than they did.

See what I mean?

A little scenery as we’re passing by.  Look at this blue-green water!

 

We stopped in the middle of the boat ride to cool off, and search for starfish and such on a little sand bar.

Notice (several pictures above) the bow of the boat.  At high speeds like this, the bow is so high you wonder how the captain can even see to drive.  Well, turns out he can’t.  We were speeding along, and suddenly our captain swerved mightily, we heard a sickening metal kabam, and felt a jolt.  We stopped, and here’s why…

We seriously hit this boat.  Apparently unattended, maybe a runaway from a not so far away dock, I still hope.  We circled the boat a few times, didn’t see any sign of life… gulp… and forged ahead.  No damage, or not much to our boat.  Yep, we just left this little boat in the middle of the ocean for someone else to find.  I’m hoping they at least radioed to someone, anyone, to come fetch this little runaway, but it was out of our hands.

Close call, but here we are, finally, on the island. Yes, I am taking a long time to get to the point, aren’t I? But, you know what they say, it’s all about the journey…

The beautiful Island of Saona.  We had a lunch of questionable worth here (not complaining, but hey, it just wasn’t so good), but considering all the excitement so far, and the fact that we had not eaten yet, we had no problem chowing down.  The beach here was not any more beautiful than the beach at our resort, and there were more shells and so it was tough on your feet entering the water.  Still a beautiful place, though. 

Johnny and I took a walk, and it started to pour.  It started to pour every time we took a walk on the beach during our trip .  Yeah, thank you Alex!  Tropical Storm and soon to be Hurricane Alex!

The rain didn’t persist the whole time, so we still had fun.

 

We were told, rather warned, ahead of time of the commerce on the beach.  We were approached right in our lounge chairs by people selling hats, jewelry, cigars. 

Cigars, anyone?

 

Palm frond hats?

Time to leave.  The trip back was on a sailboat instead of a speedboat.  Slower paced, probably safer, unless the weather picked up again…

 

Great picture of Dan the Man…

The day was now etched into our memories, and onto the bottle of mamajuana herbs below.     

Mamajuana, sweet nectar of the Dominican Republic!  It’ll put hair on your chest!  Hmmm, think I’ll have some.

More to come…

It’s Not a Hurricane Yet, So Quit Your Beachin’ (R&R Part Two)

As we approached Punta Cana, the view was breathtaking from the airplane. Stepping off of the plane, the view was a little less spectacular. Not because it wasn’t beautiful, but because I couldn’t see squat. Or anything else, either.

My eyeglasses immediately fogged up, and turns out so did the camera lens. It had been raining, was raining even as we landed, so it was a wee bit humid. Just a wee. I tried to wipe the lens off a little because I really wanted a picture of the airport with its foot-thick thatched roof. This one is better, but I took several pictures, wiping off the lens each time, as we walked from the plane into the airport, and few turned out.

Made it through customs, and then boarded a bus. We were on our way to the Iberostar Bavaro, our home away from home for the next seven days.

Picture courtesy of http://www.twohigs.com/dominican_republic/hotels/iberostar_bavaro.html. It was also hard to get a good picture of the front of the resort because of the vegetation, so I stole this aerial view. Apparently, no one else has figured out how to take a picture of the entrance either. The water and the beach really are this beautiful, though. I have pics of the resort, the building we stayed in and some of the common areas, which I will include later on.

The purpose of this vacation was to do nothing, for the most part, at Alex’s request. He did not want a walking, sightseeing, or a learning type of vacation. Alex felt he had done all the learning he wanted to do for a little while having just graduated from high school, so eating, playing and soaking up sun were high on his agenda.

The sun proved somewhat elusive, but considering we arrived at Punta Cana just as a tropical storm was developing in the region, I guess we were pretty lucky it didn’t ruin our entire vacation. Yes, a tropical storm. Named Alex. We got some mileage out of that! It was overcast and rained every single day we were there, but most days we had at least part of the day to frolic or lounge on the beach. Ok by me. As the old saying goes, even a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at work. If you’re reading this, boss, that was just a little joke!

The first couple of days we just hung around the resort. We found out that the D.R. is primarily a European destination. Meaning two things. Multiple languages, and multiple boobs on the beach… and I don’t mean drunken fools. I mean real boobs. Bare Boobies. Not pictured here, of course. Some were even worth gawking at, but mostly, no. Plenty of thongs and speedos, too. Most just made me wonder. It’s a culture thing, I understand. I’m an uptight American and they’re boobloose, I mean footloose, Europeans. I get it.

