"" Writer's Wanderings

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Perjury Among The Pickleballs Is Here!


Pickleball? Casey has doubts about learning a new sport with such a strange name but Max Dugan, her friend and now fellow private investigator, thinks she is up to the challenge. Actually the Pickleball is all part of a new investigation centered around a murder that has taken place at the new RU1or2 Pickleball facility.

Teddy Richfield was found murdered in the office of RU1or2. It appears a possible murder/robbery but money was not taken from the open safe. What could possibly be the motive? And who was the killer?

Stan Zurkowski's eyewitness account places RIchfield's partner in the business, Adam Hatcher, at the scene the time of the murder. He also testifies at Hatcher's trial that he heard them arguing. Hatcher claims he was home but can't find a way to prove it. What would cause Zurkowski, the Pickleball instructor, to perjure himself? Could it be his interest in Melanie Hatcher, Adam's wife? Is there a romantic connection between the two?

As Casey juggles her time between being household manager for the Drs. Connely and her investigative job for Max, she finds all sorts of connections between the people she meets and the new sport of Pickleball she learns to like. But will all of these connections lead her and Max to the truth?

Available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Friday, April 15, 2022

From The Heart


Life is a journey. If you have followed my blog, you'll find that I say that often. My newest release brings you along on a good part of my life journey. There are lots of life's lessons, fun times, extraordinary encounters and of course travel stories.

My files hold a lot of short stories and talks that I gave when I was busier with speaking engagements. Since we travel so much, it is difficult to keep up with a speaking track. I kind of miss that but I wouldn't trade my time traveling with my husband for anything. 

Some of the highlights of From The Heart include singing Amazing Grace with a hundred others in China and lessons learned in the desert of Australia as well as at home with a husband and five children. What would you do if your ship finally came in and it turned out to be an ark? How do you pack for life's journey? Journey with me to the top of a mountain in Alaska and Japan and dive to the depths of the ocean in Papua New Guinea. Laugh with me as I learn to cook and discover salt is not just for seasoning meat.

There's tea time but the best cup of tea was really a cup of love. While it might be a little difficult these days to keep fuel in your car, I'll give you some ideas for keeping your tank of joy full. There's also a purple Christmas stocking story and a Christmas gift that barks. 

I could go on but I'd rather you discover all that From The Heart has to offer. This book is truly from my heart.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

A Few More Notes From Our HAL Cruise

 As I sit and watch the snow fall outside, I can't but wish we were still cruising. Any time we come home in March, it always snows at least one more time. Hopefully this is the only snow we see until next winter. 

On one of the last days of our Panama Canal cruise the cruise director had a Q&A with the captain of the ship. It's always interesting to see the pictures of the banks of computers on the bridge and, as he said, the backups and the backups to the backups. I don't know how they keep it all straight. 

The amazing thing is the small joystick that he uses to gently bring the ship into the dock. Depending on which side of the ship the dock will be, he can go into one of the wings of the bridge and have pretty much a 360 view of what he's doing. The floor is clear so he can look down as well. 

He showed pictures of the azipods, the thrusters of the ship that can turn to maneuver the ship one way or the other. I still find it so amazing that a ship so large can maneuver so exactly--well most of the time. We have seen a couple of "oops" on a few ships.

I know there are lots of people who worry about rough seas and sometimes it can get a little rocky but I took a picture of his picture showing the stabilizers of the ship. They are wings that can be extended out to reduce the motion of the ship in the waves.

Something I learned that morning as well is what that thing under the water at the bow of the ship is. It's called a bulbous bow. It looks like a large nose that sticks out just below the water line. It is there to reduce drag. As the captain said it is kind of like the spoiler on a car only this is working to ease the flow of water around the bow.

