Parks Galore; July 7-12, 2018

Golden Spike National Historic Site

The construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the railway network of the Eastern United States with California on the Pacific coast began in 1863 at the terminal points of Omaha, Nebraska and Sacramento, California, and the two sections were merged and ceremonially completed on May 10, 1869, at the famous “golden spike” event at Promontory Summit, Utah.

We visited the Golden Spike National Historic Site on July 7, 2018, where we found an instructive visitor center and re-creations of the original steam engines that met at the summit.

The merger in 1869 created a nationwide mechanized transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West. This network caused the wagon trains of previous decades to become obsolete, exchanging it for a modern transportation system. The building of the railway required enormous labor in the crossing of plains and high mountains by the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad, the two privately chartered federally backed enterprises that built the line westward and eastward respectively. There was an acute labor shortage when the railroads were begun, due to the Civil War and to the gold rush.

In the East, the effort started in Omaha, Nebraska by the Union Pacific Railroad initially proceeded very quickly because of the open terrain of the Great Plains. This changed, however, as the work entered Indian-held lands. The Native Americans saw the railroad as a violation of their treaties with the United States. War parties began to raid the moving labor camps that followed the progress of the line. Union Pacific responded by increasing security and hiring marksmen to kill American Bison, which were both a physical threat to trains and the primary food source for many of the Plains Indians. The Native Americans then began killing laborers when they realized that the so-called “Iron Horse” threatened their existence. Security measures were further strengthened, and progress on the railroad continued.

In the west, the Central Pacific Railroad made great initial progress along the Sacramento Valley. However, construction then slowed, first by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, then by cutting a railroad bed up the mountains themselves. As they progressed higher in the mountains, winter snowstorms and a shortage of reliable labor compounded the problems. Consequently, after a trial crew of Chinese workers was hired and found to work successfully, the Central Pacific expanded its efforts to hire more emigrant laborers—mostly Chinese. Emigrants from poverty stricken regions of China, many of which suffered from the strife of the Taiping Rebellion, seemed to be more willing to tolerate the living and working conditions on the railroad construction, and progress on the railroad continued. The increasing necessity for tunneling as they proceeded up the mountains then began to slow progress of the line yet again. The first step of construction was to survey the route and determine the locations where large excavations, tunnels and bridges would be needed. Crews could then start work in advance of the railroad reaching these locations. Supplies and workers were brought up to the work locations by wagon teams and work on several different sections proceeded simultaneously. To carve a tunnel, one worker held a rock drill on the granite face while one to two other workers swung eighteen-pound sledgehammers to sequentially hit the drill which slowly advanced into the rock. Once the hole was about 10 inches deep, it would be filled with black powder, a fuse set and then ignited from a safe distance. Nitroglycerin, which had been invented less than two decades before the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, was used in relatively large quantities during its construction. This was especially true on the Central Pacific Railroad, which owned its own nitroglycerin plant to ensure it had a steady supply of the volatile explosive. This plant was operated by Chinese laborers as they were willing workers even under the most trying and dangerous of conditions.

Several miles from the historic site, we stopped briefly to look at a small “rocket garden” outside the buildings for the company ATK Thiokol. This is the company that used to make the rocket boosters for the space shuttle. There are many different displays of rockets including a shuttle booster and a Patriot missile. Each has an interpretive sign that explains what one is seeing and what it was used for. One won’t spend a lot of time here, but it is definitely worth the stop on the way in/out to/from the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

The Thiokol Chemical Company was founded in 1929. In the mid-1950s the company bought extensive lands in Utah for its rocket test range. In 1986 it was found at fault for the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the deaths of its astronauts.

City of Rocks National Reserve

City of Rocks National Reserve, also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a United States National Reserve and state park lying 2 miles north of the south central Idaho border with Utah. It is widely known for its excellent rock climbing and rock formations.

The rock spires in the City of Rocks and adjacent Castle Rocks State Park are largely composed of granitic rock. We visited the area on July 9, hiking some of the winding trails at the base of the rocks, and also seeking out a shaded table for picnic lunch.

The City of Rocks is a popular rock climbing area, with over 1,000 traditional and bolt-protected routes. In the 1980s, it was home to some of the most difficult routes in the USA. Climbers in the region refer to the area as simply ‘The City’.

