Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Eleven Hour Flight

We got on the road on time, but an accident on HWY 50 put us at a snail’s pace, which meant the rest of the drive to Oakland Airport was like a high speed chase scene. We barely got to the gate on time. Thank goodness it’s a small airport. After checking in and security we only stood at the gate for 5-10 minutes… just long enough to shoot off a few texts to rub it in that we were going on vacation. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Norwegian Airlines, but they fly these enormous 787’s out of Oakland at rock bottom prices. It’s so much cheaper than regular airlines that we are flying first class and it’s still less expensive… and we don’t have any stops, none!

Have you ever flown first class? We did it once a long time ago when Joe’s mom gave us some air-miles. We used them to upgrade. That was amazing, so we were pretty stoked about flying all the way to Barcelona in the fancy-pants section. What a difference. No wonder people do this. Firstly we got to go straight up to the check-in counter (I’ve seen people do this) and we went through a separate line (actually no line) to get to the security checkpoint. In other words we probably would’ve missed our flight.

Then you get to board first and they bring you juice before the plane even takes off. And the seats! Wow, talk about roomy. They tilt all the way back almost flat and have legs rests that go up. Right now I’m sitting here with my legs stretched out straight and I can’t touch the seat in front of me with my toes (I can already hear the jokes about how that’s not amazing because I have short legs!).

The flight attendant brought me a glass of wine before dinner. This deserves its own paragraph. It wasn’t good wine, but still. Dinner was good, but I’ve never seen such a small salad in my entire life. Honestly, it had less lettuce than you’d find on a hamburger.

Each seat has a little flip-up TVs hidden in the armrest. You should’ve seen us trying to figure out how to get them up without looking like country bumpkins. I was trying to pry it out because it had a sign that said LIFT. Izzy lifted up on that and I almost lost a finger! The second time we pulled it out we just lifted the handle thingy and it leaped out and scared us both, lol. We couldn’t stop giggling. Then we tried to sleep, but I kept sliding out of the seat. Later when I went to use the restroom I saw that there’s a flap at the bottom of the leg rest—a place to put your feet! That would’ve been good to know four hours ago.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Barcelona Here We Come!

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to play on swing-sets and dance more than she liked to study. Her grades weren’t very good, but she didn’t mind a bit.

Along came a crazy lady who whispered in her ear, “If you get straight A’s in your senior year of high school I will take you to Italy.” (Yeah, I’m the crazy lady)

Little Izzy began to dream of Italy. She began to study harder and even decided to take her most difficult classes before her senior year to improve her probability of getting straight A’s.

The crazy lady began to worry.  She would try and distract Izzy from her goal, but nothing worked. She even tried to change the promise to Mexico (cheaper), but this teenager put her foot down, and said no, “I’m not getting straight A’s just to go to Mexico!”

Well, she did it… and now we’re taking her to Italy. First we’ll go to Barcelona on the way, then Rome, up to Florence, and back to Rome. Our friends Egle & Gianluca are letting us stay with them in Rome. They got to know Izzy when they were at our house in 2016 for a couple of months, so they are excited about seeing her again. Joe is her running coach, so look for short videos of her running past landmarks like the Roman Colosseum.

Moral of the story? Don’t make promises you can’t keep… I promised her little brother (who would rather swim than study) that I’d take him to Mexico!

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Different Adventure

As you all know, I rarely write about anything other than travel. But not all adventure is travel-based. My Auntie Judy decided to move to an independent, senior living type of complex. At 82 she was finding it more and more difficult to maintain her property in the mountains, so she put her home up for sale. Then came the big shock... She passed away before she could move into the fancy place down in Redding. I guess it's good because she got to pass away at home with her kitty by her side (who now lives with us).

Well, she left her home to me and as tempting as it is to keep it, it's just too far away and really not feasible for us. That leads me to the current adventure. We've finished moving her stuff out of the house and it's show-ready.

Here's the problem, it's a unique. Really unique! Have you ever heard of geodesic domes? Well she had two of them. Side-by-side, identical domes attached by a shared laundry room. We have a tenant on one side, which makes a great source of income. He's been there for 8 years, so unless you want him to leave he's content to stay.

For those of you who've read this far, you may be curious why anyone in their right mind would build a geodesic dome. I was, so I did some research and learned about the function and history of this little super-structure. So, here you go Geodesic Dome 101:

Geodesic: Shortest possible line in a dome.
Dome: half a sphere.
Polyhedron: multi-sided, not a smooth dome.
Geodesic dome: a dome constructed of short struts following geodesic lines and forming an open framework of triangles or polygons.

To give credit where credit is due, the principles of its construction were described by Buckminster Fuller. This pair of homes, or duplex, is made in the classic design first popularized by Fuller in the U.S.. He coined the term “Geodesic Dome” in the late forties. Our domes were built in 1979.

Because of the triangular design this structure is incredibly strong. In fact it’s frequently built to provide emergency shelter when just about everything else has been destroyed.

Why would anyone want a geodesic dome for a house? Several reasons actually:

1. It’s one of the strongest structures built by man, especially for its size and weight. It is built with triangles—an extremely strong polyhedron.
2. It’s less expensive to heat and cool because it has less surface area for transference.
3. It’s easier to decorate than a spherical dome because it has flat surfaces, not rounded.

4. There is no need for support beams whatsoever. Therefore if you want a bigger or smaller room you can have the walls moved without fear of destroying the integrity of your home.

5. If you are and artist or have a green thumb, the lighting possibilities are endless.
6. In this case of two domes, one can be a home and the other side an artist studio or a greenhouse.
7. Or you can rent the other side out for additional income, which allows you to travel and be away for weeks at a time (an important feature for a home in the country).

