Drama at the Drive Thru

For years, both Rayman and myself have always turned into a Starbucks parking lot, turned off the motor to the car, unbuckled our seatbelts, opened the car doors, put one foot in front of Theo ither and headed into the coffee establishment.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…”oh, those holier than thou stay-in-shape kinds.  They make such a production out of obtaining a cup of coffee!!”  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Most times that we frequent said coffee establishments, we are in dire need of relief…the type of relief demanding a restroom.

But I digress.

Today, we took Beau to the Sandy River nature preserve where we walked and he ran for two hours.  He splashed in the water, chased a dog into the river, put his cute little face under the water (never had he done that before).  He just ran and ran and when he wasn’t running, he was licking foliage and sniffing other doggies’ calling cards.  He acted like a teenager.  When I mentioned this to the Rayman, his reply was, “Well, when you were fifty, you had a lot of energy too.”  The inference did not go unnoticed…slowing down has occurred.  This had the effect of drugging up old memories and that in turn had the effect of making me feel..well, old.

After we returned to the car, I suggested we run an errand or two and then get a soy chai latte.  My suggestion was readily accepted.  We were both hot and hungry/thirsty.  

In order to find a Starbucks near us (where were we, anyway?), Rayman got into a shouting match with Siri .  After a few takes and retakes on the effort, a Starbucks was located and Glenda, our GPS directed to the place.   That’s when I said, “Let’s do the drive-thrui!!”.  Rayman grumbled but he knew I was right because the Beaumeister was in the back, it was hot, and leaving the dog was not an option.  And besides, I was in the driver’s seat.  

This was our virgin voyage thru a drive-in for coffee.  We drove around the corner and there were two monolithic metal boxes.  The further one away had a fancy menu as it’s display.  Where was the box in which to yell our order?  There wasn’t one that we saw.  Did we drive by it?  Too late, there was no way to back up to the first box because two cars had followed us into the curving path that led to the window.  So, I told Rayman to jump out, retreat to the first box and just stand there and order our drinks.  He did not take kindly to my suggestion…just saying.  However, with panic setting in, he got out of car and said, “I am going inside to get the drinks!”

“No, you can’t do that, I’m in queue.”  

“Ask the woman behind us where the box is”, I enjoined.

“Jeezus, Dianna.”  With that he walked toward the window.  The lady in the window is now yelling at him with instructions.  The lady behind us is yelling at him with her idea of where the box is.  I’m behind the wheel wondering if I can just make a quick getaway and escape this drama that I helped create.  Beau is standing on the backseat taking it all in.

Rayman gets in the car.  “Just drive up to the window.”  I did so meekly.

The young lady inside the coffee house and behind the window greets us as though nothing unusual is transpiring.  

“Hi”, I said.  “Sorry for all the confusion but we have never done a drive thru before and we didn’t know where to order.”, stating the obvious.  

“Oh, don’t worry.  It’s okay.”

Rayman says he wanted a small soy chai latte.  I say, “Make that two.” Which was what I wanted and it had the added benefit of simplifying the order.  

As the order appears seemingly out of nowhere, it is time to pay.  We have Apple Pay.  We have the Starbucks app.  We are so thoroughly modern.  Except, Rayman could not get the Apple Pay to work.  I tried to make it work.  It ddi not work.  While I’m trying to get the Apple Pay to work, I mutter, “I’m really sorry.  We are old and stupid.”  God, why did I say that?  It was quite obvious.  

At this point, it feels like ten minutes have elapsed.  I was afraid to consult my rearview mirror to see the line of cars that may have accumulated while we did our loose interpretation of a Lucy and Desi routine.  

Rayman dug into his wallet and got out a tenspot.  The young lady accepted it with much gratitude, I kept babbling and then she said, “Oh, you are so cute.”  

As we drove away, I said to the Rayman,”I’m not so cute.  Not even close.”  He didn’t disagree.

And then we howled. 

