"" Writer's Wanderings: 2019

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Scorpion, Eels, And A Brain

My favorite fish to find is a peacock flounder. Unfortunately we didn't see one this trip. Bob's favorite fish find is a scorpion fish. They are hard to find because they look just like a rock or piece of coral and unless they blink--move their eyes, you would just pass them by. Our keen eyed grandson found a scorpion fish on one dive. It was a beauty as far as you can call an ugly fish a beauty.

Scorpion fish are also very dangerous. It is one fish you want to be sure you don't touch. Their spiny fins contain a poison and could be deadly.

Old Blue Eyes

We also managed to find a couple of eels on our dives. Several green ones and a guy that was a very plain brown but still had glassy eyes. Eels really can't see well if at all. They find their food by smell.

For some reason I seemed to see a lot of brain coral this time. There were some pretty big brains down there. My funny thought for the dive: If people don't have a brain in their head is this where they went?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Diving--So Much Ocean, So Little Time

The Cayman Islands' reefs are abundant in corals and sea fans. One of our dive sites had not one but three large pillar corals. The soft look of the coral comes from all the little "fingers" that are rippling constantly.

The one coral pillar had fallen over at some time and was now beginning to grow from the horizontal pieces giving it the look of a giant toothbrush.

One of the other things that we like to look for as we dive are the flamingo tongue snails that are on the coral fingers and sometimes the sea fans. They are actually inside out with the soft body wrapped around the shell. The ones we found were not as fancy as some we've seen but I am always amazed and glad to find them.

Another little creature we often find tucked in among crevices in the coral reef is the arrow head crab. It looks like a daddy-long-legs spider but like its look alike is harmless. It gets its name from the pointy head it has.

Flamingo tongue snails

Arrow head crab

Fish photo bomb

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Ballerina Of The Ocean

The adult spotted drum fish is a black and white patterned fish that looks like he doesn't have anything in his wardrobe that matches. The front of him is bold black and white stripes but his fins are spotted. I'm sure that the markings have something to do with his survival. Maybe camouflage?

Before becoming an adult however, the spotted drum is a graceful and energetic little fish that seems to dance the day away. They are quite small, no bigger than a child-sized palm. It's the long slender fins that add the charm.

If you have ever seen dancers take long ribbons and use them to enhance their dance routine, you can imagine more what these marine dancers look like. But better yet, take a look at the video that Bob got of several that we saw while diving this year. We were so happy to find that the lion fish hadn't eaten all of them.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Scuba Diving --2019 Adventure

Diving the East End of Grand Cayman with Ocean Frontiers was excellent as always. The dive operation takes good care of us.

The Caymans are always a place to see turtles and we weren't disappointed. We saw several small ones and one huge loggerhead.

I'll share the turtle pictures and video today and then show you some of the other things we saw that Bob actually got a picture of. It's not easy taking pictures when the motion of the ocean is moving you around and the subject of your photo can run and hide--make that swim and hide. He does a good job but we have at least 30 pictures for every good one that we get. So, wading through them still and I will continue to post more for those who like to see what we saw.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Scuba Diving - 2019

Our annual trip with our grandson was a week ago. As usual we went to Grand Cayman. While Grandpa and I have earned our Green Shorts, he's still working on his--only five more dive sites to go.

It was a great nine days even though it started out a bit rough. We landed in a downpour after circling the storm for about a half hour. As luck would have it, when we came down the mobile stairway (there are no jetways at CIAA) the last of the umbrellas they handed out went to the lady in front of me. I tossed my sweater over my head and ran as best I could for the covered walkway into the airport. By the time we all made it we were drenched. I wrung my sweater out and wondered how long it would take to dry.

We didn't think about our luggage getting wet until we got through customs and picked up our duffel bags with our clothes and dive gear. Our grandson knew we were in trouble when a little water trickled out of the bottom of his. But wait--it got wetter.

I stayed at the airport while the two guys went to get the rental car. It took almost an hour which is only about 20 minutes longer than usual. It's the Caribbean--nothing gets done quickly there. When they returned, Bob was literally sloshing in his shoes. They had to wade through water six inches deep on the road.

So picture this. We now have to get used to driving on the left side of the street again and the road is flooding. We ended up following others through a parking lot to get around one deep spot. Once we were away from Georgetown and on the east side of the island, the roads were dry. We stopped to check in and fill out our dive forms at Ocean Frontiers. They were surprised to find out it had rained let alone so much. The sun had shone all day for them. Go figure.

