Wednesday, May 16, 2018

We plan, God laughs . . .

    My plan this winter was to ride Topaz as much as possible. But she turned 27 years old recently and the farrier and two well-respected horsewomen advised me to retire her. She has an arthritic hip from an old injury; her one back leg has been giving out frequently when trotting. 
     Oddly, one of my legs was giving out frequently this winter too. Cortisone shot helped tremendously, but I see a hip replacement in my near future.

It's always fun to visit Topy at Sally and Boyce's ranch.

Always a new face!

Ms. Goose is enjoying her spa.

I like to torment Mr. Turkey.

He's strutting with feathers all ruffled; attack mode or trying to impress me?

Handsome rooster is a new addition too.

     This is Sally (below photo) before she tore a tendon in her ankle. She's now in a walking cast for a few weeks. Not in her plan! Nor was a severe storm in Sally and Boyce's plans; over $150,000 worth of damage at their ranch.

Behind my vinyl-clad 18-years old Andersen doors, I discovered rotten wood. Not in my plan!

     Andersen kindly sold me new doors for fifty percent off. The more closely I looked at my place, the more rotten stuff I saw. Not in my plan!

More rotten stuff, not in my plan! It is what it is, a wood-frame house in the rainy humid Piney Woods of East Texas. Sort of feel like Wile E. Coyote chasing my nemesis.

Twenty-four inches of winter rain, not in my plan.

Guess I'll paint the whole enchilada, not in my plan!

     But God willing I'll be back on the road again next month with La Lair. 

     And God's final laugh? La Lair had a badly leaking crack in her crankshaft; twas replaced under warranty. Not in my plan either.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year from Austin

     I celebrated the Christmas and New Year holidays in Austin, Texas. The Colorado River fronts Austin's picturesque city skyline.

Here's a better view from the same bridge.

     Real estate prices are high, and its employment base reads like a "Who's who" list of the USA's most well-known public companies. Photo below shows Silicon Labs building.

     Other companies with operations in Austin include 3M, Apple, Amazon, Advance Micro Devices, Applied Materials, Cirrus Logic, Cisco Systems, Dropbox, eBay, PayPal, Electronic Arts, Flextronics, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Hoover's, Intel Corporation, National Instruments, Nvidia, Oracle, Polycom, and Qualcomm. Whew! No wonder downtown Austin's buildings are reaching UP.

 Juxtaposing the increasing urban growth is the slow current of the Colorado River.

     I've been home and dogsitting for a family here in Austin. Olita is my canine companion and she's a sweetie. Her primary job is to guard the backyard birdfeeder from squirrels and birds; she doesn't discriminate. She looks like a tough bar bouncer, eh?

     I'm living two miles south of downtown Austin so I bike almost every other day over the various bridges to an outstanding YMCA. Getting there via urban bike trails is delightful. And the bike lanes along the main city roads are safe, too. Motorists here respect bicyclists.

There are several bridges over the Colorado.

Coming down off the high pedestrian bridge is a spiral ramp (photo below) which is fun. Going up is easy pedaling.

This pedestrian and bicyclists bridge (photo below) is under the MOPAC Expressway.

Pedestrians have the right of way so bicyclists must ride slowly.

There's a water fountain along the trail too.

And looking over the bridge, many paddlers.

     Along the river trail there's a place to rent paddle boards, various kayak styles, canoes, and sculling boats (rowing) to enjoy the placid Colorado River. There's no shortage of watercraft on the river any day of the week.

     See the historic sign to the left? That round structure is a clay pit tower from the early 1900s (click here for info). And a bit further down the trail is the historic outdoor Deep Eddy Pool (non-chlorinated well water averages high 60s during the winter).

And for all the dog lovers, a dog park with no containment fence just an ornamental fence, which seems odd.

     I wasn't surprised (click here to read Wikipedia's Austin article) that Austin was named by U.S. News & World Report as the #1 place to live in the U.S. for 2017. And the downtown area was named one of the "Best Cities and Neighborhoods for Millennials".

Improvisational drummers on the pedestrian bridge . . . 

. . . contributing to downtown Austin's good vibes.

Can't leave Austin without a visit at Texas' capitol building.

It has a rather simple rotunda as capitol rotundas go.

