Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Where Did the Mayans Go?

TRAVEL TALK: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A CULTURE

Last week I mentioned the Spanish and their influence on Mexico.  I was horrified by the Mayan culture at its apex, but by the time the Spanish arrived, the jungle had reclaimed Chichen Itza.  All that remained was a pile of stones to loot for building materials.  The magnificence of that society had crumbled.

Peeling Back the Jungle

Historians and archaeologists have many speculations on the downfall of the Mayans.  Their glorious city of Chichen Itza was first taken over by the Toltecs and then abandoned for reasons that are still unknown.  How did it happen?  How did such an advanced society merely fade into the jungle?

When you go to Chichen Itza today, you must use your imagination to understand just how astounding it would have been to walk among the monuments in their glory.  The rain and the wind have softened the many carvings on the faces of the buildings and walls.  Mere shadows of pigment hint at the remarkable murals once covering every inch of exposed stone.  How overwhelming it must have been!

Standing in the Plaza

As I stood there trying to imagine the city ripe with the beauty it once displayed and the engineering it had taken to create it, I was distracted by those around me.  Overweight senior citizens from America, sweltering in the sun and wondering why they had ever paid someone to bring them to this overrated steam bath.  Younger and thinner tourists, from around the world, frolicking like they were at a theme park, rather than an archaeological site.  Native Mayans leading tours, some trying to be comedians, while others shared the importance of the site’s history, but all hoping their meager salaries would be supplemented by generous tips from their audience.

And throughout the site, along every pathway, under every tree, were other Mayans.  Their marketplace no longer had a roof, so they huddled, one after another in the shade, to avoid the blasting heat of the sun, selling their wares.  One vendor offered pretty much the same thing as another.  Some focused on wearable souvenirs, while others sold trinkets to decorate your home.  Too many vendors demonstrated a wooden device that made the sound of a jaguar when you blew into it.  We were sick to death of the sound before we left.  More pleasantly, some vendors played melodies on rustic pipes.  Occasionally, you would see a craftsman, carving a beautiful statue with his own hands, while a quick inspection of other souvenirs would reveal a label professing they’d been made by hands in other countries, where the workmen would earn even less than a native craftsman.

How much easier it would have been to join my fellow tourists in their boredom or their freewheeling photography sessions.  I could have spent my time shopping among the tables of the modern day merchants, comparing the prices and workmanship of their offerings.  Why was I mired in gloomy thoughts of horrific bloodletting and an advanced society which was doing almost everything wrong when it came to the good of their citizens?  What was Chichen Izta trying to tell me?

This is not a conundrum I was able to solve in the few hours I walked among its monuments.  Instead I would walk back to the bus with a heavy heart and conflicting thoughts.  My conclusions would have to work themselves out over the coming days.

On to More Amusing Adventures

It was time to board the bus.  A buffet lunch waited for us and then we’d be headed to visit a cenote.  I shook over my pondering and looked forward to a good meal.  The traveler in me made way for the tourist.  Come back next week and we’ll consider lighter subjects.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Just How Civilized Are We?

TRAVEL THERE: MORE IMPRESSIONS OF CHICHEN ITZA

Last week I shared my first impressions of Chichen Itza.  The longer I stayed the darker my thoughts became.  As if in response to the cartwheeling girls in front of the pyramids, I felt the lives of the Mayans deserved to be carefully considered and now, days later, I am still pondering my observations.

Marketplace of the Macabre

As if to emphasize my train of thought, I realized the structure adjacent to the altars was the marketplace.  Beautiful rows of columns raised their heads to the sky, but like the Hypostyle Hall in Karnak, these columns once bore the weight of a heavy roof to protect the items of commerce available in the market.  Like us, Mayan traders traveled to distant lands and brought back beautiful items used for adornment, which were sold next to agricultural products and weapons and cosmetics.  Did the market close during the sacrifices?  I doubt it.  Instead, like a big box store getting ready for Black Friday, they’d hired extra help and filled their shelves with extra merchandise.

