A Weekend At Home… Boy Did We Need That!

It seems like we’ve been on the go for several weeks if not months now so we decided to stay close to home this weekend and possibly next as well before heading off for a few days away over the Labor Day weekend.

FRIDAY

Friday was a work day for me, but about Tuesday I began to have some dental related issues, e.g., a very sensitive lower left jaw and molars.  It was just an annoyance at first but by Thursday I was popping Motrin and applying Benzocaine and asked Debbie to see if our dentist could see me on Friday.   She succeeded in getting me an 11:30am appointment so I left the office around 11:10am on Friday and decided that if I was in any shape to work on Friday afternoon I’d just do it remotely from home.

The good news was, my teeth were fine. The bad news was, I had a periodontal flare up and an infection from something that got stuck down below my gum line.  Our dentist was able to dislodge it and clean out my gums, but as he said, “Your gums are really upset with you at the moment.”  Boy, was that an understatement.  I’d classify the discomfort level at a 7 on a scale of 10, made a bit worse since it was a pain that radiated from my left jaw into my neck, the side of my face, ears and temple.  In terms of treatment, I’d just keep on popping Motrin while also flushing out my gums with some kind of a Chlorhexidine Gluconate Oral Rinse several times a day and, well, lots of the Benzocaine topical treatment.

DENTAL UPDATE: By Tuesday my dental discomfort was pretty much constant pain that now radiated up into my ears and down into my neck so Debbie secured an appointment for me at 3:00pm Tuesday afternoon.  Guess what, it wasn’t a periodontal issue, it was a cracked molar (my original assumption). I’ll be getting a temporary crown tomorrow at 11:00am to see if that will address the problem and, if not, I’ll be getting a root canal.  On a pain scale of 1 to 10 I’d give it a solid 7 at the moment. It’s persistent and still runs from my ears down to my neck and shoulder (yes, I’m now on antibiotics as well as ibuprofen) and I’ve not had much more than an hour or two of sleep in four nights.

All those things combined allowed me to finish up work from the house on Friday afternoon and also enabled us to make our weekly trek over to Loco Willy’s for our Finally a Friday celebration.  It was a thin crowd with just Billy & Dava on hand as David & Deb were in St. Paul, MN, for the weekend.  However, Brian was back behind the bar with Lindsay after being away for two weeks while vacationing in California and Nevada.

While we both knew we needed to head home, a friend had invited us to join him at Subourbon’s where a local band — No Sweat — would be playing at 9:00pm.  We decided to drop in on the way home around 8:20pm just to see how things were shaping up and that gave us a chance to see a few other friends whom we’d not seen in a while.  No Sweat came on around 9:10pm and were sounding really good.  Unfortunately, between the DJ booth that the owner Dave installed next to the band stand on the already minimal dance floor and the floor space taken up by the five members of No Sweat and their equipment, there was no dance floor left.  Without the added enticement of being able to dance, we bid our friends adieu around 9:45pm as neither one of us was in a mood to sit around while listening to music that we really would have preferred to dance to.  But, all that said, we’re very glad that we stopped in as it did give us a chance to see quite a few people whom we’d had otherwise missed.

Two other notes of interest from the week:

  1. Debbie’s HP Pavilion laptop suddenly stopped running a couple weeks ago for no apparent reason and nothing would bring it back to life.  I took it into MicroCenter for diagnostics and of all things it was the A/C power adapter that had gone bad. After two false starts on replacing it — one new power adapter from HP that was supposed to work on all models of PCs but didn’t and an ebay sourced one where what was shipped was not what I bought — I successfully found an OEM power supply from an ebay seller for $14.00 that solved the issue.  Debbie’s still probably due for a new laptop as hers takes forever to start-up, but at least it’s not something we have to do “now”.
  2. We took the Toyota Tundra in for an oil change on Wednesday and also asked them to check the brakes as the stopping power of the truck had noticeably decreased. Remembering that a new tech at the shop had pretty much botched the brake replacement on our last visit in May that the lead tech had to quickly rework, I suspected there may have been some hold-over issues. Turns out, the same new tech had also done the rear axle seal installation and botched that such that gear lube migrated out of the axle and into the right rear drum and brake pads. Our shop re-did both the rear axle seal replacement and right rear brakes under warranty and we’re all good again.

SATURDAY

After popping my pills and getting my dental discomfort back in check Debbie and I headed out on the tandem for a 25 mile ride from the house on our local loop.  It was pretty darn warm out in the sun, but the low humidity made for very pleasant cycling weather so long as we were moving.  Sitting at stoplights, not so much fun.

We were back at the house around 11:00am where we relaxed on the breezeway for a few moments before I turned my attention to several hours of yard work.

There was quite a bit of hedge and tree trimming that I needed catch up on before moving on to the grass edging, trimming and mowing.  After running out to pick up a new hose, Waterpik and getting my truck washed, I followed up the yard work with a deep watering of the front & rear lawns as it had been several days since we’d had any rain and the outlook wasn’t all that promising.  Yup, that’s the extent of my stay-home excitement from Saturday.  Well, there were a handful of other small things I had to do, but none worth mentioning.  Debbie was out running errands most of the afternoon and also went down to the neighborhood pool with our son Wesley and two of the three granddaughters as their pool was temporarily closed due to a bio-hazard event the day before that was still being addressed by the pool staff.

Saturday night was a second helping of Loco Willy’s. Once again, always great to see a lot of the regulars but it just didn’t have that good-time vibe that makes you lose track of time.  Instead, we headed home around 8:15pm and pretty much called it a night.  As you might expect, I’d not been sleeping all that well and such was the case again on Saturday night.

SUNDAY

The plan for the day was to get in another tandem ride, but one that was a bit longer than our usual loop.  However, since I was up a bit early I had just enough time to get Debbie’s car washed before it would be time to head out for the ride.  It had probably been a couple of weeks since the rain had let up enough to make washing her car worthwhile, so it was sorely in need of a good bath, inside and out.

With the car washed and back in the garage I think it was about 9:15am when we finally headed off on our tandem ride.  Things were going well up and until we ventured onto the Seven Hills loop — something we hadn’t ridden in well over a year or two.  It was at one time a really nice, low-traffic ride through some beautiful back roads in Pauling County.  Yeah, well… add in a few thousand new homes, shopping centers and clogged up major arterial roads that put folks on those same narrow back roads as a shortcut and it’s the last place you want to be cycling.  Seriously, it was quite awful. And, to add insult to injury, the shifting on our Calfee tandem decided to act up once we hit the steeper hills and needed to use our “alpine” gearing.  Yeah, well the tandem wanted no part of that so I had to make a couple of on-road adjustments in and amongst all of the traffic.

Sadly, the combination of my dental discomfort, lack of sleep and angst from the traffic and mechanical issues with the tandem had me being a bit-short tempered at Miss Debbie’s expense.  Oh, and did I mention that it was hot?  And by hot I mean really hot, like upper 90’s to 100’s on the black asphalt hot. So, the mixed grimace and smiles in the above photo taken just 1/2 way through the ride were probably a lot more stressed looking by the time we finally made it home around noon.  Honestly, I was never so glad to be off the tandem and I swear we’ll never head out to the Seven Hills area to ride again; ugg!

Once we were back at home a put a fresh coat of Zaino polish on Debbie’s car while she grabbed a shower. After grabbed my own shower — mostly to cool-off — we headed out on our Harley, Blue, for the afternoon.  The first stop was The Red Eyed Mule for some “Mule Fuel”… in the shape of a Jakes Big Daddy.  We were both pretty hungry by the time we rolled in at 1:15pm and, bless his heart, as Enrique saw us ride up on Blue he told the cook to put down a burger – medium rare — for us as he knew exactly what we’d be ordering.  The gentleman working the orders and cash register had to ask, “So, how often do you come here to where everyone knows what you order and how you like it cooked?”  Yeah, we love The Mule!  The burger hit the spot and would carry us for a few hours until our next feeding around 5:00pm over at Twin Peaks, the ultimate destination for the afternoon.

After leaving The Mule we stopped by Jared’s Jewelry to drop off one of my watches for a battery change.  The gentleman who greeted us was also a watch technician and son-of-a-gun if he didn’t take the watch right to his work bench and change the battery while we waited.  It only took about five minutes and when he handed it back he said, “Please come and see us again soon.”  There was no charge for the watch battery or time spent replacing it; wow!  How often does that happen!  Thankfully, we’ve been Jared customers for several years so we’ve come to enjoy their brand of customer service and care.  In fact, it’s that personal attention that probably keeps us coming back, well that and they’re one of the few jewelry stores that also specializes in watches and watch repair.

