Sunday, August 2, 2015

Me and Kirk

July 31, 2015

I took a two-week road trip through Colorado and New Mexico in June, after the wedding in Kansas City.
Kinda my own personal “Thelma & Louise” trip…except it was just “Kirk” and me (my Iowa-plated rental car with “CRK” as the first letters on the license plate, before the numbers).
I've always wanted to explore those two states more – especially New Mexico. The plan was to take my time, leisurely stop at scenic turn-outs and roadside attractions along the way, and end up wherever I ended at the end of each day.

I had no “set” agenda (other than a loose route planned – west across Colorado to at least Grand Junction, turn south there towards New Mexico, and make a loop through that state).  The only “rigid” rule I set for myself was not to back-track on roads already explored, and take a new path each day.
I think more than anything, I just wanted to get in a car and DRIVE.  It’s been years since I've done that, and I still have a valid California driver’s license.
I left Kansas City on a Monday morning, after dropping my brother off at the KC airport for his flight back to California.
I stopped in Manhattan, Kansas, hoping to rendezvous with my uncle (who has lived there since I can remember).  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect with him (love you, John!).  But while there, I did buy a cheap USA $10 Walmart “throw-away” phone, for the trip. I don’t have a “smart phone”…more on this later.
From there, I took I-70 west to Denver for a couple of nights.

Denver dinner with longtime
friends & family -- Dave and Don

Then onto the Grand Junction area, (stopped and explored Frisco and Glenwood Springs on the way)
I had a late lunch in Glenwood Springs at Doc Holliday’s Saloon.  He is buried nearby, and I went to see his “grave” afterwards.
Doc Holliday lived there the last year of his life and died at the Glenwood Hotel in November 1887.

This is just a memorial.
No one knows exactly where Doc H
 was buried here in this cemetery.

I ended up staying in the funky little town of Fruita,
 just few miles west of Grand Junction.

 A quirky junk yard in Fruita

One confession:
It’s been so long since I filled up a car with gas, that the first few times I did it, I was so busy answering the automated questions at the pump:
Name of first born child?
…..that I forgot to screw the gas cap back on, after filling up, until hearing it bang around on the rear of my car after getting back on the interstate.

A spliff for the road, anyone?
Shortly after Denver – stopped and took picture of a roadside weed store…Right off the highway…strikes me as a bit ironic, but then again, I’ll bet there’s not much problem with pedal-to-the-metal speeders along that stretch. 
It’s probably more like “let’s mooove it along here, folks”…

A cop pulled up behind me on shoulder when for the third – and last – time I got out to screw back on the forgotten gas cap, shortly after I took these photos.
”You alright here, ma’am?”
“Seriously, officer – all I did was take pictures from outside, and walk around inside for a minute”

I was driving a rental car, and doing my best not to smoke cigarettes inside Kirk.
At each gas up stop, I would pick up a few scratch- off lottery tickets, have a cig, a coffee, a scratch, and buy a few more cards to relax at the end of each day playing them in my hotel room(s).
I actually hit a few $20 jackpots with these during my trip.

Colorado National Monument
From Fruita, I turned south towards Durango (Hwy 50).  I spent a about an hour exploring the Colorado National Monument first, then headed to Ouray.  My cousin and his family have lived there for 20+ years, (he owns the Ouray Mountain Sports store). We’ve had a couple of cousins’ reunions in Ouray over the years; it’s a beautiful and quaint town, though a drizzly day when I stopped that afternoon to see Bill and his family.

Cousin Bill and family

My plan was to spend the night in Durango (never have explored that town), but no rooms were available, so I pushed on down to Farmington, New Mexico.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Daisy Update

July 22, 2015

Daisy is doing much better.
I returned to Guayaquil on Monday afternoon – when all her tests results were ready, and recommended doctor was there to give his evaluation.
She does have degenerative rheumatoid arthritis in her hips pretty severely (“riddled with it”), but she is at least able to get up on her hind quarters and walk now...Not curable, according to doc.