After showing us the main plaza and describing the crowds that once filled it during the days of sacrifice, our guide took us to the back of the pyramid where evidence of vandalism was apparent, but the vandalism is not recent.  The Spanish came and disregarded the value of the Mayan ruins by peeling off layers of stone to build their own homes.  The Spanish were not alone in this type of activity.  The beautiful marble which once covered the Egyptian pyramids was used to build later monuments for people who saw little reason to protect the beauty of past engineers.  How is that different from the cartwheeling girls?

Men of Science

At the back of the pyramid, the guide gave us a choice.  We could stay in the plaza to shop and take pictures or visit the observatory.   I was hungry for more, so we followed the guide.  Removed from the plaza, but still in the shadow of the pyramid stood an edifice for tracking the stars.  They performed accurate science in this place, science that measured the routes of the stars and their dance across the sky.  The statistics they calculated have proven to be as accurate as those of our own scientists, with their modern equipment, almost to the second.

The men of science in that day, knew from centuries of observation, the days would get longer, just as surely as they watched them get shorter.  It had always been that way.  Instead of proclaiming proven fact, they used their data to pick the day the sacrifices would be made.  To declare the truth would have reduced their own power, so they ignored what they knew and instead worked hand-in-hand with the politicians, celebrities and leaders to deceive the general public – those standing below the pyramid and those falling lifelessly down the steps.  Does that sound at all familiar to you?  It does to me.

The Pleasure Palace

Just beyond the Observatory, still in sight of the pyramid, is a huge palace, mostly still standing.  You can see intricate lattices of stone decorating the walls of the building, graceful columns in the walled garden and steps winding up to a balcony.  Was the spot chosen for its proximity to the pyramid?  Did they walk to the plaza or watch them from their pleasant garden?  Who were the royals who lived in the shadow of so much death and right next door to a scientific institution that could have used their data to end the grisly performances of religion?

The palace marked the beginning of a residential area.  Their neighbors were priests, other members of royalty, high level political appointees, the families of warriors and of the successful merchants whose businesses filled the market.  Their primitive HOA offered a steam bath and water was delivered daily from the cenote by slaves.  Other slaves brought food from the harvests to feed them.  Their house slaves swept the floors, served their meals, dressed their hair and raised their children.

It was fantastic, this life the powerful had built for themselves.  Certainly, it was also horrific, but did they notice or even care?  What if you had lived in those times, at that place?  Would you have joined the circus that protected your place in society or would you have lived each day in horror, wondering how your lone voice could make a difference against the odds?

If these impressions seem different to you from my usual travelogue, I must agree with you.  They seem different to me, too.  Wherever I travel and whatever I see, I try to put myself in the place of those who lived the life I am observing.  I try to use their experiences to better understand what I observe in my own world. I’ve stood alongside ancient monuments like Stonehenge and the Temple at Karnack.  I’ve visited magnificent cathedrals and breathtaking palaces.  I’ve walked through significant battlegrounds and beautiful gardens.  Never have I been as disturbed by what I saw as I was at Chichen Itza.

I’ve barely touched on the influence of the Spanish in Mexico.  At Chichen Itza all you really see of them is the stones they took away from the pyramid, which is in many ways symbolic of the other things they took away.  What they brought with them was a religion, which would replace the grisly sacrifices of thousands upon thousands with the sacrifice of One, but were they in truth any more benevolent than the murderous priests of Chichen Itza?  Let’s talk about that next week.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Visiting Chichen Itza

The Famous Pyramid of Chichen Itza

TRAVEL THERE: A VERY LONG DAY

Our visit to Chichen Itza was a very long day and there is no way I can cover all of it in one post, so I’ll start with the logistics of the day and we’ll work from there.

Finally Chichen Itza

Though Chichen Itza has always been at the top of my Yucatan Wish List, I didn’t make it either of the other two times we visited the area.  Both of our previous visits have been via cruise ship to the port of Progresso and Chichen Itza is significantly inland from there, so we chose more accessible Mayan sites.

