Monday, June 13, 2011

The Bachelorette can't get over him

Therese is actually having a life this week so here is my feeble attempt to fill her noble heels.

We open in Los Angeles where Ashley decides there is just no getting over Bentley; she still misses and thinks about him. So it's time for a fresh start. Back in the mansion where no one is in the pool shirtless, Chris shows up to explain the facts; three dates, two are one on one and one group date. He explains the risks and rewards again for the first time viewers. BUT! BUT! There will be no date today. Ashley has to put thousands of miles between Los Angeles and herself and Bentley so they are going to the land of Tsunamis Phuket! In two hours guys, get packing! (Chris snaps the whip and the guys break into chest bumps. Thailand! Woo hoo!)

Ashley is already there walking on the beach realizing she can't run (or fly) from her problems. She imagines Bentley there walking next to her on the sand. She goes to some kind of activity booking center looking for date ideas. "I'm here with 12 guys and they're HOT!" (and one just in her mind.) She's never been to Thailand. (I think she's only been outside the states because of this show.) Wombat took all the other good countries, but left this one for the third runner up.

First date is with Constantine, whom we know nothing about.
Constantine! One of my favorite Keanu Reeves movies. Come to think of it, this is dating purgatory. Constantine looks like that wine guy (Ben) but has a bigger nose. I hope she wasn't thinking it was the wine guy and it turned out to be the restaurant owner. They're set to go out on a boat ("sea Phuket") get it? sea? get it? haha ...
But alas there's a major storm and the captain assures them that they will fall out of the boat, so they go walk around town and try on hats and scarves, every guy's dream date. They pick some old random dude to talk to who doesn't speak English and get advice, and some random westernized local to translate. "Don't try to win." Great advice for a reality competition.

Constantine acknowledges that Bentley's leaving must have been hard. He asks her how she says positive about this?

Have strength... be honest... stay positive... C'mon you were expecting something deeper? Not, "I crawled in bed with my clothes on and cried for hours til there was nothing left to cry about." Ashley was upset the boat trip was canceled because it would have gotten her mind off of... guess who.

Their date was so blasé it seems like they only spent 2 minutes on the whole thing, airtime. Constantine is happy and doesn't mind the boat trip was cancelled. Constantine is able to separate the event excitement from relational excitement! He enjoys just doing normal stuff. There's two normal dates in a row. At least for this one she wasn't in pajamas.

Guys are thinking Constantine is going to put the moves on Ashley. Who has kissed Ashley? "Everyone's going after the same piece of fruit! Gotta be patient." (JP is bothered by this news.) "This isn't normal for me!" Um, dude, you're on a reality show, and you expected normal?

Back to the date... relationship history... he's had fears! afraid of getting hurt and getting deep. Realized has to be more open and love deeper. Is this the first go round... he rolls eyes... no she's probably #15 this year, but he's not about to let that truth come out.

Hopeless Ashley (her words, not mine) is hopeful again. Yay! Let's play in the water. Yay! I wish you were Bentley, but you're not. Yay!

Ashley says her mind is more open now but she's still thinking about Bentley because she says she's not going to think about him.

Next date is a group date to help orphan victims from the 2004 Tsunami. I digress but I created a Tsunami Museum with a proffessor at Western that raised all kinds of money to help victims rebuild. For my thanks, I'm getting laid off. Not til November but still. Anyone need a graphic and web designer with a quarter century of experience?

With Bentley out they need to find another guy to pick on ... now it's Ryan. He's micromanaging everything. Needs to back off. Winemaker decides to paint and makes a mural to separate himself from the herd. He can't paint, but it's a cute idea and the kids don't seem to care.

Why does Ashley keep putting her hands together and bowing slightly? Are they in Japan? I have been to Thailand and China but I didn't see that. Is that protocol?

It's still raining. It hasn't stopped since they landed. You'd think they were in the Pacific Northwest. In July.

Ben F. played soccer with the kids. I missed that! Wish they'd showed it. Ben seems surprised that Ashley hints she likes him.
Ashley is getting back on the horse. And she goes in for the kiss! I think he will get the rose.

Guys are irritated with Ryan because he has leadership qualities and they are jealous.
Ashley asks Ryan about Personalities. He thinks he's getting along well with the guys.
Ryan feels for Ashley and thinks she is beautiful, but it's about what is inside.
Big rose on table. Guys don't want Ryan to get rose again. But there is heavy speculation. Some will wonder what they are doing there if Ryan gets the group date rose.

Oh God Ashley still talking about getting over Bentley. (Would you please drop it already? Pretty please?) She's worried about JP. He seemed standoffish. Probably from learning that she's kissed other guys. What about the orphan kids? she asks JP. Changed his life forever, put everything in perspective. Says the pajama party was the perfect date and he was still thinking about it. Goes in for the kiss! Hope no one in the house has oral herpes. Magical kisses, best ones buy far. JP is sexy. But he picks her up and takes her into the sea. He's making everyone else jealous!

Date card! Mystery envelope. Ames is hopeful. And it's Mr. 5-head!

Ashley is about to give away the rose and Ryan steals her away. Oh mr rulebreaker! Further getting on everyone's nerves. He just wants to have more conversations. Guys think he's rude.

She goes on about conversations. Ben the winemaker gets the group date rose! I was right! JP is having a hard time with this.

Finally! A pool party! They don't zoom in on any nipples. Damn them!

Ames as been to Phuket alone and it finally stops raining for their date. They get into a yacht and start sipping some cocktails. He came there before to climb mountains and do cooking school, went spontaneously and was the only non-Thai student. Last minute is the best minute. Ashley thinks he's spontaneous and grounded at the same time. They motor to those weird islands with the overhanging rocks and what, no bouldering? Perfect place to climb without a rope! Such disparity. Wombat would have had them jumping off the tops of one of those islands. Instead they're in a two-man ducky and go through some drippy caves. "Navigating these beautiful caves is like navigating a relationship. Around the corner you don't know what to expect but then there's something beautiful. " When do the cliches stop? "When you look up you can see the filming copter sky, I can't even talk to her because there's so much to look at."

Where did all that food come from? Now they're having a picnic on the beach.

Ashley is looking for devotion, #1. Ames is looking for open mindedness and spontaneity or for someone to understand it. OH NO she cannot get through even one date without mentioning Bentley! At least she didn't mention him to Ames, but in the voiceover. "I would have overlooked Ames if Bentley were still here."

How did that guy cast such a spell? Single guys out there, go and watch the first episode and second at hulu for some tips. Helps to be really good looking, too, or, something.

(This is a lot of work. Therese I have a whole new appreciation for your blog. But please don't ever have a life again.)

Oh God there she mentions Bentley again in the voiceover. Twice! I wish I were keeping a tally. I bet she's used his name 15 times by now.

Ames thinks she looks beautiful and is smart and really wants the rose. They talk about being a nerd and having nerdy things in their apartments. If you could change one thing about growing up what would it be? She's want to be less isolated and have kids in a more diverse area, expose her kids to more things than she was exposed to. Ames says something about both having been in interesting places, but he doesn't have a list, just a feeling. Major evolutionary step to throw out the list. (So yeah, don't have any standards, date me!) Ames accepts the rose, but doesn't kiss her!

Time for the rose ceremony. And it's only 9:25 pm. Are they going to drag this out for 30 minutes? Surprises around every corner. Okay they're have a cocktail party, so she pulls West aside. His wife died and she wants to make sure he's ready for a relationship. "Um... it takes awhile." But he assures her she is not going to be filling his ex's shoes. I'm guessing his ex didn't wear tube socks.

