The Cruise – Day 1

We are currently sitting in SEA-TAC airport waiting for our flight to Portland. The trip is done, but I was unable to post anything while underway. Instead, I kept a running diary and will now cut and paste all that stuff to get you up to date.

Here goes …

April 9, 2023, Easter Sunday – Fort Lauderdale, FL

We loaded up our luggage and checked out of the condo we inhabited for a week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida prior to boarding Holland America’s Eurodam for a Panama Canal cruise.

We dropped our car off at the FLL airport rental car return facility and worked hard to find a ride to the Eurodam. The tickets didn’t come with instructions. I finally located a little counter inside the terminal that checked cruise people in and gave them cards to get a ride to the ship. They didn’t have any cards left when I found it, but they let us pay $38 for two seats anyway.

It was a long walk to the bus, but we made it and I didn’t fall down even one time. There were lots of people around us at all times so I probably wouldn’t have actually hit the ground had I fallen.

We finally embarked aboard Holland America Eurodam at 1030 after parting with our luggage in the parking lot. We were assured it would all be delivered to our cabin. It was an act of faith to walk away.

Once on board, we went to the Lido deck where I had a hamburger, from the Dive In grill, and part of a chicken sandwich Diane couldn’t finish. Both were pretty good. We had to wait for the crew to determine that our cabin was ready for us to move in.

The ship was scheduled to leave at 1500, was moved to 1530, and was still tethered to the pier at 1630. We finally got underway at 1645 in the rain. We went to the Lido deck to watch the world go by and stake out a seat for supper that was supposed to start at 1730, but they opened at 1715. I had NY steak, salmon, fruit, and a very large salad. I need to find out where they serve pasta as least once on this trip. Two of the windows, next to the table we selected, had huge cracks in them. Apparently, there was no danger in sitting there because there were no warning signs. Still, the danger lurked in the back of my head that the window would fracture and we would be sucked outside and into the sea. After thinking about that for a minute, I suspect that’s only a danger on an airplane.

Bobbie Lee and Doug, people we didn’t know, sat at the table next to us. He’s an old Navy guy from the Korean era. We had a nice visit.

After our meal we wandered around the ship for a while then went looking for our stateroom. The ship is massive, right at 1000 feet long. Finally found #6097 around 1830. It’s a very spacious cabin with a nice size TV, which was very important. We have a balcony, too, where we can while away the hours on nice days.

Diane christened the shower immediately as we were very sweaty from all the hullabaloo getting to the ship and checking in. I showered later. We were both very tired but the next couple of days are at sea so there’s nothing to do but eat so we’ll have plenty of time to rest up.

All of our luggage appeared outside our cabin door before the afternoon was gone.

Our first port visit will be Cartagena, Colombia. We’ll only be there about 5 hours.

Day 4 – Weston, Florida

Today we didn’t do anything that involved tourism except tag our bags for the ship.

I cooked the remaining eggs, and bacon, ate it all with two pieces or wheat toast. Diane had two pieces of toast. That pretty much cleaned out any plans for another breakfast but that’s OK. Tomorrow I’ll eat a banana then wait to eat after we board the Eurodam. After that I’ll no doubt eat way more than I should. Unless I restrain myself. Which I will.

After breakfast we took a road trip to one of the 26 Walmart*’s in the area to return a really nice water pik Diane got me. I really liked it but I managed to break it within the first 30 minutes of taking it out of the box. Yup. I’m that good. It still worked OK. There was just no way I was ever going to release the water tank from the motor unit for cleaning. So, we took it back to Walmart* and gave it back. I explained what I’d done and they totally understood. Then we picked out a different one that looked like it may be harder to destroy right away.

I think there were a few more odds and ends Diane wanted to ensure all the nooks and crannies in our luggage were fully engaged.

Back ‘home’ at the ranch we took laundry to the guest laundry room where I used my cell phone to access, and pay for, the use of the two washers that were available. Pretty tricky stuff. Each machine has a unique QR code that is controlled through a laundry app you can easily download from the App store.

Then I made supper. We had street tacos using the meat I cooked yesterday. They were really good. Diane ate 4 and I ate 7. They were really little. Honest. All that was missing was a little salsa but we used some Avocado Ranch dressing which is even better.

The only other thingi did today was relax. Once the laundry is done, Diane can relax, too.

Day 3 – Fort Lauderdale & Miami

Today we travelled south to Miami to take a peak at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on Old Cutler Road. Diane drove us there like she’d done it a hundred times. She’s attuned to listening to the GPS on my phone, or the car, in order to find her way when we travel together. But, she’s a natural navigator who gets around exquisitely on her own. This is true. She has this innate ability to reverse engineer her trips even in hostile environments. No matter where she goes she can easily find her way home. With me, no matter where I go, there I am. Sometimes for a long time. Unlike Diane, I get to see a lot more foreign territory as I drive in circles looking for something familiar. Diane, on the other hand, just knows the way, like a Ninja.