Her blood work is good, except for somewhat low platelet count - she will be on antibiotics for the next couple of weeks for that to make sure that any possible lingering effects of the tick born disease (Ehrlichiosis) are eradicated.
She will be on a course of homeopathic joint medication for rest of her life that should help ease her discomfort and give her more agility for now.
Doc wants to try this for a couple of months to see how she responds before he sees her again.
So for now...all is "okay"...taking a wait and see attitude.
Daisy and I returned to Olón yesterday (Tuesday) and she’s fairly frisky at the moment, and glad to be back home.
Todd and I met last night so that I could give him a supply of her meds to keep at his place when she is over there. 

If she does not improve or appears to be in perpetual discomfort - will not put her through that for long… on this, both Todd and I agree. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Daisy Girl

June 19, 2015

Yesterday morning, I was just getting ready to post an essay I’ve been fiddling with for a while (the theme was more or less about trying to toggle between two cultures after my second visit to the States since living in Ecuador for five years)…and it’s pretty funny piece.

But I’m shelving it for the moment.
I was in Guayaquil most of yesterday with Daisy Dog on an emergency run.
She is sick; I think she is seriously ill.
I got back from Guayaquil (three hours away from my home in Olón) around 11PM last night.

Daisy is a stray beach dog that Todd and I adopted 5 years ago, when we moved here.  She was a frisky, friendly, smart and energetic dog that we all still love, and anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Miz Daisy falls in love with her.
She’s a very independent dog; she has run outside free all of her life – and she would have it no other way...
You can take the stray dog off the beach, but you can’t take the “beach stray” out of the dog.

She was struck by a big truck barreling down the Ruta del Sol back in 2012. 
She survived that without major injuries, but she’s never been quite the same since. That injury still pains her in her hind joints and the end result – she is not as flexible and has walked a little “gimpy” since then.
Also, the local vet that routinely does Daisy’s check-ups diagnosed her last August with Ehrlichiosis (chronic dog tick disease – similar to “Lyme” disease in humans.)
She was treated for that, and subsequent blood tests taken a couple of months later “in town” (aka a Libertad clinic that has more sophisticated labs and equipment than our local small town vets can provide) came back negative for the disease.

I snapped these photos last time
I was in the Libertad vet's 
examination room

And yes, I actually do have one more
picture that is closer up and

But Daisy's been limping more than usual in the last couple of weeks.
She walks slow in the AM till she stretches out and gets a little more agile (don't we all, as we get older?)...Daisy isn't a youngster anymore, either.
But for her to go from slow-moving yesterday morning to hindquarters totally paralyzed by lunch time suggests something more serious to me.
I was frantic to get her to Guayaquil, which is the largest city in Ecuador, and ultimately (at least for now – still the best option for those of us on the southern coast with seriously ill pets).

The buses will not take large dogs, nor will most cab drivers.
There is at least one Olón area driver that I know that will take big dogs in his vehicle (Galo), but to arrange that 3 hour trip in/3 hour trip back – need NOW…with a dog—was potentially logistically laughable.
Especially since it’s been raining like crazy here for the last few days.
I am so grateful that Galo was available and a big thanks to friend Dave Lightowler for handling those arrangements during my panic. And another big nod to Annette, who zoomed over to my place with her level head to help me gather all that I needed to take for the trip…And also big hugs to all my local and FB friends for their advice, support, information yesterday.
Galo and I took her to a GYE clinic (open 24/7) that has a number of good recommendations.

The weekend staff on duty was caring, kind, but limited regarding what they were able to do until Monday.
No diagnostic tests will be complete until Monday afternoon.  Initial x-rays do indicate pretty severe arthritis in her hips.
I had to leave Daisy in Guayaquil. It broke my heart leave her there, but they have all night staff/medicine that will make her more comfortable till then.
I am back in Olon, but return tomorrow to GYE to find out results of blood tests and wait for other exams to be completed.