We are trying to decide what's next on the bucket list and trying to find our way back to cruising on some lines we haven't taken in a while. The Holland America Line has made lots of changes since we last cruised with them in 2017. The changes are not all pandemic related. As I learned, there has been a change in administration at the top and I'm sure some of it is due to that. Cruising seems to have gotten more complicated in booking as there are way too many choices and decisions to be made. It used to be one price and maybe a drink package along with choosing a couple of nights to dine in specialty restaurants. Now there are all sorts of different packages for almost everything. It's hard to figure out the best for cost saving. Add to that, Holland America now charges extra for lobster and some other dishes that were a real treat during a cruise and included. There is even a restaurant that is ala carte and instead of charging what used to be just a service fee, you purchase everything as you would in a restaurant and the gratuity is added on.

Looking at our next cruise on Celebrity and wondering what has changed there. I don't think we've cruised with them since we did the Galapagos in 2013.  The cruise will check one of my bucket list items by cruising to Quebec from Boston this fall and stopping at Nova Scotia.

The other bucket list items include seeing the Pyramids, stopping at Gibraltar and the Holy Land and a cruise around Scotland. We have several cruise possibilities to get to all of those but haven't made a choice yet. At our age, we want to do as much as we can before a health issue or our final journey arrives. Travelin' on.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Our Last Port For Now, Puerto Limon

 The last time we were in Puerto Limon we stayed an extra day and a half because of the uncertainty of where Crystal Serenity was going to disembark passengers since the Grand Voyage was canceled. It was a sweet-sour memory as we awoke to find ourselves in a familiar place on Thursday.

The excursion we had booked was to gather at 7:20 AM and the Pinnacle would not open for breakfast until 7:30 so we opted to have room service early and eat on our veranda. It was a nice start to my birthday. We gathered in the theater to receive our bus assignments and just about the time we sat down and I rummaged in my purse for some gum, we were dismissed to go to our bus. I must have had my key card and ID in my lap and as I tossed everything back in my purse and stood it fell to the floor. Halfway to the gangway I realized I was missing it. Heart racing I hurried back and found it on the floor where I'd sat. Whew!

My mishap got us to the bus in time to get the seats way in the back but it wouldn't be a long trip this time. I knew that because we were headed back to the Tortuguero Canals that we had visited before. This time I had my good camera ready. 

As we exited the bus at the canal we could hear the howler monkeys. They were not happy with all these people invading their quiet morning. Unfortunately they were so busy hopping around in the treetops that I couldn't get a picture that wasn't blurry. The guide told us that you don't want to stand under their tree when they are upset. They like to throw excrement at you. Thankfully the boat had a canvas rooftop.

Every trip we have taken on the canals has been different. You always see something new and this was no exception. We saw a caiman which looks like a crocodile or an alligator but is smaller. I never saw one that looked so blue though. 

We saw several sloths this time and some bats that had made a home under a bridge. A really blue heron was fishing but we didn't see him catch anything. 

Our guide pulled a banana from a tree and sliced it open to show us the kind of bananas the animals like. They are full of hard black seeds. The plantains and bananas we consume don't have seeds in them and are propagated differently.

After our canal trip, we were given the good bananas, a bottle of water and a bag of cassava chips. The chips were really good. We never had them before even though we've seen cassava used in other food dishes and there are some who make flour from the root vegetable. 

On the bus again, we headed for our next stop, a banana train ride. No it is not a train made from bananas but it is a train that used to carry the bananas from the fields in Limon to the cargo ships for transport to other countries. Now, as we rode past large trucks marked Chiquita, DelMonte and Dole, you could see why the train was replaced.

As we passed the banana fields our guide told us that they are not actually trees but classified as rather large herbs. Hmmm. I filed that one away and checked later. Yup, they're related to the ginger plant. When the plant flowers, a large pod looking flower that is purplish red, the blossom is covered with a blue bag to keep the insects out and the sun from burning the fruit before it has a chance to develop into those nice bananas we all like to eat. Inside the blue bag, the bananas form a cluster and in 3-4 weeks are ready to harvest. They are still green to allow time for transport in 56 degree storage units to keep them from ripening to fast on their way to market.

