Doctor, Doctor!

The failure of the Kickstarter campaign has hit me pretty hard. I had not anticipated failure.

I’ve been reading some quotes “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”~ Truman Capote.. I’m not so sure, but it helps.

My summary of failure.. There’s always something to be gained by failure.. in all cases, it has either made me smarter, tougher, or more willing to take another chance… 

Since that, I’ve made it to the other side and am looking forward to making a new push next year.. with new tools, new friends and more energy.

I’m not going to kill you with the emotional roller coaster this thing has been… I will tell you that all kinds of stuff is happening… along with the preparations for my solo trip.

I met a girl…. actually, I met a couple. One was fun but fizzled, the other and only one that I spend time with now was/is a totally unplanned surprise. I met her at a Jazz club in DC over a month ago.Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 10.48.29 AM

Cathy, who I met on Match.com invited me to the club… we had been there one time before. There weren’t any sparks, but she was strangely interesting and liked good food and music. She wondered if I would mind if she brought another friend from the dating site with her… I thought it sounded awkward, but in lieu of a better plan for the evening, I agreed to go.

I was late but the band hadn’t started playing yet. I found them at a tiny table near the stage. I smiled at Cathy, and turned to her friend…

I introduced myself but had to look away quickly.. I could feel my face flush. I was afraid to look at her… to make a scene of looking. Robin is handsomely beautiful, short salt and pepper hair… something strongly feminine about it though. She excused herself for a minute.

I leaned over the table and hissed.. “WHO the Hell is THAT??” Cathy laughs, shushes me and says she’ll talk about it after the show.

I spent the next hour and a half studiously avoiding Robins eyes.. actually, that general direction of the room. I knew trouble lurked there. I’d been looking for something casual and fun… not heart stopping desire. I could feel her smiling at me.

Show over, we exchange numbers and plan to meet the very next day. We all say goodnight.

Monday evening, we meet for a walk. Her house is large and airy and the estate has miles of walking paths carved through old second growth forest. It is elegant and comforting.

IMG_3198We stroll and talk. We don’t know a thing about each other and make the usual inquiries, politics, religion, smoking, hobbies, exercise. Polyamory… wait. Huh?

This tall, dignified, family doctor has multiple open relationships. It is her lifestyle… has been for over two decades.

I remember trying this out on a couple people I dated but there was something.. missing. It didn’t work. Actually, it was a disastrous jealousy fest that had at times made me fear for my personal safety.

Our conversation lasted hours through her collection of books, women, dogs, activity, and kindness.. I still struggle with details of her lifestyle.

I can’t imagine having the energy to bring meaning to more than one person.. To me, a relationship is more than sex and dinner and bank accounts. It is a pledge we make to each other.. and it is simple.. I’ll help you if you help me.. and it seems important in our “fend for yourself” culture… How many heart attacks and broken bones, birthdays, anniversarys, weddings, promotions and tears can one possibly be present for? How many lives can you hold in your hands.. your heart?

I feel like I have enough love for more, but not the time.. To be sure, I barely have the time for one.

So I ask myself questions..

Have I fallen into complacency with general acceptance of social norms? Is what is expected of us correct and healthy? How many other people engage in… and are happy with this lifestyle?.. What personality craves this behavior?

I wander to my own odd history, of why I do what I do. Why I’ve exempted myself from my culture, why I choose a nomadic life, why my address means little, because it changes from month to month.

I find myself lonely quite often… my mouth spends more time on the rim of a wine glass than touching a lovers lips… until now… Which is .. to be sure.. confusing and distracting… and delightful..

Instead of planning, I find myself searching for ways to build a stable life, to make a place for myself to meet friends and create community…

I scour the real estate pages late at night, usually after the second or third glass of Malbec.

But it is with the knowledge that I am leaving on my moto in just over a month that I feel this search is futile.

I know with each molecule in my bloodstream, I must explore, connect and record at least one extraordinary journey. I will find my tribe, the people that speak my language.. that of speed and wind and air and freedom. Those of us either running away or to. The ones that seek to wrestle fear and complacency, to replace rules and walls with wonder… experience. In a way, it is childish… In a way, I’m glad it is.

I hope she will still want to see me when I return… but I don’t hope in the way I did when I was 19. I hope in the way of a woman with 40 years of relationship wreckage.. of a woman that has grown too hard in a mans world, who has made a strange and interesting life for herself.. full with the knowledge of my tenuous hold on even that… but still, it is hope.

Ladyfriend

Genie is a new friend. A fabulous new friend. She rides the same kind of motorcycle I do, and rides the same way I do.

I love her face. It is thin and square and strong. Her eyes are a blazing blue, sometimes green blue.  She’s got a thousand watt smile, wild, shaggy blonde hair, sometimes there’s a shock of pink in the front.
I think when they were pouring souls into bodies, an angel got distracted and spilled an extra two into hers.

Like me, she’s led a couple lives… She’s bright and driven.
She’ s the life of the party.

I’m invited to cocktails with her friends… At Lola’s. They have great drinks and an open, breezy patio that used to have a clear view of downtown which is now being obstructed by an big boxy apartment  building across the street. There are sweaty men swinging around huge framed pieces of lumber and pounding them into place. I like to watch them and wonder what they do after work.

There are half a dozen gals. Cute. Smart. One of them is tall, fit, tousled curly, shoulder length hair. Very professional looking.

I only stop by for a minute. I didn’t really feel like coming out but I wanted to see Genie. I miss her.

She’s late, she shows up as I’m leaving. I smile and hug her goodbye.

I see the tall girl again in Moab a couple weeks later, and then one more time  at Genies birthday. We finally talk.

 She is an Architect. She’s a little bit shy.. and nervous.

