Summer Doings

I am writing this post in late August, the 22nd actually, and a large thunderstorm has just passed over the east side of the Cascades.  We don’t often get moisture this time of year, so it was a surprise, lovely and luscious and more than a little bit scary.  Hopefully there is enough rain in the storm to offset any chance of lightning strikes starting more fires.  The temperatures have dropped considerably this afternoon, and I had to actually put on a pair of sweat Brats Brews and Blues

The month of August seemed to fly by, and somehow one of our favorite little gatherings slipped by without even a mention.  For the past 11 years, Klamath Blues Society has hosted a Brats, Brews, and Blues Festival at the Pelican Marina in Klamath Falls.  It usually runs from early afternoon to about 7 in the evening, with local blues bands on the venue for some delightful entertainment.  The bands come and go and are at various levels of excellence, but for a small out of the way town like Klamath, it is still great fun to go listen to music on the shore of the lake and pay 20 bucks for a bratwurst and 6 beer tickets.  Melody and Kevin emcee=ing at the Brats, Brews, and blues Festival

Each of those tickets buys a very small sampler of beer. but It’s all for a good cause, with proceeds from the event go to Camp Evergreen, a youth bereavement camp run by Klamath Hospice for children who have lost loved ones.  A couple of local breweries are there to peddle their wares and this year the midges were absent and the weather was perfect.  This year the event was in early August, and for once, Mo and I weren’t off traveling somewhere.

 IMG_3671Even more perfect, my daughter Melody and son-in-law Kevin were the emcee’s for the event and my daughter Deborah now lives close enough to join us for a great afternoon.  It was sooo much fun.  We ran into our neighbors, Wes and Gayle, who enjoyed the event as well.  Not as much as I did though, since I had my daughters there to get me up out of my chair and dancing.  Once I started, there was no stopping.  I would try, but then that dang beat would keep me going and laughing like crazy and trying to keep from falling on my face, I just kept on dancing with my girls.  Haven’t had that much energetic fun in a very long time.Sue at Brats Brews and Blues

The other summer doings around here have been a bit less delightful.  Our giant ponderosa pines have very long needles, lots of them, and every summer it is a big job getting them off the roof.  Mo is the ladder climber in the house, since I get wobbly and goofy up there.  I can do the roof part, but that part where you get from the ladder to the roof not so much.  I watched her up there, holding the ladder for her ascent and helping jockey the blower cord around so it didn’t get in the way. Day 5 Summer Lak_036DSC_0038

Other excitement around here has been even more subtle.  I have been watching flowers bloom and trees grow while Mo mows.  She built this place a year before I knew her and I was comparing some of the photos of what it looked like in 2002 and what it looks like now.  It is so much fun seeing tiny little trees that were a foot or so high now reaching for the sky at more than 30 feet.  Something has “grabbed” in the last couple of years and everything is growing like crazy.  Starting to look like a jungle out there in spite of the challenging climate we have here in the mountains. Day 5 Summer Lak_048DSC_0050

Somewhere toward the end of July we traveled a few miles east to the Running Y Resort for their “big” garden tour.  One of the gardens there was carved out of all that rocky basalt with an incredible amount of work and planning.  She won “gardener of the year” for some sort of statewide thing, and said she was amazed that she won over some of those lush Portland landscapes.  We drove through the resort roads from garden to garden, marveling at the variety of stuff that could be grown in a dry rocky landscape. 

The Running Y Garden Tour Winning Flower BedDay 5 Summer Lak_050DSC_0052

I also thought that I should have a garden tour of my own!  Instead, when the kids come to visit, I just take them on the “garden walk”, telling them how things are doing and what is what in my Rocky Point landscape.

My Flower Bedfront south flower bed

I still have issues with the deer, spraying the very smelly Liquid Fence at least every two weeks to keep mama deer and her babies out of my flowers.  When we got back from the last trip she had nipped a couple of flower heads off the rudbeckia sunflowers, a plant I thought deer didn’t eat, but she hadn’t touched anything else.  Next door at Wes and Gayle’s, she even ate all the herbs on the porch.  I didn’t think deer liked strong flavored herbs, but I guess since all my flowers tasted like rotten eggs and old milk she figured something was better than nothing.  Go me!  Sorry, Gayle.

