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Saturday, April 27, 2013

In Search of the Blue Footed Booby

Tuesday morning, bright and early, we’re off.  The airport issue has been solved, the sequestion having inconvenienced those in power, so that’s we don't have to count on delays.  We fly through Panama -- sadly just another airport I’ll have been in without seeing the country -- into Quito, Ecuador on our way to the Amazon.

Oooh, the Amazon!  You may feel as some of my friends do (or, indeed, you may not)  that it's dangerous to be wandering around the jungle, swarmed by insects and wild animals.   Ah, no; we'll be under the watchful eye of a certified naturalist and staying in a comfortable lodge.  We were in the Peruvian Amazon in 2000, and the duplex cabins there were perfectly comfortable.  Granted, we had to walk down a boardwalk to the (extremely clean) pit toilets, but there were regular toilet seats, so my daughter and I were perfectly happy.  The Yarina lodge will assign us to private cabins with running water bathrooms.  There will be no hardship. 

I understand that the Yarina Lodge, like the previous one, keeps a baby Capybara for guests who miss their pussycats to pet.  You can keep your cooking lessons in Italy and in France; we’ll have one here on local cuisine.

After four days, we transfer back through Quito to the exotic Galapagos.  Even if my sausage toe is bothering me, how bad can life be aboard the pontoon ship cruising around the Galapagos Archipelago?  We’ll be on the lookout for giant turtles and giant albatross.  Sea lions may choose to swim with us.

We are ready.  We’ve had our yellow fever inoculations and updated tetanus shots.  We’ve packed our malarial pills, and Steve has his altitude meds. (I’m allergic to them, so I’m stuck with to drinking water and coca tea and using my inhaler.)   We’ve got our walking shoes and our water shoes, our kindles and our camera, our sunscreen and our bug repellent.  We’ve got our emergency antibiotics and pain killers.  We’ve got walking sticks and moleskin and binoculars.   Is there any room for clothes?  Who knows?  Who cares?

Tuesday morning bright and early, I’m off, off in search of the blue footed booby.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thanks, Mom!

Spring has a splendid progression, as orderly as a military march.  The crocus and daffodils come first, blooming even when winter lingers around the edges.  Then the bluebells, whose buds have grown bulbous with promise, sprinkle the ground in periwinkle blue.  The forsythia are not to be outdone and join in with a gush of yellow.  Now the dogwood’s hazy blossoms turn white or pink, and the trees in their new princess dresses dance in the breeze, a ballet outside my window.  Not to be outdone, the azaleas open, one bush after another, in ardent pinks and reds.  We’ll have rhododendron and peonies and roses all in the order of time.  Who cares about allergies when such a visual feast is laid out before your eyes.  Holy cow, Mother Nature, way to go!

And if Mother Nature doesn’t impress you with that, well, how about this?  About a year ago, I saw two eagles flying over the Dullas Overpass.  No one believed me; they told me it must be two of our area’s turkey vultures, but I’ve seen turkey vultures, and I’ve seen eagles.  I'm telling you, the eagle is a damn big bird, and those were eagles. 

I have been validated!  The convocation of eagles (yup, not a flock) along the Potomac River has grown so big that the birds are expanding across the area.  A few weeks ago a birder friend invited us around the corner to look through his telescope at a bald eagle nest.  There sat the female on her nest, with straight and regal posture, very high up in a very tall tree incubating a full clutch.   

A very big nest, very high up

I thought of her the Countess of Oakton, but then I thought, oops, we gave up royalty over 200 years ago, and  the bald eagle is the symbol of our democracy, and a noble title isn’t very apt.  Too late.  In my head they are the Earl and Countess.  Sadly we did not see the Ear.  I suppose he was out having a drink at his club. 

I haven’t been out to see them again.  In a moment of rare grace (yes, yes, after four years of ballet lessons), I ran smack into the heavy bench at the foot of our bed and whacked my pinkie toe.  I learned, for the first time in my life, the meaning if exquisite pain, pinpointed and sharp.  I thought maybe I’d broken it, but a good google and a conversation with a nurse friend convinced me it was “merely” sprained.  My forefoot  swelled and turned a mesmerizing shade of purple.  The toe itself ballooned into a fat, sausage.  I took Aleve and applied ice packs.  I soaked in Epsom Salts.  I could all but see my blood traveling through the veins, each cell toting off excess saturation. 

My foot is back to normal size and color, and the sausage toe looks almost like a regular toe.  I think, “Wow,  the bluebells, the eagles this, too.  Well done, Mother Nature, very well done!"

Monday, April 8, 2013

By a Quirk

We go to a Mexican restaurant that is a favorite eatery of ours.  You never enter without seeing a cross-section of the American public:  families, a couple of guys watching a game, a group enjoying a girls’ night out and a nice-looking retired couple.  Oh, that would be us. 

We’re always greeted warmly by a staff that invariably seems happy and friendly.  The first thing we order are margaritas, and they are brought with salsa and a basket of home-made corn chips that are so crisp and warm, you’re not sure if you want to kiss them or eat them.  Okay, I’ve never kissed them.  I don’t think we’ve ever eaten there without getting at least one refill (of the chips not the drinks). 

The menu is fairly large, and we’ve made a variety of selections over the years.  Not once have we been disappointed.  The food is fresh, it is tasty, and if you ask for mild, you get mild, not spicy nor tasteless; request medium-hot, and that is what you get.  The service is timely but not hurried, and the bill is eminently reasonable.

There is only one negative. It feels like a local place to us, but it is a day's drive away.  You see, every two or three months, we got to our daughter’s in Muncie, IN.  It is a ten hour drive.  Let’s face it, we’re not as peppy as we once were, and ten hours is about two hours more than we like to drive in a day.  Eight hours takes us, serendipitously, to exit 112 off route 70, just this side of Columbus.  Take the exit, turn left and cross under the highway.  Off to your right, you’ll see a Hampton Inn, a very comfortable Hampton Inn with free wi fi and a nice breakfast. 

Get your overnight stuff out of the car, check in and walk your tired self across the access drive and into La Fogata Grill.  We found it by luck, by a quirk of fate  We enter tired an bleary, but whatever table they give us, we sit down at home.