The first time we visited the ruins at Dzibilchaltan and it was a particularly enjoyable shore excursion, complete with lunch and a rodeo.  The archaeological site was interesting and there was a wonderful museum.  Last time we went to Xcampo.  It was a smaller site, but still interesting.  So, we’re getting pretty knowledgeable about the Mayans, but nothing can prepare you for Chichen ItzaIt is both marvelous and horrid.

Up Early  & Out Late

The first thing the guidebook I bought warned me about Chichen Itza was to avoid excursions from Cancun, because so much time is spent in transit.  Well, I appreciated the advice and understood the reasoning, but this was it.  If I didn’t go this time, chances are I might never again get the opportunity.

As we shopped excursions I saw two versions of the trip over and over.  Either you had to be on a bus by 4 AM or you left between 7 and 8.  The problem I discovered however, was that when you took later tours, you were in Chichen Itza during the hottest part of the afternoon, because all the tours stopped for lunch before going to the site.

Then Sandra Rubio, my travel agent at CTC Travel turned me on to ShoreTrips.com and they had a package called the Chichen Itza Plus.  This version of the trip would pick us up between 7 and 8, but we’d go to the site before lunch.  SOLD!

Since we were among the first to be picked up, we had to be in the lobby at 7:10.  When we got there after a quick visit to the breakfast buffet, they were waiting for us.  It was quite the ordeal to get out of town though.  The bus they picked us up in was bigger than the airport transport vans, but not as big as the full-sized tour buses.  We stopped at several hotels in the smaller bus and then traded to the big bus, but even then we had many more stops to make.

All that driving took a long time, but it was interesting to drive around and see other parts of Cancun.  I’d say it was about nine when we finally headed to Cancun.  They served a small breakfast – pastries, coffee and orange juice.  We were glad we’d hit the resort’s buffet.

The drive to Chichen Itza was about an hour and a half.  They stopped off at a shopping opportunity to use the restroom.  I was focused on sightseeing, not shopping, so they didn’t get to sell me anything.  Another short drive took us to the archaeological site – which I’ll go into in detail later.

After a couple of hours at the site, we went back to the shopping opportunity to have a very nice buffet lunch.  In my opinion, they would have gotten a lot more shopping out of me if they’d have let me use the restroom at Chichen Itza and given me shopping time after lunch.

Then, after lunch we made another short drive to Ik Kil Cenote.  I’ll also tell you more about that in a later blog, but it was a great way to end the day.  Well, the day wasn’t quite over.  We still had to drive back to Cancun, which seemed to take forever in the dark.

As we neared Cancun, the lights inside the bus switched on, a recorded version of “Tequila” was played on the loudspeaker and one of our guides had donned a wild get-up that I supposed was intended to be Mayan.  They served shots of tequila to anyone who wanted one, but right then it didn’t even sound good to me.  I was whupped.

It seemed like midnight when we got to the hotel, but I think it was only about 8:30.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our time in Chichen Itza.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Late Night at the SeaDust

TRAVEL THERE: AFTER DINNER ACTIVITIES

Dinner at the Maison de Michelle had been a little disappointing.  We were still a tad bit hungry and one more glass of wine seemed like just the ticket.  We were able to take care of both those problems.

Wine and Cheese Delight

Right outside Michelle’s was a bar and voila, they had a buffet with cheese and baguettes.  While I chose an assortment of cheeses to top off the meal, Bill ordered another round of drinks.  Yes, they served Savignon Blanc and Merlot in champagne flutes, but who are we to complain?

While we weren’t thrilled with everything we were experiencing, we weren’t suffering too much either.  At this point of the trip we chose to giggle about the chunks of duck and made plans to try another restaurant the following evening.  They had eleven after all!

Like our stroll on the beach and the poolside sunset, our after dinner drinks with cheese were very enjoyable.  We really only had one concern.  When we’d gone upstairs to change clothes, we discovered our balcony was lit up like Alcatraz.  The huge balcony had a big hot tub and we were hoping to enjoy it, but who wanted to relax under such a bright light and none of the switches in the room turned off the exterior lights.