8. For you survivalists, this is 3.09 acres fenced in around the structures. It has a giant RV port, two carports and a double-deep, triple-wide garage with a two-car garage door. Extensive rugged sheds are near the domes, plus a chicken coop and animal stalls in the woods (but within the fencing). Plus the domes are almost zombie-proof!

9. It has a laser detection system to alert you when someone comes through the gate (on foot, in a car, or even if they climb the gate).
10. Between the geodesic domes is a laundry room with interior entry doors, allowing you to go from dome-to-dome without having to trudge through the snow or heat. This room has two more exterior doors, therefore it’s an excellent mud-room.

11. Last but not least… Location, Location, Location. Located in the tiny community of Lewiston, CA, it’s a 30 minute drive to Redding and twenty minutes from Weaverville. It has a good small town elementary school, and is nestled in the Trinity Alps for endless outdoor activities.

If you have questions please ask me or contact Shannon Aikins.


Monday, November 20, 2017

11-12-17: Trying New Things

Joe and Larry went diving this week. Isla Mujeres doesn’t get rave reviews for its diving, but it does have a couple of features. One is a bizarre under-water museum of statues. If you’re interested Google it, because it is pretty weird. They also have a couple of shipwrecks. The guys went to the wreck, and it’s a real wreck, not set there for divers. That means it’s a tough dive in a strong current at 85ft. I didn’t go because going diving from a boat that is as big as a ski boat isn’t my idea of a good time. Club Med has spoiled me.

Karina had decided she’d like to learn how to snorkel. Since she’s a swimmer, she thought it would be easy. Turns out it’s not. First of all, she bought a child’s mask and snorkel on accident in Guatemala. So it basically didn’t fit her face and was rigid plastic… I know because I had to give her mine. She basically hated snorkeling, but she did it. For the rest of the day she had a headache. I guess it’s not for everyone, especially if you’re a nose breather.

Karina amazed me on this trip. She is so brave and curious. She’ll try anything. Here she is on her first vacation, her first time to an island, first time in the sand, and the ocean. First time to float on her back, see yacht, to eat a banana split with beer, and much more, lol.

Speaking of curious, we are always wandering into hotels. It’s kind of a free excursion. We were walking around north beach by Mia Resort and we came across a new outdoor bar/restaurant (brand new) called Cha Cha Cha. After we listened to the band for one beer, we cut across the street to an appealing hotel entrance. It was still under construction and the owner was standing at the passageway. For some reason, maybe our praise for the beauty of the place, he gave us an impromptu tour. We clambered over little hills of sandy dirt to peer into the unfinished pool. We followed him through the imported thick wood doors from India into the presidential suite. He proudly pointed out the yard full of bubble wrapped gym equipment that had just arrived that day. He turned on the lights in the lobby to show us the artwork.

The next night our hotel told me and Joe that they would like to upgrade us to Playa Arena’s presidential suite! We figured they needed our room and we were right. So we stayed the last two nights on the top floor with a gorgeous terrace and a view of the ocean. 

The little pool was right on our patio and no one came up to it, so it was like a private pool. Unfortunately, when a heavy rainstorm came through it flooded our terrace and seeped into the room.  It was poorly designed. FYI, those little rubber discs covering the shower drains are there to keep the bugs from crawling up the pipes into the room… they also keep the sewage stench from wafting into your vacation.

Friday, November 17, 2017

11-10-17: Adventures Away From the Hotel

Occasionally we venture away from our little town at the north end. Last weekend we rented golf carts and headed off to the south end. The island is only about four miles long and just under a mile wide. There’re basically three towns, but dwellings are scattered everywhere. Larry and Lisa’s golf cart was on its last leg. After multiple stops and starts we limped into the southern park which is considered the most eastern tip of all Mexico. They have a little amphitheater to view the sunrise (that way you can be the first person in Mexico to see the sunrise).

The temple of Ixchel is located there… well what remains of it. The ruins were knocked down to the foundation the year we got married. Ironically it was Hurricane Gilbert that did it. 

The park is basically a flat-topped bluff. Just keep walking to the second trail to your right. This will take you down a stairwell to the well-designed sidewalk skirting the cliffs. At some points the waves crash against the rocks and spray you, so plan on the possibility of getting a little ocean spray. A restaurant is located at the entrance with a great view. They also have a few shops to buy local souvenirs.

Coming back up the island we stopped at the Launcheria (I think that’s what it’s called). They are famous for their Titinxic fish. We ordered one to split between five of us, and some guacamole, and were stuffed. The waitress tried to convince us to get one fish for two people, but we knew better from our last trip. You can easily make ten or eleven tacos from one Titinxic.

It’s much, much cheaper to take a taxi than it is to rent a golf cart. There’s a certain freedom to having the cart and they are fun. You can change your mind and whip a U-turn to check out some little roadside stand selling seashells. But taxis are everywhere and very convenient… usually.

Our second outing was go to the only micro brewery on the island – Isla Brewery. Tres Mentiras restaurant on the pedestrian street serves their beer, so we knew it was good. Our plan was to hit the brewery then the famous Mangos restaurant. Apparently Mangos was destroyed or is being renovated, because it has no roof. We hopped in the first taxi to stop and told him we were going to Isla Brewery. He didn’t know where that was, but he started driving anyway. I mean how lost can a taxi driver get on Isla Mujeres? It turns out that if it’s his first day on the job, he can get pretty lost! After zigzagging across the island for twenty minutes, he finally followed our instructions using Larry’s phone app. All that said it is a good brewery and Oscar’s Pizza is worth the short drive.

Lisa and I wandered down the alley in search of restrooms and suddenly we were on the marina! It was beautiful with the jungle greenery growing right up to the docks. I've always loved marinas, but especially since writing my recent screenplay about yacht piracy.