Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Always good to advertise
When in Rome do as the Romans do, but since we were not currently in the Italian capital we decided to attend the weekly Island Fish Fry in the Turks and Caicos - more specifically on the island of Providenciales. Provo, as the locals refer to this island, is the best known of the forty cays (pronounced keys) and islands which make up this tropical paradise. The majority of the tiny nation's 30,000 plus residents reside on Provo with the rest of the islands a much smaller number living in residence. The majority of the cays and islands having no one living on them full time. Anyone want a deserted island?

Then this would be the region to visit. Provo is also the hub of the tourist industry boasting well over 200,000 tourists per year who come to soak up the incredible warmth of the sun while basking on pearl white beaches overlooking the most clear and aqua colored waters in the British West Indies.

Miles of this with no one around!
True, the cruise lines arrive on Grand Turk, part of the Turks Islands, but if the visitor doesn't take some time to visit Providenciales or one of the other islands which make up the Caicos side of the chain,  then they have missed out on unbelievable beauty.

Falling in love with a location is quick and true once the vistas are taken in among the palm lined roads and walkways. Spectacular weather, clean environment and extremely friendly people make one want to drop anchor and call these islands home - and home we felt.

Home - yep.
We arrived on Thursday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. is the local fish fry at Bight (Children's) Park on Bight Beach where dozens of local restaurants erect easy-ups and start cooking their favorite dishes for the visitors to taste. And tourists are equal in number or may fall in comparison to the local population who come out every week for this gastronomical experience. It's an evening of awesome sea food, plenty of healthy drinks (both with and without spirits), dancing to live music, and just visiting with new found friends.

Dancing and Singing
 All beneath the Caribbean sky!

Eateries like: 'Smokey's on da Bay', Kay Jo's', 'Bugallo's Conch Crawl', 'Doreen's Place', and 'Froggies' on da Beach' are just a number of restaurants which come out to allow the public the chance to sample their marvelous cuisine.

That's a bbq.
Nice Menu
Booth to booth, J and L walked tasting this and that and soon to repeat the circuit again.

Tuna, marlin, groupers, and bonefish were cooking over coals, gas rings, and bbq's just waiting to be eaten. Rice, beans, coleslaw, chowder, various salads and anything else to make a mouth water was there as well to make the meal complete for the adventurer. Washing all this delicious food was the local favorite Rum Punch or perhaps a cold Turks Head Island Drought. The entire combination of the food fest made the evening that more magical and enjoyable.

One of our favorite dishes was conch (pronounced konk). We had it fried, sauteed, and battered. We couldn't wait to nimble on more but soon we learned what it was and what it looked like when it was alive. The following morning watching a local news station we witnessed the harvesting of conch and  began to have second thoughts about partaking in that delicacy again.

Yummy but not so pretty
Conch is a sea snail - a big hideous slug like animal which happens to make its abode within one of the prettiest shells on earth.

Now, that's beautiful
Biology is funny that way.

So, we visited, we met, we tasted, we explored and all we could come up with was we need to come back for more of everything but the conch.

Well, it was tasty so . . . .

In all of J and L's travels the Turks and Caicos was one of the friendliest and most beautiful locales we have had the fortune to encounter. Not much frantic night life but as one sits viewing the sunset in the West Indies enjoying a glass of their favorite drink the night life is right in front of them. A sky full of stars and the company of a loved one.

That is paradise - truly.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Books and Beats

Sometimes you meet the most interesting people close to home. No need to explore thousands of miles away from the known to make a friend but simply hold out your hand for a firm and pleasant shake.

J and L love traveling to exotic locales and sharing those adventures on a regular basis but sometimes the treasure are much closer. Over the summer we had a chance to re-meet (if there's such a term) Randy Jordan. A fellow teacher we both had known for years but more in a passing professional manner.
Amazon - Exotic?

 "Hey, how ya doing?"

"Good and you?"

Off to the classroom to teach never really hearing the replies not out of rudeness but simply everyone is so busy in their lives there's time for quick niceties but the sand doesn't hold still for in-depth discussions.

But the end of summer 2014 was a bit different since we attended an in-service concerning Sean Covey's, 'The 7 Habits of  Highly Effective Teens' at Lakeview Leadership Academy. A great eyeopening training as well as a chance to really 'meet' our peers on a much deeper personal level.

That chance led J and L into finding out Randy was a drummer in a local band, Tango Kilo. John used to play bass guitar in a garage band in high school but claims it was really a garbage band. Intentions were good but the sound was trash - his words.

As fate would have it John had a book signing for his novel, 'Soft Target' (published by Black Opal Books) on Sept. 13th at a local and very popular bookstore in Hesperia, California.  'Hi Desert Book Oasis'. The owner, Donna Penman (awesome name for a book store owner) used Saturdays during the summer as a venue for local authors to meet the public and explain why they chose to be writers. Most don't know why but simply the keyboard is calling and there are stories to be told - so be told they are. After the signings the nicely appointed exterior patio which resembles an early mission architecture is turned into a stage for local bands to play to the crowds of music lovers. Thus Donna created: 'Books and Beats' - rather clever really and a big draw during the warm months in Southern California.
Great idea - signing and band playing

So, one plus one equals two and soon John would be signing books and Tango Kilo would light up the evening skies with their unique and solely original sounds.