Bill had stopped by the guest services desk to ask about the lights and they assured us the lights would be automatically turned off sometime between 10 and 11.  We also asked what time they were turned back on.  That was something no one knew.  We decided we were tired and even though it wasn’t 11 yet, we were going to go back to the room.

Hitting the Hot Tub

Our absolute favorite thing at the Seadust was the balcony.  When we first arrived, the curtains were closed, which was a mistake on their part.  They were hiding the best part!

The Cancun Hotel Zone is on a thin strip of land just east of Cancun proper.  From our room, we had a great view.  We could see the adult pool area (which we hadn’t figured out how to get to, yet) the main road connecting all the hotels, a golf course, the body of water which separated the hotel strip from the mainland and yes, the city of Cancun.  Yep, it was a pretty marvelous view.

When we got to the room after dinner, the balcony lights were still bright.  I suggested I get our things stowed away, while he filled the hot tub.  When we finished our chores the lights were still bright, but Bill was eager for a little hot tub action.  So, he rigged up a wall with some towels and assured me that since the hot tub was in the corner we’d have plenty of privacy.  Thankfully, that’s just about when the lights decided to go out, so we were able to fully enjoy our time in the hot tub.

Thoroughly relaxed, we drained the hot tub and headed to bed.  We had to be on our way to Chichen Itza just after seven the next morning.  Please come back next week and join us.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

La Maison de Michelle

TRAVEL THERE: A LITTLE BIT OF FRANCE AT THE SEADUST

We capped off our discovery tour of the resort by making our way to the gallery of restaurants just off the lobby.  Most of the culinary options line this mall and La Maison de Michelle is a headliner.  We strolled over and a very distressed lady let us know there was a dress code.  We were fine with that and she was much relieved.  We changed clothes and were soon presenting ourselves again for entry.

We Could Have Done Without the Sales Pitch

When we were seated, a very self-important little man came to inform us he was the manager and sommelier.  He quickly engaged Bill in a conversation about the wine for dinner.  I probably had the same look on my face I had when the hustler at the airport was trying to get us to his timeshare.  I think they were brothers.  Both were soon disappointed.  Bill when he saw the prices on the wine list and the sommelier when he figured out we wanted the free stuff.

For free, the red was merlot and white was savignon blanc.  Neither was outstanding, but they would have tasted much better without the swarmy sales pitch.  Once we opted for the house wine, we never saw our sommelier again.

What we did get was this very strange rack to hang my purse on.  That was a real first!  I had a teeny bag I would have happily hung on the back of the chair  or thrown on the floor, but not at the Maison de Michelle, apparently

So What to Eat

The place was losing points fast when the menus appeared.  Get this, the menus were tablet based, complete with pictures of each entree.  I’ve seen this before and it’s not my favorite type of menu, but like the light show around the pool, I gave them points for trying.

For starters, Bill chose an asparagus salad and I opted for escargot.  We weren’t blown away by our choices.  Bill said the asparagus was good, but really needed some sort of dressing.  The cute dots didn’t exactly count.  I knew my escargot was not going to be the classic presentation I love so much, but I had high hopes that I would like it.  I didn’t hate it, but the escargot was tough and should have been sauteed in something, not just heated up.  Not up to our hopes, but fair enough to hope the entree would be better.

Our entrees didn’t improve the situation.  Bill had a steak and it was OK.  I had ordered lamb chops, which somehow became duck.  There was such a stew when I pointed out their mistake I decided to go ahead and eat the darned duck chunks.  They offered to replace it, but I had a sneaky suspicion that they didn’t have any lamb or it was sub-par and they didn’t want to serve it.  Even if there was some language issues, lamb doesn’t sound much like duck.  Like Bill’s, mine was OK, but just OK.

 Thank Goodness for Dessert

The meal did have a redeeming event called dessert.  I had something with chocolate mousse in the description and Bill has no idea what his was called, but they were great.  We relished every bite of the meal topper.

As we finished up the meal, we looked around the restaurant and were mostly pleased by what we saw, even if the meal had been somewhat disappointing.  The waiting area was too dark and then there was an odd empty spot that made no sense, but the carpet, lighting furniture and decor were lovely.