We discover we both love bicycles though and plan a morning.. We ride the Lariat Loop. My favorite.. a forty five mile scenic roll through the front range of Colorado. Starting with a steep, twisty climb up Lookout Mountain. it’s the kind of ride that says.. I’m serious about riding, but I like more than just the challenge. After Lookout, you get to pedal through Bergen Park, Kittridge, Morrisson, and just before Golden, Red Rocks… If you haven’t been to Red Rocks for a workout or a concert, you’ve seriously missed on the Denver experience. It is a large, deep, natural, open amphitheater set high in the foothills of the front range of the Rockies. Its defining feature is the colossal bright red sandstone rock that forms an acoustically perfect bowl around the stage. From the top rows you can see the whole valley and even Denver is visible.. Even when the smog is thick, it never feels like you are close to a major city.

I want to BBQ.  I haven’t done one in awhile so I invite some friends. Genie, my new riding friend, Linda, and also Jeff and Barbi, my favorite neighbors.

Genie can’t make it but Linda can. I’m pretty excited to be grilling for friends.. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

Dinner is great, Grilled pork chops, homemade applesauce and roasted squash.. I grilled some small paddy pans and zucchini with oil, salt,  pepper, and a couple shakes of a fantastic Balsamic that I picked up in San Diego.

After dinner, Barb and Jeff thank me and say goodbye, but Linda stays to help me clean up.

She seems nervous and I quickly find out why. She’s on a mission. Her friends said she has to kiss me. It’s our third date… I didn’t know we were out on dates but here we were in the kitchen… looking funny at each other.

Ten minutes later, I tell her she had better go home.. we plan another date and say goodnight.

I’ve  forgotten how fun that is. It’s been missing in my camper life for a long time now. I’m super looking forward to our next date… However, I am already moderately suspicious that she may be too delicate a flower for my uhhhh.. type of soil.

Women With Wings

I haven’t been flying much and am starting to feel antsy. I was surfing online and visited Kari Castle’s page. http://karicastle.com/. She’s a hangliding world champion. She competed in the X-Alps.. I have three of these videos…. if I won the lottery, I would train full time for this adventure…

She’s been my hero for a couple years now. She is hosting an all women’s Paragliding trip in the Owens Valley… An epic venue that I’ve avoided due to the massive air that typifies the site. It’s in mid October, so the intense heat of the summer is gone, and along with that, the giant, ripper thermals that keep most of the beginner and casual pilots away. I book it.

Oct 17. I arrive in Reno. It’s almost too late to go anywhere. I thought I might stay at a hotel. I really want to curl up in a soft bed. My bones are tired. I have been up since 4AM for work.. I even went into the Atlantis casino. The front desk clerk told me he only had two rooms left. It would be $100.

I have only  four hours before I have to be on the road again, so this sounds like a pretty bad deal. I turn around and go back through the ringing, dinging, beeping, flashing, smoky casino. Relieved, I sit back in the rental and pull onto 395 south. I drive for about an hour on empty two lane highway before my eyes are too heavy to stay on the road. I pull into the post office parking lot in Gardnerville, Nevada. It is a strip mall. One seedy bar with a neon beer sign in the window looks open, but there are only a couple cars in front.

I pull out my sleeping bag. It’s in the low 40’s out. I push the seat back and flat, burrow under my fluffy down bag.. before my eyes are closed, I am gone.

I wake to my alarm three hours later. My eyes are gritty and puffy with sleep. I sit for a few minutes before I feel alert enough to roll back onto the highway. I wish I had a Starbucks right now…. I am supposed to be in Bishop, California at 8:30.

I drive through the night with only one more short nap. I am happy when I see the slight glow on the horizon.The Eastern Sierra is stunning. Every time I drive this corridor, I am shocked to tears by its raw beauty.. Especially the sunrises. they are a prayer…  a promise to me that no matter what we do, what wars we might wage, what ugliness happens in the world, the sun on this high, eternal range will always rise and bring the warmth of a fresh new day, a beautiful, serene beginning.     I am in love with this landscape.

I am peaceful as I roll into town and make my last few preparations. I have to get coffee. This is first order of business. Next, batteries, water, toothbrush, snacks for the day, try to find a SPOT locator.. No way.. Not at 8am in a small town. It will have to go on my list of wants…

Find our meeting spot in the city park. Unload glider and kit bag.

The first of the girls shows up.. There are two of them. They are a little older than me.. And brushing their teeth in the parking lot. I am comfortable with  them immediately.

The rest arrive in twos and threes. Kari Castle is late. Some of the girls know her. She’s always late… For some sick reason, this makes me happy. Maybe I’m glad she’s not a whip cracking taskmaster. I don’t really know..

Kari is a big personality. And she’s tall. And blonde. And tan. She’s clearly an outdoorswoman. She has a huge smile. I like her immediately.

As our female crowd gathers, we introduce ourselves. Many of these pilots are relatively new.. Which surprises me.. This is the Owens.. Even in light conditions, I’ve heard this valley can crank off some serious rippers.

Kari is giving pointers on cross country flying, what we are generally doing here and makes us pick a buddy… Mostly so someone doesn’t get left in a crapper somewhere (has happened).

I pick Patricia. She is self deprecating about her ability, but I feel a calm confidence about her. I suspect she is far better than she reports she is. This is the perfect pilot to me… Always striving to be better, listening, watching, and never pretending (or trying) to be a superstar.

We head up the hill (Flynns) right away and launch. Our first flight is little better than a sled ride. Only about twenty or thirty minutes. I watch Patricia fly. She’s good. She can find and ride a thermal. She stays up a little while in the light condition.

Our next flight is great. There is some very nice lifting air. It’s a little punchier, but it’s desert flying. I feel good and am staying up for as long as I like..

We all soar about a thousand feet above launch, one girl goes a bit higher.

She’s tiny, she’s a leaf in the air…. And she’s a good pilot.