She pulls aside another guy I have no idea who he is, but he's divorced and dating all kinds of different people. Just likes having a good time. How do you keep the passion alive? He's the kind of guy who never gives up on anything... but wait, his marriage had no passion. So.

Some guys confront Ryan and he just doesn't get it. Ashley takes him aside. The guys want her to see the intense, annoying side. He seems to happy all the time. "I'm bursting with a lot of love in my chest." "This is the real me." So what, now Ryan is the villain? He's just a happy guy! Happy Happy Joy Joy! Full of energy and love for life! He never sleeps! He doesn't have a problem with any of the guys!

Okay, NOW time for the rose ceremony. But there's still 20 minutes left of this show. They're going to drag this out as long as inhumanely possible, I mean only half of this time segment will be commercials.

Chris comes in to consult with Ashley and it's raining again. She had a much better week, favorite group date so far. A week ago Chris has to remind her and everyone about Bentley. Has she put it past her? No she's still hung up and wonders "what could have been." Feels like there is something more there... dot dot dot no closure? thinks door is still open. Gads girl, get a freaking CLUE. She still thinks there was all this wonderful potential. That thinking girl, will make you insane. Everything has potential but almost nothing lives up. Oh now she wants to add a rose to the ceremony. That will make it an extra bummer for that one guy who doesn't get the rose. I mean, not getting a rose is one thing, but being the ONLY ONE when there was supposed to be TWO... killer. I do not envy West (my guess) that guy.

Chris says Expect the unexpected. So she asked him for the favor of another rose. Which means, (for those who are math-challenged) only ONE of you will be leaving tonight. Gee, I could have sworn that meant three people were leaving. Huh.

First rose: Lucas (who?)
Second rose: Ryan
Third rose: JP
Fourth rose: Nick
Fifth rose: Mickey (who?)
Sixth rose: Blake
Seventh rose: William
Eighth rose: not the widower West

West walks out with his chin up and goes on about putting it all out there for the first time since his wife died. Had a great thing with is wife but at least he had it.

In the previews for next week's show, Bentley makes an appearance. Ugh. WTH?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Video Phones

So there's this Trump endorsed company (ACN) that sells through network marketing. They have cell phones, voip, energy in some countries, and one quirky gadget that looks like a must have for every 80 year old who doesn't have a computer. To me that's really too small of a market to make any serious money off. It's a video phone, and the video phone has never caught on, and never will, for this reason: evolution.

Look at the evolution of the telephone. It was a single device that started out in the entry way of the home. No matter where you were in the home, you would have to relocate to its place in order to use it. And you couldn't wander far, for it did not have a long cord, you had to stay right at the phone to use it.

Next came phones that you could install in more than one room. You still had to stay near the plug in the wall, because the chords only stretched so far.

Then came the cordless phone! What an improvement! I could move 20 feet away from my phone before losing the signal. Or maybe even go outside! Around the same time as the cordless phone came the wireless phone (I may be off here in years, but it sounds about right), the one that only really important people had, such as doctors, lawyers and police chiefs. They could put that little phone in their man purse and look really important talking into it.

Eventually that little cell phone became ubiquitous, and like most technology I wait for it to work really really well before I adopt it. I finally got one in 2003 and eventually discontinued my home phone lines. (Although I still own my home phones. What to do with them?)

So the phone went from something anchored inside the house, to something you can take with you everywhere except maybe scuba diving. I also don't know how well they'd work on a space ship. Every time I fly I lose my signal. Oh, yeah I'm supposed to turn it off, huh? Well sometimes I remember to, sometimes I don't. But now, here's a new product that is, well, it's a phone! it's got a video screen! I'm guessing the other user has to have one as well in order for it to work.

This seems to be going backwards in evolution. With the video phone, you are back to being stuck inside the house in one location. You don't need a phone to have a video chat. All you need is a computer. And if you have a laptop, you can take it anywhere except the deep end of a pool and have your video chat on Skype or even Google. FOR FREE. Well, depending on your internet service... and the laptop isn't free but it can do so many more things!

The makers of this product didn't look at history. They didn't pay any attention to the evolution of the phone. Who wants another bulky piece of future electronic landfill to adorn their living room? Not me, and it's why I could never get behind a company that sells something this .. well.. un-evolved.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

My take on Avatar

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's NOT Stand-Up Paddling (SUP)

Ever since the growing fad of SUP (Stand Up Paddling) has been gaining attention in the news and perhaps stimulating the economy with yet another water toy that will soon grow dust in people's garages, folks automatically seem to think THAT'S what I'm talking about when I say that I riverboard. I politely say, no, you lay down on it and run whitewater, like a kayak would. More like a bodyboard (or "boogieboard" if I can tell the person is 100% clueless). I don't know why people would associate the two. I have seen SUPs on the river, sweeping along, trying to catch standing waves on occasion, and sometimes even succeeding.

The first time I saw people doing this was in Half Moon Bay, CA. I honestly thought it was some kind of joke. But no, it's only gained in popularity. I suppose it can be good exercise. It seems it would best be given to flat water, but they have shown up at surf breaks. Well now I suppose the longboarders are getting a dose of their own medicine. These guys can sit outside even FURTHER than you and catch all the set waves.

At least there is finally a new sport that is even more annoying than bodyboarding. Surfers now have someone new to focus their hatred upon! That is if they haven't already converted.

But just to be clear: Stand Up Paddling is NOT riverboarding. You may take a Stand Up Paddle board on the river, but you are not riverboarding, you are still Stand Up Paddling. And please if you do, wear a helmet.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Day 6: Reventazon

It didn't take too long to figure out how Josh was feeling in the morning. We could hear it from down the hallway. But he was determined to go with us, even if not riverboarding.

We found the road to the Florida section put-in. There was a raft exiting and a couple vans there. It would be a short, fast & furious three miles. The water was murky and brown and about 3 grand higher than when we'd run a longer section in January.

We geared up and launched into the muddy current. The river was pretty wide, and as I was trying to cut across to the main current, I ended up in a little unplanned surf that sent the others ahead of me. I was planning on leading Alicia and Peter since I'd done it before, however it didn't matter much because I didn't remember any of it. The water was higher by about 3000 cfs, and last January, by the time we got to this section, I was pretty spent.

I gave Alicia my GoPro so I could be in some footage rather than filming all the time. The first wave train might have been the biggest, but she wasn't anticipating it, so it went undocumented. We were told it was read and run, to stay off the walls. The walls weren't much of an issue; not sure if it was because of the high water but it was easy to stay away from them.

A couple rapids later the waves were big and there were rocks to either side, so the middle line looked good. After one particularly large wave I felt myself falling, and next thing I knew I was upside-down underwater hanging onto my board. I got recirculated and spit out, wrists sore from holding onto the hydrospeed. Ahead of me Peter was off his board, and I looked back to check on Alicia; she was hanging on by one arm. Breathless I headed to the side and took a breather.

This did get documented.

After a couple more turns in the river it was hard to see which way to go - looked like an island but it was hard to tell if the river went around both sides. We scouted and decided definitely left. The right appeared to go into a dead end, although the current was leading somewhat into it with a strong eddy in front of it. Peter cut it the closest to stay in the current; Alicia and I paddled like mad to stay river left.

Pretty soon we saw power lines and I knew we were near the end. A plastic container of Guaro awaited our intestines at the car. I saw Josh on the bank and a group of young people under the bridge with their bicycles. I had spied the take out and it looked impossibly shallow, so we stayed right of the bridge post. The kids were yelling something but I couldn't tell what. They may have been drunk. Or worse. We got out and walked across the rocks and shallow water, meanwhile the rowdies started throwing rocks at us.

