Salt Lake City

I have returned from my big adventure and gotten on with a company I have wanted to work with for a long time… They have a fabulous name in the industry. Rare.

Today, we are just outside of Salt Lake City. We are privileged to be working every day inside a windswept, high desert valley. The floor of the valley is perfectly flat, it is covered with sagebrush and grease wood. The rest of the vegetation aside from the dirt are short, dry grasses that are crushed instantly dead when you roll over them with any kind of tire. It creates quick dusty roads in this fragile ecology. The desert floor is wide. About two miles in between two short mountain ranges that still have a dusting of snow on their jagged shoulders. Only one narrow, gravelly road cuts through the midline of this sweeping blue and brown vista. It belongs to the BLM.

Just out of sight is a plant that is recycling and disposing of radioactive materials.. I originally thought it was a Dump with it’s open dirt hill covered with brightly colored mystery bits but only recently discovered that it is likely the outer garments of low level nuclear waste workers and other articles that are swimming through the dirt mound. Several miles another direction is Dugway. The nations premier military chemical, and biological weapons testing and training site.
The winds are very strong here occasionally. They often cause brownouts from the dirt and dust swirling around everything making it difficult to breathe and see, even with our protective sunglasses.

The crew is fabulous. One of the very best. They come from everywhere… Ex- military and civilians. People with advanced degrees and guys with GED’s. They are all here for the same reason. To make money. Few are here because they love the business. The work is unrewarding, and uses very little imagination. Each person must walk forward and maintain focus on a small, changing patch of dirt all day long. Every once in a while, you will find a live piece of unexploded ordnance.. Most times, just bits of rusted steel…Occasionally a snake, horny toad or a scorpion.. or sometimes a tiny birds nest. We are careful and respectful of all the living creatures. I am deeply grateful this crew is not a destructive one.

I break the monotony up in the afternoons with a trip to a beautiful warm small desert lake that is a short 20 miles away. It is a fantastic blue, hundred  by two hundred meter, sixty foot deep pool. It is fed by an underground spring that maintains a constant eighty degree temp all year ’round. I swim laps in this mini-oasis. It is refreshing and restores my Chi.

On the weekends, the crew that doesn’t escape to the city hangs out at either the casino or our local favorite, the Black and White bar. I love meeting the guys there. They are fantastic fun to learn about and I enjoy the community (when I’m not in Salt Lake flying.) I have made no secret of my sexuality… No one seems to mind.

I’ve seen one of the fellows here a couple times. I love his wide friendly smile and his easy chuckle. He’s nice to everyone and always pleasant to be around.. His name is Mack. I never miss a chance to say hi.

It’s Friday, we are wrapping up the week, giving the trucks a bath. I’m wiping the windows down and my big bald friend runs over to tell me what he just heard.

Mack: I think I might go to Blue Lake this afternoon

Cathy: Yeah, Wendy might be there.. She swims almost every afternoon.

Mack: Oh. I shouldn’t go. I think she likes me…. She’s been giving me googley eyes.

Cathy: Uhhhh, I don’t think so.

Everyone looks uncomfortably at each other.

I went back to cleaning the truck. I keep having crazy bubbles of laughter… a guy from the next car over asks me if I’m laughing about Mack. I giggled.. Yeah! They were laughing too and begging me to tease him. “Please just wink at him tonight? Please?”

Now I just can’t stop laughing..

 

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.