 

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Welcome to Cancun

TRAVEL THERE: BROWSING AROUND THE SEADUST

Already our trip had its ups and downs, even though we’d just arrived, but ever the optimists, Bill and I set out to explore our resort.

Beautiful Beach

Escaping the disappointing buffet restaurant, we headed past the main pool to the line of palm trees at the edge of the beach.  OK – now we understood all the fuss!  Here was the epitome of white sugar-sand beach and brilliant turquoise water.  With flip flops in hand, I strolled along, enjoying the sound of splashing water and gleeful kids.

It was not a low flat beach like we’d seen in Punta Cana.  Here, the dry white sand made a quick drop of 6-12 inches where the waves rolled in.  So you had to decide whether to stroll along on the hard wet sand flirting with waves or up the small embankment on the dry sand.  We ended up trudging through the dry sand, because Bill was in sneakers.  We’d already discovered his leather slides had chosen to stay home.

No Visitors Allowed

The Cancun beach belongs to the Mexican government, so you can walk easily from one hotel area to the next without dodging no trespassing areas.  After passing a few smaller hotels we happened upon the Iberostar.  One of Bill’s favorite things to do on holiday is visit all the nearby hotels to compare them to our accommodations.  We headed up the stairs to the Iberostar and were immediately informed by security that we were not welcome.

I wish they would have let us in.  In Bill’s imagination, the Iberostar became the perfect hotel.  Anything that came up short at the Seadust, he believed would have been better at the the Iberostar.  After being turned away there, we headed back to the Seadust to sit by the pool.

Margarita Moment 

We were about to embark on one of our favorite moments at the Seadust.  On our way past the pool, I stopped at a bar and ordered my first Margarita.  We found a pair of lounge chairs and spent an hour enjoying the setting sun as it played among the clouds above the sea.

Every imaginable color danced in the sky as the palm trees swayed.  Nearby families frolicked in the deep blue pool.  AAAAAHHHHH, just what a resort holiday is supposed to be about.  We shared our impressions of the vacation so far and what our hopes were for the days to come.

Then we had a little comic relief.  As the sun faded and the sky began to darken, we noticed the lights around the pool began to change color.  Only it wasn’t the slow calming change of color you might expect around a pool.  Oh no, one color after another flipped past as if they were all frantically and unanimously  trying to decide which color they should be.  I couldn’t resist making a little video.  It gives you a peek at the frenetic lights and the family-oriented nature of the pool, not to mention the gorgeous sky and swaying palms.

A Bit More Poking Around

The flashing lights irritated us enough to pull us out of our loungers.  I had a little more discovering I wanted to do and I needed to talk to the Best Day rep about our return trip to the airport.  We made our way to the Best Day rep and found I would need my paperwork to arrange the pick-up.  We’d just gotten there, so I figured I had time.

We wandered down a few hallways to figure out the lay of the land.  One hallway led to Kid Heaven, which included a delightful looking waterpark.  Bill had no interest in it though, so we never came back down that way.  We also found the Mexican restaurant, but Bill was holding out for French.

Down another hallway was a theater and a convention center.  Nothing gave a clue when the theater would be offering entertainment, so we went back to the lobby and checked out a gift store.  Cute stuff and reasonable prices, but no buying was involved.

In the lobby they were building a Christmas tree.  It was big, but I can’t say it was all that attractive.  Sort of the bargain basement version of giant fake trees.  Time to find that French restaurant.  Come back next week and see how it went.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

A Difference of Opinion

TRAVEL THERE: TRAVEL FROM TWO DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

I’m home from Cancun.  My friends at CTC Travel gave me a stay at Seadust Cancun Family Resort.  Not like they sent me there on an assignment, more like a favor.  Someone else had won the trip at the CTC Travel Show in January and had never gone.  The trip needed to be used by the end of the year or it would be forfeited.  Bill and I are fortunate to have some flexibility in our schedule and our budget, so flying off to Cancun on short notice was not a hardship.  After we got there a difference of opinion arose.  Let me tell you about it.

How Do You Look at Life?

