Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More snow, and another week closer

First, thanks to Bill and Cap for becoming followers, I appreciate that. I have found your website very helpful in my research.

Yes, more snow! It is rapidly becoming a four-letter word around here! Wednesday into Thursday morning, we received another 8 inches or so of the white stuff, after a wicked early evening of heavy sleet and freezing rain the gave such a nice undercoating to the snow, on top of the ice we still had from the last round. I read in the paper Tuesday that our average winter snowfall is just over 32 inches for the entire season, and we had already reached 35 inches before the new storm. Also, February is just around the corner, and is typically the snowiest month for us. We're really looking forward to that...NOT!

The closing on the business has been delayed, AGAIN, and is really getting frustrating for us. I remain optimistic that the lawyers will come to a consensus in their negotiations. In the meantime, we continue to work towards the goals of finishing the business and packing up our stuff.

A bit of exciting news, though, is we were interviewed for our local paper last week, and the story was on the front page of this week's edition of The East Hampton Star. Thank you, Carissa, for such a nicely written story! I guess the people who haven't heard yet will find out now! :-). I actually had an older gentleman come in today, and when I asked if I could help him, he stated he wasn't a customer, but had read our story in the paper and came in to talk to us. He and his wife had done an extended trip cross-country several years ago, and were contemplating another one. He was very nice, asking a lot of questions, and telling us about his journey. It was very interesting, and I'm sure we are going to keep repeating this scenario wherever we roam. You meet the nicest people in campgrounds :-).

I think that will be all for this time...short and sweet. I'll get back to my African Safari stories next time. Until then, stay safe and hopefully warm!

Friday, January 21, 2011

64 Days...who's counting?

Yes, it's 64 days until takeoff day, March 27. We have delayed departure by one day so that Al can attend his Fire Department Annual Dinner, which is scheduled for Saturday night, March 26. Our first day on the road will now consist of a straight run from here to Virginia Beach, where we are staying 2 nights at First Landing State Park.

We've been quite busy the past week, in between snow storms! The packing is progressing, and the painting has been contracted, they will start painting everything inside the house on February 21. We had the outside of the house painted last summer, and I couldn't believe the difference it made, how nice it looked. So I am optimistic that the interior painting will also make it much more attractive to buyers this spring :-).

On the business front, I think we can finally say that it's almost done...the lawyers have finished their negotiations, everyone is in agreement, and we should be closing on the sale of the business by the end of next week! This is quite exciting for us, and we're looking forward to having the 8 weeks after that to finish up here in the house. It's very important to me that the house is completely ready for showing before we leave, and that all is comfortable and easy for the ladies staying behind. Hopefully, it will sell by the fall, and we'll all be able to get away from this snowy weather together next winter!

Before the storms interrupted things, I was writing about our trip in 2008 to Africa, the impacts it had on us and especially the re-awakening of our dreams to travel the country. The research and preparations were all done a couple years ahead of time, and by late 2007, we were getting the final preparations underway. Our trip left the states on January 26, 2008 with a departure from JFK on KLM Airlines. It was an evening flight, leaving New York around 6P.M., bound for Amsterdam. There, we had a 3 hour layover, and then boarded our flight, again on KLM, going to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, via Kilimanjaro Airport.

We had arrived at JFK early, with our 30lb. duffels slung over our shoulders, and went to Terminal 4 for our flight. Wow, this was intense! Looking at the departures/arrivals board, there wasn't a single USA airport listed! Cairo, Athens, Abu Dhabi....this was when it really hit us that we were bound on a totally new and exciting experience! I was used to airport boards listing Orlando, Miami, Tampa :-).

