May 4 – 8

4-4

  • Packed up the car and hit the road for Maine early this morning.
  • Kept myself amused in the car for hours on end, in both directions with tons of reading material. The entire commute flew by and I marvel at how my traveling tolerance has increased greatly over the past decade.
  • Did a site visit to our land and even met with a builder. The purpose of this trip was to determine if we ‘really’ want to move to Maine. The answer was yes, only the situation may have changed a bit . . .
  • Enjoyed a lovely (packed salad) lunch on the docks in Camden watching the boats and ducks along the water.
  • Visited our old favorite Renny’s store and had a ball shopping. I could see myself shopping there regularly.

4-5

  • Chores chores chores filled up the entire morning, but the garage is getting cleaned out and the yard is starting to come along.
  • Went for our big hike and my legs are not cooperating. Neither is my neck for that matter. I need to get stronger, faster.
  • Another salad lunch today, but it was nice to eat it on the deck while sunbathing.
  • First lawn mowing of the season and I was jealous that I wasn’t the one riding the mower. I wonder if I still know how to drive it.
  • Spent most of the day making long To Do lists for the rest of the week. It’s shaping up to be another busy week. How will I find the time for the food prep?

4-6

  • Very exciting day for so many reasons. The ball is rolling and things are looking up for our future to get closer.
  • Completely relieved and elated after talking to our bosses today. A total new outlook on life.
  • Hard to get our head out of the clouds all day.
  • I celebrated by breaking my detox diet and having a few pieces of ‘regular’ non-organic, non-free-range chicken. Wow, living on the wild side with that one.
  • Spent all evening working on my “new job” and it felt good.

4-7

  • Tracking the weather forecast and thinking that our weekend tag sale will be a wash out. Not sure if I’m disappointed or relieved.
  • Very pleased that my morning smoothies are coming out purple instead of the usual dark brown. So nice to drink something that doesn’t look like puke every morning.
  • Once the tap gets opened you’re in trouble. After my walk on the wild side yesterday, I snuck a few miniature chocolate chips off of Karlo’s cannolis today. It was just mean to eat pizza and cannolis in front of me and I’m only so strong.
  • Getting used to not watching TV at night and working diligently. This will be the story of my life for the next couple of years so I better get used to it.
  • Getting very frustrated with the fact that my detox “cleanse” is having the expected exact opposite effect. sigh

4-8

  • So proud of myself for remembering my brother’s birthday today. Thinking about him and hoping it’s a happy one.
  • I think I can confidently say . . . we are moving to Maine some day.
  • Learning that it’s important to dream big. Why settle unless you really have to? If you don’t set your sights high for sure you won’t achieve them, but it’s better to aim high and come in a bit lower than to never even strive for the top (of the mountain).
  • Convincing myself that we just saved several thousand dollars and focusing on that rather than what we just spent.
  • Starting to get a funny gut feeling and wondering what’s up with my step daughter.

 

My Latest Toy – Nikon Coolpix P7700

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I hate to admit this, but I bought another camera. A Nikon Coolpix P7700. Yes, I know . . . nobody should ever try to justify owning as many cameras as I do, so I’m not even going to try to justify it. I’m just going to enjoy having it.

(I should mention this right here. This is going to get very long and boring to anyone that is not a camera nut. If I were you I would turn back now!)

After a lot of research I finally settled on what I decided was a brilliant choice, a Nikon. Why not get something that I don’t need to learn how to use? With the menus being something that I’m very familiar with and comfortable with it just plain made the most sense, and I like sensical things!

From the moment I put it into my hands I loved it. It just felt good. I loved the weight of it and the ergonomics. This camera is classified as a “point and shoot” which those words alone would normally make me cringe, but it has some beefy substance to it. I think it’s rated as the biggest point and shoot on the market so it’s not exactly a pocket camera.

After going back and fourth on wanting to get a mirror less fourth thirds camera that allowed for interchangeable lens I found this one with a built-in equivalent to a 28-200mm lens. With that sort of coverage I don’t see any need to ever buy an additional lenses. (I can hear Karlo laughing when he read this. How many times have I said, “This is the last lens I’ll ever need. I swear.”) So maybe that last statement was a silly one, but for what this camera is intended for, it will do the trick. Period.