Thankfully the start to our dive trip did not predict anything for the rest of the trip. The weather was great. Not nearly as hot and humid as usual most days and the diving was spectacular as always. I'll share some more of Bob's pictures tomorrow.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Friday Funny--The Dragon's Lair

A little explanation goes with the videos here. The first video is our dive a couple years ago to a site called Dragon's Lair. There are all sorts of ways different dive sites get their name but this one is sort of obvious if you get the right view of the coral and rock that juts out. A little imagination and you are looking at a dragon and usually there is seaweed or coral growing in the part that resembles a dragon's mouth thereby making it appear to be a fire breathing dragon.

The first video is Bob's view but the second video is the view of Bob from our grandson's GoPro. Bob was mugging for the camera as if he was afraid of the dragon--or maybe it was a native underwater dance. I'll leave that to interpretation.

Dragon's Lair:

Bob's shenanigans.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Are We Celebrating Independence On The Wrong Day?

My eyes grew bigger and my mouth gaped. Is this true? Are we celebrating US independence on the wrong day? Yes and no.

In looking for something interesting to post about on this day of celebration when everything red, white and blue will be found from desserts to fashion to fireworks and beyond I ran across an article on the History website that revealed some facts about the Declaration of Independence that I was unaware of. In all the historical places we have visited, I've never heard, or I didn't pay enough attention, to the fact that it was July 2, 1776 when the Continental Congress voted in favor of a resolution for independence.

On that day, July 2, John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 would be a day "celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival." He suggested the celebration would include "Pomp and Parade. . .Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations. . ."

Two days later, on July 4, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, penned mostly by Thomas Jefferson.

So while the declaration of independence was passed July 2, the Declaration of Independence was not accepted formally until July 4. Maybe we should have more than one official day of celebration.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Looking Back To The Start of The Jet Age

Glancing through some of my older posts, I came across one where I"d posted an old Pan Am commercial for the new jet flights. It's kind of a hoot. With several new airplanes, the "jet age" began in October of 1958 with Pan Am's new round the world schedules. Pan Am was a leader in many firsts but eventually came to an end in December of 1991.

Have a look at the commercial though. The earlier days of flying were amazing. It was a bit more formal, but I'd dress up for the meal they're serving. And what was with the "no vibrations?" When was the last time you made a house of cards on your tray table when flying? Even first class nowadays doesn't look as good as this did.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Books For The Road--What's So Funny?

Not too long ago we had to say goodbye to a favorite comedian, Tim Conway. I had no idea he had a book and when I found out, I had to have it. The title is What's So Funny? My Hilarious Life. It is worth the read. Lots of smiles and reminiscing.

Jane Scovell helped with the writing and Carol Burnett did the foreword. There are wonderful stories of his formative years and events that fueled the fires of his creative humor and the characters he gave us that are so beloved.

Of course for me, it was also easy to visualize a lot of the years he spent in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, since that is near where I have lived most of my life. But the adventures in McHale's Navy and the shenanigans on the Carol Burnett Show with Harvey Korman are some of the best parts.

I would recommend this for a good read on the road. Easy to follow and one that will ease those travel anxieties as you wait on connections. Enjoy the smiles.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Friday Funny--Morning Routine

A trip to the zoo inspired this video. Hope it brings you a smile. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Turtle Kisses

Diving is always an adventure. You never know what to expect. An unexpected appearance of a Caribbean gray shark. A dancing juvenile drum fish. Lobster peeking out of a crevice in the coral. A turtle feeding off the vegetation on the bottom. It was the last one that caught our attention on one dive a few years ago but it was what happened after we spotted the turtle that was so much fun.

You see, the turtle spotted us as well and was attracted to Bob or perhaps it just wanted to come in for a close up. Whatever the case, its curiosity brought it right up to the camera Bob was using and for a moment we all thought Bob was going to get a turtle kiss. The video is so much fun to watch and I'm thankful that our grandson Tyler allowed me to use it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Look Back At Some Cayman Diving

We don't take a whole lot of pictures diving any more. There are few people who would want to sit and look through all of them. Bob has learned to edit the videos pretty well and this is one he put together a couple of years ago that is nice.