California Trail wagon trains of the 1840s and 1850s left the Raft River valley and traveled through the area and over Granite Pass into Nevada. Names or initials of emigrants written in axle grease are still visible on Register Rock. Ruts from wagon wheels also can be seen in some of the rocks.

City of Rocks was designated a National Reserve, a unit of the National Park Service, in recognition of the nationally significant geological and scenic values of its rock formations and the historical significance of the California Trail. Rock formations in the reserve developed through an erosion process called exfoliation, during which thin rock plates and scales sloughed off along joints in the rocks. The joints, or fractures, resulted from the contraction of the granite as it cooled, from an upward expansion of the granite as overlying materials were eroded away, and from regional tectonic stresses. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes as high as 600 feet.

Twin Falls/Shoshone Falls

On July 12, we drove to the Snyder Winery, near Buhl, ID. Bill & Colleen had been there before, and had contacted her to see if we could park there overnight.  Even though she would be gone when we arrived, she gave her permission.  We picked up a rock to the bus windshield on the way.  After calling to Boise to arrange for a repair the next day, we went to Twin Falls for dinner to celebrate Bill’s birthday.  

Shoshone Falls is a waterfall on the Snake River in southern Idaho, approximately 3 miles northeast of the city of Twin Falls. Sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls—and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide.

Formed by catastrophic outburst flooding during the Pleistocene ice age about 14,000 years ago, Shoshone Falls marks the historical upper limit of fish migration (including salmon) in the Snake River, and was an important fishing and trading place for Native Americans. The falls became a tourist attraction starting in the 1860s. The City of Twin Falls now owns and operates a park overlooking the waterfall.

Due to its great height, Shoshone Falls is a total barrier to the upstream movement of fish. Anadromous fish (which live in the ocean as adults, but return to fresh water to lay eggs) such as salmon and steelhead/rainbow trout, and other migratory fish such as sturgeon, cannot pass the falls. Prior to the construction of many dams on the Snake River below Shoshone Falls, spawning fish would congregate in great numbers at the base of the falls, where they were a major food source for local Native Americans.

Currently, the Falls are subject to periodic drying. And that brings up the name of I.B. Perrine, who moved to Idaho Territory in 1884 and established a farm and ranch operation in the Snake River Canyon near present-day Jerome.

Although Perrine’s operation in the canyon received plenty of water, the surrounding area could not be easily irrigated and was therefore largely unproductive. Beginning in 1893, Perrine worked to convince private financiers to build a dam on the Snake River, along with a corresponding canal system to irrigate the area. This work culminated in the 1900 founding of the Twin Falls Land and Water Company and the subsequent completion of Milner Dam in 1905.

In 1900 the Twin Falls Land and Water Company was incorporated and filed claim for 3,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Snake River. Perrine’s ultimate goal was to irrigate 500,000 acres of land. Although this would have been impermissible in other parts of the western US, due to regulations, Perrine’s project fell under the boundaries of the 1894 Carey Act, which allowed private companies to construct large-scale irrigation systems in desert regions where the task would be far too great for individual settlers.

The reclamation of vast tracts of desert into productive farmland practically overnight led to the regional moniker of “Magic Valley”. Powered entirely by gravity, it was “a rare successful example” of private irrigation development under the Carey Act.

Twin Falls is near the site where Evel Knievel attempted to jump across the Snake River Canyon on September 8, 1974 on a rocket-powered motorcycle, after unsuccessfully petitioning the U.S. Government to let him attempt a jump over the Grand Canyon. Knievel and his team purchased land on both sides of the Snake River and built a large earthen ramp and launch structure. A crowd of 30,000 gathered to watch Knievel’s jump, which failed because his parachute opened too early, causing him to float down towards the river. Knievel likely would have drowned were it not for canyon winds that blew him to the river bank; he ultimately survived with a broken nose. In September 2016, professional stuntman Eddie Braun successfully jumped the Snake River Canyon in a replica of Knievel’s rocket.

On the Road with Norwegian Friends; Part Two — June 25 – July 6, 2018

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

On our way up to Lake Powell from Parks, we stopped north of Flagstaff at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where we spent some time walking paths through volcanic flow fields.

