How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ride on a Submarine - DID IT

It was a recreational submarine - not a military one nor a Disneyland ride.  This was on Grand Cayman Island.  It was a real submarine and you can see by the depth gauge that we actually submerged.  Once down there, we puttered around the reef and watched fish, some scuba divers, and a large turtle swim by. Everyone had a window seat.  I am a bit claustrophic and the thought of being underwater in a tube made me very nervous, but I did it, eventually I relaxed and enjoyed it.
Steve served onboard submarines in the US Navy and I had an opportunity to tour his sub when it came out of the yard and before it sailed for parts unknown.  Even though it never submerged while I was aboard, I was still bothered by claustrophobia in the tight confines.  His tours of duty lasted 3 months underwater without seeing dry land - well, actually without seeing anything but the inside of the sub. He did four tours while I waited onshore in Groton, Connecticut.  He rated the recreational sub as little more than an amusement park ride, but it was enough for me to check it off my list.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spend the Night in a Rainforest - DID IT

We flew from Seattle to Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica, then boarded a small 12-seater for the last leg into the jungle to land at the Puerto Jimenez Airport located on the Golfo Dolce near the Panama border.  Every plane is met by the ground crew shown here.  They are fully equipped to handle any emergency - as long as it doesn't require anything more than a fire extinguisher and three orange traffic cones... that's it!  The pilots get out, stroll into the village where they use the toilet facilities in a villager's home. To buy tickets for the trip home, we went to the house (two rooms, dirt floor) of the local agent, gave her cash, she wrote our name on a list - she had a clipboard, so we knew it was official, and told us to watch for the plane the next morning "sometime."  The plane buzzed the runway once then circled back, there were two reasons for the flyover; 1) it chased the kids, dogs, pigs and goats off of the runway, and 2) it served as the arrival announcement, and, consequently, the departure announcement as well.  To board, we gave our name to the same village agent who crossed us off the list with her pencil - amazingly uncomplicated.

During our stay we rode horseback into the mountainous jungle to see coffee plantations and a tiny farm. We took a jeep safari through Matapalo, a huge jungle nature preserve.  We swam in jungle waterfalls and went deep-sea fishing (Dustin snagged a Marlin, we saw the fin, but it escaped) and we became converts to the wonders of fresh-caught yellow-fin sushi.
Poison arrow frog

We saw and heard bands of Spider Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys and Howler Monkeys in the trees.  A playgroup of juvenile Squirrel Monkeys edged closer and closer to the hairless apes gaping up at them from the base of their tree. When they were nearly at arms length the adults dashed down and chased the brave little explorers back to the safety of the upper canopy.  We saw jewel-colored poison dart frogs up close, toucans in the trees, and moss-covered sloths hanging from branches. We stopped in the road to let a troupe of coatimundis scuttled across. 
Howler Monkey
Scarlet Macaws hung upside down from almond trees to get a better look at us as we walked near their crowded colony, and they woke us in the morning with their loud plans for divorce - bird style!  Dozens of vibrant colored parrots fluttered from tree to tree, and the haunting calls of the Howler monkeys rolled like waves of sound through the jungle.  We were warned not to get too close to the Howler trees as they were known to fling feces at intruders. You don't have to tell me twice!
 We stayed in a small cottage in a clearing in the jungle.  Before we left home, our teen-age sons were heard to say, "Do we have to go?"  By Day Three of our stay they were heard to say, "Do we have to leave?"  It was a wonderful adventure, thanks to my lifetime friend Karen, who seems to turn up in many of my adventures!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Visit Gettysburg Battlefield - DID IT

  Seeing the national monument at Gettysburg has been on my list since we studied the Civil War in junior high history class.  So when I was attending a week-long seminar nearby, I joined some of my classmates in a visit after class one evening.  What I didn't realize was that Jim, one of guys in our little group, was a Civil War reenactment buff and was an expert on the logistics of the famous battle.  As we toured the grounds, he gave us a nearly hour-by-hour recounting of the battle.  Whose army was positioned where by name and number of troops, the brilliant strategies and disastrous blunders, how they moved across the hills and valleys, where things happened and who died where.

Monuments dot the landscape, each a beautiful piece of art.  Monuments to black regiments, Native American regiments; and the entire place a monument to the strength of the beliefs of those who fought.  In the end, there was a declared winner, but everyone was a loser in a war that saw the death of over 600,000 Americans.  The Battle of Gettysburg was the costliest battle with over 51,000 deaths in only three days.