Our next destination was Killer Creek Harley Davidson over in Roswell, Georgia, about a 35 minute ride from Jared’s.  We had a couple of friends who were going to drop in there for a visit and there are usually quite a few of our “biker friends” on hand at these events.  Sure enough, we ran into at least a dozen friends who we only get to see at these events, bike weeks down in Florida or birthday parties so that was pretty cool.  I think it was around 3:00pm when we all decided it was just too hot to hang-out in the parking-lot venue and decided to ride back over to Twin Peaks, was about a block from Jared’s where we’d been earlier in the day.

The main event at Twin Peaks was the Atlanta Falcon / Pittsburgh Steelers pre-season game, noting that about the only time we go to Twin Peaks is during football season when the friends whom we’ve met through motorcycling end up there for a Falcons, Patriots or Steelers game.  The service at the tables is never great, but the beer is cold (so I’m told, I rarely touch the stuff) and they have some tasty things on the menu and, well, they have their so-called “cheap shots” for $2.99 that include a nice silver tequila. It always makes for a nice relaxing time.

Sadly, I never really got into the groove on Sunday and that carried over to Twin Peaks. Between my dental discomfort, the lack of sleep and then the hot and less than pleasant ride on the tandem followed by the hot ride on the Harley, I was pretty much gassed the entire time we were at Twin Peaks.  So, after having some BBQ Pork Nacho’s as our dinner and visiting with our friends for a while we said our goodbyes and headed home around 6:30pm.

Back at the house the only thing I “had to do” was to buff the dried polish residue off of Debbie’s car before heading in the house and pretty much going into chill mode, which is where I still am as I bang out this blog entry.  So, nothing really epic this weekend… and that’s just fine by me.  Next weekend will likely be a repeat.  Well, not exactly, as there are some painting projects that I need to wrap up before tearing apart our master bathroom shower.  There’s always more than enough to do at the house.

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Getting Back Into The Swing of Things…

Friday, 4 Aug

After returning home from Costa Rica on Thursday night I didn’t take long for “the real world” to take hold again.  Even though I was still on vacation 1st thing Friday morning I was in the home office for a good 3-4 hours catching up on what I couldn’t accomplish via smart phone from Costa Rica.  As soon as that was done it was late enough in the morning for me to fire up the yard care equipment so that I could get the lawn knocked down before any more rain came through.

However, with that behind me, I put Debbie on our Harley Road King around noon time so we could get some much needed wind therapy, pick up a pair of western boots from High Plains that needed new heels and then stopped in for lunch at The Red Eyed Mule.  Oh, that burger! I swear, every time we go back after skipping a couple weeks the Jake’s Big Daddy simply tastes even better than the last time!

After our errands and lunch date we headed back home to pick up where we left off with laundry and other honey-do tasks as that seems to be a never-ending / always growing list of things to do.  I had all of my banking, a little more work and a few other things taken care of by mid-afternoon and used some free time to work on the Costa Rica vacation blog.  Before I knew it, dinner time was upon us.

Being a Friday and not otherwise having any plans we headed for Loco Willy’s for our Finally a Friday celebration. We ended up having a guest appearance by our friends Bobby (sans Carrie Ann who was entertaining a granddaughter) and Dave.  Our partners in crime, David & Deb, came along a little later than usual as David’s flight out of Allentown, PA, was delayed.  We had a great time, as always, with the entire gang that calls Loco’s their home away from home.

Saturday, 5 Aug

With yard work out of the way, I was able to get up early and knock out a good bit of my blog entry before Debbie was up and about. We’d made plans to head up to the North Georgia Mountains for Saturday so we purposely didn’t have any major projects lined up at the house. There was some thought given to sneaking in a tandem bike ride before we headed out at 11:00am, but as often happens, time slipped away and the next thing we knew it was time to go.   We had a very relaxing afternoon, I was able to get in a little reading, some work on my blog and we caught up with a few friends who we hadn’t seen in a while.  We were able to do a little dancing in the evening which was much-needed.  We’d gotten our dance lesson in Costa Rica and did a little dancing on two of our five nights, but it wasn’t the “work out” that we like to get when either a good band or a good DJ offer up the really great stuff that gets your heart pumping.

Sunday, 6 Aug

Sunday was mostly about finishing up the blog, laundry and running other errands while dodging rain the rain.  I honestly can’t remember if we went to Loco Willy’s for lunch or dinner, which makes me thing it may have been a late lunch.  You see, this is why I usually write these journals as it’s so easy to lose track of things if I don’t.  It’s like my own phone number, I never call myself so I’m typically at a loss as to what my phone number is when someone asks for it.  I’m pretty sure we ended up going to Loco’s for dinner based on the photo evidence at right and I’m also pretty sure it was ribs… and it was good!  Back at the house we flipped on the Sunday night pre-season football game as we (we, OK… I) got ready to head back into the office for the first time since September 28th.

Monday – Thursday

Work, work, work, work…   Sometimes it’s challenging, sometimes it’s more than challenging but it’s always worth the effort.  Sure, I’ll moan and groan about certain things and long to join Debbie in retirement, but at the same time I do like having structure in my life and my work provides that and then some.  Of course, the best part about work is heading home and knowing there’s a good chance Miss Debbie will be in a good mood and waiting for me to arrive.

Although, I will admit that weeknights give me a few moments when I can go into room next to our closet and master bath to knock out a few sit ups, dips, push-ups, curls and what not to get my blood blowing and if I’m really feeling motivated I might even pick up my tuba and play a few warm-up exercises and scales.  Bag pipes are still on the bucket list, so the tuba will have to suffice for the time being.

Friday, 11 Aug

I want to say we did something else during the week this past week but I’ll be darned if I can recall what it was. But, Friday was my off-day so I’d be able to get a lot done!  Yeah, well….  Things happen and I found myself headed into the office at 5:45am per usual on Friday where we had to come up with a solution to a problem.  Thankfully, there was a satisfactory compromise close at hand and after running a few different scenarios through the solution model we were good and by 10:30am I was on my home as the VP’s were starting to arrive.  When I got home Debbie needed to go and run some errands of her own which allowed me to do likewise…. Right after getting the lawn cut, that is.  Amazing how that yard care thing always crops up on a weekly, if not bi-weekly basis.

Sadly, as the late afternoon approached Miss Debbie had signed-on to babysit the granddaughters while Wesley & Julie attended a company social function.  That left me without a date for Loco Willy’s.  I did my best but it just wasn’t the same without my sweetie.  However, I waited up for her to return from the kids and as I expected it was close to 2:00am when she finally came through the door.

Saturday, 12 Aug

Today was a “down day” for us, which is to say that we pretty much took the day off and didn’t do much of anything.  Just relaxing and recharging batteries in between on-days. Sometimes you just need to do that.

Sunday 13 Aug

We decided what we really needed was a good dose of wind therapy and hopped on our Harley around 11:30am and headed for Dahlonega, Georgia, where we’d have lunch at Shenanigan’s just off the square.  It’s a wonderful two hour ride via the side roads vs. an hour blasting up the Interstate and just cruising along on a lovely, sunny, warm and not all that humid afternoon was delightful. We arrived  in town just a little before 1:30pm and joined a few folks at Shenanigan’s downstairs bar.

Ben was our barkeeper and he did a fine job of taking care of us. We split what they call the Shillelagh: a club sandwich made with smoked turkey, black forest ham, apple wood smoked bacon, fried egg, provolone, homemade spicy mayonnaise, lettuce & tomato and served with tavern chips. Yummy stuff!  I have no idea how people can eat an entire sandwich by themselves!  We split it as we do just about all of our meals and it hit the spot.

We stopped at one other bar where we’ve made some friends and spent about two hours visiting with them before heading back to Marietta for dinner at Loco Willy’s around 6:00pm.  About the time we ordered our smoked ribs we heard from our other friends who headed up to Helen, Georgia, on their bikes about an hour and half before we headed out.  While we thought about trying to catch up with them we realized that by the time we arrived they’d be about ready to head home.  So, we were thrilled when we learned that most of them would be stopping at Twin Peaks for dinner around 7:00pm.  That allowed us just enough time to finish our ribs and made the ride over to Twin Peaks so we could join them for about an hour or so before heading home at dusk.  It was the perfect way to end a great weekend.

