Thailand Travels

Thailand Travels
Elephant Ride in Thailand

Saturday, April 26, 2014


    It could easily be said that the Ocean Beach area of San Diego has “gone to the dogs”, but only in a good way. A thirty- eight acre sandy slice of ”O B” is dedicated to its canine population, namely Dog Beach”. Here dogs roam free, some testing the waters, others keeping their owners busy playing fetch and even more just enjoying a romp in the sand.
    A common sight is seeing their people carrying plastic baggies awaiting their charges “call to nature”. A tally of their numerous breeds enjoying this beach time is mind-boggling. Rear end sniffing is the order of the day.
       I wonder at the sight of a fellow and his twelve leashed Chihuahuas. Is he a designated dog walker or simply someone who likes things “cheaper by the dozen”?
      The streets of Ocean Beach abound with four-legged creatures seen on every corner. Some pull their skateboard masters down the street while others keep pace with their bike-riding pals. In this dog-oriented area there is even a dog wash establishment.  In close proximity is a car wash. I’ve wondered “could the owners join forces, so the pups could benefit with a back rub from those soapy brushes?
      One area not welcoming the canine crew is the Wednesday O B Farmers Market, but is it fair to allow the man with a parrot on his shoulder or the girl walking her leashed pet rabbit access to the market? Smacks of discrimination to me.
      All in all this slice of San Diego remains the highlight of any dog owner’s visit to the area. Oh, by the way, I didn’t see any cats out and about. They must wait until dark to make their appearance.  I guess there is safety in the shadows. All in all this is a great place for a doggone good time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Upper View of Michigan

          Being a troll (one who lives below the bridge) it's easily forgotten that another world exists beyond the Macinaw Bridge, a world of unadulterated scenery that goes on forever. Miles of trees, lakes and land, with water and land creatures abounding. How can you not marvel at wild turkeys along the roadside or be watchful of deer sharing your road? Each season brings a new panorama. The brilliant white of winter, rich golds of autumn and vibrant greens of summer make this pallette readily one of natures' best work. Somehow spring gets lost in the lingering of winter's hold.
     This is a place of lumbering and mining. Ore boats ply the waters during navigation season. Visitors and locals alike partake in the ever-present fishing, hunting and snowmobile activities. Traffic moves at a different pace. Hearty souls hike trails. There is more to this land. Ask any Yooper (yes they are proud of that title) about their home. One could easily exist on their diet of smoked fish and pasties. The pastie (a meat and veggie pie), harkens to the coal mining days and is a regular on local menus. You either love or hate these treats. Friday night fish fries are another culinary staple. Bingo and casinos satisfy the gamblers' desires.
     This land is far from provincial. The northern universities equal any of their southern counterparts. Marquette is a bustling college town meeting the needs of students and faculty. Culture beyond the bridge exists. Ask any symphony attendee. Cable and T.V. is a click away with the remote.
     Beyond all this is the idea of a neighbor 'being there'. Perhaps they may not be steps away but there is a feeling that they would step up whenever the need arose. Can you even imagine going to the local library, choosing a book with only your signature? Little things, but worth savoring. Small town local museums tout their history. Artists capture on canvas amazing visions.
     This may seem like an idealized view of the area, but it is more truth than fiction. Of course snowdrifts, black flies and impassable roads exist, but only stand on the edge of a lakeshore as the sun dips below the horizon and hear the call of an eagle or loon to know that something special exists in this land. A time to step back, soak it in and file it away for another time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Journey of Superlatives

Every traveler can recall at least one memorable event or sight that remains long after the bags are unpacked.  After all, isn't that what travel is all about? But how many can say that every day brought something so unusual and unique as to call forth all the superlatives one can conjour.
The South American journey from the Galapagos Islands to Machu Pichu in Peru perfectly fit that category. Unspoiled ecosystems with creatures of land, sea and air were the order of the day in the Galapagos.
The natural world unfolded with views unseen anywhere else. Imagine being able to watch a sea lion nursing her young and being totally unfazed by your presence. Giant turtles claimed the roadway as their own, in no particular hurry to let you pass. Penguins watched your dinghy floating by with not a bit of fear. The sometimes challenging terain soon let you know this was no 'let's make it easy for the tourists' agenda, but rather remaining as natures' erruptions had left it. A long alphabetic list would be needed to capture in memory the many creatures residing there.
The agrarian lifestyle of the Ecuadorians abounded. A patchwork quilt of crops dotted the landscape. They make good use of the Equatorial climate. Native dress and tourism go hand in hand.
The clash of two historic cultures seemed to be the order of the day in Peru. The Inca way of life had been so impacted with the arrival of the Spaniards. Viewing the archetectural genius of the Incas it seemed hard to believe that mere mortals could erect such temples to the sky. Their short-lived civilization is still shrouded in mystery. Archeologists today are constantly unraveling the unknown. The unique way they mastered the challenging landscape with terraces and aqueducts boggles the mind.
The Spaniards did their best to bend the will of the Incas. In many ways they did, but still the Incas were able to circumvent some efforts. In towns one can see the blending of Incan remains and European influence, especially in the ornate cathedrals. You're caught short of breath in an altitude where there are clouds below you. Luckily, the camera lens catches it all, for otherwise, who would believe you?
The Road Scholar organization is to be commended for this comprehensive program. Knowledgable caring guides and noted lecturers melded together to create this truly 'a journey of superlatives'.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Eve Misery