Daniel and Alex played a lot of beach soccer. From what I understand, beach soccer is quite strenuous. It was fun watching them because the other kids didn’t speak much English, and our kids don’t speak much Spanish. Between them, they managed to play some pretty good soccer.

The staff at the Iberostar was second to none. They made sure we were fed, our rooms picked up, and that we never wanted for something to do. We were accosted at every turn to join this game or that, to come and make fools of ourselves for the sake of good fun. We obliged, no one was going to see us except all you people here reading this blog, so we did have fun, even as it rained. Below is one such game (this one on the beach). The good ol’ egg toss. Alex and Daniel paired up, and Johnny & Sara paired up. I took pictures.

The first toss about to begin, only a few feet apart this time.

A little further…

The stakes get higher, as do the tosses. Psyching up for the next throw…

Back at ya, cupcake…

A tricky backwards throw and Daniel making the dive…

… and ready, set, hike!

Yes, that is Sara getting ready to hike the egg like Dallas Cowboys Center, Andre Gurode (and yes I had to look it up) to Tony Romo. Only this Tony is about a mile away, and preparing to catch an egg.

After the game, I worried that we’d step in sandy rotten egg yolks or cut our feet on broken egg shells, but the beach just gobbled the eggs up. I never saw any egg goo on the beach.

Speaking of beach, can you believe this beach? Sand so white, and the beach so wide and 30 plus miles long in this area. Incredible. Lovely. Incredibly lovely. 🙂

Sara and Alex also arm-wrestled, well, not each other. They were beaten by beasts, I tell you, beasts!

They also took some Merengue lessons…

While Daniel and Johnny watched.

…and Mamma Paparazzi took pictures. That’s what Andre (an employee, except I don’t remember his name actually) called me as he tried to coerce me into arm wrestling. Me, arm wrestle? You really think that would even be a contest? Maybe if I pick my own opponent!

Here’s another shot of a couple of the beautiful flamingos that populated the resort. You’ll see more of these next time!

Stay tuned. Our trip to Saona Island coming up!

Alaska, Part Five (the Final Frontier, Juknow what I mean?)

Nothing makes you quiver more than rafting raging rivers in the mo-o-o-o-or-orning …

Nothing could be bolder than to crash into a boulder in the mo-o-o-o-or-0rning …

… and I do mean we woke up early that morning to raft the waters near Mendenhall Glacier.  But if you are looking for blood and gore, you will not find it here.  For we, the most excellent rafters in all of Juknow, did not crash into a boulder.  Not even close.  I’m telling you, it was dicey-going, but somehow we made it, we survived, we conquered the raging river.  Just look at our frightened expressions an instant before navigating the worst rapids ever …

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Actually, G’pa Jack does look a little worried.  … and check out that forehead in the front!  That’s my husband, aiming the camera backwards and selflessly taking pictures of the rest of us in what could have been our last moments.  Only I think he just missed, so maybe not such a selfless act after all.  I wonder if he’s smiling?  Guess we’ll never know, but he did get a terrific picture of the woman in the middle!  Whoever she is.  I don’t remember her name, but she is one-half of the couple who was brave enough to board this inflated vessel with the Neals.  Doesn’t she look terrified?  She’s thinking, OMG, who ARE these people?  Or maybe she is just afraid of the upcoming rapids …

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Ok, not so rapid.  How about this?

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This …

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Or this?

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Whew!  By rowing our oars to and fro, fro and to, and sometimes even in unison, we were able to escape certain death and destruction.  That, and we had a most excellent guide.  In fact, on occasion he told us to PLEASE JUST STOP IT in as nice a yelling voice as possible, while skillfully steering us through the rough stuff.   Oh, and did I say he was cute?  No, but he was, and I think Sara would agree. 

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What?  Did we lose somebody on that last one?  … what’s so funny?  We’re a bunch of sick-os.

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Here’s another picture of most of us, the terrified lady’s husband on the far left, the terrified lady behind Jake, our most cute and excellent guide in the back, and the rest all Neals.  Selfless Johnny, again not pictured.  Someone has to take the pictures, juknow?  Think he was taking them straight on this time, but I do miss the nice forehead …  While I usually don’t post pictures of persons I can’t warn ahead of time, I’m certain the non-family members in these pictures would not mind being featured in my blog as the Terrified Lady, the Terrified Lady’s Husband, and Our Most Cute and Excellent Guide.

