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[Comments] (6) "Back in the Saddle" or "Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place": Hmm. I finally have time to catch up. Here goes:

Our last night in California was pleasant. We went to a restaurant called "Sun-dried Tomatoes" for dinner in San Juan Capistrano. It was quaint. Susie had a really yummy pasta with sun-dried tomato sauce. I wanted that too, but decided I'd taste Susie's and get something different. So I went for the shrimp chipotle pasta salad. After eating about half of it, I realized there was no pasta in it; I think they gave me the shrimp chipotle garden salad by mistake. But I ate it nonetheless.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we watched Hotel Rwanda that night. I really enjoyed the movie. It was an eye-opener into another culture for me. I had never thought about the wants and expectations of the Hutu and Tutsi people before, expecially regarding the UN, foreign intervention, etc. Because of lack of involvement, over 1 million Tutsi people were killed. They waited for someone, anyone, to come, but no one ever did. Why didn't anyone ever come? I'm not quite sure, but I think I blame it on the incompetence of a certain international organization as well as Rwanda's lack of fossil fuels.

The cruise. Susie recapped it nicely; so instead of rehashing it, I'd like to instead write a user's guide to cruising. It could either be called "cruising for a bruising" or "you don't drink?"

  1. If you are a teetotaler, keep it to yourself. Our dinner company was a couple about our age. The husband could not believe that I don't drink. "But you are on a boat" he'd say over and over, as if that had anything to do with it. I would not do it on a boat, I would not do it in the moat. The wife asked if it was because I am Christian. Rather than get into a whole thing, I simply said yes.

  2. If you do drink, be prepared to lose your shirt. It is $6.25 a drink, except from like 7 am to 10 am, when they have the morning special for like $4 or something. It all just goes on your room bill until the end of the trip, like room service. Gambling is done the same way. I would really liked to have seen some people's bills at the end of the trip.

  3. Get an ocean view. Or, take your chances of being upgraded for free, like we were. It was so relaxing to listen to the ocean, be able to wake up to the sun rise, to read my scriptues on the balcony every morning. The only downside was that we had to close the door every time George from next door needed to smoke.

  4. Be prepared to see lots of boobs. The entire boat was done in some sort of Renaissance facade, and everyone was nakie because, well, it's art, or so I'm told. The supper club had a statue of David in it for the ladies I suppose. It got old. They should redo the ship with some sort of ocean motif, in my opinion.

  5. Go to at least one art auction, just for kicks and giggles. The auctioneer is a riot, and he doesn't even know it. He is the Wal-Mart of the art world, but refuses to understand this concept. He sells bulk art for quite cheap to second-rate citizens on a cruise ship. And he loves to brag that his art gallery does more business that Christy's. Well of course he does. Christy's is exclusive. But I am sure nothing goes for under $50K there. This guy's stuff was for a few hundred. It's funny to watch him spend 20 minutes talking about each piece only for no one to bid on it. But there is free champagne at the art shows, and he does give out art tips. For example, Itzchak Tarkay is the next Chaggal, while Peter Max is the next Picasso. So hop on the bandwagon fast if you want some sweet appreciation action. So he says. I didn't care for their stuff. He kept saying his paintings were given away as a steal, but I'm not quite so sure how liquid the art market is, so I chose not to invest. I'll have to investigate.

  6. Don't sit at the late sitting. Otherwise dessert isn't over until 10 pm, which means the entire thing is going straight to your thighs. We switched to the early seating, which is more fun anyway, because that's when all the old people eat, and they are far more entertaining that people our age. Our late seating dinner couple would fight in front of us, which usually ended in the husband leaving halfway through dinner to hit the bar. But the old couples would regale us with stories of Moses and Abraham and all the other plantation workers.

  7. Shore excursions can be fun. Pick ones that last all day. Otherwise you spend the other half of the day wandering around Puerto Villarta being called such things as Amigo, Honeymooner, or Romeo. Everyone wants to take advantage of you. So stick with the shore excursions. All the food is safe on those.