I'm not sure if I was nine or ten. I do know Christmas was always a big thing at our house. Spices, spruce and bayberry bombarded my senses for weeks prior to the big event. All this pre-holiday preparation led to my most miserable Christmas Eve.

As the days leading up to the 'big one' shortened, my agony grew more intense. The aroma of my mother's baking crept into the seams of the wallpaper. Filled tins were stashed in secret places with the intention of warding off all attacks by my two brothers, my Dad and myself.

My brothers, being six and eight years older delighted in teasing me about what I might or might not receive on Christmas. My father annually repeated the same story about one of his sisters who had received real coal in her stocking. He never actually said it might be my fate, but the message was clear.

Hushed voices behind closed doors after shopping trips intensified the drama. Hiding places eluded me on those times I felt brave enough for clandestine snooping. There was an element of danger of being caught, but one I was willing to risk. After all, there's just so much suspense a child can take without bursting.

On that fateful Christmas Eve things began as usual. Somehow, while the family was at church, the presents miraculously appeared under, on or near the tree. We could only look at the packages. No touching, shaking, lifting or nudging was allowed. Clearly my parents did not understand the torture they were inflicting.

As usual, this night I was shooed to bed at the appointed time with a warning not to arise before I could see daylight. Only after alerting all family members could I race to the treasure trove beneath the bedazzeled spruce.

Going to bed was one thing, sleeping entirely another. I lay tense and wakeful, hearing all household noises until they at last ceased. Only the mantle clock in the living room could be heard above my fathers' snoring.

Now I was safe. I could satisfy my hunger for 'just one peek'. I rationalized that one peek would cure my curiosity and allow sleep to come.

Surveying the piles under, around and near the tree, my eyes attention was caught by a particulary small package hanging on the tree. It was properly addressed to me. I clearly intended to satisfy my curiosity with this brightly adorned titbit.

My fingers lifted the lid to reveal the most perfect ruby ring I'd ever seen. Yes, it fit...with just a little push. Just then a terrible sound met my ears. My brother's car pulled into the drive. My immediate thought was of the coal that surely I'd earned with this transgression. Survival instinct kicked in and I dove under the sofa just as the front door opened.

I was certain that the thumping of my heart would give me away. I tried to take quiet shallow breaths. My brother actually came over and sat on the sofa and did what I didn't know. I was too busy trying to get the ring off and return it to its' box.

The ring would not budge! The more I pulled, the more firmly it stayed on my hand. Such agony was overwhelming. Tears actually started to form.

Still my brother sat there. I remained right under him, his unknown prisoner. The mantle clock reminded him of the lateness of the hour. Finally the lights went out and I could escape from my prison for the safety of bed.

Some soap from the kitchen sink released my ill-gotten treasure and I was able to restore it to its perch.
Christmas morning came with its usual brightness that year to all except one very much wiser little girl who always viewed her new jewelery with bittersweet memories.


I remember hopscotch blocks drawn in wavy lines on the sidewalk, easily skipped by me.
Where did I put my car keys?
I remember a squinchy feeling in my gut as the ferris wheel bumped to a stop at the top.
Did I take my pills this morning?
I remember secret hiding spots for treasures found on beach walks when I was eight.
Where is that early birthday present I bought for my grandchild?
I remember at five years old how awful I felt to wait forever for Christmas morning.
Did I mail that check to the doctor?
I remember sharing secrets with my very best friend as we slowly strolled home from school.
Where did I leave my glasses?
I remember a special birthday when led blindfolded, to find a puppy waiting in the garage.
Did I put two teaspoons of vanilla in the cookie recipe?
I remember how proud I was of the special handmade picture I gave my dad on father's day.
Where did I park my car at the mall?
I remember how good I felt being all dressed up and ready to go out on my first boy/girl party.
Did I return the call on my answering machine?
I remember the very first dance recital, seeing the smiles of my proud parents in the first row.
Where did that book I was reading get to?
I remember places and faces and things that meant a lot to me from some days worth remembering.