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Speaking of Juknow … after the excursion we went into the real town of Juneau, capital of Alaska and, at the time, part-time home of then-Governor Palin.  She had resigned her office the week before (not effective until a little later).  We saw the Governor’s mansion in a blur as we whizzed by in a van, too fast to snap a picture.  It was white, had a green roof, and sat on a hill.  I’m sure it was lovely, but just because you work in a lovely place, doesn’t translate into love for the job … juknow?  Or maybe she just had issues.  Ahem.

Here we are in Juneau.  For the record, since I’ve yet to officially introduce Chuck & Kelly in this Alaska series, below from left to right are:  Alex, Daniel, Johnny, Jake, me, Sara, Kelly & Chuck.  Chuck is Johnny’s brother, Kelly is Chuck’s wife, and they are Jake’s mom & dad.  Johnny’s parents aren’t pictured here, but just look above and below and you will find them.  

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Here I am standing with Sara, Alex & Daniel in front of a landmark establishment in Juneau, the Red Dog Saloon.  Billed as the oldest man-made tourist attraction in Alaska, it opened to customers in the mining era (late 1800’s).  In the beginning, it was a real saloon, complete with ragtime music and dancing.  The story goes that a little later on, “Gordie Kanouse (presumably the proprietor) would meet tour boats with his mule and wore a sign saying ‘follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.'”  Quote taken from www.reddogsaloon.comApparently, people are still following his ass to the Red Dog Saloon, because there was a lengthy waiting list to get in when we stopped by.  Since our time in Juneau was short, we just took a picture outside.  My parents stood in front of this same place a number of years ago when they were on a similar cruise, so I wanted to at least get a picture! 

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We celebrated another  important day while in Juneau, my daughter’s 20th birthday.  Twenty (that’s 20), yes, twenty years old.  That’s just crazy.  Of course, I was only 12 when I had her …

Remember the Terrifieds, our rafting friends?  We ran into them again in Juneau, and they told us of an awesome little crab place.  I mean little place … big crabs.  Sara decided that sounded like the perfect birthday lunch.  So, after getting directions from the Terrifieds, we set off in search of the little place with big crabs.  We found it …

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We ordered a mess o’ crabs (like flock o’ geese, or school o’ fish, but tastier).  We had to wait a little while because this was a popular place.  We soon discovered why!

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Here’s my birthday baby sampling a little chowder and a biscuit while waiting for our order.

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How about those crab legs?  Oh my God, they were good!  The five of us had a huge crab leg each and some biscuits.  We worked up a terrific sweat breaking and cracking, but it was so worth it!   Great choice Sara Beara!

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All good things must come to an end, and so did our crab feast, for our bellies could hold no more.  Besides, we had to hurry back to the ship … didn’t want to miss dinner, juknow?

Here’s a helpful sign that kept us from getting lost …

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Meanwhile, back on the ship, more birthday celebratory fun.  It happened to be a formal night for dinner, so we were dressed in our finest.  Our waiters sang the birthday song to Miss Sara …

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Appy bir-day to ju … Appy bir-day to ju … Appy bir-day to ju-u-u-u-u … Appy bir-day to ju!!!!!  … and variations thereof.

Later, back in the room, here’s a present or two for our sweet baby girl.

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… and a little goofiness with the towel sculpture left by our room attendant that night:

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The next couple of days were sailing days (no stops), and while I didn’t mention all the goings-on on the ship during the week, trust me, plenty was going on.  Wonderful food, fabulous shows, games to play, drinks to drink, and generally, plenty to do.  We ate every 3 hours around the clock almost, saw most of the nightly shows, and the kids ran all over the ship.  I even got in the habit of having afternoon “tea” in the Windjammer, which hosts the biggest buffet you’ve ever seen, and hosts it all … day … long.  So, me, hot tea with a little honey, and a little one-on-one with a book.  It was nice!

The ship had a miniature golf course (the kids played, but unfortunately, Johnny and I didn’t discover this until the end of the trip).  Check out the beautiful Vancouver skyline, and my handsome hunk o’ burnin’ love! 

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I did not take pictures of the bikini-clad crazies, but it was a source of wonderment.  I mean, who wears bikinis in the land of the igloos, now really?  That’s just wrong!  Besides, I would have felt a little creepy snapping pictures of people I don’t know wearing bikinis. 

Here are a few shots of the “centrum” of the ship:

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In closing, I just want to say that it was a fabulous trip, and thank Jack & Nancy for including all of us in their awesome celebration of their 50th anniversary.   I posted the pictures below earlier, but here they are again because it seems a fitting way to end the series:

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Happy 50th anniversary, Jack & Nancy!  