I got in the car, fins, helmet, wetsuit and all, thinking maybe we'd go for another lap. We high tailed it as much as we could up the steep gravel road to the busier highway. Alicia didn't want to and Peter thought one good run was good for the day, so I cracked the Guaro. I wish I could have taken a picture of Alicia's face when she tasted it. It's a bit like vodka, just a tad sweeter. Peter and I finished off the bottle in the car for the windy drive back to the hostel.

We had dinner again at the fancy hotel. I mean, they had linen tablecloths! I had some kind of meat dish with onions, and flan for dessert. It was one of the best flans I've ever had. But the meat tasted a little old or something so I didn't finish it.

Peter and Josh were wearing their nonsensical tshirts. Something got messed up in translation and it read "Flaying Jet Departure" then a bunch of unintelligible words, like someone just hit the keyboard randomly.

We ended up at a bar that had 80s videos going with a DJ and smoke machine with laser lights. Kinda trippy. No one was dancing, but a few were smoking and once again I had to bail because of the second hand toxic waste.

The guys who were creating such a ruckus were again outside the hotel. Josh asked if they could not make so much noise tonight. It must have worked because it was a lot quieter, surprisingly, on a Friday night.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Day 5: Upper Upper

Today we ran the upper upper Pacuare. Luis was our shuttle driver, and asked where Kevin and Alex were. Indeed. Work and school. Why do these have to interfere?

We were thinking of running the Reventazon, but I showed the video from the last trip to Peter C and he got a little on edge about the dirtiness of the water. So we went to where we knew the water would be clean.

The bridge to the higher put-in was being worked on, but there was just II-III stuff up there. The bridge would open in a little over an hour. Our group is a bit on the indecisive side. "What do you want to do?" "Oh, I don't really care, either way is fine with me." "Okay, well what do YOU want to do?" "I'm okay with any option..." This scenario has played itself out a few times on our trip, but this time Josh decided to flip a coin. Heads, we 'headed up the river' after the bridge reopened, and tails, we high-tailed it down the river. It was tails. I was kind of glad. It was pretty hot out, and aside from one little snack stand that was part of a house, there was nothing much to do there.

Unfortunately Alicia had mal de estómago and was too ill to riverboard. I hadn't even noticed that she had hopped down from the top bunk bed several times during the night.

Most of the river was read n' run class III. Clear water, visible rocks. There were a couple holes near the top Peter wanted to stop and surf. I wasn't able to get in them. One was just off the side of a pool with a little 2' waterfall pouring into it, and good eddy service. The other had beautiful banana trees and cliffs as a backdrop. White birds flew by. It really was a slice of paradise.

We came to the first class IV section and scouted to make sure it was clear of wood. It was a pretty decent boulder garden, reminding me just a little bit of Monster on the Cascade, without the mandatory boof drop up top. The right was runnable but very narrow; we all took the line down the middle, which did include a pretty much mandatory rock but not much of a drop. Josh ran it first while we watched, then I followed Peter. It was a fun rapid.

At the next rapid Josh and I stopped on some rocks in the middle to look, but Peter kept going. I made a mental imprint of his moves and bumped along the shallow entry. Reminded me of home! I ended up hitting the biggest hole in the meat of it. The helmet cam footage looks like it held me for a couple of seconds but I don't remember struggling. Probably because I was under water and just thought I was punching through slowly. The helmet camera is above eye level so it's a little deceptive.

I needed to stop and defog my GoPro so we pulled over to a rocky beach. Blue heron and white birds circled, an orange butterfly darted about our knees while brilliant blue ones fluttered across the river. On the next rapid I got hung up on a rock. The current was pushing to the right but there were tight rocks over there. I was standing, and managed to slowly scoot over using my hand and my hips, to get off the left side of it. Fet like it took forever.

We were told to take out at a bridge. No one told us what kind of bridge. It didn't feel like six miles yet. We came to what looked like a footbridge and some elementary school-aged kids were on it. Josh asked them where the town was, or if there were cars on the next bridge. They looked at us curiously but didn't say much. We decided to keep going.

We came to a blind corner with a lot of rocks, and couldn't see around it and weren't sure if we'd passed the takeout. There were piles of black dirt and rock that almost looked man made, like from a gravel pit, not very pretty, and that's where the vultures chose to perch. Like attracts like, sometimes it's true. Josh and Peter climbed to the top of the highest rockpile and tried to scout the rapid, but couldn't see around the bend.

There seemed to be a way up out of the river to the left, and we saw a power line, and decided to climb out. The next section was a class V gorge and we weren't sure if the previous bridge had been our takeout. Exiting the river was easy, but the climbing was difficult because the slope was muddy and steep. Josh threw me a line and I sent my riverboard up. First time I've ever needed a rope. I needed his hand towards the top when I was unable to gain a foothold anywhere for the last few feet. I tried jumping up, pushing up with my arms, but the life vest wasn't helping me get over the hump. Even that was a false summit and we continued to climb on a narrow, muddy, manure-laden trail where the farmer helped us over the barbed wire. It was a fairly short walk and Luis drove up just as we approached the real take out. Which had another footbridge. It was sturdy enough for a couple horses and their riders to go across, but I'm not sure I'd take a Percheron on it.

We walked down to the river and there was a nice waist-deep pool and an easy trail up the short cliff. No banditos or drunkards; it was pure country on the upper upper.

Didn't get lunch and was hungry at 4:30 after a shower. First we stopped at a produce stand that sold mostly grapes and apples. Josh got a half kilo of red grapes and ate all but maybe five of them. We went to a nice hotel and had appetizers. Huge trucks rumbled by using their j brakes. The restaurant yesterday played Christmas music loudly. There is no quiet in this town.

We'd been frequenting the local bakeries as well. It's kind of like Christmas; sometimes you don't know what you're going to get when you buy a pastry. I went for the smallish cookies; no surprises there. We also went to an ice cream store. Josh got a huge rum raisin cone. I put 100 colones in the toy motorcycle and went for a ride. Woot.

Afterwards we played pool in a smokey hall. I scratched on the 8 w/ Alicia while Peter played a local kid. The local could shoot, but Peter had better strategy. I left when the smoke got to be too much.

There are really loud people outside our room. Hookers, pimps, druggies all yelling at each other. I tried to sleep but even the Ambien didn't let me tune out the escalated shouting match around 1:30 am. This continued well after the police arrived until about 3 am. I have a method of using my mp3 player for white noise to help me sleep, but I'd used it a lot and forgot to bring the charging cable on this part of the trip. It was dead. At 3am the trucks began to arrive to unload their produce for the weekend farmer's market. We all began stirring between three and four hours later, but what I missed was that Josh had been up half the night losing his dinner.

I'm blaming it on the grapes.

Day 6

Day 4: Pacuare

We couldn't get ahold of our usual shuttle driver Luis, but the hostel found us someone, and it turns out he is the president of the Costa Rica Whitewater Association. This was the guy Patricia -- who runs the hostel -- said thought we would surely die if we ran the Reventazon back in January. We never actually got confirmation on the veracity of that statement, but he was a really nice and knowledgeable man.

We pulled the gear out of the car at the put-in and I opened my bag to discover that my wetsuit was not in it. I had that horrible, sinking, guilty feeling, but only for a few moments, because Josh said he had brought extra wetsuit gear. I was very relieved. However, knowing how cold Josh gets it wasn't really going to be enough neoprene, but we'd make do. As long as I didn't get as cold as I was in the back seat of the Rover over the pass, I'd be fine.

There was a little extra pressure being the only one with functioning water and land cameras. I have been almost hesitant to bring my land camera because it has to be left in the vehicle with could be a target for thieves. I took the risk and brought it along. I'm now wishing I'd gone ahead and bought the water housing even though it costs about 2/3 the price of a new camera. But that way, I could take the camera with me instead of leaving it in the car. I could even shoot some higher end video from shore. Maybe next time.