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Our Costa Rica Resort Vacation…

So, where to begin?

The past seven days have been about getting away from it all and doing a “real vacation.” By real vacation, for the first time ever we got on an airplane and flew outside the US to resort destination: Secrets Papagayo on the northwest coast of Costa Rica… which is nestled between Nicaragua and Panama.

The closest thing we’ve done to this in the recent past was a quick trip down to Key West via air in July 2013 instead of riding down to Key West on the Harley as we’ve done since. And that’s what most of our “vacations” have been, motorcycle trips or cycling trips where at least ½ of our time would be spent riding a motorcycle or a tandem bicycle.

Bottom Line: it was a great experience and even though we have nothing to compare it to aside from a couple stays at Hilton Grand Vacation resorts I would say it’s something we’ll do again but with a bit more research and most likely without using an intermediary as I’m not sure there was a lot of any added-value with that on this trip.  As far as the resort we stayed at — Secrets Papagayo — the staff was superb and that is what made it so enjoyable along with having good friends to share time with.  I’d also be remiss in making mention that while Costa Rica is generally thought of as a 3rd world country I was very impressed that they were far more 1st world than many places in the US in terms of energy and resource conservation.  Perhaps that’s a by-product of having an economy that doesn’t take its natural resources and income / level of living for granted.  Lots of solar, recycling, an intense focus on limiting waste in every way.

The back story on the trip:  Debbie and our friend Sharon were both turning 60 this year and Sharon wanted to invite a group of friends to travel to a resort where they could help her celebrate her 60th on 5 August. Our friends Ryan & Jeanette typically spend two weeks every late July & early August vacationing as they celebrate their anniversary and Ryan’s birthday.  With Ryan, Jeanette & Sharon’s special days falling so close together there have been a few years when their vacation plans intersected with either resort trips or the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  Secret’s Papagayo resort in northwest Costa Rica became the destination after some consultation between Ryan, Jeanette, Sharon & Jeff and then the invitation was extended to several different groups of Sharon’s friends with slightly different travel plans.

  • Ryan & Jeanette arrived on 22 July and would be staying until 6 August
  • Jeff & Sharon arrived on 29 July and would be staying until 7 August
  • Debbie and I arrived on 29 July but would only be staying until 3 August
  • Patti & Brad arrived on 1 August and would be staying until 6 August
  • Julie & Chuck arrived on 2 August and would be staying until 6 August
  • Sharon’s other friends Jim & Pam arrived on 4 August and would be leaving on 7 August

As much as we would have loved to have stayed for the entire 8 night, 9 day visit there were both work and personal factors that played into our travel plans and the overlap in plans was the best we could come up with, noting we originally thought the entourage would be arriving on 29 or 30 July when we originally set our travel dates.


GETTING READY TO GO

We had a little bit of anxiety around the trip since we opted to use a travel agent vs. booking it ourselves where we’d have an intimate understanding of all the arrangements. We learned a lot from the experience and at the end of the day everything worked out just fine.  Much of this was because Costa Rica is a USA-friendly destination so customs, immigration and currency exchange were all non-issues.  We also received a lot of excellent assistance from a Delta gate agent and the staff at Secrets.  But, as I said, I think we’ll most-likely do a bit more homework before handing off the arrangements to a third-party… but never say never.

Setting aside the travel arrangements, Debbie and I both had a to-do list of things to take care of before we left for a week-long vacation and we worked those off throughout the week. The big-ticket item on the list was finalizing the sale of our Honda S2000 which was good to have behind us. Beyond that it was just “stuff” that needed to be done. The big push was on Friday when was off from work and needed to get the yard work taken care of along with a litany of other things, including a few hours of work in the morning. Packing wasn’t a big deal, as we didn’t need much for a “sit by the pool and relax” resort trip. We also learned on our Vegas trip that when you get two-free bags to check, check the cosmetics bag to avoid the liquid-related issues and pull out that big 100L suitcase vs. using the two 50L cases. We had ourselves squared away by mid-afternoon and were at Loco Willy’s for our Finally a Friday celebration by 5:30 which allowed us to  get home in time to finish up packing as we’d have to be out of the house by 7:00am for our 10:00am flight out of Atlanta on Saturday morning.


SATURDAY, THE TRIP TO COSTA RICA & DAY 1 AT SECRETS

Sadly, I was not able to sleep at all before leaving on our trip, which isn’t unusual for me. I always seem to have a hard time sleeping before any long road trip and given this would be our first international trip… yeah, zero sleep. This lack of sleep provided some interesting moments throughout the rest of the day.

I had our bags zipped-up, down and in the truck by 6:45am and even had enough time to grab a little breakfast before heading down the road to the airport. Of course, take a sleepless night, an anxious body and add food to it and you now have an anxious stomach: ugg. Yeah, it was not the effortless, fun-filled morning I’d hoped for.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that happened on our drive to the airport was when a motorist on I-75 motioned from an open car window to Debbie to lower her window so he could tell her something. Turns out, after loading the three bags in the back of the truck bed I neglected to close the tailgate. Thankfully, the truck bed has an indoor/outdoor carpet liner that keeps the luggage from sliding around so when we pulled onto the shoulder of the Interstate and I walked around to the back of the truck all three bags were still sitting exactly where they were supposed to be after 15 miles of driving. So, yeah… I wasn’t exactly firing on all mental cylinders on Saturday morning.

The drive down to the airport was uneventful after that and the FastPark & Relax Lot was “the best” airport parking lot we’ve used… ever! Great experience and an easy ride over to the International terminal. Curbside check-in with the Skycaps was also a breeze as was the TSA Pre-Check.

We waited in the upper terminal so we could meet up with Sharon & Jeff who were on the same flight with us and running about 15 minutes behind. After meeting up with Sharon & Jeff and making the trek to the gate we were able to quickly resolve one of the sources of our travel anxiety by finally securing our assigned seats… and they were side-by-side too! Up and until that point we weren’t sure where we’d be sitting as seat assignments didn’t show up on our tickets and when I tried on-line check-in I discovered there weren’t any open seats together. While we were at the gate with the helpful gate agent we also were able to secure our seat assignments for the return flight on 3 August which was another added relief since that was also an unknown.

I was finally able to vanquish my last remaining bits of anxiousness when I had a double shot of Patron over at TGI Fridays as the rest of the group had coffee and a little breakfast at the food court. Yup, life quickly became a lot more enjoyable after my early morning double as you can easily see in our impromptu group photo at the food court: pretty sure I wasn’t doing all that much smiling up and until visiting TGI Fridays.

Our flight to Costa Rica would cover 1,600 miles and two time zones over the course of about four hours. This was quite opportune as I’ve struggled to find the time and focus I needed to make some headway in reading the book by Charles Mann entitled ‘1491 – New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus‘.   Upon our arrival in Costa Rica, getting through immigration took about 20-30 minutes as our flight arrived about 20 minutes late which stacked us up behind an American Airlines flight that arrived on time. We had no previous point of reference for how long it should take to get through customs so the 20-30 minute wait was OK for us. After that, we breezed through customs, were greeted by a Delta Travel agent who in turn introduced us to Glennis, our Secrets Concierge, who escorted us to our shuttle bus to the resort. Glennis gave us a very nice overview of the resort on the 30 minute drive.

Sadly, when we arrived at Secrets we learned our room selection wasn’t quite what we expected. Instead of being in a standard room with a king bed and panoramic ocean view, we were booked into a bungalow with twin beds and a tropical view. There was also some other confusion over whether or not we were the odd-men out on a premium package which further muddied the waters.  However, within about 15 minutes the wonderful staff at Secrets were able to move us to the desired hilltop room overlooking the ocean bay for what amounted to a $275 up charge: it was well worth it as we ended up with a million dollar view!And, if that wasn’t reason enough, it also put us in a room right below Ryan & Jeanette for our entire stay which worked out quite well.

After being shuttled to top of the resort and getting settled into our rooms we quickly changed into our swim wear and headed down to the main pool where we were told our friends Ryan & Jeanette — and yes, everyone on the staff who interacted with the guests knew all of us by name within just a day — could be found at the swim up bar.  Oh yeah, this was shaping up nicely.