Maybe the things I don't remember aren't so important after all!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Alaska - Beauty and the Beasts

Traveling the Inland Passage as well as the panoramic views on a train afforded the opportunity to experience this land at its best. It's hard not to use superlatives when describing all there was to offer around us.
Whether it was the roar of calving glaciers, cries of kittewakes from their rocky nests or the splash of killer whales, Glacier Bay held our attention. With the engines shut, our ship became a floating observatory for our senses. Brilliant shades of blue mixed with pristine white and dull gray all combined in this slow moving behemoth.
Watching out the train window, the distant sight of Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) kept us glued for what lay ahead. The bus ride through Denali provided us with an 'up close and personal' encounter with some of its four-footed inhabitants. At one spot we had a 360 degree sighting of caribou, dall sheep, grizzly and moose. The grizzly put on a show as he dug the burrow of a ground squirrel, perhaps for an afternoon snack. Three swipes of his fearsome claws and he was shoulder deep. Later, as we crested a hill, we worried that the cyclist headed down the hill could pedal faster than the sow gizzly and her cubs awaiting him could run.
Taking a helecopter to the Taku Glacier brought a new perspective of the untouched beauty of the land. One chose not to venture too close to the crevasse, not wishing to become a statistic.  Watching a bush pilot touch down and take off in minimal spaces only reinforced the skill needed in this wilderness where roads are few and far between.  
We witnessed a natural phenomenon from our train window as a bore tide kept pace with our travels. The incoming tide and the outgoing river challenge each other. Our tide only reached three feet high, but they are known to reach heights of nearly ten feet.
At a camp we marveled at the close affinity between the sled dogs and their mushers. The dogs eagerly awaited the chance to harness up and take off down the trail. One bit of wisdom from the musher; 'if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes'. Maybe there is a life lesson there.
Other side adventures included tackling a giant burger (fit for three) at the Red Dog Saloon and watching my partner being put in a traveling jail in Fairbanks. A small contribution freed him before our ship sailed.
Be it by ship, train, helecopter, bus or whitewater raft, we saw much of the best the 49th state had to offer. The diverse enviornment of pristine scenery, amazing wildlife and friendly people made this truly a 'go to' spot.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Costa Rican Encounters

     Costa Rica is one of those special places where you can come 'up close and personal' with nature in all its diversity. It didn't take long while walking a path through the rainforest to see the reality of this in an unbelievable experience.
     Looking down at our feet we discovered leaf-cutter ants. Our approach did not divert their determined journey. They pretty much all kept pace with the rest of the group. Their green burden far out measured their minature size. We had obviously violated their territory and so we were careful where we stepped.
     Our senses were heightened with the smell of flowers and abundance of orchids so suited to this climate. Tropical birds were heard but not seen in the canopy overhead. Most amazing were the butterflies. It is recorded that there are more species of them than any other creature about. You couldn't help but be stunned by them. The blue morpho butterfly can reach a size of seven and a half inches. Spread your fingers far apart and you get a good idea of their size. The color was spectacular. The brilliant blue could not be matched by anything else in nature.
     The Sarapiqui river is a draw for whitewater rafters, but we took the slower paced route. This afforded us the opportunity to encounter these creatures around us on their terms. This river is the habitat of crocodiles, iguanas, caymans and even hummingbirds. However, two of its more notable inhabitants are the howler monkeys and the Jesus Christ lizard. The endangered howler monkeys are 'tree huggers', spending their days in the safety of the trees. Because their territory is limited, their numbers are threatened. The male is in charge of keeping the distance between troops by his very loud call that can be heard as far away as four miles. He let us know he was in charge.
     The Jesus Christ lizard (formally called a baslisk) only measures about a foot long. To flee from predators it has been given the ability to 'walk on water', hence its name. This iguana-like companion scooted in front of our boat, tacking a path to the opposite shore. Perhaps it was acting as an early warning system for the others in the area.
     The cayman lazing on the bank of the river paid no mind to our passing. One sleepy eye must have surmised that there was no food worth moving for. On the other hand, parrots and other tropical birds fluttered and kept up a symphony in the canopy overhead. They were well aware of our presence.
     The river trip left little to be experienced for our senses. Unforgettable sights and sounds still remain in memory. I can almost hear those howler monkeys calling me back for another visit to their home.