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Maybe Captain and Tenille said it best …

Love, love will keep us together …

Alaska, Part Four (or, Why I Really Like Ice Water)

Where does a 90,000 pound ship go?  Anywhere it wants to, or at least anywhere it can.  At a length of 962 feet, and a width (or beam if you prefer the nautical term) of  105.6 feet, you need a pretty confident and skilled captain to take this enormous ship down Tracy Arm Fjord.  Good thing we had one, because even more important, it was El Capitan’s job to make sure we could get back out.  With 2,500 people aboard, and only a week’s worth of groceries and booze, it would have been a bitch to run out.  … and if you think El Capitan just throws the gears in reverse and backs out, nope, that’s not how it works.  In fact, El Capitan just turned us around as if on an axis and took us out bow first.  Aren’t you impressed?  Not with El Capitan, but with me and my fluent use of nautical terms?

I don’t know how wide Tracy Arm Fjord is, but let’s just say that Tony Romo could throw a football from either side of the ship and maybe hit land.  Oh, all right.  Probably not, but shore was closer than you would think safe.

Here’s where we were headed:

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A close up of some ice water:

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This was a fairly large chunk of ice.  These “floaters,” as I shall refer to them (no, not the floaters in your eyes, and not the other ones either) were everywhere.   So what happens if the ship hits these floaters?  Well, nothing if the ship is going slow enough, and nothing if the ice is not so large that it’s still attached to the bottom of the ocean.  If that’s the case, then by definition it wouldn’t really be a floater, would it?  Glad I’m not El Capitan!

Here’s a great shot:

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Waterfalls were everywhere.  It made me think about global warming, and the melting glaciers, and how our great, great, grandchildren may not get to see this stuff.

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Speaking of glaciers, in this case the business end of the fjord, here we are at Sawyer Glacier.  I’m not sure if this is the North or South Sawyer glacier – such adorable twins, but they’re huge!

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The decks were crammed with people and cameras, including us … and when we managed to get a great vantage point, we were reluctant to move.  Then El Capitan turned the ship around and suddenly we had the crappy seats.  Well, not so crappy, as this was truly one occasion when the crappy seats were actually pretty good … but there were better ones.  So, off we went again in search of the very best spot.  You have to admit, this is a great spot for a picture.  The three of us managed to find each other, and we swapped picture-taking favors with another shipmate.   

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Check out the cute pink jacket.  Yep, got it on the ship.  It’s a bona fide Royal Carribean windbreaker.  Not so warm, but it is pink and it is cute, so that makes up for most anything … 

The weather was unbelievably warm during most of the cruise, considering we were sailing in Alaskan waters and ice was all around.  The only cold days were the days we just sailed and had no stops.  On those days, it was misty, windy and foggy (foghorns even blew all night one night).  …and speaking of nights, well, not too much night to speak of.  About four hours tops, I’d say. 

One of the nights, we went dancing at the Vortex club with Sara and with Chuck and Kelly (family members you will see more of in Juneau).  We were looking out of the windows at 1:00 a.m., and still it wasn’t dark.  It’s hard to believe Johnny and I were up at that hour, and not only up, but up dancing.  Not so hard to believe that Sara was up.  Parties don’t start in college until 1:00 a.m., so she was just getting warmed up.  We had a great time, but I paid for it the next day.  My hips paid throughout the next week.

Back to the fjord … while we were down at the business end, our cruise director, Mike, and a few of his mates took one of the rescue boats as close to the Sawyer twin (I just can’t tell them apart!) as they dared.  I never knew this before, but it is dangerous to get too close to a glacier in a boat because of calving, or ice falling from the glacier (and here I thought calving meant the birthing of cute little baby cows), and also because sometimes glacier ice shoots up from the ocean floor to become, you guessed it, a floater.  While awesome to witness, it’s best to view this action from afar. 

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Their goal was to find a piece of ice (yes, I said ice …) and bring it back to the ship for an ice carving.  An ambitious endeavor, and it took a while to find just the right piece. 

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Aha, got one!

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Daniel and I raced inside to watch them bring it aboard.

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Bigger than you thought it was!

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Now, here’s the stoopid part.  We never went back to see what they carved it into.  What a great way to pull this all together, a picture of the finished carving, and I missed it.  What a dork I am. 

20090707_106 (Small)We ran into Johnny’s parents enjoying the view, and a little snack.  What a view!  I think they had the best seats, and they weren’t doing all that running around!

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We saw quite a few seals sunning themselves on the floaters. 

… and déjà vu, back out the way we came. 

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More to come, so I’ll be back in a few days with the final Alaska post!