This Florida trip was planned a long time ago and Diane had high expectations about seeing wonderful things. Today was a trip to one of them.

Getting to Old Cutler Road was a great journey down enormous freeways and through pretty classy neighborhoods that don’t have sidewalks. We followed all the signs and wound up in the employee’s parking lot for a little while before taking another stab at the proper location. We found it quickly as it was only about 20-30 yards down the street from where we were. Piece of cake.

Once in the parking lot we, well … we parked. Actually, ‘we’ didn’t park, Diane did. I was just along for the ride, like normal.

After leaving our assigned vehicle we followed signs to the registration office. Once there we showed the nice man the tickets we’d printed at our temporary domicile in Weston. Apparently they were authentic because he accepted them and let us pass, giving us stickers to put on our shirts so everyone in the park knew we were legit.

Our objective was to get to the tram stop before everyone else did. We were told to head down one of the many incredible brick paths to a spot where the tram would stop. Sad to say I did not take one photo of the bricks.

Shortly after sitting down for the wait, a gentleman drove up in a 10-seat golf cart and explained that the tram ride wouldn’t be back until noon so we had 45 minutes to go check out the butterfly display. He said he’d be happy to drive us there.

Not having any idea where the butterflies lived, the only obvious choice was to accept his offer. So, we did and he drove us right to their front door. His name was Dan.

Upon entering the enclosed display that looked a lot like many bird aviaries we seen, our eyes were immediately engaged with the antics of about 30-40,000 butterflies flitting everywhere. Seriously, it was non-stop motion and It was quite astounding. What I immediately noticed was that they fly either alone or in groups of their own kind. They don’t mix. If you’re blue with black stripes in this world, that’s who you flitter around with. If you’re not with your group, you flitter around alone while you look for them. It’s quite stunning to see a flock of bright blue butterflies coming at you, flying around you, and never touching you. They are really good pilots. I took lots of photos, of course, but I wasn’t able to catch them standing still. They seemed to always be in motion, even when they were standing still. So, I took a few videos and took a shot at editing and came out with this. Just a brief glimpse, at the right moment.

Inside this enclosure we met a few new people and a lot of volunteers, all of which were very friendly. We also saw a ton of orchids. We detected a theme with the appearance of the orchids. Interestingly, the ones made available for the butterfly playground didn’t reside in pots. They lived freely without boundaries by clinging to trees, and walls, or just by hanging on a string tied to a branch. Apparently they survive nicely by absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. I don’t know if that’s true or not because I never really heard anyone in authority actually say that. It just made sense.

We got back to the tram stop at the appointed time and jumped on a 4-wide golf cart that holds 23 people. We sat in the last row that faced forward. Another row behind us was a row that faced back.

If you did a little math you may question my claim that 4-wide works out to 27 seats. The front row only had 3 seats so the driver wasn’t crowded like everyone else. It was important, we were told, so the driver (Dan, again) could properly operate the foot pedals that were located close to his seat. This became immediately evident when we pulled away from for the tour because apparently the only way to move forward was for the Dan to alternately floor the accelerator the let it go. Pretty jerky making Diane, and me, cringe. Once he got up to speed it was OK, but he was forced to stop frequently for the narrator on this journey who gave detailed history about every one of the trees and bushes he pointed out. And, he pointed out all of them.

He even picked some of them up

On this 80 plus acre site there are a bunch of lakes around which Dan had to navigate. Lucky for us we were on a well maintained gravel path that we could have easily walked if we had a mind to. Iguanas were everywhere and, we were told, alligators lived in the lakes so walking really wan’t an option for us. Personally, I bet there were also a bunch of snakes prowling around the area. Again, not walking. We stayed on the tram for the duration of the trip.

Once that was done we wandered around in the gift shop before going outside to look for our car. Surprisingly, for one of us, we found it quickly and were soon on our way. It was pretty warm, 88 or so, and I asked Diane to get in the car and cool it off before I had to get in. She declined, suggesting instead that she’d get in and drive away if I didn’t get in also. So, I did.

We didn’t stick around in Miami to view the sights but instead headed north to the safety of our condo in Weston. For fun, we had both GPS systems engaged (the car and my phone). The car wanted to take us east toward downtown Miami, in the middle of the day, during Spring Break. When we realized what the car was doing, we switched to my phone which was more in line with our thinking and guided us on a more northerly route.