Glen Canyon

When we arrived at Lake Powell, we checked in to Wahweap Campground. We stayed in the Page area for two nights, visiting (by car) Horse Shoe Bend on the Colorado River to the south, and renting a small motorboat one morning to explore some of Lake Powell near the Glen Canyon Dam. Kari and Rasmus did some swimming from the shore near the campground, and they and Bill and Barb swam from the boat. The Norwegians alleged that the water was “warm”, but no one stayed in for very long.

Bryce

Bryce is spectacular.  We went to a number of overlooks, including those on the far north.  But perhaps the best experience was the Navajo Loop Trail down from Sunset Point through the slot canyon of Wall Street, through the Queen’s Garden Trail and up to Sunset Point, down into the amphitheaters and labyrinths, among the hoodoos and spires, and through deep, stone canyons of pink, white, and tan, where 500 to 700-year-old Douglas Firs reach upward toward the sunlight at the top of the canyon. 

Panguitch/Brian Head/Cedar Breaks

We wanted to visit Barb’s brother Mike as we proceeded north, but his mountain cabin was up high near Brian Head, and his residence was on the other side of the mountain, in Parowan. So we chose to stay near the village of Panguitch [Southern Paiute for “big fish”], UT, on the east side of the mountain. Our base camp was the run-down private Panguitch Paradise RV Park. “Run-down” as in no attendant, but with a scribbled sign with instructions to leave the [minimal] fee under the door, using the [non-existent] pay envelopes to be found on the [non-existent] clipboard attached to the door. But the price was right: $15 for full hookups.

Mike came down to join us for dinner, and the next day we took a toad up to see his cabin, the little village of Brian Head, and the colorful cliffs of Cedar Breaks.

Capitol Reef

We love Capitol Reef National Park. But on our way we learned they had only one vacancy, so on 6/30 we stopped at Wonderland RV in Torrey, UT. Colleen and Bill took the opening at Capitol Reef, and we drove over to visit them. The Staff at Capital Reef advised that several sites would probably open up the next morning, and that if we appeared sufficiently early we would probably get one. However, we had to appear in person; Colleen could not sign us in. So Barb got up early and galloped ahead while I broke camp. The strategy worked; we were rewarded with adjoining sites and juicy apricots freshly picked from the long-ago Mormon-planted trees in the Park.

Rivers Edge

And then it was time to get close to Salt Lake City, so that Rasmus & Kari could fly back to Norway. We chose Rivers Edge RV near Heber City. We attended a Fourth of July pancake breakfast at nearby Midway and later went to Park City to join the massive crowd gathered for the fireworks. While waiting for dark, Rasmus & Bill rode up a ski lift in order to come barreling down a luge run.

Salt Lake City

On July 5 we went in to Salt Lake City, where we visited the State Capital Building and the Mormon campus. Afterwards, we were reminded of the Mormon influence in the city when we sought a cup of coffee in a downtown mall. None of the many establishments in a huge food court offered coffee. We were directed to a coffee and pastry shop on another floor. There, we were told that they had run out of coffee!!!

It felt strange to drop off Rasmus & Kari at the airport. They had been ideal guests, and we all, Barb & I and Bill & Colleen, were sad to have them leave.

On the road in our Allegro Bus; Part One — June 9-23, 2018

We concluded our last post with this paragraph:

We left Parks on June 9, driving up to the [Las Vegas] KOA campgrounds at SamsTown Casino on Boulder Highway.  Barb’s dad Cliff lives here in Vegas, as does Barb’s son Jeff.  Jeff’s son Zane will join us soon from Utah.  Barb’s granddaughter Abigail has already flown in from Rincon, near Savannah, GA.  In a few days, Norwegian friends Rasmus and Kari will be here, and we will all attend a Cirque du Soleil performance.  At the end of the week the Norwegians will return with us in the RV to Parks, where we will visit for some days before we all head out (in our two RVs) on a leisurely tour of some of the National Parks on the way toward Salt Lake City, from which Rasmus & Kari will fly back to Norway….

We enjoyed seeing Jeff and Zane and Abigail in Las Vegas.  Barb took Abigail for several trips to the Strip, and one day we took Abbey out for a quick visit to The Valley of Fire.  It was hot, but nevertheless we went for a noonish hike at White Domes.  We misinterpreted a trail sign and got diverted onto a long and lesser-used trail that we followed for a time before realizing our mistake and backtracking.  Abby was not a happy camper hiker.

