We’re OFF!!!

We have arrived!  In Panama, at least :).  The rainy season is in full swing, although I guess October will have the heaviest rains.  It’s been cooler in Panama City, mid-80s or so.  We haven’t been out much yet so I think I will catch up on the last couple of weeks.  I haven’t had a chance to even open my laptop much less write anything.  We hope to start house hunting on Monday.  I will be definitely letting you know what we find out there.

SAN ANTONIO

Thanks to all who responded to the blog and on Facebook.  Our time in San Antonio was rather short, but we had a great time.

Susan, we LOVED Guenther’s and strongly suggest to anyone visiting, stop in and have a cinnamon roll.  Oh my goodness!  We thought we had the best in Morgan Hill at Donuts & Things.  But I have never had a cinnamon roll anywhere that was this good.  It was late morning so we split the roll and a club sandwich.  Amazingly delicious!

Guy, the history nerd, really wanted to see the Alamo.  I enjoy sights, museums and all but rarely know a ton about them.  I was pleasantly surprised by the set up at the Alamo. A ton of information and names but the layout helped me to understand the sequence of events that surrounded the ill-fated and historic battle that occurred there.

We purchased the audio tour ($7 each) and had a pleasant walk around the premises while hearing brief recordings.  Well worth the money, especially since I never really read up on these things ahead of time.  For example, I never knew that Texas was a nation, albeit for a short time.  Guy was a little unhappy that the actual buildings were mostly gone and that the south wall was now an imaginary line in the middle of the street.  But overall it’s worth the time to check out.

The next day we went to check out the River Walk.  Everyone’s told us that we have to go and see it.  I just figured it was a cool outdoor-type mall.  Well, it’s definitely outdoors and it’s definitely cool, but nothing I thought it would be.  We took the 40 minute boat tour ($8 each) and got a short history and points of interest tour from the comfort of the boat.  I think if we just walked all the way around it would’ve taken us all day.  Especially if we stopped for a beer or margarita at all the bars :)!

The River Walk was really an amazing place.  I thought it was a fairly recent addition, but it’s been around for some time.  It was really cool to be just feet from the main roads, but never really heard traffic.  We felt like we were in a different time & place.  We only got to visit for a couple of hours so I think we’ll be back to wander around more.

DENVER

We got a quick visit in to Denver to see Guy’s sister, Kim, and her family.  We stayed with Kim & David and even got in part of the Broncos vs Raiders game.  It was so nice to see the nephews & nieces:  Christopher, Kelli, Michelle & Aubrey and Chris, Alicia, Alexis and Ryder.  Got to celebrate with Ryder for his #2 birthday.  The trip, though short, was great!

SAYING GOODBYE TO TEXAS AND THE USA!

Leaving Texas was so very exciting yet a bit sad.  We really loved staying with Ray & Denniece and meeting and hanging with Krystopher, Chevella, Ashley & Cami and DeJuan, Krystal & Carter and John & Gail.  Such wonderful people that have become like family.  Their open hearts were so warm and welcoming.  We will miss them so much!

Here are a few things that we saw in Texas.  I do realize that they are probably in other parts of the US but I first saw them in Texas.  I missed a few pics that I had wanted to show (like Shipley’s Donuts and the Second Baptist Church) but then again, I didn’t see all of Texas either ;).

A Brand New World

Guy has always been a fish.  He and our sons, Micah & Jacob, love the water.  Could live in the water.  I’ve always enjoyed water, but never really felt like a swimmer.  But I’ve always loved Jacques Cousteau and nature-type shows.  I had always thought that it would be so cool to dive, but knew I never would.

And, to be honest, I’m not really good with certain things, like putting my face in water (even in the shower), going out from shore very far at the beach, being in cold & dark places.  Very real fear factors for me.

But we both love fish and underwater life.  It’s so fascinating.  When we first got married we had 7 different fish tanks, including salt water.

Guy has always wanted to scuba dive.  With our plan to travel in Central & South America, diving in the Caribbean and the Galapagos was almost assumed.

I knew that scuba would be a huge challenge for me.  But I also knew that if I didn’t at least have lessons, I would regret it.

As it turns out, Uncle Ray’s a scuba diver.  He suggested W.W. Diving in Humble (the H is silent), TX.  Guy called them and explained that we really wanted to get our certification so we could dive during our Caribbean Cruise.  (He called about 9 days before the cruise!)  Rebecca and John worked with us to get us equipment and certification before our departure.

John was our teacher.  He’s amazing.  Very easy going and knowledgeable and super encouraging.  From the first time we went underwater in scuba gear, I knew that I’d be able to do it.  And each following dive got better and better.  I was so anxious that I hardly slept all week. But I was actually getting excited about diving in open water (not a pool) for the final part of certification and LOVED it.  With the exception of certain fish…

We dove at Twin Lakes Scuba Park in Manvel. The water was really warm and a bit murky. Visibility was about 5 feet. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too spooked.  There was a submerged platform where we did our exercises.  All in all not my favorite place ever but I was pretty calm.  Until the fish arrived.  At first they were cool, cute and I felt really happy to be in the water with them.  Then I got bit.

One of the 3 places I got bit. Got bit here 2-3 times. You can see the shape of the bite if you look closely. The brown spot in the middle is 1/2″.

Little buggers thought a spot on my leg was food.  Nice.  I got bit about 5 times.  Made it difficult to pay attention to John.  It’s a little creepy to look down and see 4-5 fish in an arc looking at your legs.  We all kept trying to get them to go away, but they kept hanging around.  I never panicked and really never felt nervous until I had to use both of my hands to practice and exercise.  Mostly I was mad.  Those bites really hurt!