Asking for prayers for Daisy, and she sends licks and wags.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Missing in Action

June 18, 2015

(I will return to my narrative about my two week Colorado/New Mexico road trip and my last couple of days back in Kansas City, but interrupting the sequence of events to post this update)

I started my journey back to Ecuador yesterday, in Kansas City. I got to MCI (the KC airport) around 10:30AM to return my rental car, and to check-in for the first leg of the trip, after a 45 minute drive to get there. I was booked on American Airlines going through Dallas (with only a 50 minute layover), catching another American Airlines flight to Miami (leisurely 2.5 hour stop), then switching to LAN for the final leg to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

My checked-in bag was ticketed all the way through to Guayaquil.
My home in Olón is another 3 hour bus ride from there.
Because I wasn’t scheduled to arrive until after midnight, I booked (and paid) for two nights at one of the more pricey hotels in GYE.
I knew I would be tired since I've just spent the last two weeks having a ball exploring Colorado and New Mexico (I put 3000 miles on my rental car during that time)…so I wanted a couple of days to decompress and sleep. I decided to splurge on the room.

Because of the stormy weather in Dallas yesterday, all flights going through there were delayed by several hours.
In Kansas City, this resulted in an after-security gate change for my airplane. Because of MCI’s screwy layout, a gate change means exiting a secure area (right after I bought a $3 bottle of water), and going through security a second time (bye, water).
The bitchy American Airlines clerk at the second gate was unable to provide my LAN boarding pass, because she “couldn’t access LAN’s computer system” (operated by AA according to my Expedia print-out).  And because of the several hour back-ups on flights, it was unclear whether I would make it to Miami in time to catch the connection
During the two hour interval at the KC gate, I tried a number of times to Skype my already-paid pricey Guayaquil hotel, because it seemed pretty clear that  - at best -  I would be arriving at their location much later than 1AM, if at all. But each time I got through, I was directed to an automated system that apparently wasn’t working. I also had my brother Jack trying to reach them from his California phone, and he was getting the same result.
Keep in mind, I don’t have a smart phone. I have an Ecuadorian phone and a $10 Walmart “throw-away” that I bought when I started my road trip a couple of weeks ago.

AA's Miami ticket counter after 11PM
As anticipated, I got to Miami at 11PM – a couple of hours after my scheduled LAN flight departed for Guayaquil. The American Airline personal at the arrival gate told me to first go to the American ticket counter, before going to the opposite side of the airport to reach the LAN terminal.
No one was there so I raced over to LAN – just missing their last direct flight to GYE. The best they could do was put me on plane going there via Lima, Peru and a second city (I forget which one) before it got to Guayaquil.
This concerned me, because I was worried about my suitcase; it was ticketed through to GYE, and because of the earlier Dallas weather confusion, I wasn’t sure where it landed for the night.

I landed in the blue part
of this map.
I raced to LAN
Which  --naturally -- is in the red part 

Which way to
"Customer Assistance"?
American has lost my luggage three times (the third incident occurred coming to the States on this trip).  
It appeared my best bet was to wait out the night in the terminal until AA counter & baggage personnel began their shifts again around 4:30AM to book another flight back to Ecuador.
No food was offered on either plane before I got to Miami.
I was starving (except for an all-night Dunkin’ Donuts, the restaurants were closed by then). I was also really sleepy, so I walked around the terminal to stay awake. I don’t know that airport well, and I figured I might as well get familiar with it before the morning rush hour began.

By then, I grabbed a luggage cart; my carry-on(s) are heavy because my suitcase is packed full of spices, canned goods and weighty liquid bottles that won’t pass security. 

No one to ask.
But around 2AM I parked myself nearby.
WiFi hot spot just behind the green wall.

Just as I really needed to go potty
during my graveyard tour of the terminal

I took this adjoining picture from outside the airport.
Of course, "MIA" stands for Miami International, but all I was reminded of was my wandering suitcase.

After roaming around, I found a WiFi hot spot by the information desk.  There was a pole with an electrical outlet, it was quiet (my laptop speaker isn't very loud) , so I parked myself on the floor next to it.
I guess this was around 2AM.