Day 7 Holland America’s own little island

Blues Cruise Day 7 (20) I think most cruise lines that have Caribbean itineraries must own a piece of the Bahamas, some own whole islands, as this one owned by Holland America, others seem to own Cays on a bigger island somewhere.  Either way, it’s usually a day before the final disembarkation that the ship slides into it’s own private dock and with only 2000 people or so to spread around, it can even feel a bit remote if you know how to get away from the crowds.

these tenders can carry 250 people at once This morning our private island was Half Moon Cay (key), somewhere in the Bahamas.  I finally looked on Google Earth to try to get the lay of the land among the sea, but still don’t have a good handle on all of it.  This little island is very small, just a few miles across, and very low to the earth.  The vegetation is short and scrubby with the only palm trees some newer planted ones around the newer fake West Indies Village.

Blues Cruise Day 7 (28) Blues Cruise Day 7 (29) I didn’t care about all that, though, because today we had pre-arranged our one ship excursion and were going to kayak on the inland lagoon.  It was a good day to choose a bit of entertainment, since there wasn’t much else to do on the island except hang on the beach and listen to the music.  Have I mentioned music on this cruise?  Several bands were conducting our own private beach party by the water and it drew most of the ship’s crowd to that localized area for most of the day.

Deb was excited about the kayak trip, and we both knew there would be plenty of time for music later.  We stayed on the top deck to watch the ship pull part way into the bay and see the tenders coming out from shore.  These tenders are stored on the island so are much larger than the tenders carried on the ship, with a 25o person capacity.  They would run all day at fifteen minute intervals so cruisers could come and go at will.

Once we landed, in no time we were on shore, signed up for our little kayak trip, and told to wait under the shelter for a half hour or so before we would be driven inland.  There are pathways and narrow roads, with small open air vans that transport people to various water excursions, including para-sailing, jet-skiing, sailing, all the typical cruise excursion types of activities.  We were glad we hadn’t tried to do any snorkeling with the cool temperatures, and high winds.  Even kayaking was a bit of an effort in that stiff breeze, but it was still great entertainment.

heading out into the lagoon on Half Moon Cay I have to admit, I felt like I was slogging along the entire time on that heavy, sit-on-top plastic boat, with paddles that weighed five times as much as my slick new Werner’s.  Deb and I asked for single boats and two other couples were part of our group in tandems and we set out on the crystal clear lagoon that was landlocked on the island.  There were mangrove alleys to explore, but the tide was too low for entry, so we stayed on the main part of the water.  Our guide was young, very talkative, and provided a basic view of the island life but didn’t have much knowledge of the actual ecosystem beyond grade school level, so that was a bit disappointing to me.  I was there for the boating, however, and managed to have a great time.

Blues Cruise Day 7 (48) Afterward, Deb and I chose to walk the pathways back to the beach and the big island bbq provided for us, with ribs and chicken and all the fixings.  It was a decent meal, and I really enjoyed the watermelon and fresh berries.  We then ambled down to the beach to find a couple of chairs and sit in the sun.  The far end of the beach was quiet enough, but it was getting colder as a storm approached and the winds made it too uncomfortable to think about snorkeling, so we swam a bit and sat in the sun a bit before walking back to the beach party. 

Blues Cruise Day 7 (76) I walked to the far end of the beach, watching the people on the horseback riding excursion following the leader along the beach.  They advertised riding in the ocean, but I didn’t see them enter once.  They looked hot in long jeans and helmets, even on this cool day.  Deb had considered the “ride the horse in the ocean” excursion, but we thought better of it and decided to kayak instead.  I’m glad we did.

Blues Cruise Day 7 (63) We needed to get back to the ship before 3:30, and the tender line was quite long when we went there at 2:30.  It probably took 45 minutes to actually get back on the ship, but standing in line was entertaining while we listened to great music and had interesting conversations with other line-ees.

0111 Blues Cruise 300 Once on the ship, we cleaned up, relaxed a bit, and went to the last dinner of the cruise in the dining room.  This time we asked for a table for two only, not wanting to have to carry on conversations this evening with anyone but ourselves.  It was good we went early, because the dining room filled almost immediately with very large groups of people pulling tables together and raucously celebrating the final night of the cruise.  The dinner was excellent as usual, with the obligatory surf and turf meal that is usually offered at least one night on a cruise like this one.  I am not a filet lover, and that was the steak on the menu.  I also am of the mind that any good steak requires charcoal, so wasn’t too excited about my choice.  When it was served, however, with our bottle of truly great Spanish wine, I was impressed.  It was butter tender and flavorful even without the smoky flavor I think I require. 