The Pacuare was running in between the two levels we had previously ran it: level 0. First time was 20; second was -10. I'd forgotten some of the heavier rapids, such as the Upper and Lower Haucus.

The upper didn't give me any trouble, but the lower, I didn't fight hard enough to stay in the middle and got swept left, nearly making contact with the undercut wall on the left. The slide feature that had given us so much trouble at high water was almost a non-feature at this level; it was just a bit of a hole and we all punched through.

The take out on this river, 16 miles later, was a little dangerous because of brazen thieves. The rafts had gone on ahead of us so we had to stay close and walk quickly. I took my knife out of my bag (the vest mount is way too loose) though wasn't sure what good it would do since it's blunt tipped. We had to walk a little way down a dirt road and around a fence to the restaurant where the Rover and driver were waiting for us, and there were lots of people in the restaurant. We were safe. The bathroom even had showers; that cold water was refreshing after walking in a wetsuit.

Back in Turrialba we napped for a couple hours in the relative quiet of the afternoon, then spent the evening walking around and finding food. We ate at an empty restaurant (do people ever eat out in this town?). I had ceviche - a huge bowl full for about $4. Score! I also ordered chicken but wouldn't have, had I known how much fish I was getting. I gave half of it to Josh. Alicia ordered chicken but couldn't eat most of it. Something wasn't right with her ever since our fried egg breakfast from the soda across the street. She was getting seconds on flavor all day long. Peter C shared some awesome stories of hurling aboard and directional sprays. Having raced sailboats the world over, he's probably seen it all. For some reason, he kept mentioning green eggs and ham.

Day 5

Day 3 - Dec. 1

Since El Chorro was presumably still too high to run with any degree of sanity, we opted for a beach day down at Dominical. It's a long rivermouth sandy beach backed by jungle and a few businesses, nothing too touristy.

I've been running up and down energy-wise every other day. Today was a down day, and when we parked I noticed that the surf was less than stellar, so I plunked down my towel under a palm tree and tried to nap. The tide was low, the wind was sideshore and the waves were inconsistent, not holding much shape. Most of the crew went for a swim but I decided to wait.

When the tide started to turn I got ready to bodyboard and realized I forgot my lycra pants. I just had a two-piece and long sleeve rashguard top. I slathered on the sunscreen and hoped the rest would stay covered.

Another hour later the surf actually started to improve, and Josh came out with the GoPro video camera. My face was feeling really hot. I'd tried to buy a surf hat in LA but everyone was sold out. My two piece was not doing a very good job of staying up and on, even under the rash guard. I got some new tan lines from this session. My face was beet red; so was everyone's. The best waves were only in the 3-4 foot range and offered about a 6 second ride. But it was still fun to be out in warm water.

We grabbed some lunch at Chapy's, a place that has delicious, fresh and natural wraps and smoothies. Only, their blender was broken, so we had pepe, or young coconuts instead. After lunch, instead of simply discarding the coconut shells, we played trash can hoops. They're heavy and hard to aim. Josh's mom got one in; I tried once and decided it was futile. We obstructed traffic and amused ourselves for about 20 minutes with this silly game, destroying most of the coconuts in the process.

A dip in the ionized pool (read: no chlorine or bromide) was refreshing afterwards. Even the dogs joined in the fun. We were all so sunburnt in spite of really high SPF.

We ate some casserole thanks to Josh's mom, and about 6:00 we started our commute over the mountains to Turrialba to go and run the rivers in the area. Ariel and Peter decided to stay behind, so it was just Alicia, Peter C, Josh and I. Josh had recently acquired an older Range Rover. As large as it is, we still had to strap one of the boards to the roof.

Radio had to suffice as I'd forgotten the cable to my mp3 player that will make it work with a cassette deck. It turns out that was not the only thing I forgot. They are really into their 70s and 80s music here. Up at about 11,000 feet all the windows were down and the sunroof was open. Peter's board was dripping on me and the air was in the 40s. I had one small sweatshirt and a knit hat; luckily the floorboards were hot so my feet stayed warm, at least on the bottoms. As much as I whined about being cold, no one believed how cold I was til they saw me with my knit hat and hoodie pulled up over it. I found out later that the engine blows hot air into the front seats; it's no wonder they couldn't figure out why I was so frozen since I was in the back.

We ended up in the same room we had last year. They had nicer bedding; batik-style covers instead of those quilted polyester things. They also had internet and breakfast. And three dogs that would mess up the floor just as fast as the help cleaned it.

Day 4

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Day 2: Coto Brus

We drove south and over the mountains to a more arid climate. Very hilly, those hills covered in jungle. Reminded me a bit of the hills in Australia. Much less humidity than the coast. Luckily the river was going pretty good.

This time we took one of Josh's neighbors, 15-year old Jodi. He was a trooper. There was hesitation from both Peters about running a river that had caiman in it, but we never saw any. We thumped on the Prijons just the same to let them know we were coming. We did see some spider monkeys. They seemed to not quite know what to make of us.

The water was even warmer than yesterday; probably 70 degrees. I've been leaving the top part of my wetsuit off, leaving my sleeves dangling. It's just the right temp that way, with a rash guard up top. This river stepped it up a notch as there was on class IV-ish section. Still nothing heavier than the Nooksak, so far. Although I did manage to get stuck in a couple holes and turned upside down once.

We stopped at a tree overhanging the river. Jodi dived from it, Josh did a flip, Alicia a cannon ball, Peter C. jumped in with his board and hit is foot on a rock. I was happy to take pictures.

We were on the river for three hours. After a stop at a restaurant for snacks and another stop at the car rental to inquire about the two new windshield dings acquired during the shuttle, it was too late to stop and watch the sunset but we got some nice glimpses from the car. By the time we got home I felt like crashing but dragged myself out to dinner. Felt better after a watermelon smoothie, and had some chicken soup, which is supposed to cure a lot of things.

Day 3

Monday, November 30, 2009

Costa Rica, Take II

About 5:30 this morning the throaty, piggish voice of the howler monkey broke the otherwise quiet morning sounds of insects and light rain. Fortunately they were far off, and the sound was interesting enough that I opted against earplugs and tookit in. Better than the barking dog that had also disturbed the night's peace. Five of us have been sleeping outside, but it doesn't make a lot of difference, noise-wise.

I arrived in Costa Rica on the 28th of November mid day, after a full overnight flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta then another full flight to San Jose. Alicia and Josh were waiting for me with a little rented Suzuki, and we picked up Peter C in Manuel Antonio. I felt pretty good for getting along on both hours of sleep. Docta P and Ariel were already at Josh's house, which was next door to the one we stayed in last year. It's a lot bigger and has the same view.

On the way here we stopped at the Mother-in-law bridge- there are large crocodiles below. We tossed them our young coconut discards but they weren't very interested. But it was fun to see these huge, seemingly slow loungers jerk with sudden quickness at the splash of the fruit.

We had our opening dinner at a restaurant in Dominical with a dutch-trained kitchen crew. Josh's mom is here too. The food tasted amazing; I had tapas dishes of filet mignon - just cooked a little - and a shrimp pineapple dish.

Yesterday Josh, Alicia, both Peters and I ran the Rio Savegre. We had a driver and two cars, minimizing shuttle headaches. I was still too out of it from traveling and tiredness to grasp it, and was a little bothered by my lack of ability to get into a small wave at the put-in 3 out of 5 times, and once had a hard time catching the eddy. My strength was not anywhere near it was this summer when I was riverboarding a couple times a week. Truth is I haven't felt right since the end of August but think I finally got the right diagnosis and treatment. Recovery will be slow. I found out my dad died from what I have, it's just that he never treated the 15 years he suffered from it.
The river was a class III with a couple steep holes for play spots. All of us were on hydrospeeds except for Peter C, on his Carlson, and we had one Prijon, bought from H2O adventures in Quepos. They'd been sold by some Europeans needing money to get home. I wasn't able to stay in the holes; the current was pretty fierce. Peter C had the longest rides.