Thank goodness, the flight was smooth and uneventful. It flew north over the upper Northeast of the USA, over Halifax, and across the North Atlantic. Landing in Amsterdam early in the morning their time, we had some breakfast at, where else, McDonald's! Our continuing flight left around 9AM, and this was much more interesting as it was during daylight hours. We flew over the Alps, what a magnificent sight! I can't tell you what movies they played, because I kept watching out the window :-). When we flew down the coast of Italy, you could really make out the boot shape of the country. And the blue of the Mediterranean Sea was amazing! Then we crossed into the north coast of Africa, and the Sahara Desert. Now it was nothing but tan below us. For hours! We would pull the shade, nap for a half hour, peek out, nothing but tan. Repeat over and over. The desert is immense. Once the sun went down, you could really see why it is called the "Dark Continent"; it's dark down there! Absolutely no lights of any kind, any where. It was kind of freaky, really. Especially once the plane starting descending, and there was no sign of a runway anywhere! I think we didn't see any lights at all until the plane actually touched down in Arusha, at Kilimanjaro Airport. This was just a stopover, where most of the passengers departed from the plane. A majority of safaris have their starting/ending point here in Arusha. Our trip, however, started further south, at the Selous Game Reserve, so we stayed on the plane for the additional hour trip to Dar es Salaam.

It was 11:30 PM Sunday night when we arrived, exhausted, sore, and rather nervous. I can't tell you how relieved I was to see someone standing at customs, bearing a placard printed with our name :-). If there wasn't anyone there, I don't know what I would have done. But from that point on, representatives from
Thomson Safaris were always with us, taking care of every detail, moving us around the country, right up to where we were taken back to the airport to start the journey home. Excellent service!! After customs, immigration, collecting the duffel bags, we were whisked away, along with another member of our tour group, to our hotel for the night...the Holiday Inn! Yes, isn't that funny, we flew halfway around the world to stay at the Holiday Inn :-). We were checked in, taken to our rooms, had a small snack, and collapsed into bed by 2 AM. And the alarm was set for 6AM. I was surprised that our guide himself hadn't been to greet us, and we didn't know what time to get up in the morning, so we were hoping 6AM was early enough...we found out later that our guide, Arnold, had been at the hospital with another member of our group who had become ill during the day...they had arrived earlier than we did. So anyway, we found him in the lobby the next morning (it was hard to tell...he was dressed in safari clothing with a Thomson Safaris ballcap on his head!) and all was good...the vans were leaving at 7AM to take us to our plane, a 12 passenger Cessna, and then out to the Selous. And that adventure I will save for the next posting :-).

This is the front page of my journal, using a photo I had taken over there re-done as a pencil sketch, and the quote from John Heminway. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Bomb!!

Let me tell you, this is one very unhappy trailer and truck (not to mention the owners!).

It's always a little depressing to be watching the evening news, and having the weatherman tell you there's a snow "bomb" that's going to occur over your area that evening and the next day. It has something to do with the barometric pressure dropping a certain amount of degrees in a certain amount of time. The storm that alot of you had in the south Monday, causing some snow and icy conditions, moved up the coast on Tuesday. Another storm front moving down from the northwest collided with that one over Long Island, creating the "bomb" for us.
This is our front yard early this morning, as I peaked out the front door into the wind and snow.

There's a dark-eyed junco sitting on a branch of the pine tree, waiting to swoop in to the feeders. The feeders were a frenzy of activity today.

We had chickadees, cardinals, juncos, sparrows, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, doves, house finches, a carolina wren ( we call him the "yard nazi" because he constantly scolds us when we are working in the yard, he doesn't like to be disturbed), but no hawks today. Sometimes a Cooper's hawk flies in and sits on the top of the birdfeeders. I don't think he realizes that when he does this, his meal possibilities become severely limited!

This junco and the goldfinch were squabbling over the peanut butter suet!

So, we spent about 3 hours clearing the driveway, cars, and walkway to the birdfeeder this morning. After lunch, as the storm slowed down, we headed over to the shop to clear the sidewalks and parking lot there. thank goodness for the snowblower we have, otherwise we would have never been able to do all this ourselves! This was a very wet heavy snow as well. It was difficult to move!

Chelsea does love this weather though. She is a true Maine dog! Casey definitely does not...especially after his bath and haircut Monday. Poor thing was shivering! Just like Mom :-).

