Monday, December 15, 2014

Snorkeling Puerto Rico: Blue Hole Beach

Blue Hole Beach
Road Leading to Blue Hole Beach 
General Description:   A day on a windswept beach on the Northwest  Coast of can soothe the soul.  This beach is located in a hard to reach the area near the old Ramey Air Force Base.   Blue Lagoon would be a great place to spend a day swimming and snorkeling on a beautiful beach in Puerto Rico.  

Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate due to rocky conditions when entering the lagoon. 

Grid Coordinates:  18.515156, -67.099562

Maps:   Topo PR Isabela 20130925

Finding the Beach:    From San Juan follow highway 2 for about 3 hours.   As you enter Aguadilla turn right onto PR-110.  Follow PR-110 for about 5 miles take a right on PR-4466.  After the turn as you drive you will drop down a coast bluff entering a small canyon.  Take a left once leaving the canyon onto a paved unmarked secondary road.  There will be a couple turns to the right where you can park along the road and walk to the beach.   
Blue Hole 

Map of Blue Hole
Beach Overview:  The Blue Hole is a  lagoon located between the beach and the rocky surf break that is located 150 yards from the beach.   The first lagoon is located right next to the beach beyond the smooth limestone base.  The beach although sandy has a smooth limestone base right after entering the water. There is a deeper lagoon that is used for scuba diving located just past the first lagoon.   There are marvelous coral formations and fish populations located in both. For a better experience stay at Villa Tropical for a few nights to completely enjoy the beach and rural country atmosphere.   A great place to have lunch after snorkeling is a small cafe called Ola Lola's Garden Bar.  You must try the famous Peanut Butter Burger. 
Coral Formation st Blue Hole
Snorkeling Instructions:   Once arriving at the beach you will notice an entry/exit way on the west side of the lagoon. From this point walk east about 100 yards along the beach towards the east.   Enter the water crossing a shallow limestone reef.  When the water is about knee to waist deep gear up, then snorkel out toward the breakers past the lagoon.   The prevailing wind blowing from the east will push you west towards the entry/exit way that leads to and out of the Lagoon.   You can enter the lagoon at this western edge but will be swimming against the wind.   From the eastern side snorkel along the outer edge of the lagoon. There will be many coral formations and fish as you near the second outer scuba lagoon

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sitting in a Tree

Part of my post-army semiretired life has involved sitting in trees and deer blinds.  Or, in other words, deer hunting.  The deer in Tennessee actually taste pretty good, without the gamey taste that some deer have out west.  So we try to shoot 1 or 2 a year.  This year we have gotten 1 that a friend of mine had shot while we were hunting together.

You might ask why I am writing this drivel. The reason being I'm currently in a deer blind bored out of my skull.  It's funny, I have a love and hate relationship with this thing called deer hunting.  When I'm doing it, I feel like I could be productive in so many other endeavors, like cleaning my garage or starting the living space in my barn.  

But no here I sit waiting for a whitetail to cross my path, and with each deer season, another year of my life passes.  Sitting here a few days away from Christmas thinking, oh shit, I still have a lot of shopping left to do.   As another hour of my life is lost sitting in this deer blind.  

After hunting season is over and a few months have past when there is no deer meat in the freezer.  I will again wait to go sit in a tree in a place called Whitetail Pines. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Wandering Soldier: The Sinai Deployment

Tel Aviv 
I know this happened over 20 years ago, but I now realize the importance of this trip.  It was the moment in my life that opened my eyes to the world.   In 1992 through 1993 I spent 9 months in the Sinai with the 101st Airborne Divison.  I had the opportunity to travel throughout Egypt and Israel.   I did what I like to call the Sodom and Gomorrah tour; just kidding, but I did have fun.

Yes, people, I have walk in the steps of Jesus in Jerusalem.   Then at night seen the discotheques a glow as weapons from young Israelis having stacked arms where they were blowing off steam.  Have been to where Moses saw the burning bush.  Drank wine on a hotel roof in Nazareth. Yes, that little town of Nazareth, a place where Mary and Joseph raised Jesus.  I have wailed at the wailing wall.  Tried to walk on water at the Sea of Galilee.  Floated in the Dead Sea.  Been to the top of  Masada and everywhere in between.