After spending a few hours enjoying the pool-side bar with our friends and making quite a few new ones, we were advised we’d be having dinner at Hitmitsu, the on-site Pan-Asian restaurant complete with hibachi grill-side dining, which is what Ryan & Jeanette had planned for us.  Sadly, given I hadn’t slept in 39 hours, I don’t have a vivid recollection of our dinner.  However, I think it was really good!  But I’m guessing I wasn’t much of a conversationalist at the table that evening.  But, I will say as we walked from the restaurant to the shuttle pick-up point my feet almost moved me toward the live music coming from the Sugar Reef bar.


SUNDAY, DAY 2 AT SECRETS

Early to rise… like 3:30am which would have been 5:30am at home. We tossed and turned a bit and Debbie was able to drift back off to sleep while I waited for sunrise.

Once I had a little bit of natural light I was able to get all three of the cell phones connected via the resort’s WiFi service so I could catch up with Email and whatnot.  Yeah, it would have been nice to fully disconnect for the week but that no longer seems possible for a variety of reasons.

Regardless, I think it was about 6:00am when we finally gave up on trying to sleep and headed off for our morning walk “on the beach.”  I say this jokingly in that the beach along the shore of our resort isn’t quite the same as the beaches we get to enjoy at Panama City or Daytona Beach, Florida, where we have miles and miles of lovely white sand at our disposal.  No, the beach along this part of Costa Rica’s coast has been formed by the erosion of lava noting there are over 50 volcano’s dotting the landscape, many of which are still active.  Interestingly enough, the water is still crystal clear but looks murky near the beach because what you’re seeing is the black sand. However, the biggest limiting factor was that the beach at high tide was perhaps 200 yards from end-to-end.  However, all was not lost as there were well over a mile of roads within the resort that meandered up and down the very hilly but lush and lovely landscape which allowed us to get in about 2.5 miles of walking before breakfast.

After our walk we wandered into the Market Cafe for the daily breakfast buffet.  They also served breakfast at a small outdoor restaurant near the spa called Aqua and for Preferred level guests at the Seaside Grill.   After breakfast we returned to our room, put on swim suits and prepared to spend the better part of the day at the main pool with it’s wonderful pool side swim-up bar, the Manatee.

As we staked-out lounge chairs for ourselves and our four friends, they all began to emerge from their respective breakfast restaurants of choice and joined us poolside.  The sun was intense even at just 9:00am in the morning and the pool while comfortable didn’t exactly cool you off as it was near body temperature. Given it was an all-inclusive resort, the designer breakfast drinks and adult beverages began to flow early.  I was also introduced to Costa Rica’s version of Diet Coke: Coca Cola Light, or Coca-Light.  I will say I enjoyed the taste and the name better than the Diet Coke that’s sold here in the states.

Around lunch time the skies became a bit overcast and a light rain shower came through as we joined Sharon & Jeff and Ryan & Jeanette at the Seaside Grill.  Technically, only guests who paid for the premium Preferred level rooms and service are permitted in the Seaside Grill for breakfast and lunch but since this was the off-season and there were so very few Preferred-level guests, they allowed Sharon & Jeff (who were Preferred guests) to host us for lunch.  It was a very good meal and a very nice dining experience.

I should note, the resort had an amazing entertainment staff that hosted some kind of special activity about every hour on the hour, including snorkeling, kayak and paddle boarding, water volleyball, beach volleyball, cooking lessons, water aerobics, yoga, dance lessons, painting and a for additional fees on-site vacation hosts could book fishing, jet skis and a variety of other tours and activities.  Miss Debbie, Sharon & Jeanette all joined in for the afternoon water aerobic’s workout in the main pool.

  

Jeanette, Sharon, Debbie and I also signed-on to learn the Cha Cha at the 3:00pm dance lesson along side the pool area. Not sure any of us are ready for prime time but we now know the basics and can at least practice it along with our waltz and rumba steps.

Around 4:30pm a very strong thunderstorm moved in over the resort that lasted well into the night. And when I say very strong, I mean of epic proportions to anyone like us who had not previously experienced equatorial rain forest thunderstorms.  Power came and went several times after we took a shuttle bus back to our rooms to get ready for dinner.  The staff was well versed in what it takes to ensure the 200-300 or so guests who were on the property always had umbrellas, plenty of covered spaces to enjoy and the aforementioned shuttle bus services needed to move everyone around the sprawling complex with its wide variety of restaurants and other accommodations.

We ended up heading down to Portofino with its gourmet Italian cuisine for dinner.  As we waited for our table we enjoyed some cocktails at the upper pool side Barracuda bar as the rain fell on the deep blue lighted and now empty pool.

 

Yes, despite the rain we were a happy group. Well, pretty happy.  Shortly before dinner lightning either hit or blew-out a transformer in the lower bungalow area leaving our friends Jeff & Sharon in the dark and without air conditioning.  With the assistance of our wonderful maître d’ the resort staff was able to make another room available to Jeff & Sharon for the night that was not affected by the power outage.

After dinner we called it a night and returned to our respective rooms. The “light show” continued for several hours and we had a bit of added excitement when a raccoon attempted to join us in our room for the night.  You see, on Saturday night we shut off the A/C and opened up the glass doors to our patio so we could enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the rain forest.  I’d thought the screen doors latched so no worries.  However, on Sunday night almost as soon as I shut off the light one of the screen doors suddenly slid open about a foot, prompting me to intuitively shout “get the hell away” not really knowing who or what caused the door to open.  It was at that point I discovered the screen doors didn’t really latch securely and recalled hearing from other guests how raccoons had gotten into their room.  So, that put an end to our fresh-air nights as I had no other option than to close and latch the glass doors.


MONDAY, DAY 3 AT SECRETS

We had to skip our morning walk on Monday as we all signed-up for a 3/4 day long excursion on Monday that would take us out to Filadelfia, Guanacaste and Palo Verde National Park for a 1.5 hour boat tour of the Tempisque River. The trip would also include two visits to Hacienda El Viejo which borders the National Park with lunch at La Casona, the two-story wooden main home built in 1881 after the boat tour.

We met our tour guide, Juan, at 7:20am in front of the resort lobby and our group of six joined another four guests for what I think ended up being a seven-hour excursion.  Juan was a former national park ranger with a passion for nature and environmentalism, but at times was a bit over-the-top, blind to reality and even ill-informed.  Our first stop was about 1/3 of the way to the park where we were scheduled to meet another couple coming from a different hotel for the tour in the small town of Filadelfia.  The stop gave us a little time to wander around the square and have our first encounter with iguanas out in the wild.  While quite exciting at first, we came to realize iguanas in Guanacaste run around like wild cats: they’re everywhere!

With our group of twelve now all on board the bus, we continued for what was about another 45 minutes along heavily rutted and muddy roads lined by sugar cane fields to Hacienda El Viejo where we’d have a chance to stretch our legs and enjoy some cold beverages before the boat tour of the Tempisque River in the adjoining Palo Verde National Park.  The view of the low lands surrounded by volcanic mountain ranges was breathtaking to say the least.

 

After another short, bumpy ride into the National Park we boarded a small motor launch for the 1.5 hour tour of the Tempisque River, a fast flowing 90-mile long waterway that is heavily silted to the point of being muddier than the Mighty Mississippi.  Originally used to support the timber industry and the movement of logs from Guanacaste Cordillera to the Gulf of Nicoya, the river is considered an important habitat for a wide variety of birds, crocodiles, monkeys, and iguanas.

“Amazingly” as soon as the boat pushed away from the pier and moved into the river the trees on the opposite side from the boat launch came alive with a family of white-faced capuchin monkey’s and perhaps a few howler monkeys.

 

So, what are the odds these monkeys just happened to be hanging out as close as they could to humans vs. being off somewhere else in the vast National Park?  Moreover, given this was our sole encounter with primates on the river tour I was left to suspect the tour operators must doing something for the monkeys to ensure visitors have something exciting to see on the tour.  I say this as we may or may not have seen one or two crocodiles in the murky water, several more iguanas, several birds and a small cluster of bats nesting on a tree.  Well, that and a lot of garbage — plastic soda and water bottles, bags, wheels from a stroller, and on and on — floating down the river which didn’t seem to phase our naturalist and tour guide all that much: “It just gets washed into the river during heavy rains.”   Our host also didn’t quite grasp the concept that it’s not appropriate to be highly disrespectful of your guest’s national leaders by going on a short tirade based on less than accurate information.  But, I’ll just leave that there for now as it was only about 5 minutes worth of narration out of our 6 hours together that were highly objectionable.