I am so comfortable with this group that it doesn’t dawn on me until later that this is more women pilots in one place than I have ever flown with… In total. Maybe six or seven others. And I can name them all. Except for the Norwegian in Brazil. I forget her name, but not her face.

There are fewer lesbians in this group than I would have thought.  Only three others that are out. Two of them are happily married. I had wondered how many there would be prior to coming here. Nobody cares. It’s not special, not even an item for discussion.

I love that. I can focus on flying.. and meeting these brilliant personalities.

The third day, we drive up to a very high launch. It is at eight thousand feet. It’s name is Paiute. It is a gorgeous drive up. Myself and one other girl want to hike for a while. We jump out of the truck about a thousand feet below launch and hike straight up the mountain. I can tell the air is thin as soon as I take my first steps. It’s a fun scramble up the sharp slippery shale.. a little more work navigating around the smallish scree fields My ankle gets whacked a couple times (I’ve got my tennies on) and I get to meet Julie as we crank up the hill.

I didn’t admit that I had just been working in Denver, I was already acclimated to the higher altitude. She had just rolled in from Washington state and was working much harder than me.

We make it to the top just in time for the site checkout. Kari reminds us of the sink in canyons, the venturi and of being careful not to land in the rotor behind any peak.

We want to let the less experienced pilots launch in the early light conditions. Three pilots launch and land. The fourth is struggling with her launch. She is all heart, but clearly hasn’t practiced her kiting skills. Forty minutes and several launch attempts pass when I spy a hawk circling lazily over a nearby knob

An unknown force controls my mouth and I hear myself say I’m going to launch. I butt in front of the hapless pilot and spread my wing out. My radio check is bad. I landed a little violently in a bush yesterday at a ridge we visited which yanked the mic cord  out of it’s plug in connection.  

I was able to hear talking though, so took the launch anyway.

I waited a minute for a cycle to come up the hill. I see the flags flutter, I feel the wind on my cheek. I lean back into my harness. I feel the pull of my risers. The wing flies above my head. I check it’s surge, turn and RUN. The air is thin. I have to put some energy into this launch.

It’s a perfect takeoff. I steer to the place I saw the bird soaring… I find the thermal she was using. I crank around to the right. I’m going up! I’m almost immediately above launch. I’m so happy, focused and am hoping my new friend will launch right after me.

Three others launch, but it’s not the blue green and white wing I was hoping to see. None of the three gets as high as me… I am enjoying my flight in this desert wonderland and try to find a bigger thermal but they are small and broken in front of the mountain. I decide not to try to push out cross county. I land safely in the Landing zone. My hiking friend was there too. I love her enthusiasm for free flight. She’s all smiles and energy.

There is a support truck to greet us, and someone has had the good sense to pack a few Negro Modelos. It was a fantastic way to wrap up a flying weekend. The weather for the following day is unfavorable and I’m planning my return already.

I say some goodbyes on the ride back to camp, but right before I go, Patricia and Kari ask me to join them for one last flight in the morning. I can’t resist these two and agree.

Patricia and I wake up early and snap some amazing pictures of the desert sunrise. It is the perfect morning.

We enjoy coffee and breakfast from the Great Basin Bakery.. And of course, Schats (Bishop’s legendary  lunch spot and bakery) Soon, we are meeting the group and riding up the bumpy mountain trail.

 

 

 

I have some serious concern for the weather. I make a decision not to fly. I would watch the others. There are lenticular clouds in the valley and over some of the ridges. This is a bad sign. High winds aloft. I don’t need to check the weather report to know this.

The newer pilots are going to launch. They are to get the first sled ride down before the weather turns…. It is blowing over Mammoth lakes. Supposed to snow tomorrow.

The same girl with the tough launch the day before sets up her wing.

She has a couple attempts and on the third one, gets airborne but doesn’t control the glider off launch. She whacks into the sharp shale on the left side of the canyon and seconds later again  into the right. Finally, she’s airborne. She makes some giant, lazy turns. Finally, with some coaching, ten minutes later, she makes it to the landing zone.

She reports a nasty scratch and then admits her leg may be broken..

One other pilot launches and meets our injured girl on the ground. Conditions are poor at best and I ride the truck down the hill.

When I arrive, she is in good spirits but her leg looks horrible, its badly scratched and is swelling quickly. I decide to splint and transport. The hospital is pretty close.

We carry her a few hundred feet to the waiting truck and haul her off to the hospital..

I have to drive back to Reno to catch my flight. Now. Or I will be late. I hug the few other people at the emergency room and smile goodbye. I don’t have time for much more.

On the way back to Reno, I get a text. No broken bones.
Thank goodness for an easy lesson on this last day. I am peaceful again, my soul is full, I am ready to tackle anything.

Down the road

 

I’m at the club. It’s the big lesbian night  hosted once a month at Traxx in Denver. My friends have just left and I’m holding a spot just off the dance floor where I can see the fun, young Go-Go dancers and do some serious people watching…  It’s crowded. Everyone has to bump and brush against you as they move around the club. There’s a few very attractive women.. One in particular.. Trim, tall, straight white teeth, long, thick, curly black hair halfway down her back.. She passes me and comes back.. Says “Wow! You’re hot!”

and she wants my number.    But I’m on my way out. I can’t find paper. The bar napkins are black. I fish out a five dollar bill I had in my pocket and scribble my number on it. Before I give it to her, I have a few questions.. One of them.. “What do you like to do for fun?”

Her: “Uhhhh… Hike?”

Uh oh…. Strike one.  Maybe she’s just shy.

She texts me a couple times and we meet for Sushi downtown.

She looks delicious when I see her waiting outside the restaurant. She’s wearing tight jeans, she’s tall in her high heels and a tight fitting vest with collared blouse. Long sleeves. The weather is pleasant.. Low 70’s… the windows are rolled down in my enormous white diesel truck.  I wave and smile as I rumble by her. I have to find parking for this beast somewhere.. and I’m starving.