And what is it intended for? This new mini DSLR wannabe will be my take-everywhere-I-go-on-vacation camera. I thought long and hard about how I will carry my big DSLR with my 18-300mm heavy lens attached. No matter what crazy idea I came up with it just was not a practical idea to carry it on a bicycle. If I could get all the versatility of a real DSLR in a compact little number then that was the best choice. And this camera really does pack just about everything I need into one tiny little package.

The camera that I was planning to bring with me is a D7000 and this one is a P7700. It’s not a coincidence that the numbers are so close. They are siblings and it’s like having the little brother to my big camera. The feature that sold me right off the bat was the fact that all the dials were familiar to me. This camera even has two command dials. You should have heard me rejoicing. Most lower model DSLRs don’t even have two command dials (one to change the aperture and one to change the shutter). SOLD.

The fact that you can quickly and easily change every manual setting you can make is superb, but I’m also happy with the automatic settings. The colors and exposure seem pretty good, and it can even make your dog’s snout look unusually long without a fisheye lens.

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There’s even a exposure lock button in the exact same place as my D7000. Very handy indeed.

I thought the sharpness and details in the shots (even way zoomed up) were outstanding.

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But wait there’s more. I already mentioned the focal range and as you can imagine it has a built in macro so that means I can keep another lens home.

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In addition to built in vibration control, it even has a built in Neutral Density filter. Did you hear that? A built-in ND filter. I never even knew that was an option on point and shoots and I’m blown away. Almost giddy. I almost bought a new lens just so I could use the ND filter that I already own for my next trip! Here is a little test I of it’s functionality.

NDThis picture was taken with a 1 second exposure at f/8, ISO 80.

ND-2Same exact shot taken with a 1 second exposure, but at f/4, ISO 80 with the ND filter turned on.

That ND filter has to be one of my favorite features! It’s also got all the typical scene modes (that I sometimes miss on my professional level D800 camera). Sometimes its just nice to cheat a little. And in addition to the scene modes there are also some special effects that you can do right in camera. For instance the camera will automatically stitch together panoramas.

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You can set it to take “dreamy” soft focus pictures of your sleepy dogs in a state of slumber.

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You can even tell it to take “painting” pictures which are a little cheesy, but may have some useful applications.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg. In a full day of playing with the camera I didn’t even get to test them all. I knew I wouldn’t be using the special effects much and I got so stumped with the 3D photo setting that I gave up. Must explore that more soon.

I did want to get a good sense of the focal range. This is it at it’s widest (f2.8 by the way!)

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And here it is at the end of the optical zoom.

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You can go even further with the digital zoom, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you happen to spot a unicorn or Bigfoot in the woods and you just want a snapshot to prove that you’re not crazy. The quality is not good, but it does let you capture something at quite a distance. Here’s a sample of it zoomed all the way up.

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Did I mention that, in addition to the two command dials, it also has two more separate dials – one for exposure compensation and another to quickly get to things like: quality, ISO, White Balance, and bracketing? My heart is beating faster just typing this. It’s truly a mini DSRL that weighs about a pound. I hiked for hours with it and totally forgot I was even carrying it. I would do a back flip if I could.

Now that I gushed about it, here’s the two things that will take some getting used to. The first being no optical view finder. Huge failure on Nikon’s part. They included this feature with the previous model, but for some ridiculous reason decided to remove it from this model. And to make matters worse, unlike some competitors that sell a view finder as an accessory that attaches to the hotshot, Nikon does not. Very disappointing. Especially given that the LCD display on the back of the camera goes completely black when viewing in the vertical position with polarized sunglasses on. Given my always sore neck this will be an issue on vacation having to tip my head back in a freakish position to see either over or under my sunglasses. Bad Nikon, very bad.

The other minus that I’ll have to live with, but is no fault to the camera is simply the fact that it has that digital lag. It’s not lightening fast like a DSLR is and that will take some getting used to, but the sheer portability makes up for that.

This camera is definitely “Approved By Apro.”

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Swimming with the Sea Turtles

One of the absolute highlights of this trip was our visits to Akumal to snorkel. Another case of me not doing any research, but tripping over some great inside scoop was this day trip. I happened to strike up conversation with some people on the beach who told me about this place. Akumal is only about 20 or 30 minutes South of Playa del Carmen and it's a protected bay famous for the sea turtles. We were delighted to find out that you can rent life jackets at the dive shop right on the beach and could venture off snorkeling on your own without having to be part of a tour. Tours are readily available there also, but since we already owned our own equipment and I never know whether or not I'm “really” going to get into the water, or how long I will last, we thought it best to go it alone.