0111 Blues Cruise 313 As we approached the end of our meal, I asked our waiter if the crew was going to do the dining room dance, the one where all the folks wave their napkins.  I know it’s silly after the first time, but Deb hadn’t experienced the first time, and I remember how tickled I was when this happened to me on my first cruise a long time ago.  Our waiter said, “No, we don’t do that on a charter cruise like this one. But if you wait just a few minutes there will be a special surprise.” In a few minutes, a few members of our Indonesian dining room staff took center stage in the brilliantly lit stairwell and proceeded to entertain us with a rousing blues tune that they had practiced for two months in readiness for this cruise.  They were received with a standing ovation and lots of rowdy calls while several diners jumped up to dance.  The small band played a few more songs and then played some of their own local Indonesian music for us as well.  It was really sweet, and a real treat, and they were so proud of themselves.  I’m glad the blues cruisers were the kind of people to appreciate their efforts and cheer them on.  Old travelers can get a bit jaded and hard to impress sometimes.  I was glad to see the happiness on their faces and the delight on the diner’s faces as well, including mine.

The dress code for the evening was pajamas.  We decided to NOT wear pajamas to dinner, but afterward went to change.  I have to admit, I felt truly silly in my pajamas, cute capris though they were, and while many people were wearing all sorts of get-ups, including shorties and big slippers, many people had avoided the pajama thing entirely.  I wished I had been one of those, and before long went back to my cabin to change into something a bit more reasonable.  It was just too dang early for pajamas.

Blues Cruise Day 7

Many more photos of this blue day on Half Moon Cay are located here.

Day 6 Sea Days and Mardi Gras Nights

Blues Cruise Day 6 (4) Blues Cruise Day 6 (5) The juxtaposition of wide open ocean and relaxing sea days with wild party nights and non-stop music on this cruise is dramatic. After two port days in a row, I was really looking forward to a bit of deck time with my new Kindle, finally getting around to reading the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.  This morning after breakfast, Deb went on her way to explore some of the day’s offerings while I found the 11th deck, as you can see, completely empty.  I had the deck chairs all to myself, but the problem with this ship is that there is so much protection from the wind, that you don’t even get much of a breeze and the pool is very far away.  I drug my chair into the shade and gave up on getting much of a tan this time around.  I am red-haired and freckled anyway, so I shouldn’t be doing such things. It was rather amazing to spend a couple of hours on the top deck without the presence of one single other human being on a rather small cruise ship.  The faint sounds of music emanating from several sources explained it, however.

St John Day 5-136Blues Cruise Day 6 (8)  Deb managed to get down to the Lido aft deck for the Sisters of the South and the rest of the afternoon just sifted away till we ambled up to the Crow’s Nest to see Ryan Shaw, one of my favorite performers on the ship.  Ryan won a couple of R&B Grammies, and his blues slips into that RB thing more often than not.  Not being a particularly big RB fan, there was something amazing about this young man’s art.  He sang about love and spirituality and humanity in ways that reminded me more of Rastafarian lyrics than anything else, but with a blues twist.  I loved hearing him and watching him, and found myself heading toward whatever venue he happened to grace.  In fact, when he sang Imagine, I cried big silly tears all alone behind my sunglasses.

Blues Cruise Day 6 (17)The Crow’s Nest was fun, more intimate that some of the other stages, and Deb joined me there at the bar where I had managed to save a couple of seats right at the dance floor.  I had one more “cruise drink”, a pina colada again, but still didn’t get any umbrellas.  I guess that umbrella in a pineapple boat with all sorts of fruit is saved for old ladies on old lady cruises.  Ha!

  After the great music we headed down to the 9th deck and the Lido pool to try to actually get in a swim before dinner and the big Mardi Gras celebration to follow. One thing about this cruise that was different was the absence of children. I think there were only 2 kids on the ship, and one of them was Joanne Osborne’s little girl. The other child on the ship was in the pool with his dad, but it was still fairly uncrowded considering it was a reasonably warm sea day. Deb’s braided hair was great for swimming, but I had taken mine out after getting tired of the headache and the stupid gray haired scalp showing through my skinny braids. 