We sit at the bar, she tells me she likes tuna and California rolls… And that I should order.

The sushi chef sets down our fabulously prepared plates over the counter.. I am already suspicious that she’s never had sushi before… We are having painful small talk and not really connecting, but she is touching my leg quite a lot. I can see she is very attractive, but somehow I’m not feeling anything exciting.. As well, I can see her eyes scanning the table… Futilely, I think, for a fork.
I’ve ordered enough food for two people, but she only takes tiny bites of each item. She says she doesn’t eat much… I believe her because she’s not very big… also, I know she’s in a jam.

I have a mean streak.

She’s still telling me she likes tuna, so I think… We’re on a date, right?

It is on the outside edge of appropriateness, given she’s been touching my leg and thigh so much, I decide its ok to feed her a piece of fish.

I chopstick up a beautiful piece of carefully prepared maguro tuna and put it in her very hesitant mouth..

I pick up another piece for myself and pop it in.. As I savor my slice, I watch her face go from apprehension to dismay.. As she forces herself to chew and swallow the tuna she has professed to like…

“Delicious…no?” I cruelly ask…. smiling.

“n-no.. no. I um.. don’t think so.” with a small, but vigorous shake of her head.

Strike two.

I am curious about this gal… She still wants to hang out with me… Why?

We make another attempt. We will ride my motorcycle together at gay pride. Dykes on bikes.. Right before the event, my friend texts me.

“Is her name—— ?”

Yes, I say.

“Well, so far, all her ex-girlfriends have restraining orders on her… And another lost her job because of her. I’d be careful.”

Strike three. She’s a tornado.  I know if there is that much rubble behind someone, it’s not going to be any better because of me.

I actually feel a little shitty now, but I have to bail out on our next date.. I’ve been in the tornado before.. I can’t do this to myself again…. Not even if it’s exciting. Not even if I might be making a mistake.

I shut her down.

She’s hurt, I’m free, and my life gets down the road. Literally.

I’m heading to Omaha, Nebraska now. I’m in my RV. It’s a giant toyhauler. I load up my motorcycle and the rest of my life. I don’t go quickly in it… I had a tire blowout in Nevada a couple weeks ago, I think the other ones are ready to go… I haven’t protected them from the sun like I should.

The only vehicle I pass in nine hours of driving is an ancient blue and rust Toyota pickup precariously overfilled with a giant pile of hay…spitting and  blowing straws along the highway. Two Mexican cowboys at the helm, plodding stoically down interstate 80.

Flying here is completely out of the question. It’s flat. No tows, no mountains, not even a decent hill to be seen… This cannot be my home.

I am here because I’m starting a new career that allows me to continue to work in my field while taking better care of my body and having some financial security… I will be better able to manage my retirement plans. I am on the safety/ regulatory side of the house now. As well, it is my understanding that the ability to take time off is generous.

I have to dig out some clothes from the camper that may be suitable to wear in an office.

It’s more like an exploratory excavation.

Dang

Dang.

So, there were a couple burps and blunders that in no way diminished the awesomeness of my trip but I thought would be worth reporting because on screen,  it seems relatively blunder-free aside from the wreck..

I left my credit card in Chile… In the airport. I was on the way to Rio and that was how I was supposed to pay for my hotel. I called my bank and they sent me a card. Three days it took. and $8.  Not too bad, considering.

The awesome bicycle I bought in Colombia only lasted a week and a half.. I made the mistake of leaving it locked up outside one night..  It was gone when I went for it in the morning… I had been warned.

All but one of the pants I brought on my trip was ripped, horribly stained or missing. You must inventory all laundry. Every time. You must be proactive about getting it back. And returning all things that do not belong to you.

I’m struggling. My flying vacation is over. I am in Costa Rica “relaxing” but I’m not very good at that. I am anxious to get back and find work.
Also, I am sorting out my love life. Which is to say, a bit confusing right now…

I’ve spent almost three years chasing around the same woman. She’s a short, chapstik femme, super buff firecracker with an appetite for the ocean, exercise, and travel.  We both live for fresh air and laughter. I love her family.

She is more of a people person, I’m a little more reserved initially. That’s the short story.

We met up here in Costa Rica.. I’m a puppy when I see her. I love the way she looks in her sporty little getups. She’s got laugh lines and freckles on her face.. And loves to point out anything she sees beautiful… Or funny. I love that she thinks it’s fair game to stop any conversation to show each other a strange looking bird, cloud, tree or piece of shell…. anything, really. She’s an elite athlete… And a scary good skier.
It makes her crazy if she can’t get up in the morning and go outside right away… Even better if she can sleep with a cool breeze. We both wake up early.. We  like our coffee dark and strong.. But lighten each cup of rocket fuel with a splash of cream and swirl in some sweet… Just to make it friendly.

We talk pretty often. She told me she was coming to Costa Rica and asked that I join her.  Really, I had planned to go to Peru instead. I had already purchased the ticket there. I was asking if some friends would like to go with me and my new friend Paul rogered up for nine days.

