"" Writer's Wanderings: July 2019

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Travel Germaphobia

I've seen some you might call germaphobes but not a lot. I don't think they are being extreme. Who knows what might be going on with them physically that requires them to wipe down their tray table and seat in the airplane. Some people have conditions that require that kind of caution and yes, the planes are not always cleaned that well between flights.

A recent article however gave lots of ideas for germaphobes to chew on, gadgets and gizmos that they could take along to help them out. I carry lots of hand sanitizer but fail when it comes to packing sanitary wipes unless we are going somewhere that I don't trust a reasonable amount of cleanliness.

This article went much farther though. A sanitizer for your toothbrush? Another for your phone? Do you let others use your phone? Maybe because you might set it down on a table?

How about carrying your own blanket? Of course. Lots of room in the suitcase for that right next to my UV wand and portable air purifier.

The one I really liked was the cover for your tray table and airplane seat. It's washable so you can clean it up for your next trip.

Now again, if you truly need to be that careful, these products might be of use to you so I will give you a link to the article here. For me, I"ll just replenish my Purell supply.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hot Summer? Time To Plan For Antarctica

One of the greatest trips we have ever taken was to Antarctica. There are all sorts of cruise lines that go there now and you can get several different types of experiences. What I liked so much about ours was that we had several opportunities to go on land and experience the penguins and other beautiful scenes that were not viewed from the ship.

I ran across someone else's experience in an article, 10 Days in Antarctica. Her adventure was similar to ours. So if you want to see Antarctica what should you look for in a cruise?

Check out the itinerary closely. Do you just want to look from the ship? Some of the larger ships will not set up land excursions. They are labor intensive and include a lot of sanitary precautions to keep our germs from infecting the wildlife and their germs from infecting us. Our crew had to scrub our boots each time we went on shore.

If you want to immerse yourself in the wildlife and land, choose a smaller ship. There are some that are extremely intensive with studies of what you will see, not just excursion lectures. The only problem with a small ship is the Drake Passage which can be quite rough since it is a large body of open water. We lucked out and it was a relatively smooth crossing both ways. I have heard stories of some pretty rough weather though.

Whatever you choose, it is an amazing adventure. I have never seen snow so white and icebergs so blue. Seals and penguins so comical. The time to visit is in January/February which is "summer" in the south. We had temps in the 60s one day and snow on another. But when the sun came out the sky was so blue and the snow so white.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday Funny -- Speechless

Speaking engagements always offer opportunities for fellowship and meeting new people and sometimes, well, often for me, some great humor. There was the time I didn't realize it was a very casual affair and I had purchased a bright pink suit because it was a spring banquet. It was okay though, no one missed who the speaker was. The funny part came later.

The speaking fee I had agreed to was a love offering. In the past, the groups I had been with usually collected the offering, counted it and wrote me a check. I assumed that's what would happen. To my surprise, the ladies in charge emptied the baskets and handed me quite a fistful of money--mostly fives and singles. I didn't quite know what to do with it so I just stuffed it all into my purse as best I could.

The place where I was speaking was not terribly far from home but I didn't want to drive back by myself that far at night so I had booked a room near the interstate. What I didn't know was that it was a hotel used by a lot of truckers. By the time I arrived at the hotel, it was getting a little late and I was quite thirsty. In my arms I juggled my notes and other things I had used in my talk. I managed to open my purse and pull out the dollar that the pop machine asked for to get a bottle of cold water. 

I took my bottle of water and got into the elevator to go up to my floor. A trucker followed me in. He looked at me and smiled. "Have a good evening?" he asked.

"I did," I said just about the time the elevator door opened to my floor. I got off and the doors closed behind me. 

Once in my room I suddenly realized that I was in the elevator, in a bright pink suit, probably looking quite spent since speaking always wore me out, and my purse was open with a bunch of currency almost falling out. 

I have no idea what he thought.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Would You Like To Ride In A Beautiful Balloon

Several years ago we checked another item off of my bucket list, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. It was an amazing experience but to understand why it was on my bucket list I have to go back to a demonstration that a local balloonists did at my kids' elementary school.

The kids all gathered in the playground area and watched as he and his wife unrolled the balloon and fired up the propane tank to blow hot air into the huge balloon bottom. It didn't take long before the balloon was vertical and the mouths of all of us watching were hanging open in awe. Since it was not flying weather, he quickly deflated the balloon and while the kids filed back into school they rolled it up and packed it into the back of their truck.

I would find out later that the couple were a part of our church and I met them there on occasion and had the opportunity to listen to some of the tales of their ballooning experiences. I was not ready to fly though.