If you watch it and feel sleepy, you'll know why we like diving so much. It is very relaxing. We don't fall asleep during the dive though, just in case you were wondering.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Playful Sea Lions

In anticipation of our annual dive trip to Grand Cayman I was looking at some of our videos from other trips and I ran across one that was actually from our Galapagos cruise six years ago. We didn't go diving but we did snorkel with the most playful and entertaining and curious sea lions I've ever seen. What a great memory!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday Funny--Baseball Quips

It's been fun as one by one our grandkids reach that significant birthday where Mom and Dad decide they are ready and responsible enough to have their own phone. It's a perk for Grandma and Grandpa too as we are usually among the first to get notified and the texting begins.

Our Florida grandson has had his phone for about a year and has joined the family text circle during the Ohio State football games. That usually involves Grandpa more than me. With me, he's into the Indians baseball season. Why he is a fan of teams not remotely close to Florida is beyond us but he is wholeheartedly involved.

Last weekend the Yankees were in Cleveland for three games. The first two were nailbiters but Cleveland managed to pull them out. The third game became the same kind of edge-of-the-seat game. The Yankees started out with five runs in the second inning but we came back with four runs in the sixth. It was kind of the way the first two games went with us catching up and then winning.

My phone buzzed. The text read, "We're back in the game!" I responded with "you bet!"

Then came the following text: This is the third time I have seen this movie (smiley face).

I responded with laughing emojis.

Buzzing phone: "I like how in this third movie makes you think New York actuly has a chance."

You can see my response in the picture. Well, the game progressed and went into extra innings. The phone buzzed: "This is like when the dark side rebuilt the death star. "

We lost. The phone buzzed: "Let's hope next time we play them it will be the Empire strikes out."

I'm still laughing.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Horses On The Beach

My favorite pictures from our Costa Rica adventure in June of 2018. Worth another look.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Maria's Field of Sunflowers and Hope

This year's field has just been planted. The sunflowers will be blooming again in September. If you are not familiar with Prayers From Maria, check out their website. There is also a second field being planted along the way to Cedar Point.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Comparing Old-New, Big-Small Cruise Ships

No, it's not a new Seuss book. I found an article that compared old ships to new ships and explored the differences you might encounter. It's an interesting article and found on Cruise Critic if you'd like to read the whole thing.

Basically, newer ships are bigger than older ships. I think part of that trend is because the ships are becoming the destination more than the ports of call. The large new ships are fun if you are not particularly interested in exploring some of the smaller ports where a large ship cannot go. We took a cruise on Oasis of the Seas not long after it came out and thoroughly enjoyed the week. I'm not sure we even explored all there was to offer on the ship and we plan to go again on the Oasis or one of the other mega ships.

There are also more balconies on the newer ships. We used to go for a less expensive inside room but once we stepped up to a window and then to a veranda, it was hard to go back. As the article points out however the verandas tend to be smaller than on the older ships.

Of course there's all the new stuff, electronics, entertainment specialties, even a bumper car ride on the Quantum of the Seas! Wave riders and zip lines make the slides at the pools look tame now.

Older ships are not just old buckets chugging across the waters. Cruise lines do upgrades and makeovers on their ships that help to keep the older ships looking newer and in good condition on a regular basis. The best time to sail on an older ship is soon after it's been reconditioned. New carpet, new beds, new TVs, etc. can be expected and hopefully all the charm of an older ship.

There are some things to watch out for  though when choosing one over the other. We made the mistake of sailing on one of the very first voyages of a new ship a several years ago and found that most of the new electronics that were supposed to be available for cruisers enrichment didn't have all the bugs worked out. We don't book now until the new ship has been sailing a few months. And then there was the old ship we sailed that was not in the greatest of shape since it hadn't been reconditioned in a while and we were still too inexperienced to have checked it out--something our travel agent should have done. And then there was another ship that we recognized as coming from one cruise line that had gone out of business and sold its ships. It was old but had been refurbished so nicely it was a joy to spend a week cruising in it.

Small ship? Big ship? Old ship? New ship? You decide. Do the research. Get the feedback from Cruise Critic or other cruise forums. Decide if you are cruising to see the ports or enjoy the ship more. Your cruise will be more enjoyable if you know what you want and find the best fit for you.

Ah, so many ships. So little time.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday Funny- Flowers?

When I was growing up we lived across the street from a nice older German couple who kept their home in tip-top shape and even more so, their flower beds. I doubt there was ever a weed allowed to get a foot hold in the perfect soil that was tilled and fertilized and kept in optimum condition for the best growing conditions.

Now our yard was nothing much to look at. A bed of petunias, some evergreens gracing the front of the house and a lawn that was usually looking pretty good and full of clover--which the bees loved. More than once in a summer I would end up with a bee sting from running barefoot through the yard.