  

Springtime in Portland

Alas, this is a wonderful time to be in Portland…everything is blooming.  Of course, if you suffer from allergies, it isn’t ideal…just as one, Rayman.  His nose may be permanently damaged.  And his sneezes scare the bejeezus out of me because they are unannounced and quite forceful in intensity and sound.  Just sayin.

But I digress.

Since landing here in mid-April, we have done a lot of shopping.  UGH.  So many of you have said, “Oh, how wonderful.  You get to decorate a blank slate.”  Well, now.  It is not easy especially for someone like me that suffers from buyer’s remorse.  “Will it fit?”  “Will it look okay?”  “Will it be functional?”  So many issues that drive me crazy.  And then there is the negotiation portion of this with moi’s spouse, Mr. J.  His opinion is often spot-on.  And sometimes not so much.  What a trip.  

Our big expenditure has been our yard.  The SHIP has a very small front and backyard.  This is a plus.  The builder saw to it to pour a cement patio, fence the yard, plant Japanese maples, throw in some sod with sprinklers and few pretty plants in front. 

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Original backyard.

We had other ideas.  Because the SHIP has no view (firrst house we’ve owned without one) we decided to start over on the yard and do it pronto so it could get growing in the long summer days of the Pacific Northwest.  So, we hired an outfit, Eric drew up the plan, we tweeked it and away we went.  Monday before last, the crew arrived bright and early and by noon all the lawn was gone, a tree replanted.  And this breakneck speed continued all week.  It was all done on Friday…of the same week.  Holy cow were these guys good.

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Left side.

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Center.

 

 

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Right side.

There was one mishap as many know…the grass killing woman came out and sprayed the neighbor’s house by mistake.  So, they now have a sign on their front lawn that say, “Stay off. New sod.”  The company we hired replace their grass when they were also working on our project.  On their dime.  Great company…they even set up the timers for water for them and pulled a weed or two.  Once we got over being mortified about the whole thing, Rayman started a fire in our new Weber with a fuel source (hardwood) that he wasn’t too familiar with and there was smoke everywhere for an hour.  In these tight quarters, I’m sure we further endeared ourselves to everyone on the block.

Also, I have a running joke about my dislike of Italian cypress trees.  How is a long skinny tree a tree?  The shade cast is minimal, the look unappealing.   So, guess what we have in this yard.  A form of that tree…they are hedging the yard for privacy.  I can’t believe it.  Never say never.  

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Almost finished backyard.

There were problems.  The air conditioner was placed on the corner of the patio and can’t be moved because of rules.  That was a huge disappointment.  Now we are looking for someone that can build a lattice frame to encase said air conditioner.  But all this detail is a bit boring.  

We have a Weber and a pizza oven on a stand.  That sits on the small patio.  And we have a fountain coming.  Fountain coming, you ask?  Yes.  I worked really hard to find the lowest price on a fabulous dragonfly fountain…the only problem is the company that makes it, Campania, is located in the east.  And apparently, they made this one specially for me because I ordered it on March 29 and it is still in Pennsylvania.  They now say it will leave Pennsylvania this week (mind you it is already Wednesday).  They say patience is a virtue.  I am apparently without that virtue.  I want the fountain but am forced to wait.  UGH.   Update.  It’s on a truck somewhere.

Tiny patio means tiny furniture and most outdoor stuff is fit for a king.  The look continues.  

We’ve gone to two movies.  I helped babysit.  We’ve been out to eat a couple of times…last night we walked to a place for a plate of spaghetti.  Walked to the bakery this morning.  Love the nighborhood.  I got lost on my way to Whole Foods today and drove through some wonderful neighborhoods with fabulous gardens.  We’ve gone to thrift stores, consignment shops, state liquor stores (can’t buy booze in the grocery stores here), attended a farmer’s market (lots of kale, cheese, a live band and hot coffee.  Am watching Les Mis and Forgotten on PBS with my cousin and been to her house for dinner many times.  

Tonight we are having cousin Susie and her husband over for flank steak tacos and all the trimmings.  My beans are done, the steak is marinating, and salsa will be made in short order.

Life is good.  