At that moment, I felt responsible for someone other than myself, so I checked out what I was planning and discovered that I had purchased tickets for the rainy season… The trail to Maccu Pichu wasn’t even going to be open. Flying is no good in the rain and I felt an emergency push to make a better decision.. Switched flight to Costa Rica and told  Paul about the plan change.  We would meet in Playa Hermosa and all three of us split lodging.
I spent my first week in Jaco. Alone. It was very nice, actually. I met some personalities.. My favorite… Celine. She has a charming French accent (shes very French) with an adequate but not firm command of English. Which makes everything she says either more interesting or just funny. She was the person who convinced us to go to Manuel Antonio… Because the “slowth” was there. I would have been mildly interested in the sloth, but for whatever reason, I wanted desperately to see the “slowth”… and then tell her about it.
Paul and I went… If you haven’t already seen the video on my FB page, this is a great time to watch this crazy booger in close up action. He comes down once a week from the canopy to poop…

Paul and I pick her up at the Liberia airport after her week in Tamarindo at surf camp. I love to see her. She brightens my day, but this time when I saw her standing outside the sliding glass doors playing her ukelele, there was a semi-sweet sadness too.
We drove down skinny, bumpy roads, made a wrong turn and went in the back entrance to the resort hotel she had booked for us. We laughed when we were scolded about going into the poorly marked entrance and again when we found that this was more of a retirement community than a vacation casita. No matter, it was close to a fun time, was clean, well staffed and we were going to be diving during the day anyhow.

Paul got in four dives and proved to be a superior beginning diver. (he got certified for this trip back in December)
I was surprised at his natural ability and grace in the water.. I am curious if he will pursue this sport.
She was equally as quick and adept in the water.. I hope she gets to continue her diving hobby in some other tropical paradise. While we had fun, Costa  Rica is not known for it’s amazing dives.

We returned home early in the eves to listen to music and unwind at the casa, watched episodes of “Little Britan” and get ready for our next days adventures. Vicki Pollard in the boot camp scene.. Or the hospital.. Not sure which one is worse for a broken rib.. They are both worth at least a dozen views. We  kept the neighbors up laughing our asses off.

We heaped Paul onto a bus in Puntarenas rather than spending the four or more hours traveling to the San Jose airport. This may have been the biggest adventure of the trip. It was with much difficulty that we found the right place to board the correct bus… and then the ferry for our small econo-car.

Mal Pais:
We arrived and got the tour of our new living arrangements… Wendy had booked them with solely herself in mind and reasoned she would tough out any circumstance because she would be surfing her buns off during the day and sleeping like a rock at night… She’s a tough bird..
Community kitchen ground floor. Refrigerator is locked at dusk. Bathrooms, restaurant and showers ground floor. Our room and yoga studio on the second floor. No AC.  It is blazing hot. and humid. The air is still.
We are, however, quite relieved that our accommodations are set back from the horribly dusty dirt street.. Many people wear masks or scarves when they walk or ride down it. The dust has settled on everything within fifty or more feet of it’s edge.
Some of the shops and restaurants spray molasses on to the street. It’s very cheap here because of all the sugar cane production. It works well to keep the dust down, but surprised us when we first smelled it.
The waves and beaches are beautiful…palm trees and monkeys everywhere. A surfers paradise.. Locals and ex-pats that came down for vacation and never left are working many of the restaurants and shops. I love meeting these travelers.. The people that have checked out of the race… or are running. or are just wandering. They have fabulous stories. If you met five of them in one night you could write a book.

I didn’t see many sedans in Mal Pais. It is a much better idea to have a four wheel drive.. If you can afford it. My little car did the job but with a little less driving experience, it would have been easy to wind up high centered or stuck in a bad piece of road…not bragging, just saying, you might consider something a little more robust…
Which is why I believe it is such a nice area to still visit. I’d recommend coming here now before the road is paved and it becomes saturated with touristas, and big hotels..

We boogie boarded, walked, drove around, found shells, surfed…
I got a nasty gash on some rocks when we weren’t paying attention to our drift in the surf.. It wasn’t bad, but the foot with a slice on the bottom did need to stay out of the sand a while.

We left a day ahead because of the heat.. and no AC. Went to check the ferry schedule online but the Internet was out, so we asked our host. Three O’clock the ferry leaves for Puntarenas she says. That last one is at five but I don’t want to try to look for a hotel in the dark.. I would have made reservations… but the Internet… We stopped on the way to the ferry in Montezuma and hiked to some waterfalls where she  took a refreshing dip and then to a delightful lunch at a small Soda.. (that’s what they call the  local restaurants)
We had casada…rice and beans with fish… I had with chicken and a beer.
We arrived early at the ferry… But alas, it had already departed at two o’clock.  We could see it sailing away.
There was another one that left at three from a terminal north of us.. I thought we could make it.. If we hurried and left immediately, But I had underestimated the time it would take to get there on the little  unpaved road.

A couple miles in of chunky, choppy, dusty, rocky dirt, we bagged the idea in favor of an easy afternoon at our original ferry. She played her ukelele and I drank a beer. A local Costa Rican sat beside us and enjoyed her playing. He said it was joyous and peaceful.

We chatted with the Costa Rican guy for most of the trip. He tells us… Like everyone else does,  beware. Watch your bag, pockets and don’t go anywhere alone in the dark by yourself. Don’t carry more than you need, and don’t be out after nine at night on side streets. It was dark when we rolled off. The nearest town I knew anything about was Jaco… An hour from the ferry. I figure we could roll in and try to get a room at the great place I stayed before.

This plan works fantastically and we are delighted to be settled into a safe, friendly haven on the outside edge of the busy surf city. We share cocktails and dinner at a quiet, salty beach bar I know. It is outside, you can see the waves, white foam and palm trees in the dark.
We finished a fantastic dinner of giant fresh fish tacos and meet an American fellow that shares a  story about the volunteer work he does with the local transvestite/transgender HIV+ clinic and the football games they play in lovely white dresses and sun hats.. Apparently, when the football comes out, boys will be boys no matter what kind of accessories, high heels or hairstyle they may choose. Game on!

At breakfast the next day in Jaco, it became more and more clear to me that the dynamic of our old/new relationship was out of whack.
Maybe it was me. Maybe we’re just not right for each other.
This I know….It was our last chance. We parted that morning with an honest promise that we would be friends.
I feel like someone has simultaneously kicked me in the guts and took a backpack of stones from me.. I am floating neutrally in the hum of tires on smooth pavement and warm wind buffeting me with half open windows for three hours through tropical paradise to San Jose.