Following our boat tour we headed back to the Hacienda El Viejo where we had a very nice lunch at the aforementioned La Casona.  After lunch we were taken on a tour of the original ox-powered sugar press and given a demonstration on how sugar juice is extracted from the cane along with a taste of the raw juice.  After that we were taken down to the sabanero house where a few of the guests made corn tortillas, sampled coffee and other sugar-based snacks.

Once again, almost on cue a small family of howler monkeys appeared as we walked down to the sabanero house. They put on quite a show but were conspicuously missing when we left.  So, despite the naturalist nature of these tours and admonishment on interacting with the primates, the way the monkeys gather certainly seems to suggest an almost pavlovian behavior had been created to ensure tourists have a memorable experience and see something other than just iguanas, butterfly’s, birds and other less exotic creatures.  Remember, tourism makes up 60% of Costa Rica’s economy!

We made the 1.5 hour drive back to Secrets by way of Filadelfia where we dropped off two of our guests, and then via Cocoa Beach where another four guests were dropped off at their resort. I want to say we were back at our resort and enjoying the pool again by around 3:30pm after catching up on Email from work (ugg, it just won’t go away).

Ah, it was good to be “home” after the long excursion and surrounded by happy guests, attentive hosts and the amazing scenery at our resort.

We opted to go to the Market Cafe for the dinner buffet and then headed over to the Sugar Reef bar for a little more socializing, some Texas Hold ‘Em and dancing to the live music.  It was a great way to end a very long day.


TUESDAY, DAY 4 AT SECRETS

As we did on Sunday, we were up and out early for a 2.5 mile walk before stopping in at the Market Cafe for breakfast.  Our friends Ryan and Jeanette joined us as well.  Jeff & Sharon opted to enjoy the Seaside Grill and we all ended up back at the pool by mid-morning where we spent pretty much the rest of the day. Just so you have a better idea of the lay of the land, here’s a map of the resort with our room at the highest point in the resort pinned for reference.

Having been at the resort for three days the staff and other guests were now more friends than just other guests and staff and that made for a great time.  I tried to knock out a bit of this blog as I enjoyed the sun and that wasn’t working: too much glare.  I moved over to a small table at the Barracuda bar and that worked a lot better. Sadly, work kept creeping into the picture but not more than a 1/2 hour’s worth.  I didn’t get a lot done on the blog, just more-or-less of an outline which was good as my memory was being somewhat challenged by the long days in the sun and at the swim-up bar upon hearing the now ubiquitous question from Ryan, “Is it time?”

Debbie disappeared for a while after deciding she wanted to be pampered a bit with a facial and some other type of treatment at the spa.  I walked her over to the spa and would come and get her 90 minutes later ahead of lunch.  I’m pretty sure she was very happy with her facial and she absolutely glowed… a glow that continues to stay with her.  Then again, maybe it was just the compounding effect of being at Secrets for yet another day of doing basically nothing.

For lunch we were encouraged to give the Barefoot Grill a try and it was spectacular! Debbie and I split a burger, but it was one of the best “basic burgers” we’ve had in a long time, on par with Loco’s Willenburger. And, as anyone knows, we both love eating up at a bar and the Barefoot Grill was no exception.

The afternoon was all about the pool and somewhere around 2:00pm our friends Patti and Brad arrived to join the rest of the group.  At some point during the afternoon Jeff hosted Ryan and me for cocktails inside the Preferred Club where they had several bottles of Don Julio tequila.  Now, the Sauza 1800 silver we’d been enjoying at the Manatee and elsewhere was just fine; however, when there’s some Don Julio Anejo available just for the asking… well, there you go!  Ryan and I enjoyed a little of that while Jeff stuck to his whiskey and soda.  We probably spent about 30 minutes in the club, noting we were the only people other than our capable barkeeper… who was probably glad to have a little company.  It was a good time where we talked about tequila, Ray Kroc and Lord knows what else after the 2nd shot of Don Julio took hold: my apologies where appropriate.

We headed back to the pool after that where the girls had once again indulged in the water aerobics (I think) and may have also gone off to another dance lesson.  At some point Ryan, Jeanette and Sharon went off to a painting lesson over at the pool side pavilion.  Yup, it was just that kind of afternoon.

We finished off the day with dinner at the Seaside Grill which was open to all guests in the evening and then headed over to Sugar Reef where a 3-piece band was playing music we could dance to.  I think we may have been the last couple standing by the end of the night.


WEDNESDAY, DAY 5 AT SECRETS

I was up early which gave me time to get caught up on Email and to just take in the beautiful sunrise on a somewhat overcast morning.

Our first appointment of the day was breakfast with our friends at Aqua when it opened up around 8:00am.  That gave us plenty of time to get in our morning walk around the resort before making a final lap that would take us to Aqua.  Our friends passed us in JJ’s shuttle bus on their way to Aqua and as we thought about all we’d consumed during our time at Secrets we both agreed getting in as much walking as we could was the right call.  In fact, thinking back, the only shuttle rides we’d made were the first one up to the room when we checked-in and three times during the evening when it was raining on Sunday. Other than that, we always walked, which was no small feat given our room was at the top of 100 yard incline that had to be close to a 15% grade.

We shared a nice breakfast with our small group of friends and then wandered down the beach and over to the main pool area.  It would be fair to say Aqua was on the quiet side of the resort, adjacent to the spa and fitness center and what the resort characterizes as one of their more romantic spots.  I’m not sure we nailed the romantic spot but I did feel like we needed to get a few more photos with us in the photos to prove we really were on vacation!

The plan for the day was a shuttle ride over to Cocoa Beach where we’d walk what was described as being the “Key West like” main drive and beach area.  It was only a 15 minute ride and the plan was to leave around 10:00am, spend an hour or and hour and a half and then shuttle back to our resort for lunch.  The plan didn’t exactly play out that way due to a slight bit of confusion on the shuttle arrangements such that we finally left around 11:00am.  Things changed a little bit more once we arrived as our departure was slipped until 2:30pm, which seemed like a lot more time than we’d need at Cocoa Beach once I saw what looked like a huge tourist trap.  Nevertheless, we pressed on.

As suspected, there were about 20 shops selling all of the same “Costa Rica stuff” and I suspect a lot of it was likely made in China.  Debbie found a porcelain thimble for her mother’s collection and three little leather bracelets for the granddaughters with the Costa Rican catch phrase “Pura Vida” and some other little animal engravings on a metal plate.  I think that may have been the sum total of our acquisitions for the entire trip.  After securing the trinkets we wandered down to the beach to take in the sights and then found a small cafe & bar where we rested for a few moments.

After the refreshments we made our way back up the main drag to the Hard Rock Cafe where we’d await the arrival of our shuttle for the ride back to our resort.  It was kind of weird actually paying for a drink after being at our all-inclusive resort where we paid for nothing other than slipping some of the more attentive staff members a tip now and again.  The Hard Rock and adjacent buildings were about the only 1st world looking place in the entire area: it looked more like Florida than Costa Rica in that little section of town.  As we awaited our shuttle we learned — much to our surprise — that our friends Chuck & Julie had already arrived at the resort well ahead of their expected ETA.

Our shuttle arrived promptly at 2:30pm and we headed back “home” to find our friends Julie & Chuck and resume our pool side / in pool party in earnest.  It was good to finally have “everyone” at the resort.

Wednesday’s dinner would be the only time “everyone” would be on hand since we’d be leaving Thursday morning at 10:00am for the return trip to the airport.  Ryan, ever thoughtful, scheduled a photographer to meet us at Aqua ahead of dinner for a group photo of the Atlanta contingent who travelled down to Costa Rica to help celebrate Sharon’s 60th, Ryan & Jeanette’s 16th anniversary and Ryan’s 51st birthday… but mostly Sharon’s 60th birthday.

Interestingly enough, while Aqua was known for its excellent meals, I don’t think Debbie nor I found are meals to be as good as the ones we had at Seaside, Portofino or Hitmitsu. But the company couldn’t be beaten: it was so good to have Jeff & Sharon, Ryan & Jeanette, Chuck & Julie and Patti & Brad at the same table for a dinner before we headed home.  Just a great finale for us before we packed our bags and flew back to the US.

It was an early to bed after our dinner at the elegant hour.


THURSDAY, DAY 6 AT SECRETS & THE TRIP HOME

OMG!  We have to go home. So sad….