My Letter to Fine Cooking


Dear Fine Cooking Magazine,

 

I’ve been a fan for years.  Through the pages of your magazine, I have found inspiration in the form of interesting recipes and and thoughtful articles.  This has been the reason that I have subscribed for years.  To set the record straight, I will continue to subscribe, but I feel it my duty to pass along to you my experience of last night.

Actually last night was the not the whole story.  But before I launch into all this, I want you to know that I have always admired Ming Tsai.  As an up and coming Chinese fusion kind of guy, I spent hours watching his rise on the Food Network albeit years ago.  He was  a sort of self-effacing and shy-like cook that seemed at home in front of the TV cameras and yet, a tablespoon of awkwardness invaded his delivery.  A bit of an enigma but a sweet enigma.  

Enter my friend, Neta.  She and I have a love of Chinese food and a desire to attempt to create good dinners and so it was that I espied the article that Ming authored in your recent magazine that grew out of the Chinese New Year tradition of cooking a big meal for the big celebration of New Year.  And I love that the Chinese name their years i.e. year of the rooster, the monkey etc.  Charming, to be sure.  And fun.

But I digress.

So without missing a beat, I sent the article to Neta and she bit.  It was decided that we would replicate the feast at my house.  Recipes were divvied up.   A date was set.   We checked our pantry for food stuffs that were required.  And we went forth.  

First observation, no where in the article does it say that you are advised to invite 16 of your favorite friends.  This menu could have fed that many.  We ended up with food coming out of our ears.  The potsticker recipe yielded so many potstickers that we ran out of won ton wrappers.  Just saying.  Neta made the filling the day before so all we needed to do was assemble them…there were so many, it took an hour. 

 

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Meanwhile, I had issues of my own.  Before she came over, Rayman and I chopped, chopped, chopped the carrots, the garlic, the cauliflower, the broccoli, the red pepper.  Ginger was grated.  Vinegars were reduced from 3 cups down to 1/4 cup.  And here is where perhaps I made an error.  In looking into my pantry I saw that I had black Chinese vinegar.  When I went to use it, the beer bottle-like cap hidden under the plastic cap had rusted.  It was that old.  We each took a sip and figured if we were still alive before dinner, the meal could go on.  OMG.  I’m thinking that that vinegar had been living in the shadows of my pantry for at least 30 years.  Seriously people.  How many times do you have a recipe that calls for black Chinese vinegar?  

The recipes went on and on.  We kept losing them in the kitchen.  One was found under a cookie sheet.  Or one time, I started on one recipe and tried to incorporate another recipe to the first one because the pages got mixed up.  I hold Mr. Ming harmless on that count.  

 

As we progressed, the champagne was introduced to the scene.  We needed it.  It was obvious that we were in for a long afternoon.  At the end of the meal, Jay (Neta’s man) started a question as thus:  “I don’t mean this as any sort of criticism, but what took so long?”  Luckily the chopsticks had rounded tips.  He was really striking a chord.

 

Neta had arrived with the duck.  She was under the impression it was baked.  It wasn’t.  It was simmered.  In a bottle of wine, aromatics, etc.   So, timing was an issue and the duck was first thing to go to pot, so to speak.  Why did Ming have so many dishes that used the top of the stove?  Good grief.  Does he think everyone has an 8-burner stove at their disposal?  To his credit he did mention a timeline which we apparently missed, so focused as we were on the recipes themselves.  Much more could have been ahead.  Like the duck.  But, part of the fun was to be the cooking together.  In that case, Mr. Ming might have figured that old ladies might be using the recipes, that said old ladies might not have a gaggle of cooks in the back room chopping, washing, spinning veggies and other sorted activities.  That the recipes were scaled for a party of 60!!!