I've always liked history, but I've never felt so totally immersed in it as I did that day.  The quiet fields, bright green in mid-spring, seemed to echo with the sounds of canons, horses and muskets, so vivid was Jim's description. I swear I could smell the black powder burning. It is an amazing place and if you get the chance to visit, take it.  And try to take Jim with you!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rescue an Abandoned Animal - DID IT

I'm a sucker for needy animals.  I've been dragging them home since I was a kid.  Baby birds have been fed with eye droppers, baby ducks lived in our bathtub, a baby Opossum, a fawn, and various lost dogs and cats.  At one point we had a dog that brought home other lost dogs!  "Follow me," he'd say to them.  "My mom will take care of you!"  Here are photos and brief accounts of some of the more memorable rescued critters!
Whitewater, a baby deer found clinging to a rock in the middle of the river was our most exotic rescue. He was so young, he still had his dried umbilical cord attached.  Somehow he ended up in the middle of an icy river, freezing cold and barely hanging on by his hooves when some rafters plucked him from the rock and were all too happy to hand him off to us onshore. We bottle fed him on goat milk and he followed us around begging for food.  He bleated like a goat!

Bob, the Duck - Ducks lay their eggs over a period of many days, yet the majority of the eggs hatch within a few hours of each other.  When the mom decides she has enough, she swims off with the hatchlings.  Any remaining eggs are abandoned.  One first-time mother gave up a bit early and several more babies hatched after she left.  We collected three, jumped in the row boat, chased her down, and released the babies who quickly joined their siblings (ducks are not good at math, so she didn't realize she now had 13 babies!)  When we got home we found one more on our doorstep.  It was dark by then and we couldn't locate the mother, so "Bob" joined our household. He lived in the bathtub for awhile, and firmly imprinted on my son as his mom.  He dutifully  followed Morgan everywhere.  He even came when he was called.  When we finally moved Bob to his outdoor home, he would try to sneak back into the house if the door was open.  We would hear a stealthy "slap...slap...slap" of his little duck feet as he crept across the floor.  I would say, "Bob - OUT".  Then we heard, slapslapslapslapslap as he dashed out again.  When he lost is baby feathers, we realized we should have named her Barb!  Eventually the lure of life in the wild won out and Bob/Barb left home.

Digi, the cat - My son was driving a delivery truck for summer work and thought he saw a swirl of dried leaves in the middle of the busy intersection ahead.  As he got closer, he realized it was a tiny orange and white kitten, terrified and running in a frantic circle.  He stopped, jumped out, grabbed the grubby, bedraggled little guy, wrapped him in a paper towel, and shoved him inside his shirt.  He dashed home (against company rules), raced in the house, shoved the wad of paper towels at his brother and said, "Take care of this, OK?" And raced out again. We unwrapped a 5-week old kitten so filthy, flea-bitten, weak and scrawny, he didn't look like he would have survived another night out alone. We had no choice but to dunk him in the sink for a bath. He grew up to be a very fat happy cat and is now about 6 years old. The only reminder of his shaky beginning is that he still likes to suck on your thumb - but only if he really likes you!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Drive the Road to Hana - DID IT

The Road to Hana was the holy grail for adventurers on Maui - okay, maybe not anymore - they have improved the road a lot in the last 20 years - we drove it in '89.  There is a sense of adventure inspired by a rental car agreement that clearly states you drive to Hana at your own risk - they will not come rescue you, and you cannot take the car any further, the remainder of the road is impassable. Hmmmm.

Let me just say that if you plan to drive to Hana, get a small car. I reserved a small car, but my sister and I made the mistake of sending the boys to get it.  The salesman offered them a Lincoln Continental Town Car for only 10 extra bucks a day. We drove the Lincoln to the beach, the mountain, over the river and through the jungle. Whew, by the end of a week of snorkeling around Maui, it earned the title of Stinkin' Lincoln.  We drove it to Hana. In retrospect we failed to realize that getting there was only half the trip. I've never been so carsick!

 The Road to Hana is the steepest, twistiest, scariest, narrowest, vertigo-inducing road I've ever been on.  Blind hairpin turns, and places where the road hugs the cliffside dropping hundreds of feet to rocks and surf below.  I want to know who it was that said, "Hey, I have an idea.  Let's build a road here!"  Or maybe they really said, let's build a donkey path, not guessing that 100 years later some nut would drive a Town Car on it.

Tarzan vines hung from the trees, waterfalls spilled from hundreds of feet above, lush jungle surrounded you the entire way.  It really is a lovely place, and I would have enjoyed it so much more if there hadn't been a religious memorial marker at just about every turn.  That's a little unnerving.

