#67 Embrace Change – go with the flow

•October 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Also: Epic Adventure – Part 3 I suppose

When I worked on contract with the Alberta Medical Association, I had a colleague who had a sticky note on her desk. It said

Slow Down
Think Big
Be Present
Let Go

Years later when I tried to recreate the note, I missed the be present part, but added “Embrace Change.” That isn’t my strong suit. Not by a long shot. But we were embarking on a new adventure in Victoria, and it seemed like a good time to focus on going with the flow. I’ve been trying, and I recognize that for me, that may well be the key to a happier life. Embrace change. Go with the flow. And in the immortal words (that’s right, I said it) of Taylor Swift, Shake It Off.

We had been in Victoria for a little over a year when Matthew told me he had applied for a job in Thailand. WHAT? I said? Where? WHERE?

Thai Map Koh Lanta

We are HERE

The next several months were, uh, challenging. We discussed. We argued. I cried. We dreamed, we said a lot of “why not?” and explored that question pretty fully. I cried. some more Finally, we decided, and are taking a huge leap of faith. Embracing change full on, with open arms and a big kiss right on the lips, and with one leg wrapped around it. The kind of embracing change that is sometimes awkward in public.

“Are you excited?” Yes.
“Isn’t it scary?” Of course it is. We’re moving halfway around the world.
“Do you have a place to live?” No. We’ll work it out.
“When are you coming back?” We don’t know when, or even if.

You know how sometimes you’re conversing, and you tell someone a truth that they either don’t understand or are not prepared for, so instead of delving they skip over? And the conversation continues with an “oh” or a “really!” and then moves on in a different direction? We’ve had a lot of that: where parting with friends includes “Have a nice trip; see you when you get back!” It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around. Embrace it.

We spent weeks arranging to leave. Had a garage sale (wow), sold tons of stuff on Used Victoria, and to our awesome neighbour. The sorting and purging was hard – at first. So many things I have, and when I examine WHY I have them, the answer is “because you’ve always had them.” What a wonderful exercise in lowering one’s defences. Yes, I’ve always had them, and that’s okay… but do I need this thing right now? It fit into my past (like a hand in a glove), but does it fit into my future? I had a moment (to use the correct term: a meltdown) where I sobbed “I’m afraid that if I get rid of all of my stuff, I will cease to exist!” As you might imagine, as  soon as I said it out loud, the idea lost its power. My “stuff” holds memories… but those memories also live in my family, in my friends, in me. And so I got rid of the stuff. And as I did so, I felt more and more liberated. Like as I was Embracing Change, change was also welcoming me, embracing me, enveloping me in a warm hug that said “you will be okay” and “you can go anywhere.”

So I’m going to Thailand.

First stop, Hhot pot hong kongong Kong. First opportunity to embrace change, in the form of a new culture, a new food. Our plan when we arrived to HK (around 5:30 p.m.) was to stay up long enough to have some dinner and a glass of wine, and then get a good sleep, hoping to get started on resolving the jet lag that comes with moving 14 hours into the future. We settled into our hotel, then headed out to
a local Hot Pot restaurant. Hot Pot is kind of cool – you sit at a round table with a fire in the middle of it, and on that fire there is a bowl, sometimes split into two sides. And in that bowl is soup; on one side (in our case) spicy Szechuan, and on the other side a less spicy chicken based soup. Then you order various meats and veggies. These come raw and you dump them into the soup, take them out when they are cooked to your taste. Voila. Yummy.

We ordered the “Combo A.”

It came with live shrimp.

We looked at the shrimp. Scratched our heads a bit, then – when in Rome – plopped them into the hot pot, cooked them, ate them. Another step forward, embracing change.

So now we’re in Thailand.

(if you want to read about the Thailand adventures, you can do that here.) 

Viewpoint Restaurant, Koh Lanta Thailand

view from Viewpoint Restaurant, Koh Lanta, Thailand

#43 continued – #EpicAdventure: Parte dos

•April 10, 2014 • 1 Comment

This post, like this one recounting the drive from Canada to Mexico, will have the recent day at the top. This means that you’ll want to start at the bottom and read up, if you want a chronological account. Except for Day 1 and 2; they’re in the proper order, as they were written and posted at the same time. Confused yet? Not to worry, it will all make sense once you get the hang of it.

Odd sign for the door of the grocery store? Not everywhere it's not.

Odd sign for the door of the grocery store? Not everywhere it’s not.

———–

Day 10 (Moses Lake, WA to Victoria, BC): Finally. The last day. It was dreary in Washington, but our spirits were high as we got on the road early to hit the border! It’s always kind of stressful, the waiting to get there. This time when we arrived to the Canadian border crossing, the #MomentOfTheDay was when the officer asked us “What is the value of the goods you have with you that you did not take down to Mexico?” and we said “not sure.” He countered with “Okay. Hypothetically, if I had a gun to your head and asked you for a number, how much?” Then he chuckled and added “keeping in mind that I do have a gun here on my hip.” Haha. In Canada though that’s actually funny, not the uncomfortable, make-believe funny that it is when the guy in Mexico does it. He asked about our scotch collection (which we brought home) and then waved us on. Smooooth sailing. We then headed to the ferry where there was about a 40 minute wait until the next one. A relaxing ferry ride, a cup of coffee, and before we knew it we were safe and sound in our rented condo in Victoria.

#scottthecat

#ScottTheCat is now a lap cat

This is what Day 10 looked like:

moses lake washington to victoria bc

Day 10

 

Day 9 (Sheridan, WY to Moses Lake, WA): pretty spectacularly uneventful day. A lot of driving. A really lot. No stops, just Montana (Billings, Bozeman, Butte), Idaho and into Washington. We wanted to get past Spokane, but soon discovered that after Spokane, there’s a whole lot of nothing. There is a town called Ritzville (not ritzy at all) and one called George, Washington which I suppose is kind of clever. But that’s about it. We settled on Moses Lake as a stopping point, as it would give us a short day to get home. Nice hotel (another Best Western) with a good dinner and a Washington pinot noir.

welcome to montana

Welcome to Montana

montana

the only sunny part of the day – big sky country

welcome to idaho

Welcome to Idaho!

welcome to washington

Welcome to Washington!

This is what Day 9 looked like:

Sheridan WY to Moses Lake WA

Day 9

 

Day 8 (Colby, KS to Sheridan, WY): Today is another day of new states for me. We headed north out of Colby, and soon were out of Kansas. Kansas not only has a town where you can see Dorothy’s house, it is also the home of the world’s largest hand dug well, and the world’s largest prairie dog. We left all that behind, and headed to Nebraska.

Nebraska

Nebraska.