I thought  I should try Skyping my hard-to-reach Guayaquil hotel again...and yippee (!) I finally reached Ricardo (with whom I had reserved the room a few days ago).
We had just begun talking, and then...and then this:

The loud floor sweeper shows up.
And though I'm trying to wave her off
during my call, she won't go away.

And here she comes again.
Determined to run her "mowing" pattern


It is now around 11:00 in the morning.
A few hours ago I got my Miami to Guayaquil ticket re-booked (and I checked with baggage folks and it does look like my suitcase has spent the night here with me too). 
Presumably, we will be on the same plane back, since it's the first likely one heading to Guayaquil today.

...At five o'clock tonight...
I'm now 24-hrs on this mission, with no sleep, no food, and have six more hours to go.I'm dying for a meal and a cold beer, but don't dare do either till I go through security and get near my gate.
I'm so exhausted, I'm terrified I'll fall asleep and miss the flight once I eat or drink anything but coffee.
have both my cell phone alarms set (and tucking one in my bra - on vibrate).

Signing off for now and keeping my fingers crossed.

have been territorially guarding
my little spot here for around 8 hours now.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


June 10, 2015

I am the oldest. My brother Jack is the youngest.
My two sisters still li
ve in KC
I’m in the States now. 
I flew back here a couple of weeks ago (to Kansas City) to attend a niece’s wedding.
This is the first time that I have been back in my hometown in over six years, and it is wonderful to see my family and friends again.
Rather than leave from the coast, I started my vacation in Cuenca, where I spent a day and half to see my dentist and hairdresser.  From there, I took a 4-hour afternoon bus ride across the Cajas to catch my 11PM flight out of Guayaquil.

I flew American to Miami, and then switched to United from there to Chicago onto Kansas City. I had short layovers in both Miami and Chicago, and was concerned about my luggage making it with me. For that matter, the check-in staff at the GYE airport (José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport) was also concerned that I would make it through customs and security in time to make my connections and even offered to mark me as a “special needs” passenger.  In other words, “needs a wheel chair”.  
I didn’t know whether to be appreciative or appalled (surely I don’t look THAT old). But the counter people at the Guayaquil airport are always so kind and helpful, I smiled and politely declined.
But things went downhill after that.  Normally, I fall asleep on buses and airplanes before they even take off, but was so squished in my bus and flight seat(s) that I didn’t get a wink of sleep throughout my journey.

I arrived in Miami around 4:15AM, cleared customs fairly quickly, but then the wheels on one side of my carry-on fell off, so I ended up dragging it from one side of the airport to the other, going through several security check points along the way.  I also discovered that I was walking around with only one dangly earring (the other fell out somewhere), my eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep, so I’m sure I looked pretty bedraggled by the time I caught my flight to Chicago around 6AM.

About then I was kind of wishing I had opted for the wheel chair alternative.

The good news was that my flight to Chicago arrived 25 minutes earlier than scheduled, so I slammed down a morning beer before heading on to Kansas City.
I got in at 10:30 in the morning; however the plan was to wait there for my brother Jack’s flight from California to land at 3:30 in the afternoon.
And, as I anticipated, my luggage did not make it with me.  Fortunately, I shrink-wrapped it when leaving Guayaquil (with all my USA & Ecuador contact information taped to the outside – I also put a copy of my itinerary inside the bag). The GYE check-in folks also tagged it with a bright orange “priority” sticker.
American Airlines has lost my luggage three times, and the one other time I made an American to United airline switch, the luggage was never found... (a domestic flight from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania back to Palm Springs)
I am wise to these guys, and as a precaution packed basic necessities and wedding clothes in my carry-on.
GRRRR…why do I ever fly American/United airlines??
I also have short layovers on my way back to Ecuador (those flights going through Dallas and Miami) and my bet is that my suitcase will go missing in action again, and already planning on spending an extra night or two in Guayaquil waiting for it, before heading three hours back home to Olón, on the coast of Ecuador.
Anyway, while waiting for Jack to get in, I filed a luggage claim, then went and picked up my rental car (I’m in the States for three weeks) and then spent a very boring five hours hanging around MCI (Kansas City airport). It’s not much fun hanging around this airport  – restaurants outside of security area are only so-so, and wifi hot-spots are hit or miss (I don’t have a smart phone and still drag around a laptop that could be used as a small table).