  • So, it was left to us to create a meal on the stove top with 5 burners, one which is almost useless on account of the stove being just 30 inches wide.  What an ordeal.
  • Incidentally, our pot stickers were good, but perhaps not as photogenic as above.  
  • The longevity noodles were a complete disaster.  This is the one dish I figured would be a fabulous dish.  A different type of mushroom was used that was delicious and organic.  All things I bought were organic.  What doomed this dish was the noodles.  The woman at the Oriental Market (their name, not mine) recommended the fresh noodles she had.  When added to the dish, the noodles clumped like a a jawbreaker sized piece of bubble gum might clump.  A big glutenous mess interspersed by lovingly chopped veggies and garlic and ginger.  In a wok.  It was at once ugly and undelicious.  Was this Ming’s fault?  Yes.  How many people have access to fresh Chinese noodles?
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  • He should have offered a substitute.  That might have made a difference.  As it stands, this recipe is never, ever going to be repeated. 
  • Does the fact that the longevity noodles glommed together mean that our longevity of life will be impacted?  I would say yes but the black Chinese vinegar was used in another recipe, not this one!!

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  • On to the duck.  This recipe is a keeper with the caveat that the duck or chicken be stewed the day before.  That way, the broth can be cooled, the fat skimmed before cooking the sweet potatoes.  And it would also free up a burner for the rest of the dishes.  That was an ongoing problem.  Really, people, it was miracle that we were able to complete anything at the right time that looked and tasted like 20 hours of work.  
  • Another point.  Our duck and potatoes looked like this for the most part and it was delicious.  Neta took the broth home for another use…after all, it did contain a bottle of red.  And it was a good thing that after cooking an hour, the duck needed to rest in the cooking liquid for at least another hour because that allowed me time to start the stove top fire.  
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  • As the duck was luxuriating in it’s bath, we were more and more intent on polishing off that bottle of champagne so we could 1. Calm our nerves   2.  Nourish our built-in excuse as to why things may have taken a sharp turn for the worse  3.  Recaptured any sense of humor that might still be remaining.
  • So, to recap, the pot stickers were fried, steamed, re-fried and thrown into the warming oven.  The dip was made ahead by Neta and poured into a fancy bowl as a nod to ambiance.  The duck was brewing, and I was making mayonnaise for the aioli was the called for as an accompany to the fish/veggie dish yet to be cooked.  The aioli is the segway to  next part of this storytelling exercise.
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  • How many yolks does it take to make a cup of aioli?  Ming apparently does not know.  His recipe called for 6 yolks.  I knew this was too much but I figured, oh, well, what the heck.  Let’s just follow the recipe.  Bad choice.  I now have about 3 cups of mayo in my frig.  With garlic in it.  And some lemon juice which may or may not be enough lemon juice.  I don’t know because I fouled up the recipe by forgetting the juice so anxious was I to add the concentrated vinegars so I could grab a taste.  Ugh.  It was icky partly because the lemon was not in it.  But I think the old vinegar was just too old.  Is that a possibility?  I don’t have a clue but I just know it’s true.  Adding the vinegar gave it a lift but not enough.  So between Ming and me, this did not work to the advantage of the eater.  

 

  • This next recipe called for starting a smoking fire on the stove top in my Chinese double-double boiler which is about the size of a small house. 
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    See the double boiler on the left side of the stove.

    Lined with tin foil, I added the tea leaves (which I could not find…loose leaves seemed destined only for repackaging into tea bags which I had to painstakingly cut open and dump out 20 0f them for a cup of loose tea, ((done ahead of time)).  Whoa.  Added to the tea leaves was the sugar and rice.  The tea provided the aromatics while the sugar caught on fire and slowly burned the rice.  Never done that before. 

  • But before all that happened, the pot had to be lined with tinfoil.  In doing all that, I inadvertently placed the pot on top of the steamer and placed it on the stove.  Bad move.  About ruined the steamer.  Had to remove it (hot), and reverse it so the gas flame hit the pot and then the smoking began.  Gulp of champagne may have occurred here.  

 

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  • Then I had to line the nearly ruined steamer with a banana leaf (previously frozen from Thailand)
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    Neta and me and the banana leaf.