It’s a lot like Kansas. We passed Lake Swanson, where we saw a huge flock of American White Pelicans – beautiful birds, and apparently among the largest in North America. We passed a huge, stinky feedlot, and miles and miles and miles of more farmland. As in Kansas, there is a lot of center-pivot irrigation, which I’ve seen before but not in such vastness. Lots and lots of cattle; this is clearly Angus country. I only saw one lonely herd of Herefords the entire day. We headed west then north where we went through a brief hilly spot, then more ranch country.

kari at mount rushmore

me at Mount Rushmore!

South Dakota started much like Nebraska had ended: cattle and rolling pasture. Before too long we entered the Black Hills National Forest and then our first destination: Mount Rushmore. Four faces, carved right into the side of a big rocky hill; pretty cool! We also discovered that Thomas Jefferson, in addition to his work on ted Declaration of Independence, is credited with authoring the first ice cream recipe. So we had some. The fellow strongly suggested we have the Thomas Jefferson… Matthew said “Can you really taste the Jefferson?” “Yes sir, you can.” “What does it taste like?” “It tastes like Freedom, sir” “What does freedom taste like?” “Well sir, it tastes like vanilla.” #MomentOfTheDay Turns out he was right, the ice cream was awesome, and Scott liked a taste also.

Thomas Jefferson's ice cream

ice cream!

From there we drove through Deadwood, just in case Kevin Costner was there and wanted to say hello. he was not, so we didn’t stop. It’s a quaint little town, capitalizing on its position in history quite well. If you’re a fan of either the TV show or cowboy movies, it would be worth a drive through.
From there we headed into Wyoming, where we stopped very briefly to see Devils Tower, which you may remember from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I don’t; I saw that movie when I was 11, with my gramma. Might be time to give it another look!

Devils Tower, Wyoming

me and Matthew at Devils Tower, Wyoming

Here’s what Day 8 looked like:

Day 8

Day 8

 

Day 7 (Granbury, TX to Colby, KS): Today was a day to put on some miles and see some states I’ve never visited before. A short drive north to get us out of Texas (thanks, Texas – you were good to us!) and then we were on our way to Oklahoma City. Two things I know about this place: when I was a kid it was the home of the National Finals Rodeo (which I watched every year) and it’s the only “insert state name here City” in the US that is actually the capital of its state. As we were driving through I also learned that Moore, OK (a suburb of Oklahoma City) is the home of Toby Keith, which stirred up a lot of memories about the “old Toby” whom I once met backstage at a show – before I married the musician (I have always been good at meeting the band), and the “now Toby” who regales us with such tunes as Red Solo Cup. Sigh. Oklahoma has more cattle and horses than we saw in Texas, a casino every few miles, and some beautiful pink flowering bushes (maybe Jacaranda?). Other than that, a lot of road, and countryside much like most roads in Alberta or Saskatchewan.

windmills in kansas

Kansas windmills

Kansas next; we headed north to Wichita (home of the Mid-Continental Airport) and then west to Dodge City. I mean, it’s right there. Kansas is cold, and there is still snow on the ground here. Our flip flops are no longer suitable. It’s also windy here, and there are fields and fields and fields. Corn, it looks like, and grain probably. Small towns, hay bales in the fields, and lots of cattle. As Matthew noted, it turns out Dodge City, Kansas is as disappointing as Winslow, Arizona. From there we headed north again, then west again, past a huge field of windmills. and are ending our night in Colby, Kansas.

Brief scare on this day, when I thought #ScottTheCat had expired. She was facedown in her carrier, and when I poked her and pulled on her ear, she just flopped limply. I thought she was dead. Turns out she is just a very sound sleeper. #MomentOfTheDay.

#ScottTheCat - she is just sleeping, not expired

#ScottTheCat – she is just sleeping, not expired

This is what Day 7 looked like:

Day 7

Day 7

Day 6 (Harlingen, TX to Granbury, TX): It was a relief to finally have a day with a destination, but no pressure. We got up at a leisurely hour, had lots of coffee, poked around on the computer for a while, and left Harlingen a little after 10 a.m. It was great to sleep in. We were headed generally north through Texas; home of the longhorn cattle, blue bonnet flowers, pick up trucks (complete with mulleted drivers), and gun shops. Yee haw pew pew!! This part of Texas, a little more toward the center of the state, was a lot less barren than the route we took heading down. On that first trip, we had entered the state much farther to the west, and drove much of the way along the US/Mexico border next to the Rio Grande. Barren bare land there, lots of scrub brush and miles and miles with no other traffic. This drive was much more scenic; we passed countless ranches and small highway towns, and a couple of roadkill armadillos.

Our route today took us through San Antonio, Austin and north through a town called Hico. Hico is the home of “Brushy Bill” Roberts: a guy who says he was Billy the Kid. Seems he had a compelling enough story that historians do not all agree on the validity of his claim; that is, he really might be. I love these little tidbits!

dried up lake in granbury, texas

Lake Granbury

Our destination this day was Granbury, Texas, just southwest of Fort Worth. My aunt and uncle live there, next to what used to be a nice lake (at the moment, it’s dry due to several years of drought, and a water supply that is owned by a corporate entity that sells the area water). Aside from some family time, our reason for heading here was for the missing drivers license. We were very fortunate that the boyfriend of a friend of our friends Joey and Maria was leaving Mexico the day after we discovered it missing, and heading to Dallas. Talk about relying on the kindness of strangers! Peter arrived in Dallas on Wednesday license in hand, and my aunt Leslee went to meet him at his office to pick it up. When we arrived at their house, it was safe and sound in an envelope taped to the wall by the front door where we couldn’t miss it. Yay!

Mike's smoker

Mike’s smoker

Mike had spent the previous day smoking a brisket in his awesome barbeque, and we enjoyed a homemade feast (#MomentOfTheDay) of said brisket, some spicy sausages, potato salad (mmmmm), cucumber salad, beans and crispy pickles. For some reason the pickles in Mexico are soft. These were not. Some wine, a nice visit and another really good sleep were part of the Granbury package.

This is what Day 6 looked like:

Day 6

Day 6

Day 5 (Tuxpan to Harlingen, TX): Wowza. My rear end is so flat after today. I trust none of you will mention that – “hey, what’s with your flat butt?” because at this point, that would be mean. Today was a driving day. Driving, driving, driving, and I have to say I WAS AWESOME. No crying, no whining, just driving. We were on the road at 6:20 a.m., but started with a wrong turn (damned GPS!) and lost 35 minutes right at the start. When we did get on the right road, it was the crappiest piece of road ever – and I was seriously wondering “Is this going to be it? Will it be like this the entire way?”