The beach itself was beautiful. The palm trees were plentiful and everyone just picked a tree to park their stuff under. The dive shop offers locker rentals, which we got, but soon realized they weren't even necessary. There was never a time when we thought our “stuff” was in danger of being stolen. It was such a clean, safe, and beautiful place.

So now I had to figure out how I was going to get myself into that water with my fins and mask on. We sat on the beach and observed the tours to see where they were getting in and out, how they were doing it, and where they were swimming. The  tension was starting to grow again as Karlo was instructing me on how to use the mask and warning me that walking into the water with flippers on would be very difficult. Once again I got that feeling that snorkeling always sounds like a good idea, but when it comes right down to it, deep down I'm scared and would really rather just stay warm and dry on the beach. But we came this far and I wasn't about to chicken out now.

Karlo was very patient with me as we took our sweet time acclimating me to the water. He gave me every pointer he could, but at some point I needed to just stick my head in and try it. Needless to say the first attempt resulted in me hyperventilating, but I got over it and quickly caught on. Before I knew it I was swimming and breathing through the tube.

The bad part was that the high winds for the past several days made the water cloudy so the visibility was not good. We spent 20 minutes swimming and didn't see one turtle, only a giant sting ray, which admittedly I would have preferred  NOT to see.

We headed for shore and instead of being disappointed in the lack of turtles I was on a high at the mere fact that I got in the water and did it. We lounged in the sun for a while until we decided to give it another try. We had the equipment and even if we couldn't see the turtles it would be good practice for me.

Funny how easy something is after you already did it once. This time I looked like a season pro. I got right into the water, put my flippers on, walked easily backwards until I was ready to swim. Off we went with no whining from me what-so-ever. And this time we saw turtles! What a bonus that was. I was thrilled.  We celebrated my accomplishments at the local restaurant with some Dos Equis and fish tacos.

I enjoyed this day so much that we decided to do it all over again on our last full day of vacation. Since we knew exactly where to go, where to park, where to rent the equipment, where to snorkel, etc. it was all too easy. We felt like locals! And boy was I glad we went back. The second time around was spectacular. The water had settled right down and this time we saw tons of giant turtles. They were everywhere! We saw some fish, another giant sting ray and lots of pretty coral. And the best part . . . I was so comfortable in the water by now that I ventured off on my own, swimming around like a little fish. I no longer needed to be within 6 inches of Karlo. I was now a big girl that can handle snorkeling on my own. I truly loved being able to swim and swim without worrying about breathing or the ever-so-challenging floating. I wish I could do more of it.

Here's a little snippet of some of the turtles from our second visit.

One Perfect Day in Cozumel

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We stayed in Playa del Carmen simply for the fact that the ferry to Cozumel is located right in the heart of all the action. Not exactly sure what it is about Cozumel that we love so much, but we fell for it pretty hard during our very short cruise ship visit two years ago. We just knew we had to go back.

Considering the fact that it was wanting to visit Cozumel again that prompted this trip it is truly amazing how little planning I did regarding that visit. We had only a vague idea of what we would do when we got there and we didn’t pre-book anything. We were just going to wing it.

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Luckily for us we walked right into a great deal before we even boarded the ferry. It’s so easy to ignore all the locals barking “special deals” at you everywhere you go and normally that is exactly what we do – ignore them. But this time something told me to just stop and listen and I’m so glad we did. We managed to save some bucks and purchase a snorkel trip and a scooter rental. Our day was now completely booked and the pressure of figuring out what to do upon arrival vanished.

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It’s only a short 45 minute “cruise” over to Cozumel Island and as luck would have it the winds calmed way down from where they were earlier in the week. It was a very pleasant trip over. Our tour started very shortly after touching down on land. We boarded a small open glass bottom boat and headed out to our first snorkel location. Of course I was in a small state of panic because I had to jump off the darn boat, but after I did it the first time I was all set for the next two locations.

Cozumel has to be one of the best places to snorkel in the world. The water is crystal clear (and obviously warm if I survived it) and the pretty fish are bountiful. I don’t think it’s possible to get in the water and not see fish.

I was so proud of myself for jumping off the boat 3 times and really had a ball. The ride on the small boat was just a bonus to the trip because that in and to itself was a great time.