The train was quaint and was made for passengers, not bananas. They were antique cars as was the engine that pulled us. As we waited for everyone to board there was a group of four kids from about twelve to maybe two years old asking for "one dolla". It took me a while to figure out they were willing to pose for a picture for a dollar. I'm not sure where they came from but the area the train went through was one where there were lots of squatters in shacks made of scavenged lumber and corrugated steel. They looked a little well dressed to be squatters though and I'm not posting a the picture. Who knows if Mom knew what they were doing?

One of the high points of the train ride was crossing the bridge over the canal. Let's just say it was a very rustic bridge. I checked out the pictures online that showed the aftermath of the 1991 earthquake we have heard about on each of our visits to this area. There was one picture of the bridge where it was leaning quite heavily to one side. Glad I didn't see that before we went.

As we rode the bus back to the dock, our guide explained that the resorts of Costa Rica were mainly on the Pacific side. While the Caribbean side is beautiful the shoreline has no protection to form beaches and is too rough to be a safe place for tourists to swim. There were some beautiful waves cresting along the shore as we passed. 

While Juan, our guide was quite humorous he was also quite profound. I love this quote from him, "We always say to leave the world better for our children. I say raise our children to be better people and the whole world will be better." So much truth in that.

We came back to our stateroom to find a chocolate cupcake and a card from the captain and crew for my birthday. But wait! That's not all. After a nice dinner in the Tamarind specialty Asian restaurant we found the concierges from the Neptune Lounge had strung a birthday banner and given me a huge bouquet of flowers. 

Two days at sea and then home. We will enjoy every minute we can.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Monkeys And Crocs And Sloths! Oh My!

 Let me continue with our excursion at the Panama Canal on Wednesday. After we visited the Agua Clara Locks Visitor Center, we boarded our bus again and continued on to the second part of our excursion, the canal nature cruise. 

Once we reached the area that had the boats to take us out into the canal and the surrounding rainforest, we were divided into two groups of eighteen and asked to don life jackets. We did pass a couple of large ships as they transited the canal way but mostly we kept to the shoreline and little inlets to look for monkeys, crocodiles, sloths, and the eagles which we were told we would only see in the morning. We were shown pictures of the different kinds of animals and Bob, skeptic that he is, said that was probably all we would see. We've been on too many nature excursions where the animals weren't given the itinerary.

We did see a crocodile and a monkey or two high in the trees but eventually our guide found a capuchin monkey who knew if he came down to the overhanging branches near the boats, he would get some treats. He entertained us long enough to get some good pictures and make the nature part of our trip successful. We did enjoy the boat ride in the fresh air after all that time on the bus.

I'm going to post a picture of what I am sure are hanging bird nests but I didn't catch what type of bird builds such a nest. I'll continue to research and will update the post if I find the answer. I thought he said "kite" but I couldn't find a nest that kites build that resembled these.

Our guide on the bus assured us that our return trip would not be as long as we would be on a highway. Before we got to the highway however he stopped the bus and showed us a mother sloth and her baby. They have been up in the tree for a long time and apparently this is not the first baby she's had in this tree. Now this was truly worth the nature trip. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the baby's face.

Back on the ship we grabbed some shrimp tempura and fried rice in the Lido Buffet for dinner and my favorite dessert, churros. In our room we found a notice that clocks will be turned back an hour to adjust to the Puerto Limon, Costa Rica time. Great news as our excursion will begin earlier in the morning. 

An extra hour of sleep or not, we were too tired to do much after dinner. It was an early night for us.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Through The Locks And Into The Lake To...


Six o'clock in the morning I found myself wide awake as I realized there was activity in the corridor outside our stateroom. People were up and securing their vantage points for the journey through the Gatun Locks. By seven, we were both up and positioning ourselves on the forward deck to view the locks as our ship entered.

There are three levels of locks to raise the ship up to the level of Gatun Lake. I am not going to go into detail about how the locks work and all the history behind it. Suffice it to say that there is more than enough history and amazing stories of how the locks were made and the difficulties encountered in the amazing feat of construction, not the least of which was conquering the little mosquito that was killing off so many of the workers. Check out the History Channel and PBS for some great information and videos. If you just Google documentaries on the Panama Canal you will have a treasure trove. 