Even Julio and JJ were doing the sad faces when the ran into us doing our final morning walk.  Of course, that’s when I confirmed what I suspected: our “hosts with the hats” were the security team at Secrets.  They knew every guest by name, they drove the shuttle buses and were ever-present throughout the resort.  We ran into JJ, Julio, Jeff and Eli 10-15 times per day and a handful of other staff in straw Panama hats as well.  No doubt, we were beyond safe at Secrets; they have mastered the ability to combine being gracious hosts with security like I’ve never seen before and I’ve done this for a living now and again in my life.

After breakfast we donned our bathing suits for one final hour in the sun before we’d have to head to our room at 9:00am to pack and be ready to catch our shuttle bus to the airport at 10:00am.  JJ made a point of telling us he’d come and pick us up at 9:40am and bingo: he was there!

The entire immigration and customs process was not as daunting as I expected it to be in Costa Rica. However, the cost of a burger and two drinks at the airport set me back on my heels: $27.00 US. Yikes.  And when we finally boarded with our Zone 1 boarding passes assuming we’d be seated well ahead of the rest of passengers on a very full flight it all fell apart when the boarding agent slipped a plastic coated tag into Debbie’s passport singling her out for an in-depth security check that took at least 20 minutes.  Really?  This was like our Key West return flight all over again!!!  Oh well, I bit my tongue and we finally boarded the aircraft and had a comfortable flight home.

After hoofing nearly 6/10ths of a mile from our gate at Terminal E to the Customs are for Atlanta-bound passengers, the immigration process at the Atlanta airport wasn’t  overly complex but it sure seemed like there were an awful lot of “helpers” standing around doing not very much while a single Customs agent did the screening of a line of some 100 US citizens coming back into the country.  Yeah, not an efficient or cost-effective model by any measure.  Once we were through immigration we found our bags, jumped on a FastPark shuttle and were at our truck and headed for home in about 20 minutes.  We ran into a co-worker on the shuttle bus who was on his way home from a week in Oman where he had a 7-hour layover in Germany: yikes!  Our delays paled in comparison.

When I asked Debbie where she wanted to go for dinner since it was already well past 8:00pm she said JD’s BBQ.  Hmmm.  I guess we might be rednecks if after spending a week eating at high-end restaurants the first thing we want to eat back at home is BBQ!  Thankfully, we arrived a couple of minutes before their 9:00pm closing time and were able to score a couple of to-go pulled pork sandwiches and slaw.

Back at the house Debbie had just enough energy left to eat her BBQ and then headed to bed after a very long day.  It took me a couple of hours to settle down and go through Email before I was ready to call it a day, as I wanted to get a head start on the work I’d be facing early on Friday morning.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHARON

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a point of saying that we wish we could have stayed in Costa Rica through Sunday and helped our friend Sharon celebrate her 60th birthday on Saturday evening.  It looks like everyone had a great time on Friday & Saturday based on some of the photos that have come across the wires, er… air waves.

However, they still had a full house as Sharon’s friends Jim & Pam arrived on Friday to join the party as did Sharon’s daughter Andrea which was a total surprise for Sharon that caught her completely unaware.

 

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S2000 Has a New Home!

You may recall that after acquiring a 2017 Honda Accord Sport SE for Debbie back in late November we we’re pretty sure that it would end up replacing, not supplementing the 2004 Honda S2000 Debbie had been driving since March 2005.

Yup, she crawled in and out of that slick little roadster for 12 years at least once a day with nary a complaint.  It was a real sports car in the truest sense in that you couldn’t even get one without a manual shift.  What made it stand out from nearly all of the other Honda S2000’s was the factory hardtop that we found for it in the fall of 2005.  While most folks who bought the hardtops for their Honda S2000’s would buy them color matched, the one we found was a Berlina black top and quite frankly I just liked retaining the color contrast of the black top and Formula red body.

Anyway, we mulled-over keeping the S2000 as a “spare” car to have on hand for when my aging Toyota Tundra would occasionally go into the shop for a few days at a time vs. me using a motorcycle as my alternative transportation.  However, the lack of garage space and lack of desire to put a lift in the garage eventually dictated that something had to go.  So, back in June our son Wesley said he had a friend with a used car lot over in Douglasville, Georgia, who took vehicles on consignment and he was confident they’d find a buyer who would net us our desired price for the car.

It took a few weeks longer than we expected, but about two weeks ago we received word that someone from Florida had signed a contract to purchase the car from Wesley’s friend’s dealership. The selling price was about $2000 over our “reserve” but since the buyer had to finance the car through Wesley’s friend, our contract stipulated that the dealer would simply buy the car from us for our “Reserve” and net the difference given they were taking on the added risk of financing the deal.

On one hand I felt like we left money sitting on the table and the deal that we made should have stipulated at least splitting the $2000, less our $300 consignment fee.  However, at the same time, we didn’t have to deal with looky-loo buyers wasting our time and low-balling us on offers, etc. that come with a private sale.  And, moreover, we did stipulate the bottom line for the sale and received exactly what we would have likely sold the car for in a private transaction.  So, at the end of the day I was OK with the deal.

Do we miss the car?  Absolutely!  If I would have had a place to store / work on the car like some type of out building I would have never even considered selling it.  Yes, extra cars are like boats, holes in the water into which you pour money. And, yes, I would have poured money into it if we held on to it. While the paint is outstanding for a 13-year old daily driver, I would have definitely had it refinished or refinished it myself and either way would have likely cost between $3000 – $4,500 by the time all was said and done.

So, from that standpoint, it’s good that it has gone on to a new home.  Debbie’s very happy with her 2017 Honda Accord, more so than she ever thought she’d be: having a practical sedan at her disposal since I traded our 1995 Mercedes 190E-16V Cosworth in on a lightly used 1995 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT convertible back in 1997 for her 40th birthday surprise.  At the time she was also driving a 1995 Toyota 4Runner which, while it was a four-door, was anything but practical for hauling around more than two people.  Before that she had a Mitsubishi Eclipse, which was the car she was driving when we met.  The S2000 actually replaced the 4Runner as the Mustang GT ended up being an extra car that I drove far more than Debbie and, even then, I didn’t drive it much: lousy handling don’t you know.

 

Anyway, good to close the chapter on the Honda S2000.  It was a great car and served us well for many years.  Here’s hoping it is as trouble-free for the new owner as it was for us.

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I Hate It When We Forget Where We Are or What Day It Is….

I think this will be a short update… if only because I’m still exhausted from the weekend and it’s Tuesday! So, let’s get to it, shall we?

FRIDAY

Even though the work week was only 4-days long given I took Monday off after our 11 hour drive home from Pennsylvania on Sunday, it was one of those weeks when I was really looking forward to our Finally a Friday celebration at Loco Willy’s.  Now, bear in mind, both Debbie and I headed into the weekend making a pact on Thursday night that we’d both pass on adult beverages this weekend if only to give ourselves a break after several weekends where it seemed like every night was a reason for celebration.

Yeah, well….  As you can see from the photo at right, that didn’t last long for me.  Well, OK. It didn’t last long for either one of us.  I think we both sat down and didn’t know what to do for the first 10 minutes that we sat at the bar.  After that it was all systems normal: Debbie had her frozen drink and I had my little glass of chilled Herradura Silver.  Somewhere along the line our friends Bobby & Carrie Ann stopped in to join us and Bobby, Brian and I did a toast to our friends Ryan & Jeanette who would be headed to Costa Rica a week ahead of us and who were at home packing or some such.

I’m not exactly sure why I only ended up with a photo of the lovely Miss Debbie from Friday night as we had a pretty good crew at the bar, well before Bobby & Carrie Ann arrived.  I want to say that we arrived shortly before our partners in crime David & Deb, and a short time later Billy & Dava arrived.  Gator, Scott and others were already on hand and Deb & Scott were also there.  It was the usual shenanigans with soccer being about the only thing on TV with highlights from the Tour de France.  I think we out stayed everyone else and at some point I realized that I never ate dinner.  Yeah, that was not a good thing.  None-the-less, I was smart enough to have Debbie drive us home as she had tapered well off and was smart enough to have had a very nice plate of seared ahi tuna and spinach.