The highlight of the run was a waterfall. It was a short walk up the trail and delivered a great shower. Maybe at higher water it would have been possible to run; the drop was over 30'.

It began raining pretty hard when we got off the river. The sun was starting to go down and we chased a double rainbow for several miles. On the way back we stopped for some coconut water. Josh's mom cooked dinner for us; we enjoyed a healthy chicken dish with black beans and rice.

Today we might get in a river that has a section that must be done above the surface to avoid curious cayman.
Day 2

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kern Riverboarding Weekend: A Tiger’s Perspective

Thanks so much to the Carol and Dean Koutzoukis for hosting us and letting us use their vehicles, houses and watercrafts. Thanks to Josh Galt for pulling off another Face Level Industries event.

After a couple laps around LAX and finding Josh, with Alex driving, Alicia, Kevin and myself had to find the NUUN sponsor products next, at a newer address in West LA that wasn't yet mapped to the GPS unit. Mission completed, we decided on In-N-Out between the Grapevine and Bakersfield. The first challenge was aimed at Josh, to down five double-doubles. Although a 36-hour day and freezing airport terminal preceded him, he only ate two.

Sweet scents of orange blossom and a nausea-inducing canyon highway later, we got settled in for a warm-up day on the river. Rounding up River Dave and some others at the park the next morning, we did a run on Limestone, surfing some holes on the way down. Afterwards we decided to hike up to Dry Meadow, about a 45-minute walk. The trail was up and down, the temps were climbing; several went along for the walk but without gear. We stopped at Carson Falls to take a look. A bit intimidating to me, especially after hearing Bob Carlson tell a story of someone dying in there. I said I'd do it if Alex would, which isn't the best logic - I need to assess my own skill level and make a decision - but what I was really thinking was that I'd like to watch someone do it, then make a more informed decision.


On we trudged, sweating heavily in our 5 to 7 mil wetsuits. I kept expecting to see some big flowering meadow, but it wasn't until I saw at least a dozen kayakers portaging with ropes down a large, dry wall with a waterslide at the bottom, did I figure it out. We'd run the slide after crossing the river and crawling up the slippery rock bank to the lowest pool. That one slide, with a big rooster tail that shot you and your craft into the air at the last turn, made the whole trip worthwhile. I felt 13 again. But we'd just gotten started.

Closely eyeing each rapid on the way up, the way down just didn't look like what I'd spied. Nothing seemed as big, but it was really fun, even though the water was on the low side. After about a half hour of riverboarding downstream, we came to Carson Falls. Josh had been running back along the trail getting photographs, but this time he was standing on a rock signaling us to eddy out and portage around the falls in no uncertain terms. I got out early and started walking around. A rescue attempt was being made for one member of the kayaking group that was at the slide, who had ended up out of his craft and swimming into the falls.


I don't really know what to say about that incident. I don't have any whitewater rescue certification or training, so it's hard for me to judge what was going right or wrong. The water was in the 40s and the kayaker was in his 60s. He'd had a grasp on the line at one point, but had let go.

 We paired up and continued down the river looking for anyone who might be washed behind a rock. We didn't find anyone. The authorities had already been notified. Had that event not transpired when it did, several in our group would have run the falls, and with a buoyant craft below and fins behind, they would have been fine. The jury for my own decision to run it or not is still out.

 All gathered at the Koutzoukis house for a great bbq dinner. Afterwards we watched a dvd Kevin had brought called "A Glorious Way to Die," a 1994 documentary about Russian rafters who reunited to complete a Siberian river run where they'd lost four buddies who missed the takeout. The crafts were hand made from scrap materials and felled trees. Inventive, yes. Safe? Well, they weren't easy to maneuver. One guy broke his leg as they unintentionally went through a strainer. Bob Carlson knew one of the women in the film. Small world.

 Whenever we portage a rapid, we now call that "A blank spot in your life," referring to one of the many clichés in the documentary.

 The downriver race was the same Limestone run we'd done Friday. Why is it that  water always seems lower the second time you run a new spot? This stretch was not exactly a wave train. The rapids were a welcome relief to the many flat sections. I got an early lead but was quickly passed by Alex, and since he cut just in front of me, I rode his legs until he finally shook me off. Cool, now I had a local's line to follow. It stayed this way for a while, but I took the wrong side of a rapid and ended up in the slower current. I saw Peter Cameron on his Carlson, followed closely by Kevin on his hydrospeed, off to my left. Peter got in front of me easily and I never could catch him. So much for second place, but come what may I was not going to give up third.

 My lack of familiarity with the river was probably what kept me going. I kept telling myself to keep on pushing, that the finish line was right round the next corner, when in reality it was many, many corners ahead. Kevin was a semi-safe ten feet or so behind me, and I kept a pace that allowed my breathing to remain somewhat steady. He closed the gap several times, and each time I would step up the pace until my legs screamed and my lungs, compressed by the vest and the board, burned, but felt a bit safer. At one point he was in contact with the rear quarter of my board's starboard side, trying to push around me, and we were quickly approaching a small rapid with one protruding medium sized rock, also to my right.

With riverboards you can push each other with the force of your craft, and this is allowable in competition as long as you do not use your hands to intentionally grab or pull. I focused on that rock and started pushing my opponent right at it, remaining just left of it myself to miss it and hit the current below. Just before entering the drop left of the rock, I glanced right and caught a glimpse of Aquianna* turning on her side in a flash of bright blue. I felt like a bloody shit for doing it, but it was nothing personal; it's just unfortunate that I had to do it to someone for whom I have mad respect and admiration.

 There was one point, I think it was after the rock, that Kevin closed the gap again, and I thought if he passes me this time, he can have it. I can't take it, my body has reached its limit, I'll settle for fourth. But the next time I looked back, he was about 20 feet back, and I stopped worrying. Perhaps he'd reached his limit as well.


In bodyboarding and surfing competition, a key component to getting the best waves is being able to outpaddle the others. I won a lot of heats back in the day.

The next event was the standing wave competition. Alex nailed it; his friend who was new to the sport but could surf put on a brilliant display; Peter would stay on the wave forever and do knee rides. I was eliminated the first round of the final 6, which was fine with me, I was tired. I couldn't do much on the wave and was minus my ocean bodyboard. The wave was very close to the park where all the river festival activities were, so I took a trial run through the boardercross gates. I missed three of them.

The herd moved from the park up to the pizza joint for dinner where many beers and carbs were devoured out on the deck as the afternoon sun slipped over the peak. We moved the party to Alex's house for more revelry, including some very interesting games with a broomstick and some rope. It was a great end to a great day, aside from the tragedy at Carson Falls.


Sunday was Boardercross, a timed run with gates, two of them upstream. The first and last few gates were straightforward, but gate nine was upstream, ten was on the other side of the river perhaps only 30-40 feet downstream, and 11 was upstream, wide across a hole. Once you made 11 you were pretty much home free.

I cleared a perfect clean run before the event, hitting every gate, although wasn't trying for speed. I thought this would be a piece of cake. I'd placed 2nd in the last Boardercross event I'd entered, which was also my first, and felt ready.

With six Boardercross entrants, we were broken into two heats of three. It was myself against the locals, Alex and Dean (father and son). I took the middle position, a seeding from the downriver event. Alex and I advanced with fairly clean runs.  The second heat was Peter, Kevin and Alicia. Kevin and Peter advanced.