I guess it is kind of a misnomer to call this a deployment, my room had a view of the Red Sea with a 5-minute walk to a great swim and snorkel beach.  Then in the evening, it was to the camp club where Heinekens, Rum, and Cokes were 50 cents a piece.  Saturday Night was always steak night.  Oh, how I missed the Army before Order Number One.

The Wailing Wall Jerusalem 
Traveling in Cairo was the biggest Adventure of my life.   The Nile, the Pyramids, the Mosaics in the Churches and Mosques.  I even learned to scuba dive here receiving my certification from a Navy dive detachment stationed at the same camp.   Stopping at Israeli war battle sites on a whim.  Climbing on burned-out tanks and artillery pieces that still had the feeling of War in them.  It was all just living history which I now feel a part of.

Scuba Diving in the Red Sea 
Located in the gated community of South Camp, in Egypt on the southern tip of the Sinai where the Gulf of Aqaba meets the Red Sea.  It was Paradise for a few months.  This is where I learn to love travel and all the adventure that comes with it.  This is where I learned that; The Dude Abides.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Snorkeling Puerto Rico: Crash Boat Beach

General Description:   Crash Boat is one of those special places that is better than expected once you get there.   There is a long pier into the water along with 3 separate island piers where the snorkeling among the pier pilings is incredible.    Coral grows on the pilings, but the fish swimming among the pilings is what will leave you with the feeling that you have experienced something special.  On the beach, there are a couple of hut bars along with food vendors that give the place a party-like atmosphere.   This local family beach has become one of my favorites.

Degree of Difficulty: Intermediate due to the 100 yard swim out to the Island Pilings.

Grid Coordinates:  18.458231, -67.164402

Maps:   PR Aguadilla 20130925 Topo

Finding the Beach:    Located on the western coast of Puerto Rico it is more than 3 hours from San Juan.  Take Highway 2 from San Juan to Aguadilla for about 3 hours.  Turn right on Highway 107; drive about 3 miles follow the signs to Crash Boat Beach.  Take a left on to PR 458 follow the road to the beach.  Stay the night in the many Hotels in Aguadilla or at the old Ramey Air Force Base.

Beach Overview:     This is a small public beach not in the park system.   It has free parking and many food vendors and beach hut bars.   It has a family picnic atmosphere. Snorkel but also enjoy the beach and the local food.  This place will not be forgotten.

Snorkeling Instructions:     Enter the water to the right of the Pier.  Avoid snorkeling along the Pier that runs out into the water due to the many people fishing from the pier.   You can also walk out on the pier and make the 15 foot jump into the water at the end of the pier.  Swim to one of the pier Islands you can swim through and around the pier pilings.   These three Island Piers are used for weather equipment and are not accessible by land.   Swim from the pier to enjoy the many fish and colorful coral.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Puerto Rico: Our Stay in Ocean Park

We are nearing the end of our week long stay in Ocean Park, Puerto Rico.  Our house on the beach was awesome.   This was a special trip for our sons wedding to a wonderful woman.  We are now members of a wonderful family here in Puerto Rico and Miami.   More reasons to spent more time on this Island that I have always loved.

On this trip we stayed in San Juan in the Ocean Park area a trendy area near the beach.  We rented a house for the many family members that attended the wedding.   The beach  was a nice break when not touring the Island and at the wedding, which was held right down the street in Condado.   We now look forward to returning to Puerto Rico to get to know the new part of our family.

As I continue to travel I now realize more than ever that it isn't the sites and place that we see. The most important part of travel are the people that you meet they are the real reason to travel. They are the fabric of the places that are seen.   People along with the places are the fabric of life.            


Friday, November 21, 2014

Back in San Juan

Welcome back to San Juan.  As I step of the plane it feels good to be warm again.  It was 31 degrees when I left Nashville this morning; I walk out of the terminal the heat and humidity washes over me like a well needed shower.  The 87 degrees makes me feel clean and ready for a new adventure on this magical tropical island.

I have been to Puerto Rico many times; but this is a special trip.  Our son is marrying a wonderful woman here on the Island.  He is in the coast guard and she a school teacher from Miami. You may remember, it is a special time.  Falling in love and deciding that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone.  It is always a good time to be alive when this is happening.