A few quick facts that we have learned over the several transits we've made. Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in promoting the building of the canal that was taken over by the United States in the early 1900s when France gave up. John Stevens was the engineer who, in eighteen months got the project going and figured out that instead of cutting through the mountain you needed to lift the ships over it. And then there was Dr. William Gorgas who discovered that it was the mosquitoes who were spreading the dread yellow fever and malaria and led the fight to clean up all the breeding grounds for them.

Again, it is an amazing story and I have some of it posted from our previous visits. You can find those posts on the travel page for the Panama Canal. 

We had booked an excursion to see the new lock that has been finished since our last passage. It included a stop at the Agua Clara Visitor Center at the new lock as well as a boat ride in the rainforest area to see whatever nature we could see.

The Agua Clara locks are totally different than the original. They have retention ponds for the fresh water that is used to raise and lower the water in the locks. The gates are completely different as well. They are hollow concrete and slide back and forth rather than open on hinges. The concrete gates are hollow in order to keep them light enough so that they don't require a lot of energy to open and close them. 

The new locks are specifically for larger ships that are too wide or too long to go through the old locks. They also are designed to  conserve the fresh water in Gatun Lake by recycling the water used with the retention ponds. There is a good history of the canal and the new locks at this Canal Tour Site.

After watching one ship pass through and another huge cargo ship enter, we were called to board our bus for the next part of our excursion. Our bus ride was almost two hours including a stop at a gas station that was kind of like a Circle K back home. We used what little Spanish I could remember to order a chicken sub which was about as good as you would expect from a place like that. The PaWa (bottled Panamanian water) was really good though. 

It was on to our canal nature cruise. More of that to follow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Cartagena, A Morning Of Surprises

 Our day began with my warning to Bob. Do not open the curtains if you're still in your underwear. Our ship was docked in a container port and there were lots of people working on the docks, not to mention the bunker that was pulled alongside to fill the ship with fuel. After our last cruise, Bob's comment was that he hoped the credit card they used was still good.

The folks in the Pinnacle restaurant for breakfast greeted us with lots of smiles this morning. With breakfast there every morning we are beginning to get to know them better. When the manager stopped by the table to ask what we had planned for the day she was disappointed to hear that we would probably stay on the ship. "Oh no! You must see the flamingos and birds in the zoo."

Bob and I looked at each other with the same question written on our minds, what zoo? As Arlin continued, we found that there was some sort of zoo right at the cruise terminal where the shuttle from the ship would drop us. When you are docked in a container port there is always a shuttle to keep people from walking where they shouldn't. After breakfast, we shrugged and said, "Why not have a look?"

The place where the shuttle dropped us off was all new and within walking distance of the ship. As a matter of fact there was even a walking path drawn on the concrete that led to the "zoo". When we exited the shuttle, it appeared the only way through to the street was through the zoo area which turned out to be more of an aviary than anything else. But what an aviary!

The area was landscaped beautifully and full of all sort of birds. There were plenty of peacocks and the males were definitely strutting their stuff, if not for the tourists at least for the female peacocks. Geese and ducks and macaws and birds I didn't recognize followed us around the paths that led through the gardens. 

A couple of places were fenced and netted and one of them had scores of toucans in it. Again, the toucans were just as friendly as any of the other birds, following us around and even nipping at our shoes. Mine have elastic strings in them. I was afraid the bird would get snapped by the elastic.

The flamingos must have been let out of their overnight area just as we arrived. The flock came running and squawking into the pen, wings flapping as if they wanted all the peacocks out of their way. 

A couple of pens held some small pigs and anteaters. I tried to get a nice picture of the anteater but he wouldn't cooperate.

There was a cafe and a very nice gift shop there. I don't know if that is what supports the garden and its inhabitants or if the port does somehow but there was no fee to enter and see all the beautiful birds. It was a great way to spend the morning.

We set sail from Cartagena for the Panama Canal just after lunch. The afternoon and evening was spent listening to more of the information regarding the canal, much of which we've heard before but just like the surprise zoo, you never know if something has changed.

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