     

    .  Upon that, went the broccoli and cauliflower.  After they were steamed in the smoke, they came off and on went the salmon. (salmon was substituted for the trout)   Ming obviously didn’t want to look like a pussy cook and so it added yet another step.  This required the tempura method of cooking whereby I was required to make a batter with beer, corn starch etc. which I did while also forgetting to add the flour so the batter was thin as 1% milk.  This necessitated removing the veggies from the limp batter, adding the flour and then resubmerging the veggies.  From there the veggies went into the wok of simmering 350 degree oil and as you can imagine, half the oil flew out in little bursts of bubble oil mixed with beer batter to decorate my stove top in a new and excitingly horrible way.  There were so many veggies, this action had to be repeated 3 times.  Ming should have advised a turkey fryer placed out in the garage  so as to avoid the mess.   

  • Rayman who had to clean the stove plans a letter to Ming on the subject.  

 

  • Once the veggies came out, they were piled up on a cooling rack, lined with paper towels so they could drip and be salted.  They were delicious…the tea smokey taste and deep  fry was great…but wait, there is more.  The salmon had to also be deep fried after the steam bath…and with the skin on.  Pop, pop, pop.  More explosions.  More mess.  
  • Finally, it was time to plate.  There was so much food, you could hardly fit it on the table. 

 

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  • More champagne was opened.  Gulping may have ensued.  
  • In summary, Ming did not write this article with a party of four in mind.  This article should have labelled, “attempt at your own risk”.  Further, Ming should have provided alternatives for not easily found ingredients.  He should have demanded that the reader invite at least 14 of their favorite friends so that I would now have more room in my refrigerator for things other than 1/2 of the leftovers we had.  He also should have advised cooks to do this menu before garbage day because of all the things that you must throw away that could draw attention to the neighborhood cats and dogs.  Cooking oil, longevity noodles, aioli with two vinegars dip, bits of deep fried batter.  
  • I do not hold myself harmless.  It as my idea to it in the first place.  And I had time to buy new vinegar.  And I made a few mistakes.  Would I do it again?  Most certainly not.  Am I glad we did it?  You betcha.  
  • What happened to the dessert?  We passed on Ming’s recipe and Neta made a fabulous sorbet and I made ginger ice cream.  We ate some of both.  Done ahead.  Frozen. 

 

  • Perfect ending.  

Reflecting on our Our NatGeo Experience

At this point in our lives, I’m getting confused as to which trip has been the best trip.  Perhaps they were all the best.  After all, going on a trip is a very serious thing to do.

IMG_0274First, you must decide to do a trip.  This is harder than it seems.  Do you want to travel by car, ship, boat, bicycle, roller skates, RV aka as The Dog House, plane, kayak, canoe, bus?  Well, that depends on where in the world you want to go.  

Where to GO?

The world is our oyster.  (funny I should resort to that metaphor since I don’t like oysters)…however, it is a good saying.   The choices are mind boggling.  Want to stay close to home?  Want to do exotic?  Want to take a long trip?  After answering a few of those questions, you may have a great idea of where to go.  

In this case, for us, we decided we wanted to go where I wanted to go which was to see whales up close and personal.  And what better way to do that than on the water.  So, instantly, much of our plan was set.   To backtrack, this is a trip that I was paying for with money I earned as trustee of my Uncle’s trust so I pretty much got to pick!!  As it should be, right?

Then it was a matter of choosing the cruise operator and for that we were in agreement that it should be an outfit with naturalists on board.  The location was also set by virtual of the activity we had selected.   Whales go south for the winter.  And it is well known that they return year after year to lagoons in Mexico.  So, Mexico it would be.  And National Geographic has a stellar reputation for cruises that focus outside the boat, rather than inside the boat.   So, NatGeo was selected.  And the rest is history.  

Except, what is the aftermath of our adventure?

Firstly, we ate in Mexico on several occasions and did not get the, ahem, tourista trots.  