Happily, the road improved after a while, and we were on our way, headed toward Tampico. A slight miscalculation on the map had us on the road through town, rather than around it, and sure enough, as we exited one road onto another, we were waved in by a state policeman. After explaining to the first guy in Spanish that “Nuestra placas estan detras de la camioneta, no en frente”, we successfully convinced his partner that we didn’t understand Spanish enough that he finally gave up on asking for his bribe. It’s disheartening, the constant threat of “shakedown.” If you want to give me a ticket, give me a ticket. I have no problem with that. But explaining to me that I’m going to have to wait right here until Monday when I can pay it, or just give you cash on the side of the highway, sucks. Also, no Mexican traffic fine ever has been $100 USD. AND no one ever gets a traffic ticket. If the young man on the motorcycle didn’t receive a ticket for crashing into the side of my truck, why on earth would I believe I am going to get one for entering this roadway without stopping? The best part about this incident is that even though I was driving, and had committed the imaginary infraction, the cop went around to Matthew’s window to talk to him. This “hombre a hombre” culture is maddening sometimes! (not this time)

Sure enough, just down the road, there’s another. We interpreted his waving as “keep on going” and didn’t stop. (That’s very difficult for a Canadian!) The #MomentOfTheDay came as he was blowing his whistle, and it just kept getting quieter and quieter as we drove off. Of course we spent a few minutes watching in the mirrors to see if he was going to follow us, but as expected, he had abandoned our fleeing vehicle in favour of a better chance at his mordita.

Several more hours, a couple of stops for gas, sandwiches, and general leg stretching, and we are at the border crossing. The highway was much, much improved over our drive down here in 2011. We hit one long patch of construction, but overall, not a terrible driving experience at all. I was glad to not have any residual driving stress after the accident – you just have to get back on the horse. And driving for 12 hours on this day is what my team needed from me, and if that’s what my team needs, I’m going to do my best to give it!

Leaving Mexico was anticlimactic from an immigration perspective. I had been lead to believe I needed a permiso (the letter allowing me to leave and then return legally), and also that there would be an issue with the truck, as the TIP (temporary importation permit) had expired. Not so, at Matamoros. There is no INM stop at all – there IS an office, but by the time you see it, you’re committed to the line to cross the bridge to the US side. So, while I did make two trips to Cancun to apply for then pick up the permiso, it sits, unused and now useless as it has no exit stamp, in my wallet. And the truck left Mexico unseen by the authorities, so no issues with the TIP. At the US border, predictably they wanted to look in the back of the truck; so we opened it, and two officers stood peering in, not touching anything, and in the end decided that we were not the droids they’re looking for. Closed it up, untouched. We did have to pay some tax on a box of scotch, small price to pay.

This day ends with us in another Best Western, this time in Harlingen, TX. I’ve never been so happy to see Texas! Some dinner, some wine, and a nice sleep await. There are no photos as I was driving all freaking day, but here’s #ScottTheCat:

Scott the Cat in Texas

Fast asleep after a hard day on the road.

 

This is what Day 5 looked like:

Day 5

Day 5

 

Day 4 (Veracruz to Tuxpan): Not sure what the day would bring, we had hunkered down in a nice hotel for a good sleep at the very least. We awoke just before 11 a.m. with The Fellow making his promised call to advise us of the status of the truck. He asked us to come to the HDI office at 1 p.m., to wait. So we got up, had a brief wander around the town square, a bite of breakfast, and went to wait.

veracruz mexico

el centro in Veracruz, Mexico

Not sure we could have hoped for anything better. They were just finishing up as we arrived. Then they asked for 30 more to wash the truck. Right around 3 p.m., we were on our way. We headed north, not sure of our destination…

These are our people at HDI Seguros. They did everything they could to help us, and in the end, we leave with nothing but positive memories of what could have been a freaking disaster.

Luciano (the adjustor), Mirella, Juventino (The Fellow) - our HDI lifesavers

Luciano (the adjustor), Mirella, Juventino (The Fellow) – our HDI lifesavers

Turns out it was an uneventful (THANKFULLY) day. Driving, driving and more driving, and we ended up in Tuxpan, Veracruz about 30 minutes before nightfall. I’d never heard of this place, but wow. Nice spot! A touristy section along a lovely river, complete with a Best Western Hotel. Say what you will, but this chain does a decent hotel in whatever location, and Tuxpan was no exception. A nice recommendation from the desk person, and we found ourselves at Mar y Tierra restaurant, with some ribs, filet and wine on the way. Ah… zzzzzz

Tuxpan

Tuxpan

This is what Day 4 looked like:

Day 4

Day 4

—————

Day 3 (Jose Cardel to Veracruz): Little physical progress made today, in fact a bit of a backtrack. We started our morning heading to the scene of the accident, as that’s where we were to meet the young man, his uncle and their friend, and we’d then go to the repair shop with them. We did all that, and met the body man. Body man? We only wanted the fuel pump repaired. We’d been clear about that, as we just wanted to get functional and get out. Turns out they were no help. Disappointed but not surprised (and honestly, not that disappointed), we got a cup of coffee, some internet access and called the insurance company back. HDI Seguros. If you need insurance in Mexico, I’d give them my bucks again. They gave us the name of their repair place in Veracruz and off we went. Arrived to the biggest, cleanest shop I have ever been in. Uniformed mechanics who look like they know what they’re doing. A few minutes after we arrived, the truck was taken in, looked at, verified that yes we have a fuel pump problem, and told they’re going to replace it. A bit of cyphering later and we figure out that the pump is inside the fuel tank (who DOES that?). Well, we had filled up late yesterday, so they needed to drain all the gas. Due to I don’t know what, maybe the kink in the tubo that took literally all day. Mid-afternoon, one of the HDI employees took Matthew for a drive so he could get us some food. Yay food. We missed dinner last night, so we were on fumes ourselves after having eaten nothing yesterday except for a tiny ham and cheese road sandwich.

 

the cleanest garage in mexico

HDI auto shop

We spent the entire afternoon sitting in this office, with Scott quietly in her carrier. She’s a trooper today! And she peed, twice, inside her litter box. Also yay. We did internet, wrote this post, tried to be patient. I had many moments where I was just overwhelmed with gratitude that yesterday turned out the way it did, instead of with a dead motorcyclist next to my truck. Regardless of who’s at fault, that would never, ever leave a person. Also can’t shake the idea that if he had struck the door instead of the box, things would have been different for me, too. Slow down, people.