When we arrived back to shore we walked over to our scooter rental place. Everything is jammed into a small “downtown” area and you could really spend all day walking and browsing the shops in this small area, but after staying on 5th Ave in Playa del Carmen, shopping wasn’t high on our To Do list. It was so nice to jump on the scooter and have the freedom to go anywhere we wanted.

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Once again, although I knew I wanted to rent a scooter, I put no thought or planning into where we would go once we got the scooter. We grabbed a map and decided to scoot to the other side of the island, but first we needed to fill the gas tank. It was at the gas station where we ran into some other tourists who just finished their 40+ miles around the island and they said it was brutally long on these small scooters. They gave us great advice on what to do instead and I felt like they were our guardian angels and it was fate that we were destined to meet them at the gas station to prevent us from the disaster we had planned.
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I say “disaster” because I was in no way ready to spend several hours on the back of a scooter. My legs are way too long, my butt not padded enough, and my neck not ready for that ride. So instead we just cruised along the coast till we felt like turning back around. It was a big thrill just to be on two wheels and feel the wind on my face again. It made me long for Spring and the OK from my doc to ride again.

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We made some pit stops along the way at various deserted beachy locations, but the best pit stop was at the Money Bar. This was a great little beach club with all the amenities you could ever want. We sat at swings at the bar when another little angel appeared. A professional photographer just happened to be sitting across the bar and saw Karlo taking pictures of me in the swing. He came over and instantly grabbed my phone and started to pose us and take several shots. How did he know that I was disappointed that Karlo and I had yet to take one single photo of the two of us together. Having just one picture truly made my day.

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After the most delicious calamari and quesadilla I ever had, we hopped back on the scooter and headed back to town. The day was winding down and we needed to save time for our last significant Cozumel event. While we waited to board our snorkel boat we sought out some shade in the near by shops. It was during those 10 minutes that I positively fell in love with a full length lined leather (yes, Winter) coat. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and had to go back and buy it. I had such a ball trying on every coat in this leather shop. The fact that this brand of leather is only sold in Cozumel, Milan, Paris, and Turkey is was really sold me. My endless desire to be different motivated me to not just buy that coat that I first saw, but another for good measure. Leave it to me to buy winter coats on a tropical island.

Sand and Surf

IMG_0090I admit I'm not a beach person and a tropical vacation has never been high on my list. Part of the reason we are starting to travel to warm locations is simply research for our future plans of moving even further North with the intention of escaping the Winters. We keep asking ourselves, “Where would we go for two months?” We decided that we should start visiting more warm locations to help us decide where we want to escape to some day.  So I looked at this trip as a research project. Little did I know how much I would truly enjoy it.

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Fortunately the first 3 days were crazy windy which meant you didn't realize how hot it was. You could lay on the beach all day without feeling like you were going to explode or melt. I get very restless when I'm hot and normally can't lay on a beach for more than one hour, but give me a beach umbrella and boat loads of wind and I'm quite content. We found ourselves a beach club that we really liked called the Wah Wah Beach Club. You can lay on their chairs and use their umbrellas and they don't really pressure you to eat or drink. Of course you should order something and we certainly did, but I was very pleased that I never felt pressured. You almost had to hunt down the waiters when you wanted something.

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We spent the first two days at this club. We got there nice and early and picked out our favorite spot. The first day I waddled into the water up to my thighs and called it quits. Typical me. I was happy just lounging in the shade on my chair and reading my magazines while Karlo swam like a fish all day long.

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On day two I got a little crazy and actually got all the way into the water. I'm not even sure how it happened or what came over me. The waves were really big which normally would have scared me, but I let myself get coaxed in. Before I knew it I was neck deep in water with waves crashing over my head. I'm not even sure I should admit this, but I had a ball playing in the waves.

Because I showed such braveness on day 2 we decided to go snorkeling in Puerto Morales on day 3. One of the nicest coral reefs in the world is located just off shore there and you can easily grab a snorkel tour boat from the beach. We did one of these tours last year, but I was in so much pain with my neck and arm that I couldn't really enjoy it. Given the fact that I knew I could get all the way into the water I figured I would give it another shot. As we took the 20 minute drive to get there my stomach was sinking. Suddenly I wasn't feeling very brave anymore. The winds were so high and the waves were so big I was scared to death. I parked myself under a hut and waited for Karlo to track down our tour guide. When Karlo returned he said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you can rent a wet suit. The bad news is that it's too windy to go out.” I didn't say it out loud, but I was thinking, “That sounds like all good news to me.” I tried to look disappointed, but inside I felt nothing but relief.