I believe, sincerely, that how much you enjoy life depends on how you look at it.  Do you start at zero and enjoy grading up or do you start at 100% and nitpick your way down? That philosophy extends to travel, but a problem arises, because Bill and I look at travel from opposite ends of the scale.

I want to go anywhere at anytime.  For the pleasure of going, seeing and experiencing, I’m perfectly willing to be inconvenienced.  I start at zero and am pleasantly surprised by what’s good.  Quite frankly, Bill likes the comforts of home.  A trip needs to give him a compelling reason to be there.  He hates to be captured by mediocrity. He starts with high expectations and grieves over the loss of every point.

We lived through mediocrity in February with the Royal Caribbean Cruise out of Galveston.  We were there to have a good time, but everywhere we turned it was like they were trying to keep us from enjoying ourselves.  Bad embarkation buffet, bad sail-away, bad internet, bad service, really bad dinner, even worse entertainment and then bad food the entire rest of the trip.   We managed to avoid being miserable through our own efforts, but barely.  Bill, bless his heart couldn’t keep from pointing out every disappointment, while I tried to ignore them.

Club Med Punta Cana saved us.  If it hadn’t been good, Bill might have given up traveling altogether.  Punta Cana wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough and Bill had a blast.  So, when we had a chance to do another all-inclusive in Cancun.  Why not?  Bill was ready to re-live the Club Med experience.

How This Trip Played Out

Bill arrived in Cancun happy as a clam at high tide.  I had purposely avoided begging him to pack, which meant he’d gotten around to it at about 10 PM the night before we left.  Better me crazy than him, right?  The whole air travel experience went well.  No $120 Spirit surprises at check-in.  No hassles at security.  Chik-fi-la for breakfast.  Comfortable flight.  The luggage arrived when we did and customs was a breeze.  So far so good.  Thank you American Airlines.

Then it started.  I’d warned him of the hustlers in the airport.  I’d read him the notice from Best Day, which was providing our transportation.  Still, the hustlers managed to drag him over to a kiosk and tried to get him to visit a time share.  We left the area unscathed, but disgusted.

Due to some misinformation from the “helpful” hustler, we had a little problem finding Best Day, but that was our fault not Best Day’s.  They’d warned us.  We hadn’t been fed on the plane, so Bill was getting hungry.  Standing in the hot sun to get on our shared ride, Mr. Bill was peckish, but cooperative. 

We were lucky enough to be some of the first folks out of the van, but then there was the whole tipping thing.  The arrival lobby was open-air, making Mr. Bill hotter and hungrier, but he did get a room upgrade, so that made him happy.

He wanted to go directly to the buffet, but I suggested we at least find our room and freshen up.  The elevator was a sauna and slower than molasses.  I should have let him go to the buffet.  The elevator-disguised-as-an-oven dumped us on the 6th floor where the light fixtures, which had the room numbers on them, were so creative was impossible to tell which room was 606.  We had to figure it out by a process of elimination.

There was one benefit to waiting on the luggage.  Mr. Hot and Hungry was able to change into a cooler outfit.  As soon as that happened we were off to the buffet, which unfortunately was about to close.  One trip around the buffet restaurant told us everything we needed to know and it wasn’t good news.

The Seadust Cancun Family Resort ain’t no Club Med Punta.  I think Bill might have turned around and left right that minute if it weren’t for me.  Sure, he would have had to pay a fee for changing his flight, but he could have gone home.  However,  I was excited about getting to see Chichen Itza the next day – and he loves me.  Maybe dinner would be better – right?

Well, come back next week and find out!

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

On My Way Home

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE RETURN

Some folks might wonder if I ever spoke to my friends again, but dumping them was never on my agenda.  By breakfast the next morning everything was fine.  Frances even managed to make it to breakfast on time.

Going Home

At Customs our coconut rum friends discovered you could only take a certain amount of the elixir home with you, so they passed out bottles to whoever would take one.  I did.  I was scrutinized a little more carefully for the departure than I was for the entry.  Our flight stopped at some Florida airport for us to go through customs.  Then it was Houston Hobby and finally Love Field.