In the next round I had nothing left. Gate nine was kind of messy; Alex jumped in it without going around the pole and blocked the rest of us. I gave up on 11 after missing 10. I came in last and lay prostrate on the turf afterwards, feigning death from exhaustion. There was to be a consolation run for whomever didn't advance, for a chance to get into the final. I was pretty tired from the previous two days of riverboarding, and wasn't too excited about the consolation heat, but was willing. Turns out, upon close photo and video review, Alex had used his hands inappropriately, adding up enough foul seconds to put him into the consolation heat to earn his way back into the final. I got to rest, and be in the final.


I was determined not to miss the gates this time, but I had to struggle for 11, taking awhile to paddle upstream. I had missed 10 yet again, but managed to get through the rest. Didn't matter; I got 4th, Kevin showed, Peter won and Alex placed. Utterly spent, I was just glad it was over. So I thought.

Walking back from the course Kevin and I chatted about the weekend's events and came to the realization that we had both earned third place in the overall points standing. We were tied! How cool is that, I thought. I had no idea what it really meant.

Basking in the warmth of vitamin D breezes only high desert can yield, I stripped off my 5 mil wetsuit and soaked the heat into my two-piece clad whiteness. I was looking forward to running Brush Creek, and was getting into my sandals, when River Dave and Josh ambled over and announced they had some news for us, with these really smug grins on their faces. I thought perhaps Alex had fouled again and pushed our places up. Nothing so lucky. Earlier, Kevin had the foresight to ask what would happen if there was a tie for an overall points position. The awards were given out based on the overall finish, rather than individual event finishes. The tie would not stand. It had to be broken. We could do it here, now, on the Boardercross, or somewhere else after running Brush Creek.

"Are you kidding me?!" I exclaimed, throwing my remaining sandal against the dirt, losing my cool for a moment, all while being video taped. "I'm SO tired, there's NO WAY I even have a chance at this! Can't we just split the prize?" Kevin just smiled and didn't seem to have any problem with this latest development, or if he did he didn’t show it.


We squeezed back into our sopping wet rashguards, wetsuits, booties, gloves, helmets, life vests and fins and plodded back down to the starting line. But not before I pulled Kevin aside for some attempt to make it easier on both of us. "Let's strategize here. Since we both missed gate 10, why don't we both just skip it?"


"Mmm, nuh-uh."

"You sure? Or we could just run it straight for time and not hit any of the gates."

Laughter. "If we did that, he (Josh) would probably find some 10-year old kid and have him do the gates and declare him the winner."

I thought about my anger and tried to draw from some inner strength and go with it, and relax a bit. It's just a game and I was here for fun, after all. This would be my fifth run if you include my warm-up run. So what if my body had failed in that last run, Kevin had to be a little tired as well.

Kevin had the advantage of starting one body-width downriver from the jump-off platform. But I did pass him, and after shaking him off my legs, I managed to get in front for the first few gates. He got the inside, tighter corner on the upstream 9. We were both kind of stuck there side by side, fighting the current for what felt like a half a minute as the crowd cheered us on, myself grunting like a weightlifter, finally finding a way up and around the pole a second after Kevin turned. But his inside position had put him further downriver towards gate 10, giving him less time to get there, and it put him further downriver. I paddled like I was being chased by a shark, squeaked around it, then noticed that he had gotten washed out of gate 11. I was about six inches from being washed down, but paddled like that shark was still there, fought the uphill current adding precious seconds to my time, but it turned out to be a good decision. Kevin hadn't noticed I was fighting to make the gate and didn't sprint as hard as he could have. Two missed gates were enough seconds added to declare myself the tie-break winner for overall third.

That afternoon we hit Brush Creek, a gorgeous canyon with lots of teacup falls and narrow chutes to slide down. It eats your board, your elbows, and even my GoPro camera housing got destroyed. We portaged around the largest falls because it's a straight drop into waste deep water. The other drops you could slide around the sides, skimming along the slick surface. My brand new Kern riverboard was definitely broken in!


It was over all too soon, and we found ourselves again at the In-N-Out near the Grapevine, famished. Josh made up for his earlier burger challenge and downed three double-doubles.


*Aquianna is what Kevin named his hydrospeed.


Rochelle Parry is fairly new to riverboarding, but not to the water. She won the USSF Amatuer Women’s Bodyboard Championships in 1990, and has been riding waves on bodyboards since 1978. Not quite old enough to be a cougar, she prefers the term tiger, as she is aggressive in the water but pretty laid back, otherwise.















Thursday, February 12, 2009

The 7th Day: PV -> SJC

One thing I will say about the Caribbean, never having seen it before, is the colors are spectacular. The emeralds and aquamarines and blues are so striking. We'd been living in greyness the past week for the most part. It's really different from on the west coast of the US. Here if you want grey and fog, head to the beach. Especially in June and July. If you want sunshine head inland. Not here, it was the reverse.

Josh climbing up to the treehouse platform. The ladder wasn't bad, but he didn't trust the platform once he got up there.

We ate breakfast at a place that advertised sushi. Not that we were going to have sushi for breakfast. I struggled with ordering something without sugar. I asked if the granola had sugar in it, which came with yogurt and I held that because of the dairy content... and they assured me it did not. No, the granola didn't but I'm pretty sure that the chocolate chips inside the granola had some... Alex and Josh ordered orange juice. Alex swallowed a large mouthful when Josh about spit his out in disgust. It had fermented. And no, these were not screwdrivers, at least they were not supposed to be. We wondered how long the orange juice had sat in the fridge... which lead us to wondering about their sushi. We watched as other patrons ordered orange juice, and watched even closer for a reaction upon consuming. The waiter asked if they'd like to try lemonade or apple juice, but everyone stuck with water pretty much after that.

On the way back from breakfast this guy with long white hair stopped and entertained us, earning a few colones for laughs. He was good. Even showed us a dice trick that is very hard to see, even when you know how it is done. A sort of burly dude walked by and he asked him how it felt to be on the outside. A couple of euro-looking guys with the expensive sunglasses and made-to-look-messy-but-probably-loaded-with-product hair passed by and he promised not to do any homosexual jokes. The one liners kept coming and I wished I had turned on my video recorder. I guess even after three years of owning a camera that shoots video, there are few times I remember to actually use it.

Here's one for Rory.

After breakfast we had to check out and get ready to hit the waves. Which meant loading all the boards onto the car again. There had been some damp gear left in the car which was in the sun. It was pretty ripe in there. As we loaded up the car Kevin decided to don some sun protection, giving him a bit of a middle-eastern look.

We surfed at a place called Cocles. The surf was larger than it had been in Dominical, and a lot of guys were on it. They were steep but not too punishing. Alex traded his board for a fish, which was easier to ride. The current was pretty strong and sometimes it was really hard to paddle back out. I got caught inside a lot. After a while the tide changed and the winds got more onshore but all the locals went in. Stayed out for about two hours and did further damage to the sunburn I obtained at Dominical. When I came in I just wanted to lie face up in the sun and relax. But the trip wasn't about getting tan, and soon enough we were off again, unshowered but happy; at least this time it wasn't riverwater.
On the way out of town we decided to get some lunch. This little stand run by an expat made really awesome veggie burritos. They used tofu in ways tofu has never been made before. The children of the owner served us, little towhead boys, very cute.The burritos were so large they were impossible to pick up. I told my favorite racist jokes. I just figure everyone has heard them, but I think different areas of the country grow up with different jokes. The burritos just happened to remind me of one. Why do Mexicans serve burritos for Christmas dinner? It's so the kids have something to unwrap. Bad, I know. The next one was worse, so I will restrain my eagerly typing fingers.