Blues Cruise Day 6 (65)By the time we had some supper at the Lido (skipping the dining room tonight) the party antics were swinging into high gear on all decks.  I have never seen so many people in so many crazy costumes this side of San Francisco, although I have to admit, I haven’t been to New Orleans during the Mardi Gras either.  One previous Blues Cruise Day 6 (72)evening during dinner, we were joined by two Norwegian couples who told us how popular the blues are in Norway, in fact most of Scandinavia has a rather large blues loving population that frequents the big blues festivals held there.  It seems that they called the 10th deck “Little Norway” and referred to the 40 plus Norwegians on the cruise as “The Vikings”.  They were all great people, who certainly knew how to have a good time.  Cruisers will recognize the “formal portrait” lineup in the photo, but the get-ups of the subjects are a bit different than the formal wear usually reserved for ships dinners and portraits.  The Vikings were especially good at this part, and I wondered just how much extra they paid for all the luggage flown from Europe. 

The night was loud and raucous and great fun, with the Mardi Gras costume parade as a high point that just set everything up for a long night on all the top decks for those who had the stamina to stay up.  Again, I reminded Deb that we had a port day tomorrow and an early kayak trip scheduled and needed to be ready to disembark as soon as the ship landed.  Do I sound like the Mom here? Or some kind of old fuddy-duddy?  Deb was patient with me, and I’m sure she would have done just fine without my mom worry stuff.  I think the crew enjoyed this cruise tremendously as well, they all sure looked like they were having fun and loving the crowd and the music.  While Deb danced away into the night, I fell into the bed around the toweled animals and slept like a rock.

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January 25 Antigua

Blues Day 4 Antigua (6)

Today we port in St John’s, Antigua, largest of the British Leeward Islands, where Lord Horatio Nelson headquartered for his forays into the Caribbean to do battle with the French and pirates in the late 18th century.  Appropriately, the theme for the night is “Pirate Night”, with the highlight of the evening to be the Pirates Parade at 10:00 PM on the aft deck. 

Blues Day 4 Antigua (9) 

In the mean time, we have a beautiful sunny day to explore the island and soak up the sunshine.  With a mostly sunny forecast and a temperature of 77 degrees F, it couldn’t be any better.  I am excited about seeing this island, since I haven’t been here before, and it’s Deborah’s first landfall anywhere in the Caribbean.  There’s something really special about being around for a “first” like this with Deborah.  Her eyes light up and she gets excited in the way that a jaded traveler might not.  It’s like having the experience for the first time myself all over again. For some unknown reason,  Antigua was on one of Deb’s long time lists of places to see, and today we were going to be there.

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We had planned a room service breakfast the night before, so we could be on deck for the sail in.  Each day we ordered coffee and tea in our room and it was always delivered right on time.  The breakfast we had only once, and it was terribly bland and boring compared to the offerings upstairs, so we didn’t do that again. On this morning, however, the small sweet rolls and coffee were just enough. 

I love the morning arrivals, and we found our way to the 11th deck to watch the ship sail into the harbor, watching the landscape appear as we approached the dock.  The island looked green and beautiful in the warm morning light and before long, the captain announced that the ship was cleared and we could go onshore. 

0111 Blues Cruise 091 Blues Day 4 Antigua (13)

I thought that Antigua was small and simple enough to explore on our own, without being tied to the timing of a group tour from the ship.  Sometimes it makes things easier, but it really is a lot more fun to amble off the ship when we want to, and walk through town at our own pace, to see what we want and leave when we want.  It worked perfectly for us this morning, as a sweet woman met us coming off the dock with offers of hair braiding.  I know, I know, but it did sound like fun, and she really was a sweet lady.  In a moment, she led us to her outdoor salon and had Deb in her chair.  Deb has very curly hair and often wears hair bands, so the braids and beads looked perfect on her.  I somehow got pulled into the fun, and while braids and beads looked rather stupid on me, I was still glad I did it.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (12)Blues Day 4 Antigua (76) Jenny, our braid lady, was originally from Montserrat, but was run off the island a few years ago when the volcanic eruptions caused 80 percent of the islands population to leave.  I hadn’t realized that this famous volcanic island was so near to where we were traveling.  Jenny’s story was fascinating, as she discussed her 11 aunts who had to leave Montserrat and their home forever.  Living is expensive on Antigua, more so than it had been on Montserrat.  Jenny laughed with us throughout the morning and her sweet warm nature was a delight.  I was glad to pay to have my hair braided even if it looked a bit silly on me.  It was great for swimming at least, and Deborah looked gorgeous.  She might have to try to find a hair braider back in Portland!