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Back to our beach we went and that day the waves were even bigger than the day before. I made the observation that nobody was in the water further than 20 feet from the shore, but still I tried to get into the water with Karlo. What a mistake that was. My lunatic husband had no problem busting his way past the breakers and venturing where no sane person would go. Then he had the nerve to turn around and make beckoning motions to me to follow him. Really? I could barely stand up. Every time I tried to walk a foot or two those waves would crash into me with so much force they knocked me back 6 feet. Me and 3 dozen other folks persisted with this non-stop struggle for 30 minutes until finally the waves knocked me off balance and into some rocks where I killed my foot. That's it. I quit and was officially done fighting with waves. And still Karlo is bobbing around calling me out there. If I was strong enough to make my way out, I would have drown within 5 minutes. Note to self, never ever trust Karlo!

The Heart of Playa del Carmen

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Last year we rented a big beach house in the quiet little town of Puerto Morales. It was a completely relaxing experience and I thought it would be nice to take another break from the cold and return to the warm tropical beaches. Since Puerto Morales was a sleepy little fishing town, this time I opted for a bit more action. I choose Playa del Carmen because that is where you can catch the ferry to Cozumel. Other than that, I knew nothing about the place.

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Boy, was I surprised and delighted to see what it was all about. I knew our hotel was very small and not located directly on the beach, but that was really all I knew about it. I had no idea that it was located on what is a famous street in Playa del Carmen. 5th Avenue is the heart of the city. It’s where all the action happens all day and night and it very much reminded me of La Rumbla in Barcelona, Spain. No cars are allowed on 5th Ave and it’s just a long cobblestoned continuous stream of shops, restaurants, and bars.

I remembered reading hotel reviews about how the rooms either overlooked the garden or the street. I also remember thinking, “I sure do hope our room overlooks the garden.” Admittedly we were a little disappointed to find out that our room overlooked the street instead. Upon check-in we asked to be relocated when a garden view opened up, but after our first night we completely changed our minds.

Mexico13-43 copyView from our balcony.

Not only did we discover a private roof-top balcony that had views to the ocean, but we also throughly enjoyed the sights and the sounds of the nightly hustle and bustle beneath us. The street was constantly filled with music. From the strolling mariachi bands to the live music in most of the restaurants, it was just a constant party atmosphere. Each night we went to bed listening to the beautiful music coming from the restaurant next door and each morning we awoke to the sunrise shining straight through our balcony doors. The room was perfect and I couldn’t believe that we almost gave it up. If we ever go back we must remember to request the Pandora room.

sunriseThe best part about this early morning view was I could judge if the sunrise was worth photographing or not without having to crawl out of bed.

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There is never a dull moment when you stay in the heart of the action. All you need to do for entertainment is stroll the street for an endless feast for the senses. The sights, sounds, and smells of Mexico simply surround you with every step. We had to work extra hard not to eat and drink at every block and the temptation to shop was off the charts. Whatever your little heart desired could be found on just about every block. The bad part is that even the things that you didn’t even know you wanted are there beckoning for your attention. I was very proud of my self control and only came home with a select few things that I really really liked.

A Week With Jessica

I can’t even believe that it’s already been a week since Jessica flew back home. When she’s here visiting time seems to travel at warp speeds and I very much lose track of my days and my blog. I wish I did a better job of documenting it, but as always, we had a great time and did lots of fun things. We enjoyed some nights of hanging out at home and making some great meals.

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The only strange part is that I came to the realization that most of the time Jessica comes things seem to go wrong. I feel bad that she is all too often part of some sort of drama going on here in CT and this time was no exception. Over the past couple of years she’s been here for two of the biggest storms we’ve had, when we lost power for days on end . . .  She mistakenly decided to stay home alone one terrible day when Cooper decided to throw up all over the house . . . This list can go on, but I’ll just focus on this past visit for now.

During this visit we had to cancel our movie plans one night to take care of our wounded dog and it was quite the night of drama. We spent most of the evening calling vets and traveling to nearby friend’s looking for aspirin and trying to figure out what to do to help the dog, not to mention the stress of caring for the open wounds. Let’s just say it was not a fun night.

