Doggone Tired!

Dear Grandpaw Dwight,

ginger nappingThe weather has started to change, and we are now noticing how much sooner it starts to get dark outside. There’s a bit of a chill in the air the last few days. We can almost smell autumn coming. Mama L. had to unpack her sweaters that she had just put away. This morning she put on sweat pants instead of her usual shorts to take us outside — you know she is not too happy about that. There’s been talk of moving to some place called The Tropics.

the gang at the glass houseWe apologize for not having written sooner. The truth is we have been so doggone tired from all the activities that have been happening since August, and there is no sign of them slowing down. Mama L. said that our social calendar is completely booked through the middle of November. They have been going from one bridal shower or birthday party or wedding or a brunch to the next. This weekend we are all heading up to Truckee to celebrate Auntie Julie’s birthday!

glass house hikeThis all started off with the Mamas’ anniversary mid August, and Mama L’s birthday at the end of the month. They had decided that we would go back to the Glass House for a long weekend. We had been there before and we loved it (except for when the Mamas tried to drown us in the lake). Charissa and Chip and Lisa and Charlie came too, along with Madeleine’s BFF Tara. We all had a really terrific time! We still went for those really long hikes, but this time the Mamas knew better than to force us to learn how to swim.

Then there was Mama M’s 40th big birthday celebration, and Grandmaw and Grandpaw B.ocean beach, san francisco were here, along with Uncle Dennis Jr and his girlfriend Jen. We only got to hang out with the Gramps for the first day because right after that we got shuffled off to the kennel. The Mamas said there were going to be drinking and dancing and swimming and too many people around. Plus, dogs aren’t allowed in the house they were staying in. We think that was a bunch of baloney — why would you want to stay in a place with no dogs — but decided that we needed a vacation of our own. We really like Citizen Canine a lot. They take such good care of us there, and there are always new friends to be made.

After Grandmaw and Grandpaw B. left, Mama M picked us up from the kennel and boy, didgolden gate bridge we give her an earful! But that was alright since the next few days were a lot of fun since JR and Jen came back to the house and stayed with us. They gave us lots of attention.

Mama L. has been trying to design a website for her work, so we don’t really get to blog as much these days. But we would love to hear from you! Mama said you might be coming down to visit us soon. If you are, you’d better give us a call so we can fit you into their very busy calendar! We want to make sure we get to see you!

Belize 2012 Trip, Part 1

I am an island girl at heart. Nothing makes me happier than being on an island. It has little to do with sand sun and surf, although those are all bonus. There is just something magical about an island. It can be quiet and reflective, calm and peaceful — or it can be wild and crazy; that’s up to you. Life takes on a different pace here. You can be on island just a mile away from the mainland, and it’s a whole different world. I have visited some beautiful islands — Penang, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Bali, Phuket (arguably a peninsula and not a “true” island), Gran Canaria, the Phillipines and Guam. There are so many more to visit, including the one on my bucket list: Cuba. I could be wrong on this, but I have a feeling that our favorite standby will always remain Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Ambergris Caye (pronounced “Key”) is the largest Belizean island (there are approximately 450), and is located 17 minutes northeast of Belize City (by plane). It is named after the clumps of ambergris that wash ashore, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. (Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of, and regurgitated or secreted by, sperm whales — you can look up the rest.) The main and only town is San Pedro, although there are villages inland and scores of resorts line up along the coastline.

The biggest draw to this island is the world’s second-longest barrier reef, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. What makes it unique is that the reef is only about a mile offshore, easily kayak-able, and very likely swimmable if it weren’t for all the water taxis. All water-related activities are present here — snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, windsurfing, fishing.

This was our fourth trip to the island, and our first trip with friends. You never know how well you get along with people, no matter how much you may like them, until you actually travel with them.  The other “first” was that we stayed at a resort that was not our usual home resort — more on that later. Our friends Bonnie and Julie were about to celebrate their 20th Anniversary, so I know this was a big deal for them to travel with us as well, and to a foreign country, no less.

<This next part is for Airport Made Simple>

From San Francisco, California, we took the 6:00 a.m. flight to Houston. Julie’s thoughts were that we should spend the night in Millbrae (just south of the airport) since we could just leave the car at the hotel and they would provide us free shuttle service to the airport. It sounded brilliant at the time, and we all applauded Julie on her strategic advance planning skills. But when they knocked on our door at 3:00 a.m., we all started cursing. I am very crabby when I don’t get enough sleep. Michelle started harassing the waitress at the airport coffeeshop for some vegetables to go with her eggs. “Spinach?” “Something green?” “Any vegetables?” The waitress muttered something about potatoes and left.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is fairly straightforward to navigate, but it is a big airport. (Keep this in mind for later.) We had plenty of time to grab some coffee and food, and Michelle and Julie managed to get in some Duty Free shopping.

Belize City Airport (BZE) is quite small in comparison. It took us no time for the plane to land and taxi up. The passengers unload on the runway and trekked in. Here we filed our entrance papers and waited for our luggage. We cleared Customs pretty quickly, despite a bit of scrutiny with Bonnie and Julie’s scuba diving apparatus.