Costa Rica

The hot grill girl wrote me back. Like, a week ago. I would have written a reply right away, but she addressed the letter, “Hola linda ” so,  I had a melt down and couldn’t think of what to say next… No one has called me “linda” in many years. I really don’t even care if she’s just being nice… It’s nice to hear.
I finally replied tonight.  It sounded really sophomoric. 

 San Jose has a big city feel. It was very crowded, noisy.. Not that fun or friendly….I keep comparing every city to Medellin…  

I spent an extra night at the B&B catching up on sleep, planning the next week in Costa rica, writing e-mails and paying bills. 
I was online trying to find out where there might be some flying in Costa Rica, I found a spot near Puntarenas. It’s a ridge called Caldera. I will try to head that way and find more information about it. There is a paragliding B&B there, it seems to be reasonably priced.

On the bus to Puntarenas, I realized I had no idea where Grandpa Ninjas was. Usually, I have good forethought as to where I might be heading but on this occasion, I completely forgot to take a screen shot or write down an address..
The gal next to me on the bus is my age, attractive and conservatively dressed. She’s very busy texting on her phone and I think she might be local. 
Twenty minutes pass, and I’m trying to think of how I’m going to find this place… and I thought I better break the ice with my neighbor to see if she might know something….
She speaks perfect English and is delightful to talk to. I show her some paragliging video which she’s crazy about and she tells me she’s a diver.. She tells me some good spots here.  She is a native, met her American husband ten years ago on Match.com and now lives in Austin, Texas. She’s here in Costa Rica for two months visiting relatives and doing tourist things with her husband. This is her first time on the bus… She feels uncomfortable riding it… she is worried for her safety.

She asks where I am going and I have to admit my little problem.
Graciously, she calls her friend, has them look up Grandpa Ninjas on the computer, gets a number, calls and arranges for me to be picked up at the bus station…. I am to be retrieved in a white Toyota Yaris driven by a long haired lady. 

She gave me her phone number… She told me to call if I need anything else… Or if I just want to hang out. We might be in Montezuma at the same time… I’d love to meet her family.

Kathy is late. Almost forty-five minutes.. but when she gets out of the car, I forget how blazing hot it is outside because she has a knockout figure… Her legs are exquisite.. She’s got a tiny pair of white shorts, high sandals, tight top and dyed blonde long curly hair. Sassy, big stylish sunglasses. She looks crisp and fresh, like she has just walked out of a magazine ad. She walks like she’s on a runway…. 
She opens the trunk, smiles.. big, sparkling smile.. “sorry I’m late.” 

We drive around, can’t find the guys we’re supposed to hook up with. It doesn’t really matter. She’s refreshing to spend time with…  we stop for ceviche and cerveza. I find out she is raising four children by herself. She’s my age and single. 
We finally make it back to the house. It is a giant house on a hill with a beautiful, if small pool. Deep though. It was designed so that you can jump off the second story balcony into the cool,  crystal water! 

I discover a few things. First, that I have to purchase a tour to go flying. It is normally $120/day. The ridge I so wanted to soar is not open to the public during the week, but for $60 US, I can enjoy a weekday flight there.
Second, that my hostel is in Jaco…. An hour away.. not Puntarenas. I am dismayed by my mistake, but Kathy tells me that I scored. She loves Jaco. I can’t stop looking at her legs.

I didn’t want to pay for a tour. I’m all toured out. I just want to fly an easy site.. Let my feet leave the Earth and fly like a bird for a couple hours… But this does not seem possible here with the information I’ve been given. I’m a little grumpy until I learn that there is a site right in Jaco. The cab ride there is exactly $60. The wheels make a couple turns and I throw out the idea… I’ll pay $60 for a flight at Jaco… And a ride to my new hostel.

The deal is made and we drive out to the site. It’s a little windy and the thermals are getting blown apart but there is still plenty of lifting air. I fly only for about fifteen minutes, have a great time and  a tippy-toe landing. Banner. Also, as it turns out, the two handsome, huggy Fenchmen that were staying at the house are also here flying…well only one is flying it’s a little too rowdy for the other guy.
I love them. they are hilariously irreverent about everything. And nice.

 We joined forces and had lunch in Jaco…. a busy, small surfing town, lots of little local and boutique restaurants, with a giant beach and good waves. 

First Flight, GV.

I’m in Governador Valadares, Brasil, staying at Hotel Everest in the center of town. It’s only a couple blocks from the LZ. $25/night.

Today we’re going to fly. I’m still a little nervous about going up. Although, we’re going to fly safely and sanely, and I am going to put a lot of effort into a safe launch and landing. I slept well last night and didn’t have too many cocktails at the bar. 

 Stay out of power lines. Stay out of the water. Stay away from the rock. There are good, large LZ’s everywhere. It’s just staying out of the bad ones that is important. And not crashing in the good ones.

GV is small. It is dominated by the giant rock face that is launch for the crowd of paraglider and hang glider pilots that make their way to this haven of XC flight. I am the only female pilot that I have seen here yet. 
There are few Americans. 

I’ve noticed a couple of things about here. The two biggest to me are, firstly, the way these women dress up for everyday is amazing.. Heels, tight pants, make up, hair did.
Secondly, I haven’t seen a dog on a leash yet…. Plenty of dogs..There’s a few other things, but I’ll get to them later.

