Another Son Heads to Utah

img_0472Aaaaah, the call of the mountains.

CJ and Lauren raved about life out west so much that Zeb decided to give it a try. On Wednesday he headed out to work at Deer Valley (where CJ is a ski instructor, and Lauren works with housing).

I’m proud of his willingness to venture away from the safe zone of home. And I’m super proud of his mad travel skills. That backpack carries all he felt he needed through at least April!

I think I would have been a bit sad about his leaving, but I knew I’d be seeing him soon. We’re headed to visit the young adults and hit some slopes this week! Wahoo!

And from the pics he texted, I’m thinking he’s all right with the move 😉

(Images shared with permission from Zeb)

Meeting/Greeting Settling and Planning

It’s so beautiful here in Canada! We had a two-ish-hour bus ride from the airport to Whistler, and I was desperate for sleep (had already been traveling for 11 hrs), but I couldn’t allow myself to nap. The scenery was breath-taking. And the bus driver kept us well-entertained with a history of the area and fun facts about the place we passed.

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But let me back up. I had the smoothest trip one could possibly imagine. I met up with 13 co-workers in Minneapolis and enjoyed the flight with friends.

 

Customs looked a bit daunting, but the lines moved fast. The airport was beautiful, and I enjoyed hearing the background sound of water from the art fountain pictured here as we went through the line.

We reconnected with friends/co-workers we already knew and met some new ones.

Then settled into the hotel. My room is gorgeous and will be a nice respite when I need a break from socialising (as if).

Remember that toothpaste I was worried about? Not an issue. I forgot that the company cares for us so well that they had provided all sorts of things we might need (apparently mint-chocolates are a necessity, because there was a basket of those along with sunblock, toothpaste and other necessities 🙂

We had a lovely Welcome dinner with veggies, cheeses, meats, sushi, dumplings and pasta.

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Then off to be for me. I was exhausted!!!!

Now I’m off to breakfast and meetings with my team. It’s going to be a busy work day, and I can’t wait.

 

 

Packing and GM Prep

Pride isn’t a super attractive trait. That said, I’m pretty proud of my latest packing feat. It’s always my goal to pack light–usually packing for a week in a single backpack. I went a bit over that this time, but not much. These were the factors I had to incorporate:

Travel for a week in Whistler, Canada. (Passport and paperwork essential.) Temperatures in a high near 70F for half the week, and highs in the mid 40s the other half. Nights in the 30s (and I have to walk to restaurants). And room to bring home extra stuff I accumulate during the week.

Events to pack for:

  • Presenting a flash talk
  • Teaching a short class
  • Attending workshops/classes/meetings
  • Early morning (cold) walks with friends/co-workers.
  • Three hrs mountain biking (rain predicted)
  • An ecology/geology walk
  • A jiujitsu class
  • Two swing dance classes
  • An escape room
  • A party for which we were encouraged to bring neon and sparkly clothing

This took a lot of thought…compounded by the fact that I had to find warmer clothes, which were still in boxes from our move. And I discovered key essentials (such as travel toothpaste) were still safely ensconced at our old house, three hrs away.

But I did it! And I have a bag mostly empty, ready to bring home swag I pick up at the Grand Meetup 🙂

What’s the GM? I work for a distributed company and interact very closely with my co-workers in an online environment, but all 450-ish of us only get to meet face-to-face one time a year. (We have smaller team meetups during the year, but this is the biggie.)

For an entire week we play, bond, pool brain power to make WordPress.com/Jetpack/mobile apps (I wrote this using the WordPress mobile app while I was on the plane yesterday)/etc. better. In short, I get to geek out and collaborate with others like me with no guilt.

It’s exhausting, exhilarating and inspirational. Meeting my co-workers makes me more comfortable working with them online throughout the year, and I love how this team effort helps us help others.

And I’m super happy I got all the traveling stuff in my bag.

