Puerto Rico (2014)

Sunny Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment had much to offer. For one thing, no passport required and no currency exchanges are necessary. No lengthy lines at the airport for customs. You get all the benefits of a tropical paradise in the Caribbean with less fuss. In brief, I was part of the Lone Star Skiers and Adventure group that stayed in San Juan near the beach in an Embassy Suites Hotel. We spent 7 full days exploring the island. The beach near the hotel was just great but not nearly as stunning as other beach fronts on the island. Or off the island. As a group we took a catamaran out to Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra and THAT was a stunning beach. We dropped anchor and snorkeled, swam, and beach combed and it was fantastic.

Back to San Juan. I rode a bike one day from the hotel to Condado, blending in with traffic. I recommend doing this as a different way to see the city. When it came time to explore Old San Juan though, we took a taxi. El Morro, a mighty fortress that overlooks the ocean is important to see. The other site to visit is the Museo de Las Americas across from El Murro. When evening hit, I stumbled upon a street festival in this area. The music was fun, the people were not tourists and the food was free. I must have stood out like a sore thumb. But I loved the authenticity of it. Then I walked over to some of the busy streets in Old San Juan like Calle Recinto Sur where there are stretches of restaurants and shops begging for tourists. It’s also easy to catch a cab in this area. For shopping in my opinion, Old San Juan is the place to go.

Another day I ventured out with three lady companions and we toured the countryside looking for the archeological site, Caguana. We wound up the hills to find it and had a blast along the way. Afterward we passed a cemetery near Adjuntas. Both Lori and I nearly jumped out of the car with cameras in hand. The color, the sky, the variety of gravestones, the honoring of the dead, the mystery and quirkiness of it all against the mountain backdrop and a stormy sky was just too much to resist. The oldest marker we found was a obelisk dated 1846. It was clear that some of these graves had been visited recently, no doubt for Dia de los Muertos.

Later we visited the southern city of Ponce and then returned to San Juan as night fell. Okay, the most wonderful restaurant was discovered at this point. It was Bagua, located in a ghetto part of the city, and the food and service was fabulous.

I must mention the hike we took through El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s infamous rainforest which led to La Mina waterfall. Exotic but crowded with people. I took a dip in the ice cold water. You will hear the little Coqui, a small frog that is indigenous to Puerto Rico. You hear it everywhere along with a few bird calls as you hike. However we saw very little wildlife, some giant snails and a lizard or two.

After hiking we moved on to Fajardo, a city on the eastern coastline. There we met outfitters who led us into a mangrove swamp that spilled out into a lake where the bio-luminescent creatures are in abundance. Each time you dipped your paddle or touched the water, the glow would happen. That was cool. Equally cool was the beautiful night sky. I will NEVER forget the kayaking though – in pitch darkness through the channel. It was chaos and we made it through. Thanks to my partner, Lori, who sat in the front of the kayak and calmly navigated us. No cameras were allowed so I have no photos of the bio-luminescence.

P.S. Tourist Alert! Avoid the Bacardi Rum Factory. It’s not that interesting and will eat up your time.

Provincetown, Massachusetts (2013)

After Asher’s graduation from Berklee we all took a post-trip to Provincetown, or P-town as it is fondly known. What does the world look like from the tip of a curly peninsula, considered to be the eastern most point of the United States? In May it’s chilly and the wind is strong. We arrived just before their season began. Merchants, eateries, bars, were gearing up for the big business of their year. Our hotel room was within walking distance of the heart of the town and the Surfside Hotel was right on the beach. My mother delighted in finding a few shells here and there. We now have a very funny inside joke about spats and pectins. The restaurant next door, Fanizzi’s, became our haunt for a couple of nights, easy access and good food.

Provincetown is not large enough to call a city. All you really need is a bike to get around, however we had a car. So we checked out each of the beaches, Race Point and Herring Cove. We hung out in the center of town by the pier among it’s adorable shops and homes. We climbed the hill to the Pilgrim Monument. On a historical note, Provincetown was the site where the pilgrims first arrived back in the early 1600s. The Mayflower Compact was signed here. However the pilgrims then chose to settle further inland at Plymouth.