Anyway, back to today. Around 6 they came to tell us they were having a problem draining the last bit of gas… but a short time later, voila. The part is out! Another yay! And finally, a point for the Atkinses. The same fellow who had driven Matthew for lunch drove him all over Veracruz looking for the part. They returned around 8:30, moderately successful. It’s not the exact part, but they think it’s close enough, and will install and test it in the morning. And when they returned, that same fellow asked us if we could wait a few minutes while he finished his work, so that he could drive us to our hotel. HE is the #MomentOfTheDay – three times. As one of my friends remarked on facebook, “It always amazes me how the kindness of someone can make a very hellish day turn into one you will remember with fondness, (after it’s over of course).”

We’re now in Hotel Veracruz, which is a very nice looking, modern hotel in the historic centre of town. Some food, some wine, and a good sleep await. At 11 a.m., The Fellow is going to call and let us know the progress, so for now, zzzzzzzzzz.

#ScottTheCat had a good day, sleeping quietly for the most part in her carrier on the floor in the office. Everyone loved her, and greeted her by name, scratched her, and commented on how much she slept.

Scott the cat at HDI insurance

Scott at HDI

This is what Day 3 looked like:

Day 3

Day 3

—————

Well. I can’t believe I have not posted since the epic adventure. Just living the dream, I suppose.

It’s time to return to Canuckistan for a while, and so we are embarking on Epic Adventure: Parte dos. A journey I’ll title “Two people, one cat, sixty-six hundred kilometers, and one driver’s license.”

Heading off to Canada

Day 1 (Cozumel to Escárcega): Began with a very early wake up call: 4:20 a.m. so that we could be on the ferry off of Cozumel bright and early at 6. We arrived, thermos of coffee in hand, at the ferry departure at 5:02 only to be told that the ferry had departed. Hmmm… Viva Mexico! Next departure 9 a.m. So we waited. At about 8:10, they came to tell us (and the other suckers waiting in line) that the ferry would actually depart at 11 a.m. Mexico 1: Atkinses 0.

ScottTheCat on the ferry

#ScottTheCat enjoying her ferry ride

We thought it would be a good idea to give #ScottTheCat a chance to pee, as she’d been penned up for three hours at this point, and let’s face it: she’s 19, and her bladder isn’t what it used to be. Matthew emptied the litter into the box we had brought, and YAY! At the sight of the litter she peed immediately. If only she had actually been IN the box. (This is the #MomentOfTheDay). Nicely done, Scott. We cleaned up, and with another two hours to wait before anything happened, we embraced Mexico and ordered breakfast from Rock ‘n’ Java, to be delivered to our line. Finally: a point for the Atkinses.

An uneventful ferry ride and 548 kilometres later (approx 7 hour drive) found us safe and sound in Escárcega, Campeche. And almost unscathed. At a routine stop by the police just outside of town, Matthew discovered he didn’t have his drivers license. And that comes with a fine, señor, 600 pesos. And you can pay it at la oficina, but that is muy lejos. An hour away. Or you can just pay it here at the side of the road. Chinga! We’ll need to revise the plan for tomorrow. So this night was spent about 3 hours short of our original destination, in a tiny hotel room with a bottle of wine and a pizza with a cardboard crust. “It’s good to be somewhere. We’re somewhere, safe and sound after our first day of travels. And what a first day. Good thing I’m so “roll with the punches” and “go with the flow” and all about being happy with change.”

This is what the Day 1 travels looked like:

Playa del Carmen to Escarcega

Day 1: Playa del Carmen to Escárcega

 

Day 2 (Escárcega to Cardel): This day began well. We were on the road before 7 with our thermos of coffee and #ScottTheCat resting comfortably on Matthew’s lap. She’s never been a lap cat, but after a box in the back fell on her twice, she decided that was her best option. We drove and drove and drove, stopping for coffee and gas, and eventually finding ourselves in Cardel, just past Veracruz (just over 800 km from today’s starting point). A quick stop at Chedraui for some sandwich making supplies and some wine, and we headed toward the beach to find a hotel. No luck there, so we headed back into town as we had seen a couple of auto hotels that would work if the beach was not to be… and that’s where the adventure turned Seriously Epic. (note, next time I’m going to call this “Most Boring Trip Ever” and see how that turns out.)

As I was turning left into the hotel drive, I was hit from behind by a motorcycle. I’m going to leave out the gory details, other than to say everyone is okay (thankfully). Jose Manuel is one lucky guy to have walked away from this unscathed. When the signs all say “NO REBASE CON RAYA CONTINUA” please listen to them. And don’t be in such a hurry. As the other signs say, “MANEJAR CON CUIDADO. TU FAMILIA TE ESPERA.” And maybe I mentioned this already, but slow the fuck down.

We were encouraged (by the young man on the bike) to leave the scene, as we surely would be blamed for the entire thing, and would be terribly inconvenienced. We declined. The police came, and after a load of photo taking and conflicting stories, we all headed to the police station. Luciano from HDI (our insurer) met us there and then began the wrangling. He said, she said. Keys taken, medical exam (where it was noted my blood pressure was a bit high – no kidding!) and various stories told, all in Spanish. Finally, after much looking in his “book of laws” the policeman called us all into an office and drew a map of the scene. He asked me to tell him what happened, and I did. He then asked the young man to tell his account, and he did. And of course, they were not exactly the same, but my whole body heaved a serious sigh of relief as the policeman explained that despite all he had said, the young man was in the wrong, and was fully responsible for the accident. As I had been having visions of living out my days in a Mexican prison, this was welcome news.

Too bad it doesn’t end there. In Mexico, there is this strange rule where when there’s an accident, and one party is at fault, both vehicles are confiscated and kept until the responsible party has fully paid for the repairs. Or, you can sign a piece of paper that is basically an agreement that you’ll part ways, each responsible for the damage to your own vehicle. Nice choices, hey? Drive away, pay for our own truck, or hand over the truck RIGHT NOW to the Mexican police and have them keep it for the foreseeable future. We’d wait for 72 hours for the case to go before a judge, and then wait more time for his decision, and then assuming the judge decided the same way the policeman did, wait for the young man to come up with the money to pay for the repairs.

While we were sorting through the options, I went to use the bathroom. When I returned to the truck, I stood talking to some people for a few minutes until a woman came over and let me know “su falda es en su ropa interior.” My skirt was tucked into the back of my underpants. Nice. After having walked out of the bathroom, across the street, past police, the insurance guys, the young man and his hoard of friends. #MomentOfTheDay, right there.

In the end, we chose to walk away. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to hand our truck over with all our stuff in it, for who knows how long, who knows where. The young man accepted responsibility for the accident, but we signed the report that says we’re each responsible for our own repairs. His uncle has a mechanic shop, and we’re to meet him there tomorrow morning, where he’s agreed to replace the fuel pump and get us on our way. Dent be damned. We can have that fixed when we get home.