We got together with Rasmus & Kari for lunch one day, and we joined Jeff and Zane and Abigail for some bowling. And we all, Rasmus & Kari, Jeff & Zane, Abigail, and Barb & I, enjoyed the performance of “O” at Cirque du Soleil.

Leaving Abigail with Jeff in Vegas, we returned to Parks with our RV and toad and guests Rasmus & Kari.  Bill & Colleen hosted them in their home after our arrival.  We spent about a week there, during which we hiked every morning before breakfast.  Bill showed Rasmus the nearby Lava cave.  Colleen took them both to the nearby Bearizona Wildlife Center.  And we had many group meals on picnic tables on Bill’s garage driveway, and we all gathered for a movie shown on the TV housed on the outside of Bruce’s  RV.

Joined by Buck in his own class A RV, we took our Allegro Buses up to “boondock” on National Forest land just a bit south of Grand Canyon.  We spent  three days there, taking our toads up to the South Rim.  Bill, Rasmus and Buck hiked down the Bright Angel Trail into the Canyon, descending all the way to Plateau Point.  And one evening we all splurged and enjoyed a wonderful meal at the historic El Tovar Lodge, which first opened for service in 1905.

We then returned back to Parks so that Bill could get some dental work done in Flagstaff.  While headquartered in Parks, Barb & I took Kari & Rasmus to The Walnut Creek National Monument near Falstaff.   

Walnut Canyon was formed by 60 million years of water flowing first as a gentle creek across the plateau, then etching and carving its way through steep passes. Deep gorges formed in the sandstone, limestone, and other ancient desert rock some 20 miles long and 400 feet deep.

The ledges formed by the winding Walnut Creek left natural alcoves that were perfect for sheltering native peoples from the wind and snow that reaches the Monument’s higher elevations. Sometime between 1100 and 1250, over 100 people lived in Walnut Canyon.

The Sinagua Indians grew crops along the canyon’s rim and along the walls. No one knows for certain why they left, but they left behind fascinating cliff dwellings that render the Monument well worth visiting.

Stay tuned for Part Two, where we continue our account of our leisurely trip toward Salt Lake City with Bill & Colleen in their Allegro Bus and with our guests Kari & Rasmus aboard our own Allegro Bus.

Back in the States — April 30 – June 9, 2018

While still in Bonaire, we bought a 40′ 2011 Allegro Bus, sight unseen (by us).  After months of searching on the web, it was the first (and last) to meet our desires.  It had less than 23000 miles, and virtually no hours on the generator.  We wanted a single-bathroom floor plan.  We wanted a propane stove, the better to support boon docking.  We wanted a propane/electric refrigerator, for the same reason.  Paradoxically, Barb also wanted a dish washer.  And a stacked washer/dryer.  Barb wanted more counter space than we had on the 32′ gasser.  We wanted a queen-sized fold-out bed/couch for guests.  I wanted Diesel power to better handle hills.  We wanted a bigger Diesel pusher than Bill’s 36-footer.  🙂  (Just kidding.)  We had a contact in Eugene, OR, who took an initial look and reported back positively.  On March 13, Bill (nee Dolce Vita) and Bruce flew to Eugene and took delivery at RV Corral and drove it all the way back to Parks, AZ.  How amazing are that kind of friends?  After winterizing, Bill took it to Rt. 66 RV Storage in Belllemont, AZ, to await our arrival.

We left Bonaire about a month earlier than we had planned, because 99 yr-old Mom was experiencing some health problems.  Spent a few days putting Tusen Takk II to bed at Curacao Marine, and then flew to Bismarck, ND on April 30.

After about a week, when it appeared that the crisis had passed, we flew from Bismarck to Phoenix, where Bruce and Jan Dodge put us up and let us use their car so we could search for a vehicle to tow behind the bus.  On May 10, we chose a 2013 Honda CR-V, because we were impressed with it, and because Bruce and Bill had each also recently purchased CR-Vs and had already successfully modified theirs for towing by adding a base plate and braking system.

On May 11, 2018, we arrived with our new Honda in Parks, AZ, at the home of Bill and Colleen.  Next day, we began a month-long project to get the Allegro Bus and Honda CR-V ready for extended travel.  Why did it take almost an entire month?  Because we undertook so many tasks.