Blues Day 4 Antigua (27) Blues Day 4 Antigua (29)

After our little island culture experience, we ambled up the streets of the town, outside the slick confines of the port area, the town was a bit shabby, and felt very real.  We found a shoe store where Deb bought a great pair of sandals cheaper than they would have been back in the US, and then perused the standard linen shop with all the embroidered tablecloths and runners, where we found a great runner for Deb.  ( I have plenty of such linens from my previous Caribbean voyage, so didn’t need more).  We talked to Jenny about getting around the island and she pointed out some of the tours offered up the street.  We found one that looked good, and for 20 bucks each, joined 4 other folks in an enclosed van that promised a trip over the island and commentary on island history with some stops along the way.

0111 Blues Cruise 104 Blues Day 4 Antigua (35)

The island is actually quite nondescript, not particularly scenic as Caribbean islands go in my opinion, but it was green and the air was spectacularly fresh.  Our guide Nathanial offered stories of the history of the island as we wound through the streets and neighborhoods and traveled to the central part to St Barnabus Anglican Church, established more than 250 years ago and is the oldest church on Antigua.  Continuing to the southern side of the island, we saw a lovely view of English Harbor and Eric Clapton’s big rehab house on the hill above the bay.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (56) Once on the south side of the island we had a misty view of the island of Montserrat on the horizon.  A low cloud obscured the top of the volcano, and it looked mystical and dangerous.The Soufrière Hills volcano on the island began erupting in 1995 after a long period of dormancy, and has been active ever since.  It destroyed the capital city of Plymouth and more than half the island is completely uninhabitable now.

Blues Day 4 Antigua (62) We had time to wander a bit on the beach before arriving back in St John’s and the ship.  We were a bit worn out from the day, and we needed some cash after spending most of what we had, so needed to return to the ship.  Once there, however, we found it too hard to get back off the ship and just decided to stay onboard and relax a bit before supper and another night of music an parties. 

Blues Day 4 Antigua (72)Pirate Night on the ship was great, with amazing, detailed pirate costumes paraded around the ship by a majority of the cruisers.  People who have done this cruise in the past are known for bringing a complete extra suitcase of simply costumes, although it isn’t as easy any more with all the baggage restrictions on the airline.

evening sail away from Antigua Eurodam flying the Jolly Roger for pirate night



Can you see the Jolly Roger flying on the aft deck as we sail away from Antigua?

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January 24 Another! sea day

Day 3 Blues Cruise (5) It’s not often on a short 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise that you get to enjoy two sea days in a row.  Seems as though the most important thing to do is shop for diamonds and tanzanite in as many ports as possible.  Since the focus of this cruise was music and not diamonds, we had only three port days and two full sea days in a row.

My idea of a sea day is a lazy morning by the pool, a brisk walk on the upper deck, some reading on the veranda before a nice dinner and a show.  Ha!  Not so on the Legendary Blues Cruise.  The theme for this day was “Gimme Back My Wig”, but thank goodness we didn’t have to do anything about that theme until after dinner.  The schedule for the day was filled with all sorts of activities, including a harmonica workshop, a presentation by Taj Majal on the history of the blues, and a silent auction for items donated by Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Kenny  Wayne Sheppherd and others to support the Music Make Relief Foundation, and Gimme 5! New Orleans Artist Relief Fund.

Day 3 Blues Cruise (10) I actually have no clear memory of what I did all day before the “Wig Parade” at 10 pm and I wasn’t imbibing either!  It’s just that sea day thing, where it all starts to run together. Deb and I had a lovely breakfast in the Lido before she went off to the Autograph Signing Party to get her poster signed by the greats.  We shopped a bit for Legendary gear and I did succumb to a Blues Cruise tee shirt.   I do remember my walk, and how gorgeous the indigo seas looked through the white portals on the third deck.  I took some photos of the frigate birds following along the ship, and actually saw flying fish from the veranda.

The Wig Parade was much more than merely wigs, with people dressed up in all sorts of crazy costumes to support their wig of choice.  Deb and I sat back on the deck watching the people lining up for the parade and Deb even participated, getting her photo taken on stage for another one of the twenty buck cruise photos.  They sure didn’t miss any chances for photos on this cruise, even more than usual.

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After the parade, I fell into bed while Deb danced into the night and slipped into the stateroom long after the midnight hour.  I told her I wanted to be on deck by 6:30 in the morning for our sail in to Antigua, and she said, “Sure, Mom, no problem”.  Tomorrow, finally, we should have a nice warm day on an island.  Tomorrow, Antigua!