  8. There is no word for price tag in Spanish. So don't bother looking for price tags. Buying something is an art. If you want to inquire into something's cost, don't. Otherwise you'll enter the "I got screwed" zone. If you do decide to purchase something, be prepared to dicker. It's kinda fun to mess with them if you really have no intention to buy; on the other hand, they'll follow you for three blocks trying to seal the deal. Thus, we only bought Mexican vanilla and a bowl with chili peppers painted on it.

  9. Don't make the same mistake that I did about "cruise people." I thought the entire boat would be filled with adonis bodies that are buff and ruddy and don't really exist in nature, that I would feel fat and out of shape, and more or less ashamed to be seen with my shirt off. On the contrary. I was the most physically fit person on the boat. For some reason, cruise people are overweight and covered in tattoos. They don't work out (so I had the gym to myself most days, which was heavenly), and they don't care. So the sun-bathing factor is a Catch 22: you don't need to feel self conscious, because chances are you are the adonis on the boat; however, you may need to burn your eyes by the end of the week.

  10. Wear sunscreen. Neither Susie nor I got burned, meaning that we didn't have to look like lobsters at dinner.

  11. Do breakfast buffet style. They have the same exact food as in the dining room, but you can eat it by yourself while catching some rays. Only use the dining room for lunch and dinner.

  12. The best foods I would suggest to try included: Pumpkin Soup, Strawberry Bisque, Lobster Bisque, Sushi, Pineapple Sherbet, Lobster Tail, Escargots en brochette, anything with berries in it, Tomato Fennel soup, and the lunch time build your own burger with extra guacamole.

  13. Don't get sick. If you think you might (and I am not talking seasick) bring your medicine cabinet with you. The infirmary costs $60 to see a doctor, even with the travel insurance. A bottle of cough syrup cost me $8 while the Sudafed was $6. Sudafed doesn't work on me, so that investment was a complete joke. Also, if you think you might get the flu, as I did, wear pants and a sweatshirt. I got the chills in the Sierra Madres, and the bus was freezing anyway. So everytime we stopped, I would stand out in the sun amidst the mango trees to warm up while the tour did their thing. Bad idea. I gave myself heat exhaustion; I literally couldn't get my body temperature down. So when we finally got back onboard the boat that night, I had to strip and have Susie apply a cold washcloth to my person. So don't get sick; and if you do, come prepared.

  14. If you do get sick, you can always lay in bed with your balcony door open and watch teevee, like I did. It was a blast from the past. Susie and I watched "Rocky and Bullwinkle." Hence why I am giving every title two options, cuz that's how Rocky and Bullwinkle do it. I have decided that show has something to do with the Red Scare, but I haven't linked it all together in my mind yet.

  15. If you get fogged out of Mazatlan for an hour like we did, do NOT go out on deck. I think the boat's foghorn did some serious damage to my ears.

  16. The cruise director will try and be funny. He's not; but you can humor him and be nice anyway. However, if you are into fifth grade potty humor, he might just become your mentor.

  17. There is a new cuss word in my mind: TIPS. We prepaid our tips, but don't be fooled. Such tips do not include the maitre'd, shore excursion guides, taxi drivers, or your next door neighbors on the cruise, for that matter. What a joke. Since when you do have to tip a cab driver if you don't have luggage with you? I think the scriptures forsaw our day and this pathetic attempt to overtip us "Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing...." Be tip smart.

  18. Don't check luggage. You can get off the boat first!

  19. Love Cabo, hate Puerto Villarta. It's ok.

    That's it for now. Hope this helps someone somewhere. Stay tuned until next time for "Moving Mania" or "The Rain in Moab."