Well, I hope this makes you folks down south feel a little better; yes, I know it's chilly down there, but at least you're not shoveling a foot plus of this stuff! Until next time, take care!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Cougar is Depressed

2 snowstorms, one Friday night, one Saturday night, and a "possible major event" happening Tuesday night as a nor'easter traveling up the coast slams into a cold storm front coming from the west, possibly directly over Long Island; enough said about that!

Work continued in the house this weekend closets and cabinets are slowly emptying. Good show!

Anyway, I've had a nice positive reaction to my posts about our safari, and how that trip has directly influenced the course and lifestyle we are now choosing. I'd especially like to thank the good people of Thomson Safaris for noting and commenting, and hope that as they follow my account of our trip that they realize what a fabulous group of guides and employees they have...our greatest kudos!!

As I said in the last blog, once we made the decision and commitment to do this trip, we threw ourselves completely into research. Thank goodness for the internet and google :-). I found several journals online, and I devoured these for information. Clothing for the trip was selected, purchased and put away. Once I found out that there was a limit of 30lbs of baggage per person, I was really nervous. I found lightweight, nylon pants and shirts at L.L.Bean, and tried those out. I'm still wearing them today! Well, not today, it's only in the teen's here, but you know what I mean :-). The shorts and campshirts are so comfy, wash great, dry instantly just about, and are just all around great. I highly recommend the Tropic Wear clothes.

Another thing I got really nervous about was medical needs while we were over there. Being especially concerned with Al's atrial fib issues, we did invest in a one-time overseas travel medical insurance policy ( thankfully, it was not needed!). I read about all the medicine kits, and supplies that were recommended for travel to remote, third-world areas, which only made me MORE nervous :-). I mean, it wasn't like you could run down to 7-11 if you had a stomache-ache! So, I had all the over the counter medicines that I could think of to bring along. And even some prescription ones, a broad based antibiotic and some Lomotil. Both were recommended by our doctor, Suzanne, whom we consulted about what we needed. And boy, did we get vaccinated from here to kingdom-come for this trip. Everything updated, the MMR, polio, tetanus. I needed hepatitis A and B ( Al already has this through the ambulance). Typhoid preventive. And yellow fever vaccination. This one wasn't necessary, but highly recommended. Because if an outbreak occurred while we were there, we would not be permitted to leave Tanzania until we were vaccinated, and over there, that means sharing of needles with dozens of other people. Uh, no thanks! Last was malaria pills, taken for a week before the trip, during the trip, and a week after.

With all that said, no, we didn't have anything happen, did not have any illness, only needed a couple of pepto-Bismol one night...and I handed out my Sudafed to some who did catch a cold :-). But my most popular item that I was being offered trades for was my Hershey Bars :-).

The most important item, though, that came out of our research, came from talking again with Suzanne, our doctor. She was quite excited about us going, as she had gone a couple years earlier. She gave us what turned out to be the best advise I could have gotten: she told us to buy a good camera, and learn how to use it well before we went. I had always enjoyed taking pictures, but only really used point-and-shoot cameras. And the cost of film and developing became too high for me to really explore my creativity with it, and I stopped doing it. But now, now we have DIGITAL! Woohoo! I can take dozens of pictures of the same thing, from all angles and different light, to get that perfect shot, without spending a fortune on film and developing. Life is good :-).

Al did most of the research, quickly settling on either Canon or Nikon. Ultimately, feeling that Nikon held a slight edge in lens quality, we selected the Nikon D50 as our camera. There were several other models to choose from, but he felt this was "professional enough" to get me the creativity I craved, but not so complicated that I would be frustrated trying to figure it out. We also hear that a new lens was on the way, an 18-200mm zoom AF VR. This was going to be a great all-around lens to use, so we waited for that to come on the market while we started learning how to use it. I spent 2 years doing that, reading online, buying a couple of books by Scott Kelby, and an awesome one on exposure, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I learned so much from this book! I also had learned to use Photoshop Elements to help correct mistakes in my photos, although to tell you the truth, this camera is so good that very few adjustments are ever needed. I am so enthusiastic about this camera, unfortunately they don't make this model any more, but I'm sure any Nikon would be great! Hopefully, as I progress through the daily adventures of trip and post my pictures, you will agree, both that the camera takes great photos, and that Africa, especially Tanzania, is a wonderful, photogenic location. It was really hard to take a bad photo there :-).