There are two small plane operators in Belize, Tropic Air and Maya Island Air, and they cover most domestic flights (and some to Cancun, Mexico.) We have always flown Tropic Air and have never had any problems. Round trip tickets (advance purchase recommended by our resort concierge) from Belize City to San Pedro (SPR) was around $120 per person.

If you have never been on a small (I mean, tiny) plane before, the flight can be a little unnerving. These puddle jumpers can bounce all over the place if there’s any air turbulence at all. But what fun when you are flying low enough to see everything, including that beautiful great turquoise blue ocean!

If Belize City Airport was small, San Pedro is miniscule. As we arrived, we saw paving equipment on the runway. Yup, they are putting in a second runway so they can handle all the air traffic. Even the one-room airport ticket counter/waiting area got upgraded! And there’s air-conditioning now!

Tomorrow I will fill you in with details on Ambergris Caye. Unconfirmed, but word has it that Madonna sang about this island in her song…

 

Photos

Utah, Part 1

Part 1, because I’m not sure I can finish this tonight. Michelle just made me a hot toddy, well, two, actually, because I have caught a cold and don’t know how far I will get before they kick in. I am all congested, and it feels more like a head cold than anything else. And a little bit of an achy back which makes me a little suspicious of it being the flu. Anyways…

At 8,000 feet, breathing is difficult if you’re not used to the elevation. The air is so thin that it’s difficult to even do “normal” activities, like walking. When we first got to the resort, we traipsed a short distance uphill — maybe a hundred yards or so — and we were completely winded and had to stop to breathe. Of course, it was also after my one shot of tequila and Michelle’s two (but it was also her birthday, so she was entitled — Grand Centenario Plata, FYI.) Afterwards, we read the resort’s welcoming guide, which mentioned abstaining from alcohol for a couple of days. Oh well. It took us a couple of days to get adjusted to this climate. Added to this lack of oxygen was also the lack of humidity. Everything was bone-dry. We probably used twice the usual amount of lotion, and our skin still felt “itchy”. I had a bloody nose pretty much everyday we were there. I also developed this weird pin-prick sensation to anything cold. It felt like somebody was sticking ice splinters in my skin. Michelle had a weird skin rash that looked like tiny water bubbles (which is finally subsiding after several days back in California). Fortunately, the resort also provided a humidifier in every room. It might have helped a little — we had it on every night on full blast.

BTW, cooking also takes twice as long at this altitude. Water took a ridiculously long time to boil.

We had arrived at Snowbird late on a Friday afternoon, and stayed at the Cliff Lodge resort. The resort is a beautiful place — well thought out, well constructed. Engineeringly speaking, it was a work of art. Because it is known mostly as a ski resort, there was NOBODY there except for a small handful of folks. Saturday was our “recovery” day, that is, getting acclimated. We didn’t do much of anything except for shopping. But, it was also Oktoberfest, and suddenly the place was crawling with people. There were zip rides and alpine slides and trampolines — all were targeted towards families with kids. We had a lot of fun people-watching, but after a couple mugs and a few bratwursts, it was time to retire to our room. Yay, hot tub on the balcony!

We finally ventured out on Sunday (when we were finally able to breathe normally) and took the chair lift up to the mountain peak. It’s difficult to explain what vertigo feels like unless you are susceptible to it. It’s not a “fear of heights” as much as it is a chemical or biological response. It is a visceral feeling, and the only way to deal with it is to fight it  with a lot of intellectual reasoning and a lot of breathing to calm the nerves. Michelle finally felt that same sensation when she looked over the 9th floor banister down at the lobby — her palms immediately got sweaty. Anyway, after an 18-minute ride on the chairlift to the peak at Mount Baldy (11,000+ feet), we hiked all the way back down to the resort. It took us a little more than two hours, and I have blisters to prove it. Our calves were aching by the end of the hike. Thank goodness for the hot tub! (And thank goodness we decided to hike down instead of up.)

Whatever possessed us to do the hike again on Monday, I cannot say…but we did. This time a little longer (we took a different route), and by then my blisters were bleeding and I had to put on bandaids. I’ll need new hiking boots. I also have one mysteriously bruised toenail. Our calves were now screaming. But, we saw a couple of moose (mooses? meese? moosen?) and a bunch of other interesting wildlife. There were marmots, for example, which I think might be a relative of the prairie dog? Anyway, there were signs on the resort grounds not to feed the “potguts”.

If you are an avid hiker, or climber, Snowbird is a good place to be in the summertime. It’s only a half-hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. The mountains are spectacular, much more grand than anything I have seen in a long time. But aside from that, and maybe just spending some alone time, there’s not much else to do here. If your calves are screaming from the hikes, and you get twitchy because you don’t have other things to do…well, this is probably just a long weekend kind of place. Even the concierge person that Michelle spoke to, said that we would be ready to leave by Tuesday….and how right she was.

But I will save that for Part 2. Maybe tomorrow. The hot toddies have kicked in and  I need to go put my head down on a pillow now….