[Comments] (8) The Summer of John: It's been a great weekend. Friday night Jodi and Franko came to sleep over so we could leave Saturday morning at 4 am for Moab. We got there about 8 and went straight to hike Delicate Arch, which is an 1.5 mile hike straight up slickrock, which means no shade. So after eating breakfast up there and applying generous amounts of sunscreen to our faces, we began the trek. It's a good hike to do in the morning before it gets too hot, but because it's Moab in May, it already was hot. Delicate Arch is the famous arch that is on the UT license plates, and is really worth the hike.

The whole up, down, and taking pictures there, took about 3 hours. I felt semi-proud of myself on the hike, but not fully satisfied as I watched these large groups of 80 year-women hike to the arch. If they could do it, why was I sweating so much? Maybe I'll just have to go back in 60 years and try it again.

By then it was about 11:00, and since we felt we'd already put in a whole day, we left to go check into our camp site. I think Moad may have invented the campsite; they have the system down pat. For only $24, the four of us got a camp spot for both our tents right next to the showers and toilets. The place also had a pool and three hot tubs for us to drown our heat and sunscreen in. After rejuvenating, we tried the park again.

In the afternoon we hit the Windows section, Double Arch, Skyline Arch, and Sand Dune Arch. Sand Dune Arch is between two sandstone fins, so it is in the shade about 23 hours a day. Jodi, Franko, and I climbed on top of it (about 30 feet high) for some cool pictures. It was hard to get up. There was a wind tunnel that ran up the crevice we climbed up, and it shot sand straight into my face and mouth. So I got a free "sand"wich (pause for laughter from the audience). On the way down Jodi ripped her back pant pocket completely to shreds. Good thing it was only the pocket and not the pants at least. I remember climbing on top of the arch as a boy scout about 10 years ago, and we would jump off into the sand. None of us dared; kids do the darndest things. But since my teenage Superman complex has worn off, we opted to climb back down.

That night we cheated and used a super-log to light the fire for our weenie and Starburst roast. Then, as soon as the sun went down at 9 pm, we hit the hay. I didn't think I'd be able to sleep, because of the heat. But it was actually cooler than our third floor apartment in Happy Valley, so I slept very comfortably. Another nice thing about these campsite places is that you don't have to worry about sleeping over a sagebrush.

We awoke promptly at 6 am the next morning to do it all again. This time we hit Devils Garden, which, if you do the whole 7.2-mile loop, takes you by 8 arches. We hit Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, and eventually made it to Landscape Arch one mile into the hike. That was a really cool arch. A big chunk of it fell off about 15 years ago, so now they won't let you sit under it anymore. The spectators on that fateful day in 1991 heard what they thought was thunder and ran for cover. No one was injured, and one rather foresightful individual took pics.

Then the morning "stroll" turned into a real hike. Up, up, up we went through a narrow canyon and happened upon Wall Arch halfway up. Then it was up some more until we hit both Navajo and Partition Arch. Partition Arch was amazing. It is on the cliff north of Landscape Arch, and through it is an awesome view of the whole valley. The wind whips up there pretty furiously, so it cooled us down after our long upward ascent. I wish words could describe the view and feeling up there. Maybe pics will; they will be developed tomorrow.

Next we got to walk atop the sand fin, while the valley hundreds of feet below was forgotten, or at least mostly. The wind was strong up there, and while the view was breathtaking, I was rather glad when that cliff descended into a higher valley. I would have kissed the sand, but by now it was 10 am and rather hot. By 10:30 we hit Double O Arch and the Dark Angel. Double O Arch was cool. It was one arch on top of another. I tried to climb the first for a pic between the two arches, but halfway up I realized Susie and I would have a hard time coming down, so we settled for pictures under the first arch, instead of above it.