But I survived and got to log my first 2 dives ever 🙂  And now a brand new world has opened up to us that, though possible, I never thought probable for myself.

So then it was off on the cruise.  Very excited, but still really nervous.  The night before our first dive in Roatan, I again did not sleep much.  But I made myself be calm and once I did my first giant step into the water, I was completely at ease and so happy!!!

As for the camera, the GoPro Hero3 worked like a charm!  I had bought filters for the dive, which I couldn’t find until the day after the last day (grrr!), so the videos are not as bright as they could be, but I think that you will like them.

In Roatan we dived at Anthony’s Key Resort.  Beautiful location.  I would like to go back and stay for a diving vacation. I didn’t have a chance to check out the rooms, but could see them across the lagoon.  These bungalows were situated on stilts, right on the water.  They have water taxis that carry you back and forth to the island.

The locations we dived at in Roatan were Green Outhouse and Deep Eel’s Garden.  For our first saltwater dives, they were super cool.  Visibility was about 50′ (it was overcast and rainy.)  The water was 85 degrees.  Super nice.

We saw so much.  Different corals (staghorn, sea fan, brain) and fish (grouper, barracuda, lionfish, squirrelfish, french angel, dog snapper.)  Guy got some great video of a green moray eel.  I kept pinching myself and thinking, “Wow, I’m really underwater seeing all this stuff.  For reals!”

In Cozumel we dived with Sand Dollar Sports.  The 2 locations were Chankanaab and Paradise Reef.  Here the visibility was much clearer, up to 100′.  It was a much sunnier day.  We saw much of the same stuff here as in Roatan, but our preference is Cozumel.  We haven’t quite figured out why and we only dove 2 spots in each location.

Here are a couple of videos that we put together of the dives.  Even without the filters, the GoPro is a very cool piece of equipment.  They are about 2 minutes each.

We so LOVE diving.  So much so, we almost booked another cruise while on the ship.  Talk about impetuous :).  But we maintained control and are waiting until we get to Central America.

Our plans regarding Central & South America, by the way, have changed a little bit.  More on that next time!

Cruisin’

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I gotta say…I really love to cruise.  So nice to have someone else doing the cooking and cleaning.  Plus getting to eat whatever (almost!) and whenever we felt like it.  Apparently most folks gain a pound per day when cruising.  Yikes!

Our trip was with Carnival Cruise Lines aboard the Carnival Magic.  Big ship with capacity of almost 3,700 guests and almost 1,400 staff.  There are 2 pools, 4 jacuzzis that hang over the sides of the ship, 2+ other jacuzzis and tons of comfy chaise lounges all over the boat.  The Beach Pool area has a huge movie screen.  Music videos play during the day and movies at night.

The Lobby has lots of lighting and plenty of seating to listen to live music for several hours each evening.  During our cruise there was a fabulous guitar solo guy.  He played great music that we took a couple opportunities to sit and enjoy.  There was also a 4 piece band (all Asian guys) that sang 70s, 80s, Beatles and almost any song that people requested.  They were a lot of fun.

There was so much more aboard that we didn’t take advantage of.  Check Carnival Cruise Line’s website for more details.  Fun stuff 🙂

For the kids, both big and little, atop the ship is a water “park”.  Included is a water slide.  Guy used our new waterproof GoPro Hero3 Black to film the rides for Mikayla and Jayce.  Here’s our first ever video for your perusal:

The first 2 days were at sea.  We love sea days.  We got to explore the ship and just relax in the sun and enjoy the drink of the day (didn’t have any DBW this time, Ken.)

The ports we docked at were at Roatan (an island of Honduras), Belize City, Belize and Cozumel, (an island of Mexico).  We got to scuba dive in Roatan and Cozumel (more on diving next blog :)).  Beautiful!

If you ever take a cruise or trip that stops in Belize City, you’ve gotta do the Cave Tubing Excursion.  The only negative is that the  caves are actually about an hour and a half bus ride out of town.  But the positive is that we got to see a lot of the country not visible from Belize City.

Cave Tubing is a blast!!!  At the main area you get outfitted with a helmet, vest and tube.  You carry your tube through the jungle for about 30 minutes.  It was an easy walk and the guides are always telling you about the flora and fauna that you see.  At one point our guide, Norman, pointed out a termite nest and proceeded to eat a couple.  He then invited our group to taste some as well.  I didn’t but Guy did.  He said it tasted like chicken.  Just kidding, ha ha ha…it actually tasted like pepper.

The tubing itself was cool.  The water rushed in a couple of spots but other than those, it was a nice, easy going pace.  There were points within the cave that had 0 (zero) light.  When we turned our headlamps off it was pitch black.

We had purchased the lunch option for $10 more.  It was a super delish Belizean chicken, beans and rice meal.  Super yum!  Definitely worth it since we finished around lunch time and still had the ride back.

In Roatan we only dived and went back to the ship.  In Cozumel, we dived and after showering and getting ready, we went back ashore for lunch at 3 Amigos Restaurant (yes, named for the movie.)  The margaritas were only so-so.  Guy had the fish taco and I had the beef enchiladas with green sauce.  The food really was wonderful!

After Cozumel, we got one more sea day to relax after 3 days in a row of excursions.  So nice.

We left and returned to Port Galveston.  I gotta say, the Port is extremely organized for the cruises.  Simple to drive in, drop the luggage with the porter, park and hitch a ride with the shuttle back to the ship.  And leaving was handled exactly the same, just in reverse ;).

All in all a really enjoyable and relaxing trip.  Can hardly wait for the next cruise!