We arrived in good time and Diane opted to drop me off at the condo, suggesting that I get busy cooking while she made a speed run to the nearest Walmart*. I did that. But, I didn’t actually cook because we were having chef salads. No cooking involved. It wasn’t too bad for a meal, but the time was wrong for lunch because it was after 3 pm. This lunch was invading the dinner hour. So, I also fried up the hamburger we had for tacos later in the day.

It didn’t really matter because we’re on vacation and can eat any time we want. Right?

So, now, I leave you some photos to ponder. I will attempt to give descriptions that I remember. The others you’ll just have to enjoy for the fun of it. Cheers.

The above photo is of a bunch of bananas sliced in half and laid out on a lava rock pedestal. Look closely and you’ll see a bunch of butterflies sitting around on them snacking. They like pineapple, too.

Here’s one resting, looking for his family.

The next one is sitting on an orchid and looks like he ran into a wall with his right wing .

Here’s some interesting glass art.

Just us.

Then we went ‘home’. Go right to Miami proper, or left toward Weston? Hmmm.

Day 2 – Fort Lauderdale

Today we drove to Fort Lauderdale to tour the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens which is a 35 acre beach front estate located pretty much in the middle of the city. We had a walking tour scheduled at 1400 so we had to get up early. Yes, that’s early because our bodies haven’t really adjusted to the 3-hour difference. About the time things click time-wise, we’ll be back in the PST zone. Knowing that makes it difficult to even try to adjust. Both of us would rather take a nap.

After we returned from the tour that’s just what Diane did. She took a nap. The main reason was because of the horrible traffic coming back to Weston. The Bonnet House is only 23 miles away and going over wasn’t a big deal. It’s like a drive to Portland on roads 8 lanes wide. Coming back it took an hour and a half because they have traffic lights every 1/4 miles or so and we had to stop at most of them. Making it worse, they stayed red for a long time. Kinda like Waimono Home Road in Pearl City. The red light there stays red forever. While waiting at that light one time, Jeff commented that her could probably drag himself around the car with his lips before it turned green. I was curious to see if he could, of course, but Diane didn’t think it was a good idea. So, that will remain one of life’s little secrets we will never be able to verify. Kinda makes me sad. Jeff, too, unless he secretly made that attempt before we left Oahu.

Anyway, the traffic was terrible because everyone was getting off work, the traffic lights were rigged to favor all the cross traffic, and it was somewhere between 93-102 outside the entire time we walked those 4-6 miles around the estate. We made it “home” but we were really tired when we got back.

Then I had to cook! Diane was all pumped up for stir-fry. We purchased all the required items at Walmart* yesterday. She just told me that there are 26 Walmarts* within 15-20 minutes of our location. Guess that tells a story about population density, huh? We feel privileged to live in a town where the only Wallmart* is just a couple of miles away. That would be the one in St. Helens, of course.

The walking tour of the property was interesting but didn’t include the living spaces. The owner was an artist so the parts of the home we did see were well decorated with his artistic endeavors. It was all very interesting. The estate was donated to the city with the stipulation that it must always remain in the same condition it was donated. No changes could be made. So, it’s 35 acres along the beach in downtown Fort Lauderdale that will never be developed. I bet that really upsets those folks who would like to turn it into a condo city.

One fun thing we got to see is the last remaining monkey that lives on the property. I believe our guide said there used to be 90 or so monkeys at one time. The one remaining is purported to be over 100 years old. Here’s the photo I got of him:

Someone said what kind of monkey he is but I wasn’t paying attention.

I have other photos, but they aren’t nearly as good as the ones you can see by checking out the link at the start of this missive.

With that, I’ll bid you all adieu. Tomorrow we’re driving down Miami way for a tram tour of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Gotta leave by 0900 as it opens at 1000 and it’s an hour drive.

Here we go again . . .

It appears that I’m posting on a monthly basis now, not daily when I started this almost 11 years ago. At that time, I had energy. I had an unlimited supply of words that were eager to escape from my brain. Now that I’m older I find that the words don’t come as easily and there are fewer to choose from. You would think that at my advanced age conjuring up coherent sentences would be less complex considering the depleted supply of words available. But, it snot.

Many interesting things have happened in the past month but I’m not going to bore you with a chronological narration to share everything mainly because I can’t remember stuff like I used to. That was the advantage of posting every day – it was fresh news. Easy to remember stuff.

The main event for us, me and my Bride, is our upcoming trip to cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle through the Panama Canal to celebrate our 55th anniversary. I’m pretty sure it’s our 55th. If it’s not I suspect I’m in for a world of hurt. Thankfully, I think the thrill of making that trip will ease the pain of being wrong. If I’m wrong, but I’m not.