 Secondly, a cruise without TV is a liberating experience.  It is like taking an overdose of happy pills.  No bad news.  The only thing we used our iPhones for was taking very BAD pictures.  OMG.  I even captured a video of the inside of my pocket…for about 4 minutes.  Because we were floating around the Sea of Cortes, and because there were no digitree towers with big dishes on them to deliver digital signals to us, there was no other need for a phone.  Although, one evening the phone rang.  It was my accountant.  How did that happen?  Who knows?  The funny thing is, when I went to return his call…the call would not go thru.  So, Rayman ran to the pursers office to find out how to call out, and in the purser’s office he found Capt. Cook.  Explaining our situation, the Capt. beckoned me to the purser’s office, and he placed the call on their “system”.  Now that is service.  Okay, true confessions time.  I did buy $50 worth of time (2 hours) for posting my blogs.  But I immediately recognized that was not going to work…no high speed data on that link.  So, I used the time reading a bit of news.  I know.  Me bad.

Thirdly, the food was fabulous.  

Fourthly, there was a plelthra of things to do.  Activities, educational talks, instruction of use of the camera or Iphone.

Okay, I’m not sure if fifthly is a word to I will now abandon the counting and continue on with my observations.

One passenger was a fish.  If there was opportunity, she was in the water.  An inspiration to me as I loved Esther Williams.  But she made me feel bad because the water was cold and not as user friendly as I’d like.   Plus with the Rayman episode (an earlier blog post), I elected to stay on the boat, or on shore rather than in the water.  Oh, there was the exception of kayaking.  We did kayak and managed to get ourselves pretty much soaked (glad I left my iPhone on shore for that one).  The entire time, I worried that Rayman might capsize us which lead me to the conclusion that perhaps individual kayaks might be a good idea but then it wouldn’t be as easy to splash the Rayman.  Flipping my oar to get him wet is one of my favorite things to do.  Just sayin.  If you click on Home Page below, you will get a surprise.

Home Page

Traveling on one’s own has a few drawbacks and setbacks as you all know if you have been reading my blogs for 10 years.  This trip pretty much eliminated those issues.  And it was a big ah-ha for me.  You see, when we travel, it is up to me to arrange everything.  Make all the plans, reservations and the like.  It is also up to me to hand the Rayman his passport when needed, to get us through customs, to fill out all the forms, to shepard him along and smooth his ruffled feathers.  Now, he will take exception to some of this, but not all.  Myself, I am resolute in my beliefs.  

But I digress.

Perhaps it is time and perhaps we are of a certain age to quit the solo tourism gig.  Is it time to surrender and start doing organized trips?  A part of me loves the chaos as much as I dislike the chaos.  Perhaps we can strike on a happy medium.  But then, where is the fun?  Where is the heartache?  A tender proposition.  

Let’s take whales  They are the complete opposite of me and the Rayman.  They go to the same places every time.  The route will be slightly different because of food they are chasing, but they know Alaska is where to head in the summer and the lagoons of Mexico are where to head for the winter.  And they know how they plan to get there…by swimming.  The journey is probably one of “just do it” because that is how they are programmed…and because they like to eat and procreate.  The predictability is the important point here.  And they seem happy.  They lack hostility because it was in the very lagoon we visited where they were killed by the hundreds by early whalers.  And yet, they returned, yet they persisted.  These gentle giants that visited our boat.  

The Whale and US

 

Okay, I admit it, I’m meandering which of and itself reminds me of travel…a series of meanderings.  

Looking back, it seems to me that most wonderful trip have involved nature.  Africa and Sea of Cortes.  To be able to view nature in the is exciting, exhilarating, thought provoking, awe inspiring.   Gorgeous vistas also make one’s heart race with excitement.   High mountains, full rivers, deep gorges, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, lakes, streams, deserts…the list goes on and on.

So, all I know is that at traveling is mind expanding in many different ways and on many different levels.  No matter where or how, travel is important to us.   Where we go and how we do it in the future?  Who knows?  That’s yet to be determined.  

Next trip?  To Portland, Oregon for 6 months.  To the SHIP.  Looking forward to the adventure.  Come and visit us.  We love company!!

A Zodiac Kind of Day

First thing this morning was snorkeling with the sea lions.  We passed.  This activity started at 7:45 a.m.  And we were advised that sea lions are playful creatures and like to nip.  No nipping is needed as I have the Rayman for that.  