The next day we realized that Karlo’s car was very unhealthy. Seems the transmission decided to break while Jess was visiting. No sooner do I get rid of my very practical normal MINI and trade it in for a 2-seater, but Karlo’s car up and breaks. Now we have to get three people and one dog to work and that, of course, is not possible in our other two cars. Good thing we have motorcycles too. Karlo and Cooper took the bike and me and Jess took my MINI. OK, just kidding . . . wounded Cooper did not ride on the motorcycle, but we did need to take a bike and the Jeep to get everyone where they needed to go.

So the Jeep turned out to be a blessing and we took it up to Northampton for our big weekend plans of biking the rail trail and going to the brewery. The day was simply perfect. The bike ride was awesome.

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And the brewery was even better.

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But that day is also when it became painfully obvious that the Jeep was also breaking. It was super loud and behaving poorly. Not to mention the fact that it was getting 10 miles to the gallon. Not good on a day we did so much driving. All I can say is thank goodness it got us where we wanted to go and back home again safely (which was a miracle the way it was performing). The day was worth all the money we spent on gas and ended with our traditional Domino/Margarita party at our friend’s place.

And once again, thank goodness my new MINI is like a mini pick-up and easily fit Karlo, Jess and her huge suitcase for their safe journey to the airport. Part of the week was a rough ride, but in the end it was another perfect week with Jess.

Biking Greece

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For some reason when I thought of Greece I thought about a “tropical” place. I did not think “mountainous desert” but that was mostly what the islands were. At many times it felt like biking in Utah,  and it was just as challenging. I have no idea where I mustered the strength from because I was in no way ready for this ride. With only about 30 miles under my belt this season (and that accounts for three times on a bike) and no cardio training at all, I’m stunned at how I performed. If my leg muscles have such great “muscle memory” then I would really like to know why my neck is suffering from such amnesia! Why isn’t it springing back to it’s normal strong state? I’m hopeful that the trip has beaten it into submission and it will behave better from this point forward.

My neck was a big hurdle, that’s for sure, but I managed to get through it and for that I’m very proud and grateful. I’m hoping this trip has motivated me more and will make it easier to get back to my normal biking self. If I had experience the same amount of pain at home I would have quit, but with views like I had in Greece it was easy to just keep on pedaling, keep on pedaling. Yes I sung the Finding Nemo song in my head a lot! This was our third Island Hopping trip and by the second Greek island I deemed it the most spectacular ride. It was worth the pain. I guess the saying is true, “No pain, no gain.” The more climbing you do the better the views and the bigger the downhill payoff. There was an awful lot of both.

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At least there weren’t too many surprises and you got to know what to expect every day. Most days were carbon copies of the previous day . . . the weather was perfect upon rising and you knew you were going to start with a big climb. The boat always docks at sea level and all the towns are perched at the top of the mountains. And so went every day. Grind up the never ending hills, walk the adorable villages, and fly downhill taking in the gorgeous scenery. This never got old. On the good days we would pedal to the top, turn around, and coast back down, but on some days we would pedal up and over the mountain to the seashore on the other side. That meant we had to climb the darn hill twice! Those days required two ice cream breaks instead of one.

That is one great thing about cycling vacations — you can eat whatever you want, guilt-free. I thoroughly enjoyed all the carbs I consumed daily. Such a treat to have bread every day, and pizza, and pasta, oh my! That was almost as good as the scenery.

But now it’s back to reality. Back to my carb reduction diet and back to the reality that biking just plain hurts. At home the scenery is not quite as good as in Greece. OK, it stinks in comparison. All I see are trees, trees, and more trees and for some reason that seems to increase the pain levels. I haven’t tried to remedy it with ice cream yet and that might be just the fix I need.

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9 Islands in 7 Days (Part 3)

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From Kea it was back to where we started from on the mainland to complete our Island Hopping tour. It’s amazing how fast a week can go, which is why we were thrilled to continue our trip to yet another island – Aegina. This one we traveled to by high-speed ferry and was only a 40 minute ride. The island of Aegina is best known for its pistachios and they were everywhere you turned. I was in Heaven.

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We toured this island extensively, first by bicycle and then again by scooter, leaving nothing un-explored. Taking another Island Hopping ride was a true bonus and we were very grateful for the generosity of our guides letting us freeload on the next week’s tour group. As always we did some climbing and were treated to some views, but this time we also got to visit a very cool ancient archeological site. I was thrilled to see just how in tact it was.