My sister Laura, KC friend Stephanie
and my brother and me.

Once Jack got in, we headed to my sister Laura’s house, where we were stayed for the wedding weekend.
We headed out to meet some friends for dinner that first night (my other sister, Liz, was unable to join us since she is the mother of the bride – my niece Taylor) and though I was really tired coming from Cuenca, Ecuador and 30 hours with no sleep, we had a wonderful time.

And – thankfully - my luggage showed up at my sister’s doorstep the next morning.

During our visit to Dad's house.
It's been 14 years (since Dad died)
that we've been inside.
The current owners were so gracious to
give us this tour, and shared with us
some pictures they inherited
 with the home.

The next day (which was a Thursday) all four of us siblings spent the whole day touring some of the former homes we lived in while growing up in Kansas City.  Aside from the wedding, this definitely was a highlight of the trip, and an exceptionally special day...A day full of wonderful memories.

We saw the inside of four of them. We had pre-arranged afternoon appointments with two of those (Dad’s home, and the 94th Street house in Kenilworth). In the morning, we just knocked on a couple of doors and gracious current home-owners let us in.

Grandma & Grandpa Frost's home
in KCMO.
A "let's knock" stop.
They lived here for 45 some years.
Many Thankgiving memories and
going down to see the Plaza Lights
turned on afterwards

Dad owned this home in
Prairie Village, Kansas for 41 years.
From the time I started high school
until he died in late 2002. 

A visit to see Dad.
My sister Liz took this photo.

Dinner at the Hereford House.
Eating KC rib eye.
Died and gone to heaven.


Kansas City’s reputation for hospitality is well deserved, though I doubt four people over 50-yrs old – standing on the doorstep asking to see the inside and take pictures – probably didn't appear to be too threatening.    
The rehearsal dinner was at Jack Stack’s, where I finally got to sink my teeth into some exceptional KC BBQ – boy, have I been craving that for years!

My niece Taylor and new hubby Ben
in center of back row.

The wedding was special and wonderful; my gorgeous niece looked spectacular, and she and her new husband Ben are a perfect couple together. They have been friends for years.

On the Monday after the wedding, I dropped Jack off at the airport for his morning flight back to California, and then headed west towards Colorado and New Mexico.
I figured that as long as I was coming this far from Olón, I was going to make the most of it to do a two-week driving loop around both those states and was looking forward to the adventure.
I’ve driven through them many times, but never really explored either state.
I’m on that road trip now.

More to follow...  

Celebrating my June 9th
Five year Anniversary 
move to Ecuador
with a bottle of Hatch wine New Mexico.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

High Times in Olón

May 7, 2015

I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote.
Our “high” season on the coast runs from around New Year’s until this last weekend, (the first day of May is an official Ecuadorian “Workers’” holiday – similar  to the State’s “Labor Day” 3-day weekend).
Following New Year’s, hordes of tourists come to the coast during this time, and the holidays of “Carnival” and “Semana Santa” (the week before Easter) are particular crowded.
In the meantime, traveling circuses come through, and small local town parties kick into gear (Olón has a really fun annual April town-park fiesta).
And this season certainly went out with a bang.

Because of a storm off the coast of Chile, our Ecuadorian shoreline experienced some unusually high waves and incoming tides for several days last weekend.  There were predictions of 25’ (25 feet) wave faces, and powerful inland winds, so we were braced (and the surfers were chomping at the bit).
The biggest waves sets I saw were around 12-footers (based upon my unpracticed eye), but I missed being on the beach during the highest tides (the peak was predicted for 3AM last Sunday morning), though I heard from many friends along the coast who witnessed mammoth waves much larger than I viewed.