After snorkeling, it was time to do the zodiac tour around huge rocks that jetting up from the ocean like monoliths albeit with lots of bird poop attached giving the reddish rock a mottled   look.   Basking on the rocks were loads of sea lions.  There were many in the water as well as they delighted us with their antics.  They swim upside down, right side up and sideways.  Their grace in the water is unparalleled in my estimation.  Cashing in on the fun were the grebes, the blue-footed boobies, the pelicans, the cormorants and probably many other birds I may have missed or not recognized.  The sea lions stole the show.  They are like whirling dervishes of the deep.  

There are no pictures of any of this.  Trying to take pics with my iPhone on a rocking boat is no longer high on my list of things to do.  We just held on and enjoyed the ride.

Typical picture from a rocking boat.  Many of my movies had the same problem.

Typical picture from a rocking boat. Many of my movies had the same problem.

After spending about an hour and a half bobbing around the rocks, we headed back to lunch.  And then it was off to the beach of Isla San Francisco.  We rode the zodiacs to the beach and there we jumped onto kayaks and paddled around the water for about 40 minutes and then headed back to the ship to relieve ourselves, change our clothes, don our orange life jackets, jump back onto the zodiac and return to shore for an evening barbecue on the beach.  The weather was warm, not hot.  The sand was sandy.  There were blue “lawn” chairs organized into about 5 rows and formed into a big circle.  A fire was in the center of the circle.  We were greeted with mango margaritas, wine, beer.  And the party began.  Just before we ate I remarked to the Rayman that we would have to eat on our knees.  At which he exclaimed, “My knees?   How on earth do they expect us to do that?”.  Have I mentioned before how literal the Rayman can be?  At times, he is astonishingly literal.  This was one of those times.  

 

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But I digress.

After dinner, we were treated to a fabulous sunset.  I am not sure how it could have been any better.   Oh, wait.  I do know.  As we were eating and imbibing, a lone pelican swam up to us and came on shore.  It was soon apparent that it had a broken wing.  Very sad.  Nothing could be done.  Some people offered food (chicken that had been cooked) but it couldn’t get it down.  Used to slimmy fish, I’m guessing.  My heart went out to the pelican and it made us all sad.  

Because of the cloud cover moving in, we elected to be on the first zodiac back to the boat.  Many remained to stargaze but, that didn’t seem likely.  So, here we are back in our cabin enjoying some downtime.  

 

My computer.

My computer.

A few diversions.  The people on the tour are all very interesting and different and from all the over the U.S. with a few from Canada and England.  The love of nature is the tide that binds us together and our interests cuts through to the core and allows us to interact easily.  The first few conversations were, “where are you from?”, “what do or did you do?”,  “is this your first NatGeo trip?”, “do you have children/grandchildren”.  Later as the trip progressed the conversations involved what we had done that day, what animals/birds/fish/mammals did we see”.  It has been great to be around such bright and interesting people.  I may be repeating myself but it does bear repeating.

Not sure what is on the agenda tomorrow but it will be our last full day on the ship with organized activities.  We will end the cruise as we started, disembarking at La Paz, clamoring onto a bus, repeating the drive to the airport and flying back to LAX on Friday.  

Upon arriving back, I plan to add pictures to the posts and post my blogs in one fell swoop.

It’s been a great adventure and it has wetted my appetite, and Rayman’s too to do a few more nature trips.  The world we find ourselves in is full of wonderous animals, insects, mammals, geology, plants and list goes on and on.  Need to see more of it.  It’s a trip!!

The crew made a video of the some of the highlights which included a slideshow of pictures the passengers took.  If you would like to see it, let us know!!  I only want to share vacation pictures with those that like that sort of thing.  Having said that, it is very entertaining.  Much better than my slideshows of previous trips.  Times 100.  Just sayin.

Now Hear This

National Geographic and Lindblad have teamed up to create a nature lover’s perfect cruise.