Josh and I are in this one, but you have to look pretty carefully.
Ice cream was served next door. I found a chair in the shade to wait out the temptation. The guys took turns using the chair across from me. It did look good; some lady at the bar area ordered a strawberry shake. I may have been drooling; I know I was almost sleeping. Conversations floated in and out of the air; sounds like the proprietor had been there awhile, and for the third time in PV, Josh was offered something with a bit more kick to start off the afternoon. Conversations with nomads. It would be a good book title.

Afterwards we took a few last beach shots, using my Gorillapod tripod and self timer. Josh started picking up some coconuts, threatening to throw them, and regretted it pretty quickly; the liquid inside had gone bad and the stench was atrocious, not wanting to come off.
So long beach, it was time to head back to San Jose.

Andres wasn't available in Heredia, so we stayed at a hostel in San Jose. Once we found it. We circled near the landmark - a very tall hotel, I forget the brand, looking for our Pangea, where we had reservations. We circled three times I think before finally spotting the tiny sign on a metal door. The roads are one way, narrow, and the street names are elevated, higher than eye level. You'd never know there was a hostel behind the gate. The gate opened and it was like entering a different universe. We pulled into a very small parking lot and entered through what seemed like a side door, down some stairs, around a corner to the main lobby. Showed our IDs and were shown our room. That had stuff in it. Was there a mistake? No, it was a room with four bunk beds, all of whose bottom bunks were occupied, by guys, although there was only one person in there trying to sleep. The hallways of this place were narrow and darkly painted with hallucinogenic jungle murals, but the inside felt like a barracks. No electrical outlets, but there was a window that led to the ... hallway. Arriving after a long drive, unshowered, sleepy, used to being with just us the whole time, I was just a little unnerved at the situation. I decided to go rent a towel (mine was pretty stanky by then) and get cleaned up. Amazing what a shower will do for one's attitude.

By the time I got back I felt better about it, although it wasn't exactly what I had in mind for my last night in Costa Rica, I made an effort to let it go, go with the flow and figure eventually everyone will sleep, and what sleep I didn't get I could make up on the airplane. We went upstairs to seek food, but the bar was closing, the open air rooftop bar, where the wind was blowing, it was just a little cold. We ordered food and they said we could eat it down by the pool... The food was okay, enough to avoid going to bed hungry. Afterwards we found a sitting area where we exchanged images and videos. The guy who had been trying to sleep ended up there. The airline had delayed his luggage and he was waiting for it.

I had a point of panic when I tried to find my cash to pay Josh. I'd hidden it. And I'd forgotten where. I found it in LA at my sister's when I was hunting for Immodium, a result, I think, of the airport food I ate in Atlanta. Or it could have been something I had at my sister's, not sure maybe a combo. But I was relieved to find the cash, glad I hadn't spent it. super glad no one in TSA had found it. Luckily there was an ATM to get out of the country. You have to pay $26 to leave Costa Rica.

Listened to an interesting conversation with a firey Irishman. His travel mate, a kiwi, had overslept and missed the bus out the previous morning.They spoke in rather course language to one another, implying the kiwi was somehow involved with ewes. I was going to have to be the first one up, having a 9am flight. I put my morning clothes next to my pillow and eventually the conversations ended and the lights went out.

At 6:30 I used my flashlight and put a few articles of clothing on in the dark. The nearest bathroom was a pretty good trek down some hallways and I was kind of getting weary of modesty. I turned the light on at 6:45, pulled clothes on from my suitcase while others started getting up, and got dressed and packed. Said my goodbyes to Alex and Kevin and headed out. Upon checkout I had to say about three times that I was not looking for a bus to the airport, that we had a car. Apparently no one who stays there has a car.

The ride to the airport was quick and we did not get lost. I reflected on what an awesome trip it had been, how we all traveled well together and enjoyed each other's humor. Blank spots notwithstanding, it's a trip I would definitely make again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Puerto Viejo

"It wouldn't be a road trip in Costa Rica unless I got a speeding ticket." - Josh Galt

We drove out towards the coast, over the misty mountain tops and through Limon, which didn't look like a good place to stop. Traffic was heavy, businesses armored. Bumpers served as handles for the occasional bicyclist. Eventually we got out to the coast and everything changed. Even the palm trees.

Curiously enough this place was called "Painted Palms".

Alex, blending in again. (Note his shirt colors. Then note the palm tree colors.)

Someone else tried the same thing on a grove just a little ways up the road, but they used red, yellow and green, rasta colors, but the paint wasn't shiny and it didn't really work.

We decided to get lodging first, and found this hotel a couple blocks off the downtown. Our room was sort of around the back, in a lush setting. It had two twins and one queen bed. Comfortable enough, although wireless access was only in the patio area.

After settling in we got dinner. At least three of us got dinner. Alex got something more resembling a nortemericano diner lunch. (Alex is vegetarian. I don't eat cheese or sugar. Somehow, we managed not to starve.) We tried to find some place Josh recalls that overlooked Salsa Brava, which wasn't breaking, but couldn't find it. The place we ate at was decent; they didn't serve stripes of mustard, ketchup and mayo and call it salsa. It was real food, and although about 4x as much $, worth every cent.

I introduced the gang to TBTL with a broadcast that was meant to give the ever-so-cheesy queen of dripping emotional ooze, Delila, a run for her money. My favorite one was a song dedicated to a gerbil, who died under nebulous circumstances, and they dedicated Michael Bolton's rendition of How Am I Supposed To Live Without You. You can find it under old shows, I think it aired the Wednesday before Thanksgiving '08. I was driving back from a surf outing in Westport and they were recapping the highlights of the previous week's show. It was definitely a highlight.

We decided to go out and listen to some jazz beats that were making their way over to our dwelling. It was an all-white person group, looked like americans, sounded okay, I spent most of the set waiting in line for the bathroom. I talked to one lady who was there doing a border run. Her husband, also an expat, was set up to live in Panama, but she had to do the 3 day visa thing and came up to Costa Rica to do it.

They ended their night and we followed the sounds of another band playing up the street at a disco. But it wasn't disco music it was Jamaican reggae, mon. It was great, so much better than what passes for reggae stateside. We watched from an opening in the side of the building, like where there might normally be a wall, but remember they don't believe in those things in the country. So we had a pretty good view without having to go inside where it was too loud and smokey. There were some characters about, one guy who was pretty lit dancing in the dirt street, tribes of others ducking into the bushes to do.. something.

On the way back we stopped in at a liquor store. I wanted to buy some Guaro but they didn't sell it. The place next door did. So I went next door and they didn't have it on the shelf. It wasn't at the main counter. Way in the back, I had to ask a clerk for it. She reached under some shelf and pulled some out for me. Two, please. They both made it home, one nearly polished off in LA, shared with my sister's household, and the other one is sitting on a shelf waiting for some kind of occasion.

I think I had had some Guaro that night, and there was one beer left, and I couldn't just let it sit there... although no one would help me drink it. Sleep came pretty easy as soon as the neighbors decided to stop chatting, but I woke up way too early again. The kitchen wasn't open til 7 and I had an hour to kill. So I read, then finally gathered up my computer and tea bag and headed outside. Some older guy was hovering around the kitchen and I asked his name. He seemed surprised that I was interested in it, which is kind of sad. He helped me turn on the stove and find a pot to boil water. I set up my computer at the outward facing tables where there was electrical outlet and a view of the gift shop across the street.