Mom had a great sense of humor and one year decided to have some fun with our German neighbors. Way before it should have been time for full blooming flowers to be in the yard--especially our yard, my mom went out and bought a bunch of plastic flowers. In those days we didn't have the cloth-like flowers or "silk" flowers we do today. They were fairly realistic though, certainly from a distance. 

I don't know how she managed to get them in the ground without our neighbors noticing but Mom would chuckle every time she saw our neighbor standing in his yard, hands on hips, staring across at our "blooming flowers." 

He must have thought that eventually they would die from neglect or a good frost since they had been planted so early. A few weeks later, he could no longer stand it. He came across the street and up to the house to ask my mother what kind of flowers she had planted. She took him around to the front flowerbed, pulled one out and said, "Plastic!"

Now our German neighbors were a bit stoic but I remember my mom saying she saw a bit of a smile appear on his face and he went home shaking his head all the way. Once Mom was in the house, she burst into peals of laughter and we heard about the one she'd pulled over on our neighbors for years after.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Unique Sleeping Accommodations In a 727

This week I've explored the idea of sleeping in a bedroom underwater and in a glass igloo but now comes the idea of sleeping in a 727. What's so unique about that, you ask? Everyone who flies any length of time has slept on a plane flight. This is not a plane flight.

In Costa Rica at the Hotel Costa Verde you can get some unusual accommodations in a refitted Boeing 727. It was a plane that was salvaged when taken out of service and secured in a hillside with a view. The inside was totally renovated to include two bedrooms, each with its own bath, a kitchenette and microwave and of course a flat screen TV.

An ocean view terrace is attached and there is a private entrance up a river rock, spiral staircase. Lots of surrounding garden--it's Costa Rica, a rain forest.

The inside is an all wood interior and furnishings are hand carved teak. It looks a bit like a rustic lodge room. Pictures are at the hotel's website. 

This accommodation, unlike the previous two, is actually somewhat affordable. Prices range from just under $300 to around $800 depending upon the season.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wednesday--but not Wordless

I thought that I would never see
        A tulip blooming on a tree!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Another Way To See The Northern Lights

Okay, so I'm not a cold weather fan. I am, however, intrigued by the Northern Lights. Finland is one of the places in the world that is easily accessed and a place where viewing the phenomena is optimum. Enter the idea of staying in a glass igloo.

In Levi, Finland is the Golden Crown Levin Hotel. And yes, they have glass igloos. Now before you shiver hear the description. You can fall asleep in a luxurious warm bed on a fell slope (that means a summit) admiring the Arctic sky--wait! I want to stay awake and see the Northern Lights. Guess that just means I can stay warm while I do. Continuing. . .A breakfast buffet is included and there's some mention of not having to leave the igloo but I guess I'm confused about that unless it's connected somehow to the main restaurant area.

A suite igloo has a private terrace with a hot tub. Yup. Just see if you can race from the tub to the room without your feet sticking to the ice.

The pictures look beautiful as do most travel pictures advertising hotels and resorts. I'm sure if the actual experience is even half as good as the pictures, it would be amazing.

Again though, it would keep Bob up all night wondering how to pay for it. The igloos/suites run over $1,000/night. I didn't convert the numbers exactly. The price in Euros was shocking enough.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Sleeping Underwater

We love to dive. Put on the gear, jump in the water, spend thirty to fifty minutes exploring and enjoying the marine life, then pop to the surface and live to dive another day. There are other ways though to enjoy underwater sea life including submarine rides for tourists, snorkeling, and of course for those who want to stay above sea level, aquariums.

But would you ever in you wildest imagination consider sleeping in a room underwater? I came across an unusual resort that has an underwater bedroom. It's called the Manta Resort and is in Zanzibar. Out in the middle of a bay, a fancy houseboat of sorts is anchored. The roof is a sundeck and the living area is at sea level but the bedroom is straight down a built in ladder to an underwater room.

The sides of the room of course are all acrylic so you can observe the sea life around you. You can turn on small lights at night to attract and see some of the night critters like octopus. Turning the lights off though apparently gives you a view of the bio-luminescent creatures, which if you watch the video, might just keep you up all night with flashes of light.

Me, I'd be up all night worried that a good wind and a rough sea would break the anchor lines and we'd float off to the middle of the ocean. Bob--he'd be up all night wondering how we were going to pay for a room that costs $1500 USD/night. Guess we'll pass on this one.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Time For Some Velvet Ice Cream?

