Monday, February 25, 2013


I'll give fair warning, while this will be a short post, the topic is somewhat unsavory and more often times heard in Kindergarten than the subject of blog posts.  But, honestly, I can't let the one go.  You're free to move along, having had fair warning.

So, arriving in  my hotel room in the Dominican Republic, I was greeted with the following sign:
It was next to every toilet I used in the DR.  At first glance, I assumed that it was directed towards feminine hygiene products and I COMPLETELY understand that.  But on further reflection (and upon seeing a similar sign that appeared to give much more detailed instructions), I really think that the sign is exactly what it indicates:  NO Paper is to go in the toilet.

Now, not typically a rule breaker, I chose to make a 5 day long exception in this case.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Back to Reality

Yes, I'm home.  The remainder of the trip proceeded as planned.  Well, with the exception of arriving at our room after midnight when my friend wasn't expecting me before 4 the next afternoon.  So, I'm probably lucky I wasn't cold-cocked when I let myself in.

Turns out, we weren't staying in Puerto Plata, but in Sosua which was just east of Puerto Plata.  The trip across the mountain in a van filled with 5 of the 18 who missed our connection was a bit harrowing.  More so because the chief method of transportation in the Dominican Republic is motorbikes/cycles.  And apparently there are no rules with them.  Like....even...lights are not necessarily required.  Or.....3 people per cycle is JUST fine.  Helmets?  Pftttt....I'm not sure there's a helmet in all of the DR.  So, driving along curvy barely paved unlit mountain roads at 11 pm, one needed to look carefully for motorcycles/bikes traveling along the side of the road.  We arrived in Puerto Plata, where the other 4 people were getting dropped off around 11 and I had to get to Sosua, which I thought was only about 12 miles but ended up being a good 40 minutes away.  I was a tad concerned given : I was alone, I had NO IDEA where the Casa Marina Reef was except somewhere in Sosua, I didn't speak ANY Spanish and the two drivers didn't speak ANY English, and, if worse came to worse, I had NO IDEA if 911 is universal.  As you can see, unfounded fears.

So, Monday we hit the beach.  Hard.  With probably the absolute most brilliant idea I have ever had (which I will give credit where credit is due...I read Trip Advisor and took their advice).. I bought and brought 2 of these:
2 24 oz double walled insulated hot/cold cups.  They had lids, straws (that had to be removed from the bottom of the lid which made them difficult to lose) and a hole on top that one could easily sip coffee out of if one was of a mind.  I got them in different colors and designs.  We would go to the bar and they would fill completely with ice (instead of the 8 oz plastic cups that one lived in fear that just a gentle squeeze would crush the cup and spill the contents) and drink of choice.  This week it was rum and coke (diet).  The drink would stay cold and last for 2 hours and there would STILL be ice left in the cup.  This cup will henceforth accompany me on ALL warm weather trips.

The bar, as luck would have it, was about 20 feet from our patio door.  NOT that we needed to make many trips as...we had the cups!  Seriously...THIS is how close it was:
That was to the right out our door.  To the left this was the view:
We had two beaches to choose from.  One was larger and required traveling down a long wooden staircase where the rise of the steps was not consistent but the beach area was much calmer.
The second beach was a few short steps from the bar and was more of a bay-ish area surrounded on both sides by large coral reefs.  The water was quite a bit more turbulent, but we chose to lite there anyway.  Um...convenience.
The water was absolutely AMAZING.  You could go out up to your shoulders, look down, have a swell lift you 2 feet out off the botom and you could STILL not only see the bottom clearly but count your toes as well.  Not a SPECK of seaweed.

In between the two beaches were 3 cool water Jacuzzi tubs that had been built into the coral reef.

And off to the west one could see the mountains of Haiti:
There were 3 specialty restaurants on site and we made it a point to eat at each one, while trying the buffet one night.  The buffet was probably a step lower than any of the previous all inclusive buffets I have been to, but still adequate.  The specialty restaurants were very good.  I had sea bass at the seafood restaurant and was surprised at the size of the portion of sea bass I received.  It was very well prepared.  I had a pork filet at the Italian restaurant that was good flavored but not very tender (and I found this to be true of all the pork I had at the hotel).  At the Mexican restaurant I had a chicken filet that was wonderful.  The snack bar needed work.  French fries need to be crisp not soggy.  They had burgers and pizza made from naan which was unusual (not your typical pizza sauce).

We spent the 4.5 days on the beach, soaking up sun and catching up on 16 years of life.  My kids asked me if there were any awkward moments given that it had been so many years since my friend and I had been together and really there weren't.  We fell right back into our friendship of 25 years ago.

And really, how cool is that?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Well....THAT Didn't Go as Planned

It appears Murphy has decided to accompany me on my little vacay. UNINVITED I might add. The plane had barely cleared Minneapolis airspace when the flight attendant announced that there was a medical emergency on board and was there a doctor on the plane. We ended up diverting to Chicago. I'm worse than an unplanned Dairy Queen stop on the way home. Right? Yes. I am naive. The pilot announced that we would be on the ground for at least an hour at which point I figured I will have missed my connection. I called reservations and they pretty much confirmed that I would have an "extended" stay in Miami as there is not another flight out until same time tomorrow. Oddly enough my row mate was also going to Puerto Plata and she was part of a group of 8 that were on the plane. So I thought surely with at least 9 people on the plane they would hold the flight. Apparently reservations got sick of taking calls and called the tower in Miami and said that YES...they would hold the plane. Landing an hour late in Miami (big giant thanks to the "VIP" who diverted air traffic even more because heaven forbid we should fly in the same airspace) to find that not only did our flight leave, but it left 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Apparently they chose not to wait for the 18 (yes EIGHTEEN) of us on the plane going to Puerto Plata. So...plan b. Leave at 540 and fly into Santiago which is about an hour away. Maybe more. I am probably more ticked that American flat out lied to us than the inconvenience this has caused. But...I'm only on stage one of the inconvenience. Talk to me tomorrow.