My dad was there to pick us up and I was rarely so glad to see him.  I loved him to death, but he was dad and I expected to always be able to see him.  After the disappointing week I’d had, he was especially good to see.  I can’t remember that he ever disappointed me, though I certainly managed to disappoint him often enough.

Dad asked if we were hungry and even though we weren’t particularly so, everyone agreed a Jack-in-the-Box taco would hit the spot.  It was one of my favorite meals ever.  All week long we’d dined on seafood, steaks and conch balls, but Jack-in-the-Box tacos meant I was home.

Staying Home

My next big adventure would be moving into the apartment with Debbie and Kathi.  That’s when the next section of my scrapbook begins. It’s called Wild in the Woods.  “Wild in the Woods” is the name of a song sung by my favorite local artist, Robert Lee Kolb.  His band was called the Local Heroes.  It is a fit title for the next years of my life.  I was wild and I was in the woods.

My gig at Sears ended after two years and I moved up to Little Rock, Arkansas for a job that I was only able to tolerate for about six months.  When I moved back to Dallas I moved in with my parents.  Debbie and Kathi had new roommates and new lives.  We were still buddies and I spent a lot of time in trouble for coming home late when we all went out together, but that’s another story for another time.

There was a very pivotal day in my life, that looked pretty ordinary at the start.  I was working at a bank and was a little at loose ends with my free time.  The wildness had been leeched out of me for a season and I wanted to avoid getting on that merry-go-round again.  So, I took at part-time job at Lord & Taylor’s to make a little money while I was staying out of trouble.  My first day on the job I met two very important people.  One was Deb Shera, who would turn out to be the very best friend anyone could have anywhere in the world.

After work I went to a party.  I’d been guilted into it by my old college friend Debbie, not to be confused with Deb, but I’ll admit it is confusing.  I’d plugged into a Singles Group at a local church and they were going bowling that evening.  Debbie wanted me to go to a party.  She was still looking for a love connection.  I was too, but I thought I would be more likely to find it with the church group than at some party with a bunch of people I had no personal connection to.  She pulled the ultimate threat on me, “If you were really my friend, you would…”  So I reluctantly went to the party.

The next album in my collection is called, “The Lost Years.”  The other person I met that fateful day would be the primary author of those days.  Come back next week and we’ll talk about him.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Frances is Found

TRAVEL BUG TALES: AN ANTI-CLIMATIC REUNION

So the phone rings and it’s Frances.  She was so nonchalant you would have thought she was calling from the lobby.  She’d gotten word in town that someone was missing out at the resort and she figured out it was her.  She was headed back now and we were to be sure the boat didn’t leave with out her.  We were taking a sail on a catamaran and having lunch on a deserted island.

Best Activity of the Trip

Yep, Frances is the one adjusting her sunglasses.  She sashayed into the resort and onto the boat like she’d been with us all the time.  Most of us know that feeling of never having wanted to see someone quite so much and also wanting to kill them at the same time.

The catamaran sail was lovely.  The water was beautiful and the weather perfect.  We sailed to an abandoned beach and hung out on the sand while locals barbecued fish for us.  I avoided baby oil and there wasn’t much wind.  The meal was good and soon we were headed back to the resort.

A little change in itinerary would have improved my opinion of this trip.  The first night should have been the Live Show, with dancers, swords and flame.  That would have gotten us off on the right foot.  Then we should have taken the catamaran and had our picnic.  What a great introduction to the Bahamas!  My salt water showers would have been much more bearable.

Farewell Party

I have no idea whether our final evening was an official event or just something cooked up among us.  The bar was serving conch balls for appetizers and we never made it to the buffet.

And remember the all-inclusive thing?  Well, all that was included on that evening was the first drink.  Even though we were in the bar for hours on end, we could never get a second one.  Instead we made trips out to the pool and communed with the coconut rum crowd or poured our coins in the Heineken beer vending machines.  The rumor existed that someone in the crowd had found a machine that would dispense the beer without the coin, but I can’t say for sure.