Tango Kilo greeting the sunset with their unique sounds
  John entertained readers with tales of inspiration for both his novels within the interior of the bookstore and later the members of Tango Kilo finished the night with heart pounding sounds that when they ended at nine left the audience wanting more. But nine it was and the concert and signing was over.

Moral of the story - smile, shake a hand, truly listen to the other person, and the next adventure could be in your very own backyard.

It happens as it did this hot September night. 

J and L with members of Tango Kilo
We want to send out our special thanks to a few new found friends:

Donna Penman - owner and gracious host from Hi Desert Book Oasis.

Patty Thayer - fellow teacher and 'volunteer' at Hi Desert Book Oasis (rather funny lady also).

The band - Tango Kilo - Randy Jordan, Robby Kauffman, Jeremy Lacey, David Mancha

 Of course, Paul Bakas who is the photographer/videographer and close friend.

 And all those supported the book signing - if it wasn't for the readers there would be no need to write.

A few random photographs to show the fun had by all and if you were missed you were not intentionally missed and a heartfelt thanks from this writer to his friends and supporters.

Brandon Cruz loving those titles
Amy Stampe - must be an exciting part

Dr. Gary Wilkins with J - good friend
Erica Beyer, first autograph of the evening
Jessica and Justin Barr, coffee and books
Scarlett Rose enjoying the band
Randy Jordan thrilled by his purchase
Angie Douglas and family
Paul Bakas with Chuck and Karlene Russell
Mellisa Hays enjoying a good laugh

The author pontificating
A writer must write when the moment strikes!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Only Way to Get Around

When the intrepid trio landed in Iquitos this past summer, along with our great friend Carlos, we were met with two choices on how to get into the center of town where our hotel was located: take a regular taxi or the three wheeled wonder of the motocarro.

The only way to travel
 The concept is very simple - take a Honda, Suzuki, or off brand named motorcycle usually with a 125 to 200 cc motor (most of what we saw were in the 125 cc range for fuel efficiency) and retrofit a two wheel contraption on the rear with a bench seat for passengers along with room for suitcases, food, ice chests, or anything else of value needing to be moved here to there. A little research reveals the majority of these vehicles are manufactured in Mexico and shipped up the Amazon to sell in Iquitos and other river towns. Of course, other places build these unusual but very fun modes of transportation and a quick Google search will take the inquisitive mind where it needs to go if the desire to impress or confuse your neighbors strikes home.

Many years ago Disneyland in Anaheim California had ticket booklets instead of all day passes for visitors to the Magic Kingdom. The most cherished of these tickets were the 'E' tickets. These hot numbers were for the rides where fear and loss of breath were at the highest premium. No, these were not for the Dumbo Elephant rides for little kids but for the toboggan race down the steep incline of the Matterhorn. Hanging on by your hands (unless you raised them for a better thrill while heading straight down the narrow gauge tracks) onto the safety bar in front of you gave the rider such a pulsating adrenalin rush that only an 'E' ticket could provide.

Paul snapping with his I pad and Carlos ignoring him
 That's the same sensation while touring around Iquitos in a motocarro. Hold on but do remember to keep your arms, hands, legs, and head within the confines of the rear seat while your driver takes you on the Mr. Magoo's wild ride about the village on the Amazon.

"Excuse me," another passenger on a motocarro only millimeters away says.

"Yes," you respond while wondering how truly close the other vehicle is from yours.

"You seem to have something between your two front teeth."

"I brushed this morning before jumping into the rear of this motocarro," you respond.

"Yes, I can smell the fresh mint flavor - but you still have something between your teeth," the other passenger states and then waves as his driver bounds over the sidewalk trying to run over pedestrians as though this were a daily video game of blood lust.

Need a tow?
 Oops, this is Iquitos and not Lima where drivers are actually courteous to one another though they drive quickly, closely, and erratically bounding from passenger to passenger. Lima is the opposite of Iquitos - and that's not just geographically speaking.

It is the only true way to get around this crowded city on the mighty river efficiently. Narrow streets, high gas prices and the lack of auto dealerships makes motocarros the best mode of transportation available for taxis and businesses. Of course, there are cars, trucks, motorcycles and scooters but the predominant method of getting around is the inexpensive three wheeled vehicles that are literally everywhere.

No worries - on her way to work
 The decibels in the city are higher than anywhere else with these contraptions but after a day or two the tourist no longer hears the sounds - it's much like listening to a bothersome co-worker - just tune out the irritating noise.

No accident - just repairs
We were advised, by more than one driver, that there are a lot of accidents with these motocarros and even tourist magazines/books warn of this but after eight days in Iquitos and riding around numerous times daily we never witnessed one accident. Some close calls maybe but no physical contact between these vehicles and others including pedestrians.

 A true 'E' ticket adventurer for the explorer. 

By the way, it was a mosquito caught between J's teeth and thank goodness for malaria pills.