SATURDAY

I started off Saturday a lot earlier than I would have normally expected by taking advantage of the dry weather and heading over to the local mountain bike trail to see if I still remembered how to ride on something besides asphalt.  I haven’t bothered to check and see how long it has been, but I know it’s been a long time since I had a little free time on my hand when the trails weren’t closed due to rain.  I’d like to say it was an invigorating ride, but between not having ridden off-road in a while, the heat, humidity and our late night on Friday it took its toll.

However, I still had a full plate when I got home and mustered up the energy I’d need to wash the 1,600 miles of road grime off my truck from last week’s trip to Pennsylvania and to also wash our Road King, Blue II, as the last time we rode her we got caught out in the rain.  With the bike and truck clean, I turned my attention to the lawn which was sorely in need of harvesting after just five days.  Of course, by the time I did that the heat and humidity were pretty oppressive and it was the every-other-week when I had to cut the front lawn on a diagonal which meant hiking up and down the slope of the front yard about 100 times.  Wow, that just about did me in.  In fact, I had to take about a 30 minute break just to cool down 1/2 way through the front yard.

It was around 1:30pm when I suggested to Debbie that we’d take a ride on Blue over to Killer Creek Harley-Davidson to see if they had a grey dress in her size that we’d seen at Hellbender Harley but that wasn’t a good fit.  We knew there were storms predicted for the late afternoon, but with about 3.5 hours before the 4:00pm storms rolled through we’d have more than enough time to get to Roswell and back. Yeah, well that was a short trip.  No sooner did we get to where we could clearly see the skies to the east than we realized the 4:00pm thunderstorms were coming in about 3.5 hours early.  Yup, we just flipped the bike around and headed back to the house where we decided to sit out on the breezeway watching the Tour de France replay coverage, or was it the NASCAR Nationwide Race, as the rain came down.  That said, it was really a nice and relaxing afternoon.

We headed over to Loco Willy’s a little earlier than normal and it was nearly empty when we arrived. David & Deb arrived about 30 minutes after we did and we had a really nice time since it pretty much ended up just being the four of us for most of the evening.  However, I think it was around 7:00pm when Debbie suggested a spontaneous night out dancing, so we bid our friends goodnight and made our way home to change before heading off to dance the night away.  Coming on the heels of our really nice time sitting and chatting with David & Deb, we segued right into one of the best evenings we’ve had in a long time at our little resort. The DJ was “on” with his music and I’d guess that we danced for 3 of the 4 hours we were there before heading home around 1:30am. No, no… I was fine. I made a point of switching to exclusively Diet Coke and water around midnight and that, along with a few slices of pizza at 12:30am, gave me the lift I needed for the drive home vs. heading to one of the local hotels.

SUNDAY

It was close to 10:30am when we finally got up to face the day after our very late night out dancing.  As we had what was essentially a brunch, we talked about getting in a tandem ride. However, my off-road ride on Saturday seemed to aggravate the chaffed sores on my derrière so we changed up our plans and opted for that trip over to Killer Creek instead.  It was around noon when we finally headed out and by then our friends Sharon & Jeff had decided they’d meet up with us at Killer Creek.  We stopped off at Horsetown on the way over so I could pick up some boot cream and cleaner and, well, ended up adding a few items to Debbie’s closet while we were there. Quite frankly, it was a bit of a surprise to find a lovely black lace cocktail dress, a really cute light blue jumper and blue tank that really looked great on Debbie and that they had in her size!  Now if I’d just start taking her out to fancier places than Loco Willy’s and Henry’s she’d be able to wear all of these lovely black and white lace dresses and colorful sundresses that I’ve bought her over the years.  Suggestions welcome!  Seriously, the places we go are so casual anymore that it’s hard to find the right place to wear a lot of the outfits we’ve acquired for Debbie.  Again, I blame myself…  we gotta get out more (ha, ha).

It was close to 2:00pm when we arrived at Killer Creek and Jeff and Sharon had arrived just shortly before we did. We found Jeff in talking tires with the service advisor while Sharon looked for a new helmet.  Sadly, they didn’t have the grey dress we’d hope to find but that was actually OK given what we’d found at Horsetown.  However, they did have this really pretty blue blouse so we didn’t go home empty-handed.  And because Roger Rabbit is curious, just over 400 hang-up garments at present, untold numbers in dresser drawers.

After Sharon found a new helmet and Jeff finished looking at motorcycles we talked about riding up to Ellijay for a late lunch along the river but in looking at the weather radar, opted to stay closer to home.  We ended up heading to old Roswell and grabbing a little food and drink at The Diesel Pizza & Pub on Alpharetta, St. where Debbie and I split an Italian Panini sandwich and Caesar salad as it had been about 5 hours since we ate.  After our late lunch at Diesel and wandering around Old Roswell for about 15 minutes we stopped in at Grand Champion BBQ (aka, G.C. BBQ) on Canton Street, actually drawn in by the music from the two guys out sweltering in the heat. Sharon & Jeff grabbed a snack as we enjoyed the cool A/C at the swanky bar and BBQ joint.  The visits gave us time to talk about our travel plans for Costa Rica as the four of us will all be taking the same 10:00am flight out on Saturday morning and this will be my and Debbie’s first international commercial trip.  I’ve been outside the country in the past, but we tended to fly there on USAF aircraft and didn’t need passports when we arrived.  So, going through customs, etc., would be new to both of us.

While sitting at G.C. BBQ our presence was requested over at Chuck & Julie’s home, next door to Sharon & Jeff’s home at Lake Allatoona, as Chuck wanted to give his old Navy mate who’d been visiting for a few days a bit of a send-off party.  As we headed off towards Chuck & Julie’s we got caught in a short sun shower, which has almost become the norm around here on Sunday afternoons.  But, setting that aside, it was great riding the backroads between Roswell and Acworth with Jeff & Sharon, as Jeff’s a clean rider who’s easy to follow in a relatively tight formation through the twisties and in town and that’s some of the best riding you can have on a big bike.

We arrived at Chuck & Julie’s around 5:00pm and didn’t leave until around 11:30pm.  In the interim we neglected to have dinner, but certainly didn’t hold back on the adult beverages.  Yikes, and it was a “school night” to boot!  It suffices to say, Chuck & I celebrated national Tequila Day on 24 July a little early and everyone was puffing on Cuban cigars at some point in the evening.  Beyond that, my memory isn’t exactly clear.  But as I did on Saturday night, I switched over to water about an hour and a half before we left and we had a safe and uneventful ride back home on Blue… in the rain.  Here’s hoping John went home with a few new stories to tell and knows he’s made some new friends in Georgia…

 

That was about it.  Monday morning was a bit of a challenge for me after three hearty evenings out on the town.  We keep saying we need to spend more time cycling but are having one heck of a time doing that!   And yes, as I said, we’re headed to Costa Rica on Saturday for five nights with some of our fun-loving friends so our return to cycling on the weekends will have to wait until we get back home.  But then, we’ll be on it!

 

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Say What You Will About Harley-Davidson’s, People Love To Ride Them

We just returned home after a seven-day trip to Pennsylvania that was bookended by two, one-day 750+ mile drives.  Sitting behind the wheel of the truck or can can get a little monotonous so being a somewhat observant type I’m always scanning the road ahead and behind for things that a worthy of special attention.  For example, I’d love to know who owns the 2014 Ferrari 458 that I saw near Marion, Virgina on our way north…  there just aren’t that many Azzurro Monaco blue Ferrari’s out there.

Anyway, as we headed home from Manheim, PA, on Sunday I decided I’d count motorcycles.  Now, mind you, this is very unscientific since I clearly didn’t see all of the motorcycles that were on the road.  I obviously had to pay attention to the road ahead and there are sections of Interstate 81 that are divided by trees.  But, that also meant I had an equal chance of missing any brand of motorcycle that was headed north as we were headed south, as that’s where I observed the vast majority of the motorcycles.

Anyway, without further delay, here’s the tally:

  • 197 motorcycles on the road
    • 179 Harley-Davidsons, 1/2 of which had Batwing Fairings & 3 were trikes.
    •  18 “Other” brands/models of motorcycle
      • 1 Honda Goldwing
      • 1 Honda Goldwing Trike
      • 2 Ducati Monsters
      • 1 BMW R1200GSA
      • 2 BMW R1600RTs
      • 1 BMW K1200LT
      • 1 Suzuki Bandit S / 600
      • 1 Indian Chief
      • 3 Victory Cross Country’s (all together)
      • 4 Metric Cruisers (all with shaft drives)
      • 1 VW powered trike

I’d always thought I saw a lot of Harley’s out on the highways where other types and brands of bikes were the exception and not the rule, unless you were around somewhere where sport bikes or dual sports like to play, e.g., the highways around Maryville, TN, that take folks to US 129, aka, the Dragon’s Tail.  But, I never bothered to actually ‘count’ the number of bikes that were on the road.  That 90% of the bikes actually being ridden were Harley-Davidson’s on a hot summer day with nice weather is interesting.