I was ready to go.  Though we’d all come to the party together, when I’d finally had enough, both Frances and Debbie were missing.  Someone invited me out for a walk on the beach, but fresh air was not what they wanted.  No love connection was made.

Instead, I went to my room, but I couldn’t get in.  Someone else had made a love connection and they were using the chain lock to keep me out.  Now I was just mad.  This had been no tropical paradise for me and I just wanted to go to to bed, which was currently being used by someone else.

While $219 hadn’t been a lot of money, even in those days, I felt as if it were money down the drain – money I could have used for something else.  I even resented the quarters I’d put into the slot machine.  Someone offered me the opportunity to sleep on their couch, but I wanted my pjs and my toothbrush and I wanted to take out my contacts.

There had been fun moments, but they’d all been overshadowed by disappointment.  The memory of the night at the local club had been compromised by the trick the limo drivers pulled on us.  The sandy beach experience had sidelined me.  The casino had been a bore.  My almost love connection had been washed out by a storm.  The delicious planter-punch-drenched meal was marred by my friend’s disappearance, that went on for entirely too long.  The only really entertaining time had been the sail and picnic, but just a few hours later I was sitting alone fighting tears.

I went back to my room and banged on the door.  I negotiated a pass-through to our room’s balcony.  Soon my friend and her latest romantic interest joined me there – as if I wanted their company.  Then my other roommate showed up.  I’ll leave the identities vague to protect the guilty.  Thank goodness we were leaving the next day.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I’ll head home next week.  Don’t miss the flight!  I’ll see you then.

 

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Frances is Lost

beach birds calm clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

TRAVEL BUG TALES: WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

When Frances didn’t return to the hotel the evening after her boat ride, we were concerned but we still thought she’d show up, eventually.  We took a survey among our fellow travelers and the consensus was we were worry warts.  Frances had made a love connection and we’d hear from her soon.

The Day After

Well, she didn’t come home that evening and if she was having a good time, well then, that was OK, but geez, couldn’t she send a smoke signal or something.  This is where the whole cellphone thing comes in handy, but it wasn’t a thing yet.  Back in our day, people not only didn’t have cellphones.  Sometimes they didn’t have phones at all.  It wasn’t inconceivable the casino dealer didn’t have a phone.  He’d called her the other day, but it could have been from a pay phone.  We didn’t even know his name.

Debbie and I decided to stay around the resort, so we’d know whether she showed up or not.  We refused to stay in our room by the phone, but we wanted to be reachable.  There was a low buzz filtering through the resort.  Someone was missing.  Damn kids, some would say, so irresponsible.  Oh my goodness, others would say, and encourage us to contact her parents.

Contact her parents!  That’s the absolute, very absolute last thing we wanted to do.  We talked about it and decided it didn’t make any sense.  Frances was going to show up and then we’d all feel very silly – but what if she didn’t?  What if she was at a hospital somewhere, in need of her asthma machine?  Never, ever, never do this to your friends – ever!!!

By the end of the day we talked to the Adventure Tour people.  We didn’t want to alarm them, but we’d lost Frances.  They didn’t seem all that worried.  They did a lot of these college tours and someone was always disappearing, but they always showed up, just in time to catch the plane.

I’m pretty sure this is the evening we discovered two things, coconut rum and that a store across the street had Dr Pepper, along with other American things.  We borrowed big plastic iced tea glasses from the buffet, filled them up with chipped ice and poured the coconut rum over the ice.  The first time we may have sprinkled a little Coke over the concoction, but we soon dispensed with that altogether, sitting in the dark around the pool enjoying the smooth liquor.

There was no pretending now.  We were worried sick about Frances and we began to wonder why we’d waited so long to sound the alarm.  We’d be on TV.  People would stick their microphones in our faces and ask us why we hadn’t notified the authorities immediately.  Heck, we didn’t even know who the authorities were.  Adventure Tours was in charge of everything and they’d blown us off.

Debbie and I both still felt she’d show up, but we were also worried sick she wouldn’t.  If you drink enough coconut rum, you will go to sleep, even if your friend is missing.  The next morning the phone rang.  Who was calling?  Come back next week and find out.