We embarked yesterday evening after killing the day in La Paz with a lunch on a patio (Italian food), a visit to the Serpentario, and a bus ride north to the ship (30 minute drive).  What immediately sticks out in the part of the Baja are the cacti which look like Saguaro, but aren’t.  Let’s call them cousins to the southwestern AZ cacti.  They are Cardon cacti.  They grow everywhere.  Palo Verde trees are prevalent as well.  The desert looks likes, drum roll please, desert.  Except in the lower part of Baja on the Pacific.  There is an area west of a very large mountain that gets more rain than anyplace else and it enjoyed a green tinge. 

 

Along the highway.

Along the highway.

Good sized cactus to give you an idea.

Good sized cactus to give you an idea.

One footnote on the serpentario.  We got to visit with a King snake, a Horney Toad , a five toed snake that had two feet by it’s head, and one other that we can’t remember.  Some sort of constrictor snake.  It was actually quite fascinating and the young Mexican man did a great job with the introductions to the various species.  Oh, and a tarantula.  It is a facility that rehabilitates reptiles and spiders and iguanas.  Lots of iguanas there.  

After boarding, we had a safety drill followed by happy hour followed by dinner.  Turns out this ship is not even a year old.  She is a beauty and we were lucky to score a room with a balcony…not sure how that happened but we are thrilled.  Two chairs on our deck.  The ship holds about 100 people (guests) and lots of crew.  Captain Hook is our captain…really…He introduced himself as Andrew Cook) and then he said, “I’ll let that sink in for a bit.”  Young, handsome and extremely personable.  There are four or five naturalists on board, a videographer, two camera experts, a scuba diver expert, and an expert on experts!!  

The food is fabulous with an emphasis on healthy fare and gluten free servings.  Beet juice was the juice boost this a.m. as an example.  But not to mislead, they serve the best cookies and when we returned from snorkeling a bit ago, we were greeted on board with hot chocolate laced with Bailey’s.  

The cabin is small but very well appointed.  The pillows are soft and the ocean facing wall is almost entirely a floor to ceiling slider.  Oh, my oh, my.

The passengers are very interesting as well and it’s open seating so we haven’t broken bread with the same people twice…yet.  The woman sitting next to us at breakfast was seated next to us at LAX gate.  She hails from Pennsylvania and is a dog breeder and an official judge of dogs and as such was fresh off the Westminster dog show about a week ago.  She knows dogs…especially sporting dogs.  OMG.  Great conversationalist too.  We had a great breakfast with her.  

The main activity for today was snorkeling.  But before I get into that…we spent about an hour with a huge pod of dolphins, scores and scores of them.  They really put on a show. 

I was shotting this from inside so sorry for the dirty window but…hey, must strike while the iron is hot.

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 As they cavorted about, one of the naturalists was on the loudspeaker giving us the low-down on them.  Their presence pushed back all the activities by an hour because watching nature is numero uno priority with this cruise.  

Rayman strikes again.

After lunch we got outfitted for our snorkeling.  Shorty wetsuits, fins, masks.  I managed to put the wetsuit on incorrectly and also the life jacket.  The 777 woman pilot was standing next to me and set me straight on the life jacket…very cool to met a woman captain for United.  We then set off on a Zodiac which is a rubber dinghy essentially.  When asked how the water was, the man in charge of water sports replied, “Refreshing.”  It was about 65 degrees, hence the wetsuits.  We entered the water from the shore and paddled around until Rayman got a leg cramp and I summoned the lifeguard for help.  That was the end of the snorkeling.  He convinced them he was all right and he headed for shore.  I lost track of him so I intently watched the bottom searching for his body until I saw him standing in waist high water.  Then I was able to breath again and managed to suck in an entire mouthful of salty water.  Saw a few fish but the snorkeling wasn’t all that good.  Water wasn’t very clear and there were not that many fish.  But the experience was “refreshing”.  

After dinner, there was a program in the reception room.  The naturalists gave talks.  The most interesting was the man that specializes in all things whale.  He gave us a history of the gray whale which featured going back millions of years to explain how the land animal that predated today’s gray whale, became the gray whale.  How the bealene formed and how the whale is closely related to today’s hippo.  Riveting talk complete with pictures that were shown on all the big screen TVs around the room.  

Then we trotted off to bed to let the visions of whales dance in our heads!!