It’s terribly unsatisfying. But as the old song says “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

This is what the Day 2 travels looked like:

driving through mexico

Day 2

#EpicAdventure addendum – Hurricane Rina

•October 26, 2011 • 3 Comments

Well. As if the adventure wasn’t epic enough, now there’s a hurricane upon us. We arrived in Cozumel late on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 19. One of our friends mentioned that day that he felt the likelihood of a hurricane this season was tiny, based on the storms and amount of rain the island had received…

We began preparations to receive Hurricane Rina on Monday, October 24. That day was basic prep; Matthew had planned to fly to Toronto for some gigs, leaving Thursday, Oct 27th. Due to the 5-day forecast for the storm, we felt it would be best for him to get off the island on Tuesday. So flights were changed, airport hotel booked (when one flies out of the Cancun airport, what is known as “the bag drag” is necessary – a ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, followed by a taxi (expensive) or a bus (cheap) to the Cancun Airport).

Tuesday, October 25 we made sure we had lots of drinking water, filled the truck with gas and got some groceries. Non-perishable food items. It’s nice that here, milk and juice are “non-perishable.” Matthew left for the mainland, and I eventually went for a walk around the neighbourhood.

lots of people pulling their boats into shelter

the local bbq place... buena suerte, billy's!

here we go!

Right now it’s Wednesday at about 1:30 p.m. Sunny and hot at the moment. Hopefully, this remains a boring day.

——————–

Wednesday, October 26 – turns out this day has been remarkably uneventful. Thankfully.

The overnight was a bit rainy, but as morning came on the skies cleared up. Humid day, hot, mostly sunny. Very little wind, a sprinkle of rain from time to time but nothing to speak of. The NOAA and various other weather forecasting agencies continued to downgrade the storm as the day went on; what began as a Category 3 hurricane, projected to hit the island as that on Thursday has become a Category 1, projected to make landfall as that or a Tropical Storm. Quite a difference. My family at home are quite relieved; it’s windier today in Wembley, Alberta than it is here, waiting for Hurricane Rina.

hummingbird

Cozumel Emerald Hummingbird, endemic to the island, nesting outside my kitchen window

awesome sky, on the eve of Hurricane Rina

It’s 10:37 p.m. on Wednesday. Here’s hoping tomorrow is as dull as today!

————————

It’s now 10:25 a.m. on Friday, October 28. Thursday was Rina’s day. And what a day it was… the “old timers” on the island who had been here through Wilma were unconcerned. When we woke up on Thursday Rina had been further downgraded to Tropical Storm, and was projected to remain that way and perhaps dump some rain on the island in the late afternoon/evening, and maybe cause it to be a bit windy. The day remained uneventful, humid, cloudy… around 4 or so, it started to sprinkle.

left off my front roof, around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday

left off my front roof, around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday

it just keeps raining...

...and raining.

it was pitch black and pouring rain...

...and then the lightning would flash. Wow.

casualty in the neighbours' yard

Today, we are returning to normal. My friends at KG Country called this morning, and we had a little chat to discuss the event, which you can listen to here. You can also follow them on twitter. They’re award-winning. They’re awesome. @TeraLee_ and @TheGregShannon.Yes, it is true; #ScottTheCat slept through the whole thing.

——————-

 

 

#43 Drive Around North America #EpicAdventure

•October 6, 2011 • 16 Comments

Day 14:

The last day. This will be a short post, as this, finally, thankfully, was a short day. It looked like this on the map:

#EpicAdventure - Day 14

The cat – finally – pooped in the litterbox before we left, and slept the entire way. It’s as though on the final day of the journey she figured everything out.

We headed out of our fancy Porn Hotel first thing in the morning; the bad news was no coffee… imagine our excitement when we came across the Italian Coffee Company in the middle of the highway, partway between Merida and Cancun!  A couple of cappuccinos and Americanos later, and we were on our way. Then a quick bypass of Cancun, a quick trip through Playa del Carmen, and into the line for the ferry to Cozumel. Woot! Scott has turned into quite the traveller, and even seemed to enjoy the ferry ride as well as could be expected.

#ScottTheCat taking her first ferry ride!

We’re home, and I couldn’t be happier about that!

home sweet home...

This journey was indeed epic. Over, and also out.

#EpicAdventure

scott is a mexican now

 

Day 13:

Cosamaloapan, Veracruz to Merida, Yucatan. Took a while; looked like this:

#EpicAdventure - Day 13

The countryside was quite pretty, a lot of it underwater or close to it on this isthmus that connects most of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula.

lowlands

Most of the roads were better this day, but the drivers. Jeepers creepers! There’s this system where the center line is dotted (presumably indicating that one can pass) and the shoulder line is dotted. If someone is trying to overtake you, you pull onto the shoulder on the right, and the passer goes by, partially in the oncoming lane. Works great I guess, as long as someone isn’t doing the same thing in the other direction.

scenes like this were not uncommon

As we crossed over this bridge heading to Ciudad del Carmen, the Gulf of Mexico is on the left, and the Laguna de Terminos is on the right.

heading to Ciudad del Carmen

We have been in this truck for a long time now. Getting a little punchy.

Finally, we enter the state of Yucatan, as darkness approaches.

We end up in another “auto hotel,” this one much nicer than the one last night. In this one, you speak to the reception desk on an intercom, they direct you to a room, you drive your vehicle into the garage and enter the room. Shortly thereafter, the receptionist shows up, rings the bell, and speaks to you through a small window – you never see them.  Completely anonymous. Money, instructions, even food and liquor pass through this window. We called it the “Porn Hotel.” Once more, we slept in our clothes.

Scott, fascinated with her image in the mirror on the ceiling in "The Porn Hotel"

Day 12:

Well, this was a long day; about 11 hours in the car, some of it on some very sketchy roads. Here is today’s route:

#EpicAdventure - Day 12

Our 616 km journey took us through the Mexican state of Veracruz, which was quite beautiful. There was a lot of farmland, most of which was growing stuff unknown to us. There were loads of orange groves, oodles of bananas and miles and miles of corn. There were many stands selling the wares from the fields, in addition to guys standing by the side of the road selling bags of oranges. It was a Mexico hybrid; made me feel warm and fuzzy as it reminded me of the Mexico I’ve come to know and love (unlike Reynosa!), and the farming made me feel like home.

the fields...

...the fruits of their labours...

There are several things here that catch my eye. The roadside grass cutting is done by an industrious crew of machete-wielding men, and at the beginning and end of the day you see them walking along the roadside with their food sack, a jug of something to drink, and their machete. Following them is a crew of guys where one has a pitchfork and one or two are stacking, and they collect all the clippings and pile them on the side of the road, presumably for pickup later.