The thing that is trying to dominate me right now, is fear. I’m uncomfortable about getting in the air again after my wreck.  I have to try all the little tricks I’ve learned over the years. I struggle to keep the negative thoughts from happening..  I buy some gum… stick two pieces in my mouth…. chew it up for a while. It seems to quiet the racket in my head. I set up my equipment robot like. Open bag. Remove flight deck, remove folded wing. Turn harness around. Each step is manifesting in my brain like an itemized list. I focus on each one. Task complete. I check each line. I check and recheck that I am clipped in properly. Helmet. Radio. I’m ready to launch. we wait. It seems like forever but the right moment never really arrives. Finally, rain on the horizon headed our way is the catalyst that gets us moving. We decide to launch before we get trapped at the top.

It’s light wind getting off the mountain but, that’s what I’m good at. So I take off. The air is a little chunky but has some nice lift and I finally get a piece going up….  Fast. This is probably not the best idea because the rain clouds are getting much closer. 

It’s fine though, I find an area of sink and spiral down through it. I’m still comfortably high so it’s time to get ready for my approach, but find a great deal of sinking air. I have to cross the Rio Doce.. a giant surging river swollen and muddy from recent floods.  I’m worried I might not make landing. 

The setup is a little different, I had to come in from the opposite end of the LZ. Kevin is on the radio and really paying attention to me, coaching the landing. I’m scared. More nervous than I have ever been flying before. I hate feeling like this. Too much adrenaline…makes it hard to think clearly.
He guides me in and I plant it perfectly, next to the road. First landing, out of the way.

We celebrate with some beers and food.

GV has sushi. A whole bunch of it, actually. It’s not bad. Not too creative or too many choices, but it really satisfies the craving. 

I love the meat on a skewer, even at the buffet, you can get seasoned, juicy grilled meats by the pound hot off the coals. The locals’ favorite are chicken hearts. The beef and pork are also delicious. The most common  (and least expensive) thing to eat here are the stuffed pastries. Fried or baked then stuffed with meat or cheese generally. Street vendors are really different here. I have seen mostly fruit carts…. 
The one that I think is really fun is the potato chip cart. In the evenings, they wheel a cart with a glass box top around and serve bags of peanuts, hot potato chips or popcorn. It comes in a small white paper sack.. about the size of a “medium” McDonalds French fry box. you can get butter, salt, cheese or spicy on either. It costs about fifty cents.

The only tourist trade here comes from paragliding.. and only for a few months a year. 

 The women outnumber the men by about  twenty to one. Perhaps this is the reason why Brazil seems to have the largest concentration of beautiful women per capita… they are everywhere.
The female police officers are all stunning. Every last one. Beauty must be an unwaiverable qualification for entering the academy. I will be recovering from whiplash when I return.

GV has a gay bar.
The women are mostly single, the men are not generally inclined to stay with any one woman… That doesn’t explain the gay male population though. The ratio here is a whopping estimated thirty percent. It is widely accepted. 
The bar is five blocks from my hotel.

There is so much to tell about this culture and tiny town, I will have to tell you more later. I’m going to check out the gay bar in the next couple of days.

Motorbike

TUESDAY
I switched hostel for hotel.. The Shamrock. I’m not sure what the difference is.. It’s a bit less money at the hotel. The maids son helped move my heavy bags over here.. my broken rib can’t handle the weight yet.  I took one of the two rooms upstairs. Yep, the same pub as the hot grill girl. 
 Her name is Laura.
 I share a bathroom. The room is painted brightly and is covered with motorcycle posters.. Brit bikes, Triumphs! It has a great view of the mountains, reading lamp and incandescent bulbs.
No one asks for a deposit, no credit card, no name. Just get the keys and pay when you want. I’m sure this will change with time, but right now, it feels like a little island of trust.

They cater specifically to traveling motorcyclists.. I love to sit outside and 
hear the stories of these adventurers passing through. So far, I have met a dozen people that are on long distance South American motorcycle rides. One gorgeous, tall, German looking blonde, forty something with a loose French braid, US expat now living in Australia has been riding all over the world.. On a KTM 690R… Japan, Europe, Siberia, Alaska, now South America.. for twenty months now. She’s not sure if and when she’ll be done. She’s straight.

I thought she was gone this morning but I just ran into her in the hallway.. She’s having some work done on her bike… It could take a couple days. Or a week. or more… It’s still Colombian time. Even if it is a big motorcycle dealership in a metropolitan city.

Here’s her blog… I think she’s a little behind, but I’m going to keep an eye on it when she catches up!  sherrijobecauseicanworldtour.blogspot.com I’m a little jealous that I can’t ride with her for a while. The other guys have blogs too.. And post a bit on ADV (Adventure Riders)
They are all engaging..  I love their perspective, their relaxed, nomadic ways, they have a million stories.. Border crossings, small towns, locals, customs, they are information sponges. They are able and bright, all incredibly self sufficient.. But will accept the help from a friend or friendly local anytime they need it.. I feel kindred amongst this crew.

One of my favorite stories  was from an Irish guy who worked in Washington DC.. He wasn’t entirely satisfied with his job but didn’t know what else to do. One day, online he read a story about a couple that were riding around the world on their motorcycles.. It was an epiphany for him and although he had never ridden before and had no money to leave town with, he  made up his mind that he would do this too. A couple years later, January, 27, he is in Medellin, Colombia.. He’s been riding since last June.
A ginger gal about sixty years old from Scotland is here at ten months of a year long trip. She had a nasty wreck a week ago on her Harley. (totally stopped in traffic, a bus ran over her… and then backed up over her again!) her ankle is broken in two places and wrist..on the same side. She’s going to be laid up for a while recovering. She’s a tough bird, she’s been out here for two days with her busted foot up on the patio drinking beers, chain smoking cigarettes,  telling stories, cussing and laughing. She’ll be fine.

 The street vendors here in the Zona sell mostly fruit.  My favorite of these are Mangosteins. They are perfectly ripe and lovely to look at. They are the same size as a large plum,  same patina as a well loved, deep purple-red antique leather chair.. and have a cartoon-ish clump of bright green stem and little round leaves on the top. I have to be so careful when I buy these to only get a small bag because I always eat the whole thing. I love digging in to the super thick skin and pulling the fruit apart… There is a juicy, sweet, tropical  prize inside of each one!