Along with the colossal breakers came the “King Tides”.  King Tides occur a couple of times a year, and are long, slow, somewhat shallow water tides that wash into shore much, much further inland than normal.   Maybe say 30-50 feet further or so? They generally last for a couple days.
We experienced a King Tide a few months ago – reportedly the largest in the past 18 years – and last weekend’s surges were bigger/longer/higher.
I have heard and seen some pictures of a few coastal zones where these waves and tides caused some damage and beach erosion in certain areas, but here in Olón, I don’t think the effects were too devastating.
Included are some pictures I took last Saturday afternoon, as a high tide was making its way in.

Carnival (“Carnaval”) was in mid-February this year and relatively tame. It was not nearly as crowded as in years past. I think this may have been because we had such a humongous throng of people here for Christmas and New Year’s, that many folks decided to forego the beach (at least ours) for this celebration.
I had just returned from a quick visit to the States, and I house-sat for at Doug and Pam’s Jardines de Olón beach house during that weekend, but it was pretty much a non-event.

Selection of the assorted grains
for sale at one of the local
vegetable stands 
during the week before Easter 

The week before Easter -- “Semana Santa” --  is another big spring holiday here, and we get many tourists visiting the coast, typically tranquil Ecuadorian family groups.
A soup called “Fanesca” is the traditional meal served in Ecuadorian households during Holy Week.  It is a complicated and time-consuming dish to prepare (using a number of ingredients, including twelve types of beans and grains – representing the twelve apostles of Christ, and salt cod, symbolizing Jesus).
I have never tried to make it, but click on this link for one Fanesca recipe.

Friends Forever .
(Daisy going incognito under the baseball cap).

I think the most entertaining fiesta during “season” is the annual Olón town-park party in April.  There are always lots of rides, and many food/clothing/toy vendor booths.  Not to mention several nights of music and dancing till the wee hours of the morning (usually starting around 11PM to midnight).

Note the child sleeping in the hammock
while the game was being played.
One of my favorite "carny" games at the park this year was a ring toss to encircle a coin or bill with rubber donut-shaped disks (Fifteen rubber disks for a DOLLAR)...Board was seeded with mostly 50-pieces, and disks thrown from behind a fence boundary.
Winners get the money they snag.

One night, I actually succeeded in landing donut-shaped rubber-ring-thing onto a $20 bill.
I don't know who was more surprised. The guy running the game or me.

Looks innocent during the daytime,
Which it isn't.
Only laying in wait.

I rode this.
Scared the bejeezuz out me:
Number one because it was a fun and scary ride,
with maniacal "conductors" swinging the pendulum 

high and fast.
Everyone;s feet came off the floor in my "cage"

from anti-gravity effect.
Probably not regularly inspected for safety either.

I honestly don’t know how the locals find the stamina to party all night like they do (I have never made it past around 2AM on any of these), but they sure have fun!

In the last month, I have made 3 different trips to Cuenca for dental work (the dentist I use and trust is located there).
I have always had dental and gum issues (that I still smoke cigarettes doesn’t help, but I have cut back).  This time, I had a front tooth "floating around".
My dentist asked me if there had been some trauma to the tooth to cause it to become so loose, but the most aggressive and aggravating thing I could think of was a can of pistachio nuts I chowed down on awhile back.
I needed bone grafting done in several locations (and a periodontal gum operation) in my mouth. Over the years, I have had just about every conceivable  dental work done -- a lot of awful things done in my mouth (don’t touch that…), but lemme tell you….that procedure(s) HURT.  Going into those gum surgeries, I did not fully appreciate just how painful the recovery period would be, especially since adequate pain medications are either not available or nearly impossible to obtain in Ecuador.
What was not painful was the cost.  Including consultations, dental procedures and operations, my cost was around $400.  I’m guessing this would be more like thousands of dollars in the United States.
So I have spent a lot of time in bed recently, with stitches in my mouth, gumming through yogurt, (my mouth was so swollen and black and blue, I looked like I walked off the set of “Planet of the Apes"), but the work is finished now and I am on the mend.

And last but not least, I finally got a fence installed around my Jardines de Olón lot, and it looks great.

Scott Gould and crew did
 a GREAT job on this fence!