Then there is the constant military presence. These guys look bad-ass; I won’t be messing with them anytime soon. When they stopped us today, the fellows at the roadside were enthralled with the cat (they asked us to get out of the truck, and when we did, there was a chorus of “Look! It’s a cat!” like they’d never seen one before.) This is what they look like most of the time: rolling down the highway in a caravan, with several Humvees with guys with machine guns standing at the top.

bad ass!

As we headed south around the Gulf of Mexico, this was our first view:

gulf of mexico

Great to be seeing some progress!

We stopped for the night in Cosamaloapan, Veracruz, at what is referred to as an “auto hotel.” These places are all over Mexico it seems. They’re popular spots to rent a room for an hour or two; the girl seemed surprised that we wanted the WHOLE night. It was dark and we didn’t want to drive any further, there was a restaurant, and a safe place to park the truck. The room was a bit of a dive; the cat chose to not sleep on the bed, but rather to sleep in her carrier on the floor (a first for her – after spending over 100 hours in that carrier, she gets out at most opportunities!). We drank some chianti, put on our long pants and shirts, and slept tentatively on top of the sheets.

This is why it’s Epic, I suppose.

not even the cat would sleep in this bed

Day 11:

#EpicAdventure - Day 11

Longest day so far, made so because it’s STRESSFUL crossing a border. I like Europe; it’s totally NOT stressful crossing borders there! So, the drive looked like this: about 675 kilometres from Zapata, Texas, USA to Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

We got a good early start and were enjoying Starbucks in McAllen, TX by 9: 30 a.m. Then we headed to the border, where we didn’t really know what to expect, what with visas, a cat, a truck, and of course, all of the stuff IN the truck. Turns out it was mostly a non-event, just a bunch of paperwork. Then came the “buying mexican insurance for the vehicle” part. Once we had the temporary importation permit, and we had visited immigration and customs, we had someone wake up the insurance agent… but his computer – sadly – did not wake up when he did. He spent the next fifteen minutes (and I’m not even kidding) madly sweeping his mouse about, clicking it, and pressing on the spacebar as fast as he could. 15 minutes. Finally someone called someone else, who banged on the monitor a few times. It woke up, we bought insurance and went on our merry way.

That was it; we were now in Mexico. No one asked to see the cat’s papers (there are several vet bills I’m not getting back), no one looked in the truck to speak of, no questions, no nothing. We got out of the immigration area and headed down the highway.

For about five minutes.

That’s when the police stopped us. Flashing lights. Foreign plate. Mexican policia. Sigh. Claimed we’d been speeding through a school zone (we weren’t) and told us we needed to go with him to the office to pay the ticket. $120. OR, we could pay it directly, on the spot for $60. I’m sure he thought that was quite a bargain! Matthew told the nice policeman (who had shaken both our hands when he stopped us) that he didn’t have $60. Well how about $40 then? No, I don’t have $40, I have $20. $30? No, I don’t have $30; I have $20. Turns out if that’s what you have in your pocket, that’s sufficient to pay the fine for speeding through a school zone. It’s a good thing that a friend of ours advised us years ago to always make sure you have a twenty in your pocket; no more, no less. More and they’ll take it; less and they just might haul you off to the hoosegow, but twenty ought to solve any problems with the policia.

As we were driving away from this debaucle, I asked “Did you get your driver’s license back?” Turns out no, it’s not in his wallet. OH MY GOODNESS. Visions of a fake passport having already been made and credit cards being printed flashed before our eyes. A quick U-turn on the highway took us back to the scene of the crime; seems the policia are doing a nice little business stopping foreign plates. First one we passed wasn’t our guy, but the second one was. Matthew asked him about the license, he said “I gave it back, no?” and it turns out it was in M’s pants pocket the whole time. Whew. Bullet dodged.

One more immigration/customs stop a few miles down the highway, and then a caravan of federales (or whatever – about eight trucks loaded with army looking guys with big machine guns, call them what you want) that we slipped into the middle of and just drove with them down the highway for a while. It felt partly creepy and partly warm and fuzzy in there.

About three hours into Mexico, we started to calm down – neither of us had eaten more than a Starbucks pastry, and it was a nerve-wracking day. We stopped for gas (half a tank, you know) and that was about it. We’re here in Tampico, in the Best Western with a locked yard to park in, had some dinner, now up for a good sleep and another day tomorrow. Not sure what the destination is; we’ll tentatively plan a few stopping spots so we can make sure we’re fed, watered, clean and safe by the time the sun sets.

nice view of sierra madre oriental mountain range

nice view of sierra madre oriental mountain range

Day 10:

Pecos, Texas to Zapata, Texas. About 750 kilometres, along this route:

#EpicAdventure - Day 10

What can I say about west Texas? It’s big. It’s big, and there’s nothing here. It gives Albuquerque to Roswell a run for its money in terms of barren. We did see several roadrunners (AWESOME) and an armadillo (road kill), both of which were on my “I hope we see…” list, so that was good. As always, I enjoyed watching the scenes change, and was again startled by how much the scenery can change in very little distance. Right around Del Rio, the barren, bushy emptiness was replaced by farmland, cattle and humans… then a few miles later, back to dead grass, brush, and pumpjacks.

driving through west Texas, take 1

take 2, this is near Langtry, where I hoped to see The River

take 3, somewhere south of Del Rio

take 4, somewhere else south of Del Rio

My uncle Mike is right; big, blue sky. The weather was beautiful, the drive was uneventful, we put some miles under our feet. We unwittingly killed a bird on the highway, but it was better than hitting the deer we encountered later, which was just standing there looking dumb. We watched a roadrunner try to commit suicide by running under the wheels of a truck, appearing to get hit, and then turning and running back into the ditch, no apparent harm done. Laredo took a bit longer than we had hoped, but we left with an oil change and a clean cat carrier. (Laredo is where we learned there’s no such thing as “just a little bit of poop” when it comes to #ScottTheCat.)

Tomorrow, a couple more hours until we arrive in McAllen, Texas, where we’ll check out the duty free store, the Starbucks, and then hit the border crossing into Mexico. I trust that the Rio Grande will be more spectacular here than it was in Albuquerque (where it was the Rio Meh) and all the spots we drove next to it.

Day 9:

In an effort to facilitate our preparation for the border crossing into Mexico in a few days, today we drove a bit farther than we have been; we made a little over 800 kilometres today. Here’s what Day 9 looked like:

#EpicAdventure - Day 9

Basically, the plan was to drive through New Mexico. I’d never been there before, so was looking forward to it. Well. It looked… barren. Desolate. Empty, bereft of wildlife, greenery, water, humans, farm animals, and traffic. We’d been watching and keeping track of license plates; somewhere between Albuquerque and Roswell, that game died a slow and very painful death. (To play the game, you need other cars.)

albuquerque to roswell, take 1

take 2...

take 3

We did see several deer.