Turtles, Flowers, Sand Owls and Friends

Jen wanted to learn more about animals and the trails that they leave. I had to admit, I was curious as well. So on our last full day on Marco Island, Mary Beth took us on a local nature tour. In the pics below she showed us some turtle nests, turtle footprints, and how to identify turtle scat.

 

As we traipsed through the community, I was drawn to the different beautiful flowers. I don’t know what any of them are. If you do, feel free to let me know in the comments, and I will label them 🙂

Updating as we go along. Wendy identified Vinca (the single white flower) and Bougainvillea (the purple ones).Thanks for that! I remembered the Papaya after I wrote this.

We walked back to the house and checked out an empty osprey nest on the property.

old nest and moss

 

I also learned about a cool tree that Native Americans used to paralyze fish. The bark has paralyzing qualities apparently.

fish killer tree

 

After checking that all out, we hopped into the car to drive a few miles away. A special treat lay there as we checked out squared-off protected areas, which contained sand owl homes.

 

Doesn’t look like much, does it? But the owls are sooooo cute! They come out of the ground at night. I know because we came back after dark and saw them.

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Here is a very horrible picture of one since my phone camera isn’t so great at night. Better images are found here.

Now here is a funny scene we saw as we were driving around. We saw two turtles hanging in a yard lot. One moved in font of another and started kicking sand back on the other. For about two minutes, that turtle seemed un-fazed, then it retaliated. It started shell-bonking the first turtle! Quite funny to watch. I clipped the video so you can see just the bonking part, instead of having to wait.

So funny.

As the day wound to a close, we ate grouper and snapper at a local joint (delicious!). Some followed that with gelato.

Smooth Sails on Sunday

 

A week-and-a-half late on this one, but better late than never. My favorite part is the end 🙂

It was very windy that Sunday, but we were determined to go fishing again since time was running out on our trip. So we hit the backwaters.

It really wasn’t a very successful day for fishing dinner-wise, but we still had a lot of fun. Highlights of the day included seeing some sea turtles in the distance. According to Mary Beth, that’s a pretty unusual sight for those backwaters. I didn’t get any good pictures since we kept seeing their heads but not much else, and they were quick with diving back down. We think there were two of them, but it might have been one — playing tricks on us.

Another highlight of the day was brainstorming with Jen about possibilities for her next book, now that Been There Done That is complete.

We caught several fish, but after measuring them, had to throw them all back since they were to small. Oh well.

On the way back to the house, we had a treat. A pod of dolphins decided to play in our wake.

 

Bobcats, Panthers, Tigers and Coons

I didn’t see the bobcat that was kitty-corner (see what I did there?) to the house we stayed in, but Mary Beth and Mike saw its tail as it headed into the bushes away from us. So I think that counts. Mary Beth regaled us with tales of other sightings in her neighborhood–down by the docks and right in her own driveway as she gardened. So cool!

On Saturday we decided to head to the sanctuary where a woman had been surprised by a panther a few weeks prior.

As we headed out, we stopped off to meet Cal (short for Calusa) on the way. Jen and I have heard a lot about Mary Beth’s horse over the years so it was a treat meeting him live. And what a beauty he is!

Jen MB and Cal

 

So we didn’t see the panther, either, but saw a ton of other awesome wildlife specimens along the way.

I was reminded of the limitations of my cell phone camera when I realized that my pics of several birds, great frogs, a huge alligator, a smaller alligator, a lizard, and a huge snake didn’t come out. But the beauty is still there in my mind.

I did, however, get a pic I love. Why is it that raccoons are so adorable in the wild, and not-so-much when they are in your garbage can at home?

Coon babies

Chris, being the goof-ball he is (I saw completely endearingly ‘cuz I love that man!) “rescued” sunglasses from the swamp and an alligator. The alligator became a group effort, as you can see in the clip below. Later, he gave it to some kids, and they happily clacked it ahead of us, scaring off pretty much all wildlife for a while 🙂 But their smiles were worth it.

Chris got Alligator

We were enjoying nature so much it took us about three hours to walk about a mile. We had to hurry through the last bit since they were closing. Ah well, it was still amazing.