Fast forward to New Mexico and watching seven hundred balloons inflate and ascend into the air and I found myself once again gaping in awe. They float over your head and each is a unique design, some resembling animals, others cartoon characters and still others intricate designs. It was an early morning launch because that's when the air is still and less wind is better. We returned in the evening for an illumination of balloons but there was no launch. The wind had kicked up a bit and even then they shut down early because the several balloons that were illuminated (the propane fire lights them up) were blowing too much.

In all this time though, I've never had the courage to take a ride. While it might be a wonderful sensation for many, I'm not so sure I would enjoy it. No, I'd rather watch from the ground. I did find an article that describes a ride in a balloon. You might find it interesting. It's called Lessons Learned From Up In The Air.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Quieter Side Of Florida

December to April and depending upon which direction you travel, the highways to and from Florida are packed with cars, trailers, and RVs. License plates are usually displaying a state or a certain country to the north of the US. Coming and going, the migration of the snowbirds is tremendous.

Our favorite spot is Key Largo, mainly because we've established a lot of friendships with other snowbirds and, not insignificant to us, our grandkids are just north of there. Once you are established with a condo owner and keep renewing your stay each year, you don't want to lose your place. If you don't or can't renew and you want to return, it is difficult to find rental places that are not already booked.

I ran across an article that may come in handy in a couple of years when we take our world cruise and lose our condo place when we don't renew that year. Some of the paces they mention (Underrated Places to Visit in Florida) sound intriguing and may be an alternative if we can't return to Key Largo.

There are a few places in the panhandle area like South Walton and Amelia Island which may be a little chilly in the winter months. Of course there still won't be snow.

Manasota Key halfway between Fort Meyers and Sarasota looks intriguing. It is a bit off the coast but looks beautiful. It invites those who love to hunt for sea shells and apparently is a favorite sea turtle nesting spot. Population is only about 1200 and it is said to be low key and laid back. Maybe a little too much for a three month stay?

Dunedin on the Gulf Coast may be a good spot. It is about 30 minutes from Tampa/St Petersburg and has proximity to two offshore islands that look like they invite exploring.

I guess that the best of all worlds though would be to return from our World Cruise and know that the next winter our little condo would be available to us again. We'd miss all our friends and definitely our Pickleball group if we located somewhere else.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Books For The Road - Summer On Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

Sometimes you want a book that isn't heavy reading, especially when it's summertime. Debbie Macomber is one of my go-to authors when I need something lighter. Summer On Blossom Street was a great read. There are several characters' stories in the novel but the central point for them is in a knitting class that the main character, Lydia, owner of the yarn shop in town, organizes for those who want to quit something.

All the other characters, including one male, join the class for different reasons. Their stories unfold and intertwine in and out of the class. Several of the characters are involved with foster care and adoption, two topics near and dear to me.

It's a good read for the airplane which is where I read it on two different flights to get to our destination. And even though it is the sixth book in a series, you would have no problem picking up the story. As a matter of fact, I think I might go back and read the others in the series now. Hooked? Yup.

Friday, July 19, 2019

To The Moon And Back

This week there has been a lot of remembering back to the first moon landing. I grew up in the generation that watched the first American, Alan Shepard, fly into space. We held our breath wondering if he would burn up on re-entry. John Glenn orbited the earth and again we held our breath as he re-entered and was brought aboard the destroyer that lifted the capsule out of the water.

Gus Grissom lost his capsule when the hatch prematurely blew open upon his splashdown. The capsule sank but Grissom was picked up from a life raft to the relief to all who were watching the television live reports. (Grissom would later die in a flash fire that claimed three of the Apollo astronauts.) That was all part of the Mercury program. Then came Gemini.

Gemini was the program that prepared NASA and the astronauts for the next program, Apollo, that would lead to the first moon landing. The moon landing took place less than a year after we were married. We had graduated from Ohio State University and moved to Laurel, MD, where we lived in a two bedroom apartment on the first floor of a three story building. Above us was a couple with whom we became good friends.

I don't recall watching the take off of the Apollo mission but I do remember making an evening of watching the landing. We joined our friends in their apartment (they had a youngster to put to bed early). We enjoyed snacks and watched as the moment neared that Neil Armstrong would make that fateful first step onto the moon's surface.

We had already watched the capsule landing and cheered as the legs found solid ground. No one knew for sure if it would land on solid ground or sink into moon dust. As the hatch on the capsule opened and the cameras attached to someplace below the hatch began to broadcast, we sat on the edge of our seats and watched in awe as a foot appeared and then legs as Armstrong made his way down the ladder.

He paused and then with a small jump, landed onto the surface of the moon. It was one of the most amazing things we'd ever seen. Thank goodness the technology was there for us to be able to share in that great moment. It is one moment in history that will forever remain with me. And, no, I never once believed that it was all faked.

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.

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