Visitor's centers are to the travel addict like candy stores are to the candy lover. We happened to stop to peruse one as we waited to meet family for lunch halfway between our place and theirs. I picked up several pamphlets of attractions and things to do in the area. I live in Ohio but I am still discovering new places to see. One of the pamphlets showed an old grist mill with an ice cream factory. A little history and a great treat. What better combination?

On our way to Columbus that next week, we decided to stop off and check out the grist mill and factory. We'd been to the Mount Vernon area often but never traveled Route 13 further south than that. It was beautiful countryside on a clear and sunny day. The grist mill turnoff was well marked near Utica just past the Route 62 junction. We pulled in and found we had arrived just in time for a factory tour.

Our energetic guide took us out of the shelter where a video of the history of Velvet Ice Cream usually plays and suggested that she give us the information herself since we seemed to be invaded by some pesky wasps. She did a great job of filling us in as we sat on a stone wall and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine.

In 1914, Joseph Dager began Velvet Ice Cream in the basement of a confectionery shop in Utica, Ohio, using a hand cranked ice cream maker. He would make just enough to quickly run out and sell it before it melted. Finding a supply of ice eventually led to a wider distribution and the business began to grow. In the 1930s a small factory was built behind the confectionery and Dager expanded even further reaching groceries and restaurants as far away as Columbus.

When they needed to expand, the next generation of Dagers found an old 1817 grist mill near Utica that fit their company's reputation of old fashioned goodness and moved their factory next to it. It became their trademark.

Our guide took us into the viewing area of the factory where we watched as ice cream was put into containers, capped and sent off to an instant freezer that freezes the mixture within minutes.

We stopped in the restaurant and enjoyed terrific trail bologna sandwiches being careful to save room for ice cream. I tried the sweet and salty caramel flavor that was heavenly. As we enjoyed our cones, we wandered through the small display of old ice cream makers.

All in all a perfect oasis for a summertime outing.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Remembering the Island Airline's Tri Motor

[There is a restoration project going on at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton. Great museum if you visit the area!]

A deep rumble permeates the plane and its passengers as they taxi to the end of the airstrip. A pause. A turn. The pilot, Harold Hauck, looks back at his passengers, grins, and then turns to the controls as the Ford Tri-motor he pilots gallops down the runway and finally lifts into the air. It is a thrill I fondly remember from my youth in the late 50s and 60s as my family made our weekly visit to their vacation home on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.

The Ford Tri-motor, or the Tin Goose as it was nicknamed, was a major mode of transportation for the Island Airlines of Port Clinton, Ohio, for over 50 years. At one time I believe they owned three. It carried passengers and cargo to the Lake Erie Islands of South Bass, Middle Bass, North Bass, and Rattlesnake. In the winter, it was the only means of public transportation to the islands and was used as a “school bus” for the children on the outer islands who attended school at Put-In-Bay or Port Clinton on the mainland.

My very first plane ride was in the Tin Goose whose corrugated metal sides shone brightly in the sun. The Goose had room for two pilots and seventeen passengers who sat on small metal seats padded lightly with vinyl cushions. The back of the metal seat barely made it to the small of an adult’s back (the restored version appears to have much more comfortable seats) and most hunched forward to look out the windows as the plane flew its scenic route. Often cargo was stacked on one side of the plane, passengers sat on the other and when the plane banked, hands would go up to be sure the cargo stayed in place.

The most exciting trip for me came later when my husband and I hitched a ride on the mail route on the Tri-motor. We lifted off and touched down at each of the islands where mail pouches were exchanged. Landing and take-off at Rattlesnake Island was as exciting as any amusement park ride could be. The airstrip was cut across the little island and the pilot had to judge his landing quickly at the start of the runway so that he had enough distance to brake and turn before falling off the cliff at the other end. Take off was equally exciting as the plane gunned engines at one end of the runway and took off with a burst of “speed” while everyone held their breath to see if we could lift off before reaching the lake on the other side.

There were only two crashes that I know of in the islands. One took place on Kellys Island in 1954 and the other at Port Clinton in 1972. The pieces-parts of the Island Airlines Tri-motors are shown here in a series of photographs taken in Vicksburg, Michigan, where the plane was being restored.

There is a restored Tri-motor that tours in the summer and offers rides. What a privilege we had to ride at a $5-10 rate when we were kids. Fond memories.
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