THURSDAY
I went to the Museum Antioqua today. I took a cab there. It is in downtown Medellin. They have a huge Botero exhibit.. Nearly a whole floor. He is from here in Medellin.. They are quite proud of this and so is he.. The large bustling courtyard in front of the Museum is filled with his giant 10-15’+ Bronze statues.. All figures. Except for a horse. and a disembodied hand. Nearly all nude. They have a generally brown patina.. Except for the boobs, butts and peckers.. Which have nearly all (the ones you can get a hand or two on) been rubbed a shiny bronze. 

I take the train down a little way to the Botanic gardens.. A very nice reprieve from  crowded downtown… As well, they have a modern, cleanly designed, breezy, white tablecloth restaurant and wine bar that I am hoping to try. I buy an ice cream and walk around the quiet gardens for a bit. 

I finish my cone and  I’m feeling lazy, so I pull up a piece of grass to lie down. 

I watch four vultures circling. The clouds are sucking up enormous amounts of moisture and building into towering cumulus nimbus.. There are smaller clouds at the edges.. the wispy kind that are great to fly directly under because they draw you right up.. but not violently like the billowing giants behind them. There’s a lot of blue sky over the valley.  “Big blue holes” we like to say.. Hard to find lift there. It would be a fine day to swoop around the edges of the mountains.
 In a way, I was hoping that after the wreck, my desire to fly would be less. There is so much to do here.  Museums, stores, dancing, history, people, mini adventures everywhere….  I still want to fly.

SATURDAY
I’m on a bus riding back to Cali to catch my plane to Rio. I got Laura’s e-mail. I had a short afternoon to talk with her before it got busy at the bar.  I would love to stay in contact with this super sweet gal.. She’s bright, wants to be a chef.                                       She’s adorable, kind to everyone, never has a cross word.. Even when there are orders piled up like a load of laundry and her little wood grill is at max capacity… She’s still smiling. 

Girl

I had a beer last night at the Irish pub. It is an all girl staff. 
One gal spoke perfect English. She lived in South Carolina for 11 years.. I’ve been trying to ask her more questions, but she’s super busy. 
I noticed another girl…working the grill. I didn’t get a chance to see her very well, she was busy too… But she looked very nice from behind.
Today, I went back. Cliff (Texan staying at the hostel) told me they had great burgers… You know how I can’t resist a great burger tryout…

I return to the Irish bar and park myself in front of the grill girl. She has no choice.
“Hola!”
“Hola!”

She says something else, but I no comprende when she talk mas rapido.
 I think she has asked me if I want something to drink.
I get a bottle of water.
Then she says something else… I ask for a hamburguesa. This is where the real trouble happens.. She’s got a great smile and suddenly all my bad Spanish completely leaves me. I remember NO Spanish words at all. She’s smiling at me and trying to ask me what kind of burger… I have no idea, but I do notice the slight lesbian slouch, swagger, t-shirt, the exceptional figure and super short fingernails… Very untypical Colombiana. 

She’s gay.
Definitely….. Almost definitely. 

She calls over her friend at the bar to translate. I want the Murphy burger.

She’s cute and gay. She disappears. Do I run around and try to find her? What would I do anyway, grunt and smile?

I eat my burger. 

She comes back to put something in the fridge… But her very svelte, femme coworker comes in right behind her and slides her hand around her hips for a brief moment. They start singing together….

She’s gay, and has a hot girlfriend?

Hmmmm.

I pay for my dinner and walk out into the rain.

Cool Whip

I have now written no less than three or four pieces about this neighbor. She is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons. I at first thought because of her novel hobby and her patent frankness about it… However seemingly inappropriate it might be….but it’s definitely more than that.  

What I  started to write about is the hilarity I find in her social brazenness, her complete naiveté of propriety around sex and discussions of the same, and the encyclopedic wealth of insight I am gaining into the Kink community. But I’m not just learning about her…. She’s also been teaching (inadvertently) me about my failings and preferences…. Why I am attracted to certain people and why certain relationships have crumbled for me…what I should be paying more attention to in a prospective partner but most of all, the value in finding commonality with someone who is so beyond my own scope of experience.

The reason I have not wanted to publish the other pieces is that while I find the story hysterical, She has become dear to me and I am afraid of making her appear as more of a colorful fiction than a whole person. 

Having said that, I can’t wait to tell you that I am learning how to use a whip! A four foot, intricately hand crafted, single-tail bull whip. This has been something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember (well, since Indiana Jones) … And my fortune in meeting someone who just so happened to have a couple lying around is barely short of miraculous! I’m practicing every day and am getting pretty good at overhand whipping and whipping from the side. What is tragic, is that now that I’ve met this exciting gal, I won’t be here long enough to learn how to crack a whip in a figure eight pattern or from a big overhead circle or learn to spin fire. (she’s super good at that too).  

This is what else we’ve been up to.
I love personality profiling. I am very interested in the dynamics of different types and how they work together. I have a friend that does this for a living and she’s been fielding a raft of phone calls from me for several days now.

It’s been a long time.. Probably since I was a kid that I met someone that was as mesmerizing to me as Elisabeth…  I was curious why, so compared our Emergenetics profiles. Question answered. Our thinking styles are nearly identical but our behavior is complimentary… As well, she is the Meyers Briggs profile that I am routinely drawn to. 

I don’t know if you find this as fabulous as I do, but if you are ever around and have a burning desire to chat it up about profiles, I’m in!

None of this has a bit to do with paragliding.. Actually I had meant to tell you about getting my Brazil visa and tomorrow being my last day at work, but I haven’t been flying at all and I got totally sidetracked somehow…