We

  • Replaced the transmission oil and filter
  • Installed an Eez tire pressure monitor system (EEZ-RV-TPMS10) on the bus and auto
  • Installed a Blue Ox baseplate for Honda CR-V
  • Installed a Blue Ox BX7365 Alpha 6,500 lb tow bar
  • Installed Blue Ox lock
  • Installed an Air Force One Braking System in coach and car
  • Installed a Cobra 75WXST CB radio in the RV
  • Replaced the Fleetguard CV50628 Crankcase Ventilation Filter in the RV
  • Added two additional Interstate GC2-ECL-UTL house batteries to the existing four
  • Checked air filter to replace, but it was in good shape so we stored the replacement
  • Installed Progressive Industries EMS-LCHW50 surge protector in the RV
  • Installed two Canadian 310 watt solar panels on the roof of the RV, sending wires down to the controller in the basement via the inside of the vent pipe for the grey water tank
  • Installed Victron solar controller
  • Installed battery monitor in the RV
  • Replaced all four slide toppers (Tough Toppers)
  • Replaced the seal on driver’s side front slide
  • Installed Pioneer MVH-1400 NEX radio in the RV
  • Installed SiriusXM tuner in the RV
  • Installed Garmin 770 LMT-S GPS navigation system
  • Bought a 50 amp extension cord and a ‘ 50 to 15 amp’ dog bone
  • Repaired HWH hydraulic pump (for the leveling jacks) that was leaking, first replacing three o-rings and re-installing and then removing again and replacing another set of o-rings, this time with more success
  • Drained the RV coolant and replaced five different hoses
  • Replaced the alternator belt
  • Replaced the fan drive belt
  • Replaced virtually all tungsten bulbs in the coach with LEDs.

A large cast of characters was involved in the efforts.  The “service center” was provided by Bill & Colleen, who live on a large tract of land at an altitude of 7300 feet adjacent to public forest.  They have a beautiful home, and of significant relevance to the RV project, a very large “garage” that is well-equipped with all manner of tools and three bays, one of which has been expanded to accommodate the full length of their 36′ Tiffin Allegro Bus.

Bruce & Jan, long time friends of Bill & Colleen, often come for a visit, and they were there for some of the effort.  Bruce is as much of a gear- and electronics-head as Bill.  They had parked their “new” 43′ Allegro Bus, purchased just after we bought ours,  at the extra electric pedestal and sewer line that Bill installed near the garage.

Casey, a “homeless” free spirit who Bill met on a hike a few years ago, often stops by for a visit.  He owns no house, and sleeps in his car and subsists by eating mostly cold canned goods.  He is sympathetic to some aspects of Buddhism, is philosophically inclined, and seems to believe that by engaging in meditation he is not only attending to his own spiritual needs, but is also somehow helping the Universe to progress.  His role in the RV project was limited to being a bemused and benevolent observer.

Buck also became acquainted with Bill by virtue of their having met on a hike.  Periodically during the project he would take a day off and go charging up a mountain, sometimes carrying extra weight for training purposes.  He is a gentle giant of a man with a self-effacing humble attitude, despite the fact that he is every bit as mentally sharp as he is physically capable.  He is also interested in Buddhism, with an emphasis on becoming “mindful” and learning to tune out distractions.  He just retired early from a career as a lineman for a utility company.  His ex-colleagues and Bill call him “Meat”.  He recently purchased a class ‘A’ RV and accepted an invitation from Bill to park it back behind the garage and live in it for the summer.  He became an instant friend of Barb and me because of his attitude.  When my arthritis hindered my efforts, Buck would take over.  Soon, anticipating my handicap, he initiated his participation.  He was a tremendous help during the project.

Bill & Colleen and Casey (before he left) and Buck met in the house almost every morning for an hour-or-so of meditation.  Afterwards, they would be joined by Barb and me and (when present) Bruce, for a 2+ mile hike along a circular path in the woods.

Toward the end of the project, Bill and Colleen’s long-time friends Jeff & Donna joined the group.  They appeared in their new-to-them fifth wheel camper, pulled by their new-to-them truck, both of which they bought from Bruce when he traded up to the Bus.  Jeff brought along his tools for concrete work; Bill & Buck joined him in pouring a floor in the extension for Bill’s RV.