Mary Beth mentioned several times that you don’t need much imagination to fabricate stories in Florida. Apparently bizarre things happen all the time. We witnessed this as we were going down the road. I looked out the car window to find myself almost face-to-face with a tiger. That was a bit startling, and definitely very cool. The tiger seemed very relaxed and happy on its perch.

Eventually we parted ways on the highway, and we continued into the main part of Marco for some dinner at the Snook Inn. There was a 45 minute wait so we yakked on the dock. Remind me to never put my back to the water again. I felt a splash and heard the sound of a pretty big animal. We searched for it, and my friends saw a tail a bit off shore. I had been splashed by a manatee, but never saw it. What a treasure I missed! But still fun to know it was there.

I had a grouper sandwich for dinner and loved it. I don’t know why I suddenly like seafood after 44 years, but I’m just thankful. Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized it’s a bit like wine. Every bite has a fun story behind it, and each nibble is unique. Flavors and textures swirl around the mouth and tongue making every morsel a new adventure. How have I missed out on this so long?

  • If you love nature you might want to see the extended version of the coon watching –

Friday Fun in Florida

Friends hiking the beach

We saw Whelk eggs, a bald eagle (no pics of that), lots of shells, sandpipers, other birds, and I got to swim in salt water for the first time in way-too-long. Not too much to report on that day. It was simply relaxing and beautiful:

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Holy Mackeral! I Love Fishing!

The things I discover after all these years…Thursday broke at the crack of 7:30, my body and brain still not comprehending the concept of sleeping in. But that’s okay. It gave me the luxury of writing time before the others awoke. Mary Beth had gotten up before me, but she was at the stables since her horse, Cal, was getting shoed that day.

By the time she came home, the others were awake so we packed some food and headed to the dock to load onto the boat. It was fun seeing different personalities emerge in the unique way we made sandwiches. Chris and Jen are quite meticulous, and layer everything just so. Jen added some basil flair. Mike wraps his cheese on the outside of his meat and cheese sandwich, and I opted for Peanut butter and butter (a favorite of mine in spite of the fact that one of my co-workers had just publicly labeled this delicacy as one of the strangest things she had ever eaten. For the record, I find that fact strange).

We headed out to the Gulf of Mexico, stopping to get some shrimp for bait along the way. There was a house boat next to us on the dock, and it had cool art on it. There was a chair I could imagine Chris making, and some people designs that were reminiscent of Jen’s Kokopelli people.

Although I grew up on Long Island, I had more of a beach/sand upbringing than an actually out on boats upbringing. And while we have sailboats on Lake Ontario, I’m not really used to motor boats. We kicked the motors on and flew, and I loved it. When I was standing, it felt like snowboarding as  I adjusted my balance according to wave, speed and turn. And I really loved the wind on my face as I looked around at jumping fish, playing dolphins and diving birds.

We anchored and started fishing. I remembered most of my lessons from the day before. About one minute after casting my line, I got a bite. And it scared the heebie jeebies out of me as I hauled in the mackerel. It was huge (in my opinion), wiggly and mad! Everyone was reminding me to stay away from the teeth.

Our hosts were impeccable (as they seem to be in every arena), and they kindly and calmly walked me through the steps of staying safe as they got the fish off the hook and into our ice bin. We spent hours hauling in trout, pompano and mackerel as well as some ladyfish, blue racers and jacks (which we didn’t keep). Poor Jen was feeling a bit sub-par so she rested while we hauled, but she was a great sport and is willing to try again. Maybe with some meds ahead of time.

After a few hours we went back to shore.

We were humored as we motored in to find a crow yakking away to a stationary carved owl that guarded the marina. It had a swiveling head so we wondered if the bird thought the owl was real.

The guys cleaned the fish while we girls cleaned the boat.

We headed back to the house and had a swim and soak in the hot tub before eating our catch from the day.

hot tub

Lionel and Sheila (David’s parents) joined us once again, regaling us with tales from life in South Africa, where they grew up. Another delightful day on Marco Island.

dinner