Nectar of the Gods

At dark o'clock thirty this IS the elixir of life.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

In about 13 hours I will be winging my way to Miami where, HOPEFULLY, I'll be meeting up with a college friend, who I haven't seen in 18 years (yes...EIGHTEEN) and we will motor on to Puerto Plata.  To say I am excited is an understatement.  Not in the 20 years of my marriage have I done ANYTHING that was STRICTLY for me.  Well, except that recent purse purchase from that I'll be taking with me.  No this is about me and a friend celebrating our birthdays together and catching up.  Yeah, we have some catching up to do.

I'm going to attempt to check in daily, hopefully with pictures, but be HTC Thunderbolt (piece of crap) decided today to go belly up.  The pessimist in me says...FIGURES.  The optimist says...hey, you called before the warranty was up (the end of THIS month) so it was covered and my new (refurbished Thunderbolt...drats) will be arriving before the end of the week but too late to be of much assistance.  So I will be checking in from my Fisher, I mean Samsung Alias phone.  So be prepared for brevity, which OBVIOUSLY is not my strong suit.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

50% Chance....

In my next life, I want to come back as a weather man.  What an AWESOME gig that would be.  They just have to throw out...there's a 50% chance of SOMETHING and their asses are covered.  And because we're saps, we watch, knowing we have a better chance of predicting the weather than they do but we don't have the "skill" or "equipment" (although I will say, my dog has become a fairly accurate barometer of approaching storms) or technical know how through extensive "training" to be able to predict with such  impending storms  with /insert sarcasm laser like accuracy /end sarcasm.

Up until this winter this hasn't really affected me much beyond a minor inconvenience.  You know what I'm talking about...the threat of "the big one" coming and you head to the grocery store to stock up on toilet paper and milk and white bread because, these ARE like Little House on the Prairie days where you'll be literally SNOWED IN FOR DAYS...maybe even WEEKS on end and you will NEED those supplies.  And still you go and buy those white items, and even settle for the store brand toilet paper because someone has beat you to all the Charmin, because you never know and you want to be prepared.  And that "big one"?  Yeah, well, that veered south and you  ended up with a dusting of snow and you're thinking what in the holy hell are you going to do with 4 packages of Great Value toilet paper that feels like sandpaper?

Well, this winter, the weather reports have become a bigger factor in planning for me so knowing when they're coming and how big they're going to be is important.  I am working part time for the landscape business as something of a snow removal dispatcher for plow/salt/walk crews.  They have installed a new software system that allows crew leads to clock in people and equipment to sites using android phones or laptops.  This is all new and still has some kinks in it so they wanted someone in the office for the snow events to take calls in the event that phones or computers do down, to shift around the schedule and to verify that all the work orders are complete so that they can be sent to billing.  A typical full run of anything more than an inch of snow will create over 500 work orders.  And that's what I do, monitor all those work orders until they're complete.

There are so many factors that have to be taken into account during these events, it boggles my  mind.  The timing is HUGE, which is why it would be nice if we could get a TAD more accuracy from weather predictions than 50%.  Crews and equipment have to be made ready.  Parts (salt) need to be on hand.  For the most part crews CAN'T go out during the day and do anything more than a cursory pass through most businesses as parking lots are typically already filling/full, so the bulk of the work, out of necessity needs to be done in the wee hours of the morning.

As "luck" would have it, we have had these little storms come through pretty much every day/night since last Friday so these poor guys have been working almost around the clock.  It hasn't been a great deal of snow...maybe 1-2 inches with each one, but have you ever seen a parking lot plowed of 1-2 inches?  HUGE piles of slow are the end result.  The one storm that hit early Tuesday morning (5am), while still only being an inch or so, wound up being a TON of work because of the crew's inability to get into the sites because the businesses were opening and the lots were filling.  So they did what they could and then had to go back.

My point?  Timing is everything.  If the weather reports are going to guess at when and how much snow is coming, they'll have our crews either scrambling frantically playing catchup or sitting around waiting for an event to happen.  Neither ideal.

And since I'm on the subject, I just want to say that I hope that people who are able to drive into cleared parking lots, walk up to shoveled businesses, etc have respect for the men and women who make that happen.  ESPECIALLY when they make it happen DAILY during these kind of events.  It's hard work and it completely screws up your sleep cycle.  I know *I* can't and I'm guessing most people don't have the ability to just drop off to sleep because the opportunity is there, so finding a way to sleep during the day, to be ready for the next 50% possibility of an event is challenging. 

As I sit here typing, it has begun to snow.  Which...SURPRISE...was not predicted beyond "flurries".  Not sure if I'd call this flurries:
And I'm supposed to believe the "Climate Change" people and how they are able to accurately predict what the climate will be in the next 20 years when they and those of their ilk can't predict snow for the next 24 hours.  YEAH....RIGHT...