At this point you can either backtrack the whole way home or take the "primitive trail" home. We took the primitive loop, even though it adds a whole mile to the trip and is supposedly not for the faint of heart. It was a nice way home, because we got to see another arch, Private Arch, and the trail wasn't nearly so congested. As we started, we realized Jodi had drank all her water, so it was a good thing I brought extra. As an aside, I am a prepared hiker, even if I just wore a backpack with water bottles, a camera, sunscreen, and food in it. My sister and her sophisticated husband had their fancy-smancy camelbags, but nothing else. Plus they ate sunflower seeds the whole trip, so it's no wonder they were so thirsty. Some people started the trail much later in the day than us with nothing more than a bottle of Dasani in hand. I sincerely hope they survive. I, however, take enough to see me through two days. Sure it's a little heavy at times, but is worth it to me. I guess maybe I am prepared to be a dad--I'll be able to successfully pack a diaper bag because I'll expect all of the "unexpected" events of the day. But I digress....

Back to primitive trail. I have no idea why it is called this. The trail was in no way primitive; maybe it's a direct knock on its trespassers. It's a mystery. But it was awesome. We jumped from slickrock to slickrock over caverns, and basically got to make our own trails sometimes to get to the next rock cairn. I love doing stuff like that. I'd say it's because I'm a nonconformist, but that would be a lie. I guess it's a form of problem solving, and I love that stuff. The trail eventually leveled off and we walked down a wash for a ways, and eventually made our way through very soft, but very hot sand back to the car. The whole journey was 5 hours. In essence, it was 5 of the neatest hours of my life. We never did that loop as scouts (the leaders would have killed over).

We ate at Hogi Yogi and then came home. It's a pleasant 4-hour drive. This adventure has got me all excited to go camping. Too bad we are moving soon. I mean, Cal as places to go, but honestly, Utah is the epitome of camping. Maybe we'll make it to Zions or Bryce another weekend.

I have been studying like crazy for the CPA exam, and still have yet to catch up for not studying on the cruise. Of the four parts, I've opted to study Regulation and Financial Accounting first. Friday was the first day I felt I actually understand and digested all I learned. Hopefully it's a breakthrough, as I must have all parts passed by the time I hit my one year anniversary with EY. Plus, they won't reimburse me the $700 until all parts are passed. Wish me luck!

[Comments] (4) Better Late Than Pregnant: Grandma Richardson sent me a graduation card and gift today. Whoever sees her next, please thank her for me. I'll have to make her a card, but my "scrappy" sense is all but shot right now, as Susie and I scrapped our cruise pictures all night, and I still have Moab to do.

My start date is now July 6, meaning that we plan on leaving the last week of June now. Which also means that we get out of the heat faster--YAY!

For Memorial Day weekend, we are going to SLC to see Brynn Whitney's play tonight, and then tomorrow my niece Hannah and nephew James are dancing in a mall (Ember should be dancing too, but she told her mom she won't). If I have a child that shy Susie will have to deal with him/her, as the trait will be Susie's anyway. Then Monday we are going to open up the cabin for the season. It should be good times!

[Comments] (5) Can't Get No Satisfaction: Tried to study for CPA today. They kicked me out of the computer lab for the devotional (they've never done that the previous Tuesdays). Then they had a fire drill this afternoon. By that point I'd had it, and went to study in the Tanner Building. Well, in there I just run into too many old acquaintances. But I still managed to finish the section of SEC Acts of 1933 and 1934. Tomorrow I start studying liabilities. Will it ever end?

Robots was ok. They were really, really, really, really into the silliness of robots farting, going to the bathroom, and having big, metallic bottoms. But if you strip that 23 minutes out of the movie, the story line (though rather cliche) wasn't too bad. And I did laugh once or twice.

Grandma June also took us to IHOP yesterday. Having had their non-breakfast foods before, I opted to stick with breakfast. I had the chocolate chip pancakes (so more like dessert). Not bad. I have a feeling that after my grandma dies every time I see IHOP I'll think of her. Which raises an interesting point: what restaurant will my children associate with me? with any of us? Discuss amongst yourselves.


© 2003-2015 John Chadwick.