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Once we got our hands on a couple of scooters we combed just about every mile of the island during what was the most spectacular scooter ride of my life. I think the views speak for themselves and say it all.

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Another fun highlight of the day was seeing storks – real live storks. I have to admit that up until this point I was never even really sure if storks were real birds or just made up creatures like Santa Claus that brought babies rather than gifts. Well, come to find out they are real and they are beautiful. Seeing these huge birds soar was incredible. If you happened to have read my review of my new camera I made a comment like, “If you happen to stumble across a unicorn, the ultra digital zoom would be appropriate to use.” Well the stork was my unicorn and I activated my “should-never-be-used” digital zoom to grab this shot from a distance.

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So in summary . . . we biked for 7 days, visited 9 different islands, sailed for over 30 hours, climbed over 9,000 feet of elevation, met 20 new friends, ate an enormous amount of pistachios, and aged our skin over 10 years while having the time of our lives in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

I made a little video to serve as a more animated and visual summary of the trip . . .

The snapshots used in this video can also be viewed via an online album.

For more information on the Island Hopping vacations, please visit www.islandhopping.com

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9 Islands in 7 Days (Part 2)

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Our next island hop was to Mykonos which was positively beautiful (as if all the others weren’t) and was definitely one of my favorites. We had to dingy from the sailboat into the town which itself was an adventure. Once everyone was on shore we did a walking tour where our guides told us all about the island and took us to all the neat spots. My favorite story was about how the island got its mascot – Petros the Pelican. How lucky were we to spot him in two different places?

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Another highlight of the island was the windmills which are no longer working, but still a cool sight. Maybe this island was my favorite because we only shopped, strolled, ate, and took photos – no pedaling or hill climbing required.

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Next we had a real treat visiting an important ancient site on the island of Delos. According to Greek mythology the God Apollo and his twin sister Artemis were born here. At one time this was the center of the world and its was positively amazing to learn all about this civilization that was created in the 4th century BC. Suddenly I became interested in history. I just couldn’t believe what I was looking at and the stories that I was hearing. How could people have engineering such amazing structures way back then without the tools and technology that we have today?

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It was a short visit on Delos and then we sailed to Tinos. This island is known for their doves. The landscape is filled with beautiful dove castles, ornately decorated bird houses, where thousands of doves live and fly freely all over the island. I was so inspired that I too wanted to fly. It would have been much easier than all that uphill pedaling, that is for sure.

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Once again, as always, the pay offers were great and the views spectacular as we coasted down the mountain. I guess this was our version of flying! On the long descents I tried to compose descriptive blog posts in my mind to try to share the experience of what I was seeing and feeling, but unfortunately none of the brilliance was stored in my memory. I think this falls under the “words just can’t describe it” category. Or maybe I just need to be a far more talented writer than I am in order to do it any justice at all. This is the closest I can come to sharing some of the experience with you. Sorry for the poor quality.

From Tinos we sailed to Kea which is the most Westerly inhabited Cyclades Island. Today we had a choice to either bike on the flat lands to the beach or straight up another mountain to the village of Ioulis. You would think that by now the uphill biking would be getting old, but without hesitation I picked the hilltop village. What would I do at the beach anyway?

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I’m so glad that we huffed it up yet another huge hill. The little village we visited at the top was among my favorites. The main attraction was a huge smiling lion which was chiseled from stone in the 6th Century BC. It was quite a nice walk through the alleyways that turned into a picturesque hiking trail to get to the lion and of course we were treated to the Greek mythology stories along the way. The entire hike offered great views and it was a nice treat to enjoy them on foot rather than zooming downhill on a bike.

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I loved seeing all the locals and visiting the bakeries and shops. It was in one particular artsy shop at the top of a very steep hill where I fell in love with a piece of artwork. I debated endlessly if we should buy it, but couldn’t decide. I had to first figure out where it would go in our house and then decide if we should spend the bucks on it (despite Karlo insisting to “just get it.”) We left the shop empty handed and I continued to think about it all the way back down the hill. No sooner do we get to the bottom I announce, “OK, I want it!” Karlo was such a good sport. He grabbed his bike and pedaled up that insanely steep hill (that nobody attempted to bike up) to get our souvenir.

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Thank you Karlo, for the artwork and for the memories we made while buying it.