Provincetown has an art center, an unusual library, and an equally eclectic home across the street (from the library). Many of the homes here are exceptional. There is a good old fashioned quaintness to Provincetown but then that was my experience before the ‘season’ began. I understand the bar scene here gets pretty wild, thanks to a very active LGBT community.

Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona (2014)

Recently I spent a spectacular fall weekend with the Lone Star Skiers and Adventure Club at two of the most beautiful areas in our country – Grand Canyon National Park and Sedona, Arizona!


I flew into Phoenix early Friday, October 24th and joined my buddies at the airport. We then carpooled on a scenic 4-hour ride to the Grand Canyon National Park. The plan was to stay two nights at the Yavapai Lodge, just outside the Grand Canyon Village with easy shuttle access to the various lookout points along the South Rim. The lodge was perfect, with a spacious dining hall, gift shop, and lots of parking. Each of the hospitality units were set back among the trees and we saw deer, sometimes in groups, foraging close by.

The night we got there we had just enough time to get to Yavapai Point to catch a glimpse of the canyon before the sunset. It got dark quickly and I unfortunately didn’t get to explore the point but briefly. What little I saw was breathtaking.

Early Saturday morning many of us had signed up for a float trip down the Colorado River. We packed into cars and drove two hours to get to Page, Arizona, where the trip would begin. On the way we stopped at a small outpost near the turnoff to Page. The area was populated with Indians from the reservation. I have to say for the first time I understood why a native American Indian could be called a ‘redskin’. The Indian natives I saw did indeed have a red tone to their skin.

In Page we boarded a bus and were driven a couple of miles through a dark tunnel. Once on the other side, the damn and a long loading ramp lay before us. We filed out of the bus and boarded our raft. The rafts were large, equipped with a guide, and could hold about 20 people. They were very stable as well. The plan was to float down to Horseshoe Bend, one of the most famous landmarks along the Colorado River, and then to motor back up to our starting point – at the Glen Canyon Damn.

I loved being on the water in the raft. The water was fairly clear and I saw fish at times. The banks of the river are clean. People can come and fish or even swim in the river since it is a national park, but there are serious restrictions on what you can bring in or leave behind.

One of the most memorable moments on the raft excursion was the point at which one of our members noticed a large black bird flying up around the top of the cliffs. The cliffs we were told were as high as 1100 feet. Given it’s size from our point of view, the bird we watched must have been huge. Our guide mentioned that it would probably be a condor and was nesting up at the top of the cliffs. I still see that image in my mind. It was beautiful and eerie and graceful in the wind. It was speculated the condor’s wing span would be something like 10 feet.

Other noteworthy experiences on the raft trip would be our stop on a beach and a short hike to see the petroglyphs carved into the side of the cliffs. Our guide was very good at pointing out the various rock formations and what the discolorations in the rock represented, what minerals were associated with them. We did get all the way down to Horseshoe Bend. Going back took half as long since we motored most of the way. For some reason the raft was kicking up a lot of water and some of our members got really wet.

That night after returning to the Grand Canyon Village, Rusty, Leticia and I went to dinner at El Tovar. El Tovar is a 100 year old lodge that has been part of the Grand Canyon National Park since it was built in the early 1900s. It was dark, so we couldn’t see the outside very well but the inside is wonderful. I suspect it looks like a large log cabin. The food is fabulous and probably the most expensive dining experience you can have up there. I must do this again and stay in El Tovar as well. They are the only lodge/hotel that sits on the rim and you can look out over the canyon as you dine. However it was dark and we saw nothing.

Early the next morning I got up and drove with a couple of other trip members to Mather Point. We wanted to see more of the South Rim before we took off for Sedona. It was well worth it. Mather Point in many ways seemed more accessible and more dramatic than what we had seen at Yavapai Point.