Roswell, New Mexico is famous as the site of recovery of a crashed object, perhaps a UFO. Turns out the object – whether it was an alien craft, or, as the Air Force claims, a surveillance balloon – was actually recovered in Corona, NM. We didn’t care; I wanted to see an alien, so we stopped in Roswell and had some Starbucks. Here we are: Aliens!

roswell, new mexico

After Roswell, next stop TEXAS. The best part about this sign is that it is riddled with bullet holes.

YEE and also HAW!

Today, we tried something new and let #ScottTheCat out of her carrier; on her leash, of course, and never bothering the driver. She did very well, and seemed to enjoy – but not abuse – her new-found freedom.

#ScottTheCat

We ended our day in Pecos, Texas. Matthew asked “what is the dark beer on the menu?” and was told, “I’ll have to check.” Then, upon her return: “It’s the Sam Adams Newcastle.”

God Bless Texas.

Day 8:

After a fantastic evening in Vegas, we headed east. Here’s what Day 8 looked like:

#EpicAdventure - Day 8

getting our kicks

We are currently in Gallup, New Mexico, where I have the song Route 66 constantly running through my head. Although we did it backwards from the song, we went through Kingman, Flagstaff and don’t forget Winona. (Incidentally, #42 on the list is “get my kicks on Route 66” so wait for that trip as well!)

We also made a quick stop in Winslow, Arizona, to stand on the corner and see how that worked out… as it turns out, Winslow is a bit of a sleeper town, so not much happened. We did snap a couple of pictures; we’re just taking it easy. We estimate that this is where we cross the halfway point; not certain, as we (obviously) don’t have our final mileage yet, but for now, this is 1/2!

standing on a corner in winslow, arizona

Arizona: deserty, shrubby, sandy, red dirty. No life to speak of, other than in a few small towns. Few trees. A lot of same-same.

arizona mostly looked like this

and some of it looked like this; watch out for rattlesnakes!

Day 5:

Odd day today. I have a business meeting in Chicago the next couple of days, so here is where I parted ways with my husband and our cat. They dropped me off at the San Franciso airport and then headed east on their own. For my part, I discovered that there are several Ghirardelli stores in SFO so I of course now am loaded up with awesome chocolates.

Matthew and Scott did this:

#EpicAdventure - Day 5

They’ve ended up in Las Vegas, where they will spend a couple of days (hopefully shopping and relaxing, not gambling!) while I meet with my work colleagues; and we’ll all rest up. I think the cat will appreciate a couple of days NOT having to be in the truck; she’s doing great, sleeping most afternoons, but is having some meowing time in the mornings while she gets settled.

On Thursday morning, we’ll head east from Vegas, toward parts unknown. I’ll be curious how the countryside differs from what we’ve been seeing. The vast majority of the wildlife we’ve encountered in CA has been raccoons – dead; I’m hoping as we head through Arizona and New Mexico, I’ll see an armadillo – alive!

Here’s Scott taking a walk in the Redwood forest; notice her eyes. She is evil.

Scott in California

Day 4:

Today began in Eureka, CA, with at trip to Starbucks, then headed south down Highway 101.

#EpicAdventure - Day 4

Shortly after we began we had to stop and clean up after the cat, but hey. As I said earlier, that’s not unexpected. The first detour of our day was to the “alternate route” called the Avenue of the Giants. Wow. Those redwoods are something else! Huge, ancient trees, that smell like wilderness and are utterly amazing. We stopped in this 32 mile stretch of highway a couple of times, to clean up after the cat, to drive through a tree, and to check out an observation point. Northern CA was all about trees.

wow! you're tall, tree...

Matthew, the tree hugger

After trees, there was wine country. Vines and vines and vines, winery after winery. We somehow missed all the turns to the wine, so took a short detour to Sonoma to visit a tasting room; it seemed like the thing to do.

wine country

enjoying wine country

Then a short drive into San Francisco over the amazing Golden Gate Bridge, into a TRAFFIC-FILLED ZOO that is the city. Finally, a bottle of California Pinot Noir, some clam chowder, and a nice piece of steak at the Hungry Hunter, just around the corner from our hotel. Oh, and I don’t care what anyone says about La Quinta hotels anymore; this room rocks.

local wine, local beer, and CLAM CHOWDER

As an aside…

this is where GPS Daphne said "turn around"

Day 3:

Another great (read: uneventful) day started in Cannon Beach, Oregon with a walk on the beach to take a photo of Haystack Rock, and is ending in Eureka, California with a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir and some Tillamook cheddar.

#EpicAdventure - Day 3

The Oregon coast is a beautiful drive; the view is amazing and I loved the many quaint seaside towns, at least two of which that had a road named “Lois Lane.” I found myself wondering many times if there is scuba diving there – there must be! Lincoln City was nice enough to put on a kite fest for our visit, and Coos Bay had some sort of a zombie thing going on; there were painted up people wandering the streets all over. Oregon is my kind of place, for sure.

they don't just mean Portland!

Once we entered California, it was all redwoods. Our original plan (if you can call what we have “plans”) was to stay a bit farther north. Klamath, was what the map said. We went there, and it took about five minutes to decide that if ever there was a place where you could imagine becoming part of a high school horror film, it was this place. The guy racing up the winding road, in the dark, with no headlights, hanging out the window of his car was the icing on the cake; we decided to keep going.

After today, our mileage total is 2314 kilometres, which brings us over the 25% mark for the journey. If you’re following the cat saga, today was the day she finally used the litterbox when we took her out of the truck for some fresh air! Yay! In a perfect world, she’ll use the box every time we stop, and refrain from going in the truck! Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow we head to San Francisco, possibly via Napa for a late, wine-filled lunch!

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Day 2:

A good second day! Started with Starbucks, is ending with a glass of wine, with lots of uneventful driving in between. Downright repetitive from yesterday, which is just fine with me.

#EpicAdventure - Day 2

We started out in Merritt, British Columbia and on the drive to the border crossing we discovered that it’s been so long since either of us have driven the Coquihalla, the toll has been removed and we didn’t know it. Huh. That’s $10 bucks I’m going to spend on a nice Oregon Pinot Noir tonight. The border crossing was Completely Uneventful; it did not live up to my horror stories and wicked imagination at all. We stopped at the Canadian side to declare all the items we were “exporting” and then it took about five minutes to cross the U.S.A. side. A piece of cake, and thank goodness!

border crossing #1

Then the drive through Washington; lots and lots of traffic around Seattle and it took a while to get past there. If you’re keeping track of #ScottTheCat, she peed three times in the truck today, but did not poop. Not sure if that’s better or worse than yesterday. 728 kilometres today.