Although I did come to understand the need for praying on that road.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Go Outside in Minus 40 Degrees - DID IT

It was only -36 but I'm counting it anyway. Once it gets that cold a few degrees more or less doesn't really matter.  Also, I have no idea why I specified -40.

Here's how it happened.  I had just started working as a flight attendant and in the middle of my first winter I was assigned a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska.  As we landed, the pilot announced that it was "minus 36". I couldn't wait to see what that was like.  As soon as the last passenger left the plane, I dashed into the jetway, threw open the access door and stepped outside.  I took a deep breath.... oh, it burned, it burned my lips, burned my throat, burned my chest and burned all the way into my lungs.  The exposed skin on my arms hurt in just the time it took to take one breath - being new to the concept of Minus Forty, I hadn't bother to put on a coat.  The moisture in my nose froze - I had actual snot-sickles!  What's a "snot-sickle" you ask.  You know you have them if you squeeze your nostrils together, the frozen snot crystals stab the inner surface of your nose.  One breath, that was it.  I ran straight back into the warm aircraft.

After the crew finished laughing at me, one of them showed me the coolest trick.  Take a coffee mug full of hot water outside, toss the water up into the frozen air.  It explodes in a puff of white steam.  It freezes in mid air and vaporizes. It even makes a little "Pouff" sound.  Nothing appears to fall to the ground.  Weirdest thing!  I do not know how people live in that environment, but those who do seem to just shrug off the temperatures.

All of my following trips into the Minus Zero environment were performed while wearing a full-length thermal lined coat, boots, wool sweater,wool gloves, wool hat, muffler and silk long underwear - the best insulation around!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Swim in a Jungle River - DID IT

Yes, the vision of horror movie piranhas did cross my mind as I slipped into the opaque green water, but I managed to swim unmolested by flesh eating fish. White clay colors the water that murky, milky grey-green so it was hard to see more than a couple inches below the surface, making it just a bit scarier than if I could have seen what was lurking beneath - well, on second thought, maybe not!  Some things are best left to the imagination. 

We were in Jamaica floating down the river on a bamboo raft with a band of other adventurous refugees from a cruise ship. The guides stuck their long poles into the bottom holding the rafts in place and asked if anyone wanted to go for a swim.  Ours said it with that kind of smirking grin that says, "No one ever does it."  Someone timidly asked if there were piranhas.  He said, "No," so I jumped in.  I guess he knew what he was smirking about - no one joined me.  Even after it was clear I wasn't going to be eaten, no one else got in.

  I enjoyed it.  The water was cool on a stiflingly hot day and it was cleaner than the water at some Jungle Ride amusement parks I've been on.  I particularly liked the vines hanging down drifting in the current - it gave it all a true Jungle Adventure look.  I was refreshed and I got to cross a highly-unlikely item off my list.

I didn't escape the feeling of being eaten alive, however.  When we got back to town, our entire tour group was dumped at a backstreet "shopping" mall and left to the human piranhas looking to strip not our bones but our pockets.  That was more dangerous than the river swim!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bake Perfect Loaf of French Bread - DID IT

I don't think there is anything on this list that suffered as many failures on the way to crossing it off the list as baking the perfect loaf of French bread.  I kneaded, mixed, folded hundreds of times. I baked gummy loaves, crumbly loaves, dense loaves, dry loaves... oh, sure we ate them, but they were not right. The operative word in this item is "Perfect."  It had to have a thin, crispy crust with a soft pliable interior filled with big holes - no crumbs just flakes of crust could appear on your plate.  It had to be cuttable and tearable - spell-check hates both of those words, but I stand by them.

Last year a friend sent me a recipe for a No-Knead bread from a website called Steamy Kitchen.  I shrugged it off.  How could you possibly turn out a traditional loaf of bread by such an untraditional prep method?  But eventually I gave it a try.  The results were amazing.  Not perfect, but as close as I had ever come. I tweaked the recipe a couple times until I got it.  The PERFECT LOAF, at least the way I like it.  Here's the original website
My "tweaks" included adding a touch more salt, a bit of powdered milk, some honey, and lightly sprinkling the top with sea salt crystals before it goes into the oven.  I've experimented with adding fresh herbs to the dough as well - equally yummy.

Anyone can do this.  Unlike the professional recipes you don't have to steam your oven, spray water on things, use a cooking stone, or spend hours kneading and fussing over it. By cooking it inside a large kettle with a lid on it, you trap the steam and that keeps the crust flaky and the interior moist.  Amazing!