Another employee joined me later and sat a the next table. I'm not sure what his role was there but he seemed to do a little of everything. And he'd one a little over everything, naming off the countries he had lived in like someone might name all the people in their family. He became more enthusiastic about talking to me when he realized I spoke some Spanish. He said I looked tense and started massaging my shoulders. I thought this was a little forward but it did feel pretty good. He asked why I was so tense and showed him pictures of what we'd been doing the past week. He had me stand up and seemed to hit every sore spot. I declined the offer to continue it in a bedroom... but everything remained above board. I was kind of sad when the phone started ringing and he had to go. I asked what style he was using and he said Shiatzu. Whatever it was, it was just what I needed.

Turriabla & Pacuare & Puerto Viejo, Day 6


Check out the "nike" logo. Nothing pirated here, no sirree.

Eclectic storefront.

Since we'd had such a wonderful time on the Pacuare, and it was going to be our last river run in Costa Rica, we decided to try it again. Only this time, the water was a little on the low side, in spite of a downpour in the middle of the night, when some late-arriving neighbors woke me up, and I went for a stroll around the building at 1am. The rain on the roof was deafening, although not deafening enough to drown out whoever was wearing heels on the bare tile. I figured there should be water like the day before, but this was not to be the case.

We weren't in a huge hurry but we did have to check out and load all of our gear into the car, along with having room for our driver, whom we decided would have to find his own way back to Turriabla, because Puerto Viejo was the opposite direction. I was still on a mission to get some Colones from the bank. After breakfast I decided to do just that, having failed the day before as the line was so long I would have held up our departure for about 45 minutes. Kevin joined me in waiting in line for the bank to open. I figured we were about a half hour early, and there were about 10 people in front of us, but Costa Rica time is a curiosity to behold, a reliever of stress, because you cannot really go by deadlines and openings and all that rot we pay so much attention to in America. So, we waited, guessing if this guard standing there or not standing there meant anything.

The doors to the bank were these contraptions like something out of Get Smart. The day before when I'd tried to get money, and gave up at the long line, we had to stand inside the glass box and get scanned, or something, before entering the bank. I guess they were looking for weapons. They got space age technology to stop them bank robbers before they cause any problems. Why don't we do something like that. By the time a metal detector goes off in a US bank, it's too late. Here, the door doesn't open until you've been xrayed. Finally some time after 9 (I've lost track of time frames here) (who's looking at a watch anyway) we were allowed to enter, but we didn't have to stop in the glass box and wait for the door to open. We just walked right through it, and were told to stand on some faint floor markers that were there to control how the line flows. Little black squares did a snaking pattern, like the lines at Disneyland but squared on the ends. In the US the equivalent would be those red velvet ropes on those black stands with the gold tops, the ones that topple over if you even look at them. How much more permanent and maintenance free are the tile patterns.

So I finally got to use some Español, and got some Costa Rican cash at a fair exchange rate (it's basically two dollars per colone.)

You can see just to the left of Kevin, that area was under water yesterday.

It was still a fun run, just a wee bit bonier. Which made it harder. I didn't get caught in any eddies, and the spillover was non-existent. But, the rapids were way bumpier and I kept getting kicked off my craft. I think I swam three rapids; the kayakers and raft guides kept asking about my health. I'M FINE. Only my ego got bruised. By the time I hit the last major rapid I was so far off my board I just went with it. Face up, head first, one outstretched arm hanging onto the hydrospeed, staring at the sky, glad I had a helmet on, thinking I'd rather be nowhere else than right here.

I suppose a better decision might have been to do the Reventazon again, not having to scout so much, but hind sight and all that... I really would have liked to go and rerun the Spurt and filled in some of those blank spots.

Just before our last run.

Next: To Puerto Viejo

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pacuare I: Day 6

There was a rafting trip leaving around 7:30 that we could have linked up with, but our sleepiness prevailed and we made a more realistic goal of an 8:30 departure. Figured we would just go with it, raft or no. Had our usual breakfast and as luck would have it, leapfrogged a rafting company from about half way to the put in. We'd been warned that the water was running low. It would be good to have someone to follow.

Kevin, spiking the water with Nuun. Photo:

Turns out probably every raft company and kayak was running it that day. It was really high! It had rained a lot the night before and was continuing to rain all day. This was going to be awesome. A rafting group, some in euro-style shorts (why do they do this), was getting ready to put in, but we had our alliance with a different group who was already getting down river. One of their guides was a one-legged kayaker. We struggled a bit to catch up but eventually got close.

Yesterday had been my day to learn about holes. Today's lesson: Eddies 101. Eddies are a great thing. You can avoid a potential death trap just by swimming over to the side and getting out of the water. You can scoot back upriver to talk to someone or get a better picture angle. You can rest out of the current. These are all great things. But get just the slightest bit out of line on the Pacuare and she sucks you into it faster than you knew what hit ya. It was useless to fight one that pulled me in after a rapid/drop and swooped back upstream alongside a smooth rock. I let the current take me back to the hole, then used the hole to push me back into the current.

The water seemed really 'grabby', like there were little gremlins beneath the current tugging at my ankles. Perhaps it was because it was a fairly narrow river and a lot of water moving through it. The rapids, although brown, were splendid waves, one that even sort of spouted at the top. There was seemingly little consequence to anything we did, although we still followed the lead of the boats and kayaks. It was pure, simple and beautiful fun.

Photo: Alex Koutzoukis, still from video

There was that one time (there's always that one time) where three of us didn't quite get to the best side of a drop. Josh saw it soon enough and paddled to the right to take the best line through it, and while the rest of us tried, we were already too far over to the left to get out of the magnetic force field sucking us into the vortex. It happened kind of fast and all I remember thinking was "whatever is down there, I guess I'm going to find out" and that thought relaxed me. What we were being drawn over towards was something resembling a concrete spill, smooth fast water angling down at about 30 degrees probably, maybe more - I'm trying to recall what slope degrees feel steep when I snowboard - and a big dark hole at the bottom. I don't remember getting spun too much, but we all went through the rinse cycle and came out unscathed.
Approaching the hole. Should have been more right. Deep breath!
Looking back at the spillway geography.
Detritus.  Photos: Alex K, stills from video.

The most beautiful part of Rio Pacuare is just before a steeply walled canyon with waterfalls coming down into it. The top part has a few quick rapids but a good portion is slow, allowing you to really enjoy the surroundings, which is probably one of the prettiest places I've ever experienced. Unlike the Reventazon, there were a lot of people to wave to on this run.

The run was fairly long, and we felt like we should stop and get some nourishment. Pulled up on the shore, a fairly rocky with some wet sand, for about 15 minutes. Not five minutes after getting back in the water, we saw a tower, a cable and a bridge...

Right about then I had another date with Eddie. This Eddie was very strong, must have ate his Wheaties that morning, and done weight training. We had to get through a shallow, bumpy rapid, then go to the left to get to the bridge and car area. I couldn't get over to the left. Eddie vacuumed me off and to the right, and drew me towards a dead area that was full of debris. I was thinking, this can't be good. Survive all the rapids and get done in by a log in an eddie. Josh motioned for me to go with the current, swinging around back into the main area. But I was afraid I'd somehow get wedged where the debris was thicker and was determined to fight it. There was a rock face and I was able to pull myself along it and hang onto tiny fingerholds with my fingertips, inching myself closer to the rock. I struggled this way for what seemed like eternity, probably five minutes, and finally got enough of a counter-current next to the rock to kick out and around it.

There was a nice little rapid under the highway bridge leading up to where we met Luis, our driver. Out by the car someone tried to sell us soap stone carvings, little dust collector ugly things (who buys this crap!). We asked if he made it but of course it was a relative who made them. But the nice thing about Tico vendors is that once you tell them you're not interested they bugger off. Some countries the junk sellers must have been taught that no never really means no, in sales, you never hear no, you just work to overcome their objections. Or be enough of a pest so that they will buy something to make you go away.