This enormous RV project could not have been completed were it not for Bill, who provided the tools, the know-how, and — frankly — much of the labor.  Bruce was there for some of the early projects,  providing important how-to check-lists for operating the RV and contributing specialized tools, since by the time we arrived in Parks, he had also accomplished many of the same tasks.  In order to continue to provide continuing service for the impressive fleet of three Tiffin Allegro Buses, Bruce and Bill purchased and invented important support tools, such as large tanks to capture fluids and a pump with appropriate attachments for fluid transfer.   I cannot overstate my gratitude to Bill, Buck and Bruce.

Barb was the de facto supply officer for ordering the to-be-installed stuff from Amazon and Tiffin. She installed the tire monitors and replaced the light bulbs.  And she made a thousand trips to Flagstaff to buy parts and/or supplies.  She found new homes in the new RV for the stuff we had in the old RV.  She advertised the old RV and the old tow vehicle, and successfully oversaw their (independent) sale in remarkably little time.  She also sold the Honda bumper that we removed while installing the baseplate.

We left Parks on June 9, driving up to the KOA campgrounds at SamsTown Casino on Boulder Highway.  Barb’s dad Cliff lives here in Vegas, as does Barb’s son Jeff.  Jeff’s son Zane will join us soon from Utah.  Barb’s granddaughter Abigail has already flown in from Rincon, near Savannah, GA.  In a few days, Norwegian friends Rasmus and Kari will be here, and we will all attend a Cirque du Soleil performance.  At the end of the week the Norwegians will return with us in the RV to Parks, where we will visit for some days before we all head out (in our two RVs) on a leisurely tour of some of the National Parks on the way toward Salt Lake City, from which Rasmus & Kari will fly back to Norway.  But that account will have to wait for the next installment of “the travel adventures of Chuck & Barb”.

Below the Sea (Part One) — 2017-2018 Season in Bonaire

All photos ©Charles Shipley 2017-2018, please do not use without permission.

Here are some of the underwater “fish” photos I took during the 2017-18 season in Bonaire.

 

Closing Out the Season; News from above the Sea — Mar 4-May 2, 2018

This post will be a quick overview of some of our above-water activities during the last half of our season in Bonaire.

Barb and I fell into the habit of having Sunday breakfasts at La Crêperie early in the season, and continued that practice throughout our time in Bonaire. When Mike and Roberta, co-owners of our pickup, arrived “late” in Bonaire, having been delayed by the birth of their first grandchild back in Portland, OR, they joined us in crepe worship. The four of us also partook of the best arepas in Bonaire at the gazebo on Coco Beach run by Yhanni. And we continued our practice of attending the Burger Nights at Zazu.  We also went to Tuna Night at Hill Side; on one occasion transporting a gaggle of folks that overflowed into the back of our pickup. We also took the pickup to one of the monthly wine tasting events held at Antillean Wine. One afternoon we made sushi at Pat’s, whom we met a couple of years ago through Mike and Roberta. We went on a dive/snorkel trip to Klein Bonaire with Pat and Mike & Roberta and Rod & Jill and Rod’s cousin Chuck, afterwards stopping at the beach on the north side for a picnic lunch. Well before the arrival of Mike & Roberta, at the initiative of Lawrence (Phatt Cat), we began playing Mexican Train every Sunday night at the Divers’ Diner. It turned out to be a very popular event, attracting two tables totaling 12 to 16 players. Jill & Rod’s son Roddie visited for a while, during which a bunch of us celebrated Jill’s birthday at Zazu, including Kim and Doug (Gabriel). Speaking of whom, the couple again presented a series of four sessions on fish identification, this time hosted by Dive Friends at their Yellow Submarine location.  The lessons are designed to provide certification with REEF to enable citizen-based fish surveys.

On April 13, I completed my 1000th scuba dive. Diving with me to mark the occasion were Barb and Mike & Roberta.  Later, Barb threw a party for me on Tusen Takk II, attended by Roberta & Mike, Kim & Doug, Jill & Rod & Roddie, and Sherry & Lawrence. Barb was enormously supportive as I pushed to reach the milestone before we had to leave Bonaire.  We were first certified in 1991. Over 600 of my dives were at Bonaire, including about 400 of the most recent during the last four seasons. (Watch for a subsequent post featuring some of my underwater pictures.)

On April 17 we joined Roberta & Mike at Pasta e Basta, a special occasion at the restaurant It Rains Fishes: an evening of dinner and music provided by singing waiters from an Amsterdam restaurant of the same name: Pasta e Basta. For a review of the Bonaire version, click here.