Until the next post...take care and stay warm!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Not your usual camping post!

I've been experimenting a little with Picasa and moving my photos over to the laptop. I wanted to see if I could figure out how to resize the photos to use less bandwidth. I used my elephant photo as a lead-in for today's blog, and I think it worked!

You see, it's been a little boring to write about packing up the house, and the last days at work...one can only talk about that so much, right? So I thought, maybe I should chat a little about our background for making this leap of faith into a different lifestyle. Maybe a few people can identify with it :-).

Sometime in 2004, as we were going about our normal lives, we had started watching a show called The Amazing Race; I'm sure many others out there have watched it as well :-). We absolutely loved it, right from the start. Living vicariously through the teams, traveling the world, seeing sights we could only dream about seeing in person. One season the teams landed in Africa, I'm not sure what country, but I remember the task they had to perform was driving a safari jeep across the plains, and photographing the "Big Five": Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Cape Buffalo. Wow, was that cool! Imagine driving along, and having an elephant walk in front of you! We talked about that for days, how neat that must have been to experience. Then on to everyday concerns again.

A few months later, as we were walking the dogs one day (as people who know us know, we walk the dogs ALOT!) and talking, planning next winter's vacation, Al said to me, "what would you think about trying a safari in Africa?" Well, twist my arm!! Seems he was watching tv one night, and an American Express commercial came on, advertising rewards for members. Among them was an African safari. Well, no, we didn't get Amex to pay for it, but the commercial planted the seed :-). We put it on the list to research. As many of you know, we do plan our vacations well in advance, so no surprise there, right?

After some initial research, we found a common theme: EXPENSIVE!! We realized this was not something we could just decide to do on a whim, it would take alot of planning, researching the correct company, and a strict savings schedule. Once we decided on the company, Thompson Safaris, and the specific trip we wanted, we set a date of February 2008; 4 years to save the funds for this trip. And we did it!

I'm going to write about the details of the trip in the coming days to hopefully keep you more entertained than reading about cleaning my house :-), but wanted to write that this trip, as corny as it sounds, was a life-changing event for us. I could not imagine what an exciting, tremendous experience this was going to be. Something completely out of the realm of our ordinary lives. We have always taken very nice vacations since we've been married, and I've loved every one of them (well, the trip to Florida when Al ended up in the hospital with his afib wasn't so great), but nothing, not even Hawaii, could come remotely close to the exhilaration we felt on this trip. It took us almost 24 hours to get there, 36 hours travel home, and 10 days there, the entire time on safari in the wild. We went to 4 different areas while there, traveling in 12 passenger Cessna planes in between parks. We spent every single day in the jeeps, covering miles and miles of territory, seeing such an incredible variety of wildlife. I was exhausted when I got home, it took me days to recover. But I can't forget how GREAT it felt! Every single day we would wake up in our various tents, so completely enthusiastic about what we would do that day; we didn't know where we were going, or what we would see, but BOY, was it going to be cool! It had been a long, long time since I had felt so alive, so full of excitement about anything.

And I can honestly say, that this is what we think the direction our lives are about to take. The sheer joy of discovering what is around the next corner, the beauty of the country around us, the wildlife, and the great people from all corners of America. We are looking forward to the different jobs we will find, the people we will encounter. We hope in some small way, to help make things a little brighter in different places. Al has been doing good deeds through his work in the ambulance for the last 30 years, and I now hope to make a small mark in my own way as well. We look forward to the volunteer opportunities available in the National Parks and Wildlife Refuges. I hope you will enjoy my memories and photos of my African Safari in the days to come :-).
This was on the grasslands of the Serengeti, a very typical scene. Isn't it beautiful?

And this is my favorite boy that I saw the entire trip...isn't he just the most gorgeous cat you've ever seen? And yes, we were only about 10 feet away from him :-). In the jeep of course!

Take care, and I'll write soon!