Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pyramid Power

Galveston, Texas has a lot of things going for it: beaches, swimming, boating, fishing, lying in the sun, great places to eat and varied cultural attractions. However, we didn’t expect to meet Real Pirates on their ship, the Whydah, inside a bronze pyramid. The Whydah had been a
Aboard the Whydah
slave ship but because of its speed and responsive handling, Captain Sam Bellamy seized it making it his personal flagship. Interestingly, slaves on ships captured by pirates were given the choice of becoming part of the crew or being released in sight of land; many preferred the freedom of the open seas to the possible return to slavery on land. Later, loaded with treasure, the Whydah sank during a terrible storm off of Cape Cod. Legend has it that Captain Bellamy was returning to the woman he loved, planning to take her away with him. When we boarded no one was conscripting sailors or firing cannons, but we did get to tie knots in lines and play with authentic pirate treasure.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Monkeys? La La!

Tropical Flower
There’s more to do in Roatan than just diving. On one of the days we didn’t spend underwater, we explored the area including Gumbalimba Park. The park has spectacular flowers, a nice area to sit with a cold drink, a cave with historical relics, and tropical animals. You can get to the park by walking in, hiring a taxi, or you can zip in. We chose the latter.

Once we got to South Shore Zip-Line Adventures, we found we were all too old for the ride. However, with a bit of discussion we convinced the owner that we were all in good shape and wouldn’t do anything
Clockwise from upper left: David, Andi, Steve, Cynthia
stupid (or at least act Near-Normal). He did admit that they had strapped a 90 year old woman in with one of the guys and taken her down the zip line; she’d had the ride of her life! We had a great time, too. The trick is not to slow down too soon or you have to use one of the overhead ropes to drag yourself along. Besides, slowing down isn’t nearly as much fun a barreling along screaming ‘Whee’ at the top of your lungs. Some of the staff were adept at hanging upside down from their zip-lines, but since none of us were quite that good we stayed upright. A couple more practice runs and I’d be willing to give upside down zipping a try! There are 16 levels, so it’s quite a trip from the top of the canopy to the final stop at Gumbalimba Park.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Down deep in Roatan

There’s only one sport that I’m any good at and that’s scuba diving. In early 1989 I discovered
Andi in full gear
snorkeling finding that it was bloody hard work and didn’t get me down to what I wanted to see. As luck would have it, later that year graduate student who was also scuba instructor enrolled in one of my classes. Scuba diving, he said, was a lot easier than snorkeling because you had your air with you and you weren’t fighting the surface waves. That sounded reasonable to me so I embarked on scuba lessons. While my graduate student was an excellent teacher, I was a horrible student. The only good things about learning were that he was exceptionally patient and he didn’t let me drown; I think the latter was because he needed the class I was teaching to finish his master’s degree. In any case, all of my angst, fear, and ineptitude vanished the minute I hit the ocean in Cozumel, Mexico. In 1990, it was a glorious place and I developed an abiding love of scuba diving. This love has fueled my travel bug, taking me around the world to play in the oceans; the latest Near-Normal diving adventure was at Bananarama in Roatan, Honduras.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Weirdness in Bohemia

No trip is complete without the requisite amount of weirdness and some places had more than
their fair share. Stuttgart, Germany is a quiet town, especially during the week. Pretty much everything closes up by 8:00 PM; it’s even difficult to find an open restaurant. But it is lovely and the strolling down the tranquil mall area we were quite surprised to learn the reason for all of the serenity. As we looked up to a row of apartments we saw the apparent guardian of the town: Spider-Man! Perhaps he was on vacation.

As expected, things in foreign countries are not as they are in the US. On this trip it was access to restrooms. There were few places that had free facilities; I’m supposing that this is to keep the riff-raff from wandering, in mucking up the place and
costing the business owner more money for cleaning. However, two places should be mentioned in this weirdness tribute. In Strasbourg, France, the restroom near the cathedral was plainly marked. The founding fathers wanted to make sure that all beings were aware that the facilities were available. The traditional male/female icons are readily apparent at the lower right of the picture, but I’m not at all sure what those icons at the upper right are supposed to be ~ two kinds of flowers, maybe? There was a nice lady on duty to make sure the stalls were clean and toilet paper was available. While she didn’t ask for Euros, she appreciated tips. The “Easy Entrance” sign that marked the restroom in the MacDonald’s in Prague was completely misleading. The restrooms were down a spiral staircase, but once you got there, even though you were a patron you had to have 10 Kč (koruna) to get in. So back upstairs you go to get exact change. Once back downstairs, you put your money in the coin slot then receive a receipt that, thankfully, serves no other purpose. By this time the image of a person running through a turnstile is entirely accurate.