We received word that my 99 year-old mother was experiencing health problems, so we pushed up our departure date from Bonaire and took Tusen Takk II to Curacao on April 23.  We worked frantically at Curacao to put the boat to bed, including putting down four coats of varnish on the cap rails to help them resist the Caribbean sun during our six-month summer absence, but on April 28, on the eve of our departure, joined Al & Maggy (Sweet Dreams) for dinner at scenic Fort Nassau.

Barb’s sister Audrey Visits — Feb. 24-Mar. 3, 2018

Audrey came to Bonaire for a one-week visit recently.  We kept her busy with various social activities, but she still found time to just read and relax.  We were invited out to a sushi dinner at Ron and Nancy’s; one of the last engagements at their “old” home before moving into their “new” larger home just a few doors away.  The ladies visited with Pat on several occasions.  Don and Pam were back to the island for a very brief visit; we saw them at Burger Night at Zazu and also got together at La Crêperie on Saturday morning.  We took Audrey to Coco Beach to introduce her to Yhanni and her arepas.  Barb and Audrey snorkeled a number of times, including one trip to the dive site Thousand Steps with Pat.  On another occasion we all went to Klein where they snorkeled while I dove.   And then the pièce de résistance: Barb took Audrey out to the Donkey Shelter!  I suspect that will become one of the must-see experiences for visitors to Tusen Takk II.

Norwegian Friends Visit us in Bonaire — January 23-February 1, 2018

On January 23 friends Lars Helge and Tove Brunborg arrived from Norway to spend some time with us on Tusen Takk II.  They were knackered after a long day of travel, first to Amsterdam from Kristiansand and then on a direct flight to Bonaire, but they stayed up long enough to partake of a glass or two of welcoming Prosecco.

Next day we showed them a little of Kralendijk with a walk through some of the village.  Here they are at the waterfront near the cruiseship dock.

On the 25th we boarded our beloved “Wanda” pickup and toured the south side of the island, making our usual stops at the salt pier, the white and pink slave huts, the kite surfing beach and finally the Sorbonne Resort for lunch. Afterwards we took the side road up to the north side of Lac Bai in search of flamingos.

On the 26th we were all invited to join Mary Grace and Frank aboard Let it Be on a sailing trip down to Salt Pier, where we tied up to a dive buoy and then took their dinghy under the Pier for a snorkel. On the way back we sailed around Klein Bonaire. Thanks Mary Grace and Frank for a great afternoon!

On the 27th we counted parrots. We had been trained and assigned a territory on a previous night. We arose shortly after 4 AM in order to get to a roost just south of Rincon. The counting was from 6 AM to 8 AM. The protocol was to count a parrot only after it had risen up from the roost and flown away. Since they generally did not land again in the immediate area, double counting was largely avoided. Our first parrot left at about 6:25 AM and our last about 7:45 AM. We counted a whopping 74 parrots in all! Our results were turned in at the entrance to the Washington-Slagbai Park, where we learned that the preliminary total count was 10xx, considerably up from the 8xx count of the previous year. We were served a breakfast of sandwiches and fruit and then returned to our boats (plural because we also gave a ride to Mary Grace and Frank), stopping at Seru Largu (Papamiento translation: large hill) along the way.

On Sunday, January 28, we went into Kralendijk and had breakfast at La Crêperie.  (No photos: too busy eating).

On the 29th we took Tusen Takk II out to deep water in order to empty our holding tank. We took the opportunity to do a little motor cruising and circled Klein, discovering in the process Paul Allen’s Yacht Tatoosh anchored in deep sand west of Klein.

On the 30th we took the pickup round to Windsock Beach where we lounged in the sand under a small tree and some of us snorkeled. We also partook of sandwiches and adult beverages. For most of the visit we’ve had periods of precipitation, and this day was no exception. We were ultimately chased home by a gusty shower.

On Wednesday, January 31, Barb got up early to check out the special moon. Alas, the cloudy weather persisted. We took our pickup “Wanda” out to the donkey sanctuary and fed them carrots we had purchased on the way.  Afterwards we had lunch at the Windsock, the Beach Bar and Restaurant. That evening Mary Grace and Frank joined us at The Bistro for the famous burger night. Afterwards, we enjoyed drinks and conversation aboard Let It Be.