A couple of other observations:

  • Only 7 motorcycles were observed in southbound lanes, i.e., we passed 7 motorcycles.  The rest were all north bound.
  • At least 3/4’s of the Harley’s were travelling as groups, with 2-3 being the most common but one group of 8 Harley’s up in PA, with another group of 6 about 30 miles behind them.  Northern Virginia also had several groups of 3-4 Harley’s. There was also a group of 8 bikes just west of Chattanooga.
  • The Harley trikes were part of the group of 8 in PA.
  • The only Victory motorcycles I saw were three Cross Country models that were travelling as a group down in Southwest Virgina.
  • The BMWs were all lone riders, as were the Honda Goldwings albeit riding two up in both cases.
  • The Ducati’s were part of a group of 8 bikes in Tennessee, where the rest were Harley Sporters, XR750s, a FatBob and a Street Glide
  • Most of the riders in PA either didn’t have a helmet or wore full-face.
  • Most of the riders elsewhere were wearing full-face (remember, this was all on I-81).
  • We only saw four boats being towed
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So yeah, I like Tequila…

I’m sometimes asked what kinds of tequila I drink.  Of late, I’ve been asked enough that I wrote a few down and have now decided to put it in a blog entry that I’ll keep updated.

Now, bear in mind, there are close to 1,000 different tequilas on the market today and I’m not an expert.  In fact, most of the tequila that I’ll list below will not show up as “top tequilas” in a lot of different lists or reviews.  That’s not to say they haven’t been top picks or won awards, it’s just that with so many tequilas some will appeal to certain consumers or judges where others will not.

Me, I like silver tequila…  it’s the purest but not the fanciest.  But, that brings up a good point: before ever discussing tequila, it’s a good idea to get a little bit of information about what the different names mean.  A good place to start is at Tequila.net and their Classification page.

But, for brevity sake, here’s a cheat sheet:

Categories of Tequila:  There are two; 100% Blue Agave, and Tequila Mixto (Mixed). Mixto Tequila contains at least 51% Blue Agave, where the other 49% is made up of other sugars.  Bottles of Mixto must be labeled as simply “Tequila” as the 100% Blue Agave bottled are labelled as such, e.g.,  Tequila 100% de agave or puro de agave, or . IMHO, stick with 100% Blue Agave.

So, when you hear someone like, well, me say Jose Cuervo isn’t “real tequila” it’s because with a few exceptions, the gold or silver you get at a bar is Tequila Mixto, not 100% Blue Agave.  The exceptions include the exceptional and $120ish Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Anejo or $50ish Platino (Silver, which I have). Like a lot of folks, I drank and used Jose Cuervo Gold for margaritas and would always get a headache afterwards, usually headed off at the pass with a Goodies powder.  It was only after I decided to learn a bit more about tequila that I learned to stick to mostly silver, 100% Blue Agave and if I stick to that… no issues, i.e., headaches or hangovers.

Types of Tequila: Anyway, now that you know about 100% vs. Mixed, there are five general types of tequila that you’ll encounter:

  • Gold or Oro – Gold usually means you’re getting Mixto. Jose Cuervo Gold is the most well-known (see above).  Gold should not be confused with Reposado or Añejo, those are not “Gold”.  And there is also something called Joven, with is a blend of Silver & Reposado (see below) which are both 100% Agave: yes, it can be confusing… but 100% Agave is your friend!
  • Silver or Blanco –   Silver is clear and not aged, as it bottled right after being distilled or stored in stainless steel tanks for up to a month to let it settle before bottling.  Now, there is also Blanco Suave which is silver tequila that has been allowed to settle for up to two months, for an even smoother taste.
  • Reposado – Reposado translates to “Rested” in English.  Tequila that has been “rested” means it was aged in a wood barrel for more than 2 months but not more than 11 months. The barrels are usually American or French Oak, and certain distillers will use barrels that were previously used to age whiskeys (usually bourbon), wine or other spirits to add additional flavor to the tequila as well as a golden hue from the oak.
  • Añejo – Aged or extra-aged tequila means it has been allowed to rest in barrels for more than 11 months to give it a deeper gold or amber color, while also making the flavors more rich and complex. These are usually very smooth-tasting tequilas and as you’d expect, more expensive than Reposado tequilas.
  • Extra Añejo – “Extra Añejo” or ultra-aged Añejo is a tequila that has been allowed to age for more than three years, making them even more rich and complex than the Añejo and, yes… a lot more expensive.

So, with that in mind, here’s what you’ll find in my tequila bar.

CAMARENA REPOSADO & SILVER TEQUILA – Great replacement for Jose Cuervo for making Margaritas.  The Silver is excellent as well, but for a Margarita the “gold” Reposado provides just the right flavoring you need for a Maggie.  Oh, and both are great sipping / shooting tequilas, but best when chilled.

DON JULIO BLANCO, 70, ANEJO & 1942 – Just a great silver Tequila, one of the best. All of the Don Julio’s are really good. The 70th is the best silver and the 1948 is the best Añejo (period). Their Añejo is also very good, but very robust and not as smooth as the others.  These are all too good for shooting. You can do it, but it’s analogous to shooting 12-year old single malt scotch.

LUNAZUL BLANCO – Also very good, a little less expensive than Don Julio Blanco. Just a great go-to tequila for shooting or sipping. Best served chilled.

SAUZA 1800 SILVER – An edgy silver compared to the Don Julio and Lunazul; just not as smooth but still very good and one of my “go-to” tequila’s at home.  At one time I was able to get the 100 Proof Sauza 1800 with the grey label; wow!  The Sauza 1800 Repasado is also a very good, reasonably priced tequila best served cold.

       

ESPOLON SILVER – A less expensive but really smooth, tasty silver tequila. In fact, it’s actually smoother tasting to me than some of the other more pricey silvers.  By the way, the name Espolòn pays homage to the Spanish-American fighting roosters as the “espolòn” is the spur on the back of a rooster’s leg.

AVION SILVER & REPOSADO – A really, really good tequila… one of the best. On par with Don Julio but a little less expensive  The AVION REPOSADO is also a very highly rated tequila that’s a joy to sip right up there with the more aged Añejo.  These are all definitely worth a try, but it’s the Silver that caught my attention.

HERRADURA SILVER – All of the Herradura tequilas are very nice, and there are a lot of them. I stumbled onto the Silver at our local bar and it’s my go-to tequila as it’s a ‘best value’ at that particular bar.  Elsewhere, it’s on par with Sauza 1800 silver, but comes into its own with the more pricey Ultra Silver, Reposado Double-Barrel, Coleccion Reserva 2015 and their ultra-expensive seleccion Suprema ($300+ a bottle).  Of them all, the Double-Barrel is really a great treat and, again, on par with the other really good Reposados.  And, there are actually quite a few other variations in the Herradura family of tequila including the el Jimador brand, often times a well-tequila in bars that’s actually pretty good: after all, it’s 100% agave!  Note that for a while they switched el Jimador to a Mixed/Mixto blend and it was awful stuff. Thankfully, they switched it back.

 

PATRON SILVER – Last but not least, there is of course a few bottles of Patron Silver.  I’ve never bought a bottle of Patron, but it seems to be what family and friends like to buy for me when holidays or birthdays come around… and I do appreciate it!  While Patron Silver is good, I struggle because it’s not any better than most of the other “very good” silvers but it commands a premium price, i.e., when Herradura is $8 a shot Patron is $9-10.  Marketing works!  But, that said, there is an AMAZING Patron called Gran Patron Platinum and it’s some of the best tequila I’ve ever had.  Our friend and owner of Old Towne Tavern & Grill, Billy, treated me to a shot of this ‘nectar of the gods’ a while back and it was hands-down, the best silver tequila I’d ever tasted.  But, at $150-$170 a bottle, it should be!

Anyway, there you have it. That’s what’s in my tequila bar.  I’m always looking for something new and better but since we don’t hang-out in trendy bars we tend not to see a lot of trendy tequila.  But, these all do nicely.

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