I’m sure.

Another exciting bit of news is the progress on Diane’s “new” home. It’s actually in the city limits of St. Helens so we can legally get a library card for nothing. Couldn’t do that previously because our current home is in the county.

The “new” home is Diane’s Mom’s old home with a few updates. To accommodate the updates we totally emptied the house and had a crew install LVP flooring everywhere. No more carpeting except where Diane wants to roll out a throw rug or four. She loves those things. She also had me rip out all the counter tops in the kitchen and both bathrooms so another crew could install the quartz replacements she ordered.

Since that’s all done now the only thing remaining is to paint selected walls/rooms then populate the house with only the things she want to keep, or the new things she wants to buy. That’s what’s going to make it new for her. She’s taking it slow with her decisions, savoring the process and I totally understand.

Another significant event is the addition to our family of two new Grand Sons. Yup. Our daughter, Jennifer, and her first husband, Daniel, after raising three children to adulthood, went out and adopted 3-year-old Jasper and Almost-2-year-old Siah. Everyone is very happy. Even the older siblings. Everyone is extremely happy. These are the ‘guys’ with their new older brother, Jeran, and happy ‘new’ dad, Daniel …

The most recent event is our adventure with airplanes, rental cars, and a cruise ship. At this precise moment in time the airplane portion is mostly complete, we’re working on the rental car piece at this time, and are currently anticipating the cruise ship.

First, the airplane … it involved an early morning ride from PDX to SEA yesterday where we boarded our second flight of the day at 0815 bound for FLL. Our trip started at 0400 and ended at about 1400. At that time we immediately shifted into Rental Car mode.

Getting to FLL was child’s play compared to the interminable wait to obtain a vehicle for getting to Weston, Florida, our final stop of the day. This effort took 2 full hours, standing in a Disneyland-like line in a huge room that didn’t have even one chair to sit in. Diane stood in the line while I did the hard part of guarding the suitcases. This is close to the end of my guard duty. Diane is standing just to the right of the big pole. It took her about 1.5 hours to get that far. Wore me out.

“Ha!” you probably said. “You should have stood in the line and let your lovely bride guard the suitcases!” To that, I retort, “I offered but she declined. At first I thought it was simply to make me look bad but finally decided that she was just tired of sitting after that 5+ hour flight. Since she had the window seat she wasn’t allowed to get up and wander around the plane at all. That’s an old airplane rule that I read somewhere … “Passenger in window seats are not allowed to leave their seat at any time during the flight and will be the last passengers allowed to leave the plane after landing no matter what condition their bladder and/or bowels are in.” That’s on page 17 of the passenger’s rule book. This is true. Honest.

Finally, she got to the counter and obtained our transportation. It was interesting the way we got the vehicle. Once in the garage area, an agent pointed us to the Small SUV row of vehicles and told us to take the one we wanted. After sitting in a few of them, Diane chose a Nissan Rogue Sport. It’s gray. She really likes it.

As we checked out with the gate guard, he noted the vehicle we had, noted our point of origin, then said, “St. Helens, huh? My old rival high school,” he said. “I went to Parkrose!”

Interesting. Here we are, on the opposite of the USA and one of the first people we encounter went to Parkrose High School. Go figure. It really is a small world we inhabit.

By now you surely figured out that FLL is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our destination for the night was 1775 Bonaventure Blvd, Weston, Floria. That’s about 20 miles west of FLL and why we needed a vehicle.

Diane drove to our condo like she’d done it a hundred times before. We hurked the overweight suitcases to our abode, went out for some food at a local Publix market, cooked some of it for dinner, then went to bed.

We landed 24 hours ago and already had a meal and a long night of rest.

Now we must go out and see what’s going on in FLL.

Here’s the first place we went …

This was a necessary stop to obtain enough food to survive until Sunday when we board the cruise ship Eurodam and head south through the Bermuda Triangle…

If you haven’t visited the Fort Lauderdale area, I had a photo of Google Maps Diane sent me but I can’t find it. You’ll have to look it up yourself. Oh, wait! That link is for the place we’re staying. This link is for the water photos. Personally, I’m stunned by the amount of water just laying around in the area. It’s everywhere. Check out Weston, Florida on Google Maps.

Lastly is a photo I took yesterday, on our way from the airport to our condo. My impression is that this one cloud, in all of this huge sky, chose to block the sun from shining on us. Another possibility is that this one cloud chose to keep the sun from shining in our eyes and blinding us.

Either of those choices might lead you to think I’m OK thinking that clouds are sentient. That’s just silly, right?