Later… We’ve just enjoyed some clam chow-dah in Cannon Beach, Oregon, along with a bottle of local Pinot Noir and a nice walk on the beach where my toes got wet with the Pacific Ocean and a nighttime viewing of Haystack Rock. I love the sound of the waves crashing – there’s something about that that makes me feel like I’m the only person on earth. Off to sleep soon; tomorrow is a “vacation day” where we’ll sleep late, get up and drive wherever the heck we feel like (as long as it’s south) and stop when the spirit moves us to do so.

As we headed into Oregon, we turned toward the coast immediately, trusting our GPS, whose name is Daphne. Daphne took us here:

how far do you trust YOUR GPS?

Day 1:

A good first day! Started with Starbucks, is ending with a glass of wine, with lots of uneventful driving in between. Okay, the cat pooped once in the car, but it probably wasn’t her fault. (Editor’s Note: I have long thought of this #EpicAdventure as the alternatively titled “8,500 kilometres + 1 cat = #WhatCouldGoWrong” and so a little poop on Day 1, if not expected was not completely UNexpected, if you know what I mean.)

We left St. Albert at 9:45 a.m., stopped in Jasper for some sandwich love and stopped briefly on the highway to take in the awesome view of Mount Robson behind us (this is where the pooping incident was discovered). We stopped along the highway near Clearwater for some cat-adventuring (need to let her out of the truck from time to time) and then stopped in Kamloops for gas. My dad always told me that if you’re only going to fill half your tank, make sure it’s the top half, and so in honour of his good advice, that’s what we’ve been doing.

This was Day 1:

#EpicAdventure - Day 1

And here’s the best view from today’s 888 kilometres:

Mount Robson

Now some sleep and good vibes mental preparation for tomorrow’s border crossing.

Day 0:

I’m working on partially completing this item. “The item” is to drive around the continent. So far, the plan is to head from St. Albert, Alberta to Cozumel Mexico, like this:

The route. #EpicAdventure

The house is packed up, the truck is packed up, the cat is packed up and we’re ready to go. Just a little stop at our local watering hole with some friends to play a quick game of cork, have some beers, and say hello/goodbye… Many of our great adventures begin at Original Joe’s.

#WhatCouldGoWrong?

UPDATE #45: go “on tour”

•July 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

As I noted in this post, the next concert stop was to see Roger Waters play “The Wall” in Belgium in May 2011. The concert was epic, complete with an aging, amazing rock star and an inflatable pig, as you’d expect.

Roger Waters!

Roger Waters!!

you can't have a floyd-esque concert without an inflatable pig

My quest was also epic: I wanted to meet Roger Waters. I either failed miserably, or came admirably close, depending on whether you’re the half-full or half-empty sort.

enjoying the hospitality room with the backup singers

Thanks to my new-found friend Mark Lennon for getting me as close as he did.🙂

the fabulous Marky Lennon!

#45 go “on tour”: follow a band to 4 concerts

•December 15, 2010 • 3 Comments

As a musician’s wife, following a band around doesn’t seem that glamorous or even that unlikely. Truth is, I don’t go to gigs that often, and when I do it’s rarely a band that I’d choose to see. That sounds bad. The point of this item on the list is to celebrate a band that I DO want to see and to help guide my choices in attending shows over a period of time. As a musician’s wife, I do know that there is value in seeing the same show over and over; you get to know the music in a different fashion and have different expectations of the show than if it’s a one time thing. So, I wanted to follow the band.

My husband has long been a fan of Sting and of The Police. When The Police toured a few years ago, he wanted to go, and so I jumped in with both feet. I (along with everyone else my age) had Synchronicity, but I needed more. I bought “Message in a Box” and listened to it over and over… I came to love the band and there began my fascination with Sting. I love Sting. We saw three concerts on that tour; the opening night in Vancouver, a show in Rosemont, Illinois during a business trip to Chicago, and an outdoor show in Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. They were all amazing. But that’s only three shows, not four, and at that time I didn’t have this blog, or my list. So…

Sting

Spring of 2010 Sting announced his new venture, and a new tour: Symphonicity. Sting would be performing with the 45-piece Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. Wow. I had a look at the extensive North American schedule against my summer plans and my husband’s work, and determined that Sting would be playing in Vegas during the week we had planned to have a short anniversary vacation. Sold. It was going to be amazing, but it wasn’t enough. I had also looked at some European dates. The tour was going to Newcastle, Sting’s hometown. I thought that would be a fun show, so boom! Tickets – great seats! And then, what a treat it would be, I thought, to see Sting play with the Royal Philharmonic in the Royal Albert Hall, which was built for them! On the night when I got out of bed to buy those tickets (as they went on sale at 10 a.m. in London), I was sorely disappointed in the seats I was able to get, but still, it was going to be great. In the morning, I couldn’t resist having another look, just in case new seats had opened up, and lo and behold, they had added a whole other show! Feeling like somewhat of a stalker, I snapped up seats at that show too, with much better results.

Sting

So, my “tour” looked like this:

June 18, 2010 I was among hundreds of fans in the theatre at the MGM Grand to see a wonderful show.
October 1, 2010 Me, Sting and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall
October 2, 2010 Same as the night before, only better seats! This night was also Sting’s 59th birthday, and so we sang to him.🙂
October 5, 2010 Me, Sting and his mom in Newcastle

I may have mentioned this, but I love Sting. His lyrics speak to me, I love the music, he performs with such joy and passion that you can’t help but be swept along. Every little thing he does is magic. Before it all happened, I had that moment of “if I don’t do this, I will regret it.” Who wants to live like that?

Next stop: Roger Waters in Belgium, May 2011, to see “The Wall”!

#64 dive in Galápagos

•November 6, 2010 • 1 Comment

Dive in Galápagos. I’m having trouble figuring out how to write this post; this trip was surreal and wonderful, and sometimes I think it was all a dream.

Who doesn’t have this item on their list? If you’re a diver, and you have a list, this is probably on it. Galápagos Islands are almost 1,000 kilometers straight west of Ecuador (the country to which they belong) and the diving is known for large pelagics, including hammerhead sharks, manta rays and whale sharks. We spent eight days in August 2010 on the Humboldt Explorer, which is a nicely outfitted liveaboard; six of those were dive days, during which we did 18 dives. It truly was the trip of a lifetime…

darwin's arch

don't forget to look at the small stuff!

we saw some little ones, like this coral hawkfish...

...and some big ones, like this whale shark - the biggest fish in the ocean

manta ray

an unexpected surprise: ORCAS!

even more unexpected; underwater photo of an orca

the big enchilada. the reason we're here. hammer!

sunset at the equator...

There are more photos on Facebook.