     The lobby of the rotunda includes portraits of Texas' governors through the years. Only two were women (both were Democrats), but Ann Richards won her election fair and square without the benefit of being an ex-governor's wife. Although I'm a Yankee, I've lived in rural Texas for the past 26 years and it still surprises me that a female Democrat managed to win a gubernatorial election in a very politically conservative male-oriented venue. She must have been a dynamic imposing woman.

   But the best part of Austin for me . . . . 

     No, not the river trails, it was the hot tub at the YMCA. After each swim (about one mile, an indoor pool on the cool side) I'd hurry over to the nearby hot tub. There was usually a handful of talkative folks there; weather, politics, news, all topics were fair game. My favorite acquaintant was Dotti, a 64-year-old woman who completed a triathlon three months ago. I've soaked in many hot tubs and Jacuzzis in the USA throughout my travels, and Austin's gregarious intelligent diversified hot tubbers win first prize in my book for delightful folks! 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Dive Eat Sleep Repeat

     For the past two months I've been crossing my fingers, hoping the weather in the Bahamas and Miami area would improve for good diving. That area has had its fair share of hurricanes and tropical storms lately. When I flew out of Houston early one morning about two weeks ago, a cold front was headed the same way -- toward Miami. 

     I had signed-up for ten days of SCUBA diving on the Juliet which docks at Miami. 


     Juliet has more charm than most dive boats. Click here for the post I wrote when I did my first dive on Juliet two years ago.
     You won't see many three-masted schooners at Miami; and yes, we truly did sail out of Miami. That's Bre in photo below, a diver who volunteered to hoist one of the sails. She's a state trooper from Maine by the way. 

     There were ten divers and oddly five were solo women which includes me. And there were five crew members; my favorite from two years ago, Nate, is now Captain. He recently wrote a book, Bahamas Bucket List for Divers.

Nate let me sit on his captain's chair. I'm resting my foot on the wheel.

     Juliet in my opinion is the perfect dive boat because there's plenty of space and lots of pretty interior woodwork.

     Below from left to right are Billie and her husband Gary (both are retired NIH scientists from Louisiana, she's a veterinarian too). Far right with coffee mug is Ed who was my dive buddy for the week and whose pilot skills (water current speed, compass readings, etc.) were much appreciated.

     Compass readings aren't normally necessary because visibility is usually great. But during our eight days of diving, visibility was poor half the time (below is Bea's photo of me which shows poor visibility).

     Sometimes visibility was so poor I couldn't even see the boat above me. See the rough sea at sunset?

     It's tricky to safely exit the water with 60 pounds of SCUBA gear on a boat ladder that's rocking up/down six feet with the swells. Below is Bea, my roommate who's a German permanent resident of Vancouver, Canada. See the flags waving behind her? Jumping off the boat was much easier!

     Meals were scrumptious!

Amanda the cook has the hardest job in my opinion. She's also a diver.

     Max (below) was our dive master. Before every dive, he explains reef profiles, currents, depths, things to be on the lookout for.

     Most dive masters remind me of clucking mother hens who constantly chastise their flock of divers for scattering too far away from Mama; it's annoying to me. Max gave us all the details of each dive and then let us explore without him, which is perfect! We were on our own. He did however, accompany divers during a drift dive. We also were briefed on what to look for by our boat's marine biologist Liz.

     Below is a photo of us divers getting suited-up and ready to jump in. See how much space we have? A dive-boat doesn't usually have this much space.

     The owner of the boat, Liza (photo below), is feeding lion fish to sharks. Throughout the days of diving, several divers took a spear and container to kill and bag this invasive slightly toxic but pretty fish. I helped scout for lion fish.

Everyone dived (except me) in this very same spot after the sharks were fed!

The boat's cat Pearl was fed lion fish eggs.

We got buzzed by a float plane.

     Below is an $8.5 million neighbor "Missing Link". We were anchored with this boat for several evenings on a protective cove.

     This boat (below) with all its powerful motors and four youthful and nearly naked ladies is aptly named "Lucky Dick." That wreck behind it by the way is Sapona, a concrete ship.

     Before a liveaboard adventure, I download a couple sea-related books to read onboard. I favor nonfiction books that capture the human spirit. Highly recommend Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.

For photos contributed by divers who had underwater cameras, click here.

Hope y'all have a Happy Thanksgiving :)