We have been trading visits with the Brunborgs for many years now. It is always fun to spend some time with these good friends from Norway. We are already discussing our next get-together.

Back in the Caribbean — Curacao, November 6-16, 2017

On Monday, November 6, we flew out of Atlanta and on to Curacao via Miami. Bill met us at the airport; he was already there getting his boat Dolce Vita ready for sale. The boat was in Bristol condition and passed the subsequent survey with flying colors. But to no avail. At the last minute the prospective buyer got cold feet. The would-be buyer had absolutely no complaint about the price or the boat or Bill’s conduct; he simply realized rather late in the game that he didn’t want to be a blue-water sailor.  Bill subsequently took the boat up to the BVIs where he left it under the care of a broker in Trellis Bay.

Our stay in Curacao was relatively brief and relatively busy, but we did have some pleasant outings with Bill before his departure, including some memorable orders of ribs at the nearby Rodeo Restaurant.

We took delivery of our newly upholstered settee cushions (manufactured during our summer absence).  We got help from Curacao Marine to install two new 8D batteries for the bow thruster.  We had the bottom painted with antifouling.  I cleaned off the huge propellor and rudder, opting to leave it bare this time as an experiment, given that Prop Speed is expensive and keeps peeling off, and given that the Sergeant Majors in Bonaire do a creditable job of keeping the hull and running gear remarkably clean.

We splashed on November 14 and departed for Bonaire on November 16.  Along the way, as we passed through calm seas, we caught a small Mahi-mahi.  Yummy!  (When we got the fish aboard we discovered that our container of “fish pacifier” had evaporated, so we pressed into service some under-utilized Sambvca. I think the fish died happy.)

Back to Georgia — Rincon, Savannah & Atlanta; October 27 – November 6, 2017

Rincon

We flew from Phoenix AZ  into Atlanta, where we rented a car and drove to the Savannah area.  Our initial stay was in a motel near the Savannah airport, since that afforded relatively easy access to Rincon, where daughter Danielle and her daughter Abigail live.  We were joined for most of our socializing by Danielle’s older daughter Kristen, who lives south of Savannah but is pursuing an MBA at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.  We all enjoyed several rousing games of Kings Cross at Danielle’s, and we all patronized a number of local restaurants.

On October 28 we all went to a local corn maze, where we saw dramatic evidence of the ill effects of too much rain for too much of the summer.

Savannah

We subsequently moved to a motel within Savannah in order to be closer to our various doctors and to the Savannah College of Art & Design annual film festival.  We had scheduled our visit to correspond to the festival, but alas, we had waited too long to secure our tickets and consequently saw many fewer than we wished.

One that we DID see, however, we enjoyed immensely.  “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, stars Frances McDormand, in a role written just for her.  I understand it opened initially in just a few markets, so we were doubly pleased to be able to see it before its official opening.

On an off day, one without doctor appointments or movie tickets, we drove out to Tybee Island. Very quiet place, this time of year.

And we found time to visit the Miwa Sushi Restaurant in Pooler, not once, but twice during our stay.  We think it is the best Sushi restaurant in Savannah, and we always try to drop in at least once when we are in the Savannah area.

And while I am praising Savannah restaurants, I must mention  Joe’s Homemade Cafe, Catering & Bakery.  We discovered it last year, and had to go back.  It is a tiny place with only a few tables, but the staff is super friendly and the offerings — salads, sandwiches, panini, and desserts — are extraordinary.   By the way, as you pay at the register, ask “which one is Joe?”

Atlanta

On Friday,  November 3, we drove our rental back up to Atlanta in order to spend the weekend with daughter Nellie, her husband Michael, and their two sons Michael and Connor.  It was a very good visit.  On Nov. 4 we all took a nice long walk (20,000 steps on my Fitbit) along the nearby Beltway, ending up at Piedmont Park, where we entered the Botanical Gardens.  Lovely place.  I took a gazillion pictures, with special emphasis on the orchids and on the colorful pitcher plants.  Also a few of Venus fly traps.  With enormous misgivings I include only one of each here.

On Sunday, another nice walk, but perhaps only half as long.  They live in a very interesting part of Atlanta, very near the Carter Center.

Early Monday morning we took our rental car back to the Atlanta airport and hopped a plane to Curacao, via Miami.  But Curacao is another topic for another post.