In the next few days we will be headed to new exciting places on the western side of Puerto Rico. Renting a house on a Coast Guard Air Station visiting places called Crash Boat, Blue Hole, and Rio Camuy Caves.  So grab your snorkel gear the cool caves and warm water awaits.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Flying to Puerto Rico

Taking  off from Tampa it is a clear day as we head north.  We make a sweeping turn towards the southeast.  I can see the airport below us as we pass over the Bay of Tampa.  Flying over the peninsula of Florida it is flat with farms and lakes intertwined like green Swiss cheese.  Canals cut across the greenness like a knife cutting through a cake.

In the distance is the Atlantic Ocean and the east coast of Florida.  The Ocean approaches fast, shortly we are over the a turquoise Ocean glimmering in the sun.  The Caribbean is upon us.   With the Bahamas below now I know I'm half way to Puerto Rico.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ida (2014) A movie from Poland.

Ida (2014) A movie that brought back memories of Poland.   When I visited, it was a  beautiful country that was in the grip of significant change.

Traveling in Poland in the early '90s, every crossroads, street, park, and/or town would have a small monument to the dead.  There are so many of them that it is not practical to see them all.  You have to understand 33%; or in human terms, 3 out of 10 Poles were killed during WWII.  This movie Ida (2014), brings an incredible look at a small part of this suffering.  Rarely to me has a film been so moving and visually stunning. 

Set in the backdrop of communist Poland delves into a girl, and her aunts struggle to discover the truth about there family during the war.  Without saying it is much more, just wait until you get to the stained glass.   For myself, it brought back rushing emotions of land that I once visited.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Smoky Mountains: Franklin, North Carolina to Chattanooga Tennessee

The day after riding the Tail of the Dragon it was time to head back to Chattanooga.  We had gotten a late start on this trip due to the weather, but it was worth the wait.   We watched the suns rise  as we got ready to leave Franklin North Carolina.  In the Mountains it seems like it would be a wonderful place to live and ride a motorcycle on a daily basis.  We finished breakfast as the sun broke over the mountain tops, we were then off again for another adventure.

US Highway 64 snakes over the mountains towards the west, leading us back to the great state of Tennessee.  As we ascend the divide we see a wall of Fog from a distance.  It looks like we are about to ride off the mountain as the fog approaches.  When we enter the fog it feels like a portal to another time.  We must slow down in the mist that is all enveloping.   We ride through the fog with confidence that this is going to be a good day.  As we summit we drop out of the fog in the decent for lunch in Murphy North Carolina.  Highway 64 is a motorcycle road one of the best.

After some burritos and tacos at a local mexican restaurant we leave Murphy for the ride along the Ocoee River and back into Tennessee. This is the most enjoyable ride of the trip.  With long  sweeping turns with the mountains and river in the foreground it was a awesome ride.  Much better than the tight congested turns of Highway 129 the Tail of the Dragon.

As the Ocoee River turns into the Ocoee lake the views and the turns get more spectacular.  We cross into Tennessee after Ocoee Lake it is a short ride to Cleveland Tennessee.   We jump on I 75 for the short blast to Chattanooga in time for a early dinner.  The ride being a success we dream of more time in this part of the Smokies.

There are a lot of undiscovered motorcycle roads in this area of the country.  The next day on the ride back to Clarksville we dream of riding 4 states in 1 day; Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina.  It will be in 2015.   We will be back.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Smoky Mountains: Riding the Tail of the Dragon

Leaving Chattanooga on a cool, clear, and crisp late fall morning is exhilarating.  It is a hour ride to the base of the Smoky Mountains.  We ride thru Cleveland Tennessee on US Highway 64 and stop for lunch in the small town of Ocoee, Tennessee.  Its a great lunch of Fried Catfish and Green Shrimp at Bears Den Barbeque.    I really don't know what fried green shrimp are but they sure are good.

It is then off to the Dragon.  It is a short ride up Highway 411 to US Highway 129; the start of the Tail of the Dragon.   This road has 310 sharp curves over a 11 mile stretch that crosses the Smoky Mountains into North Carolina. We are riding the Dragon from the west to east which will put us in the heart of the Smokies.  We stop at the Harley apparel shop before the start of the Dragon and of course buy the T-shirt.

The ride is incredible with the fall colors in the trees.  We make short work of the 11 miles and stop to get our bearings in Robbinsville, NC to get a soda. We marvel at the fact that we have ridden the Dragon the most crooked road in the United States.  It is a beautiful thing.  For anyone that rides a motorcycle it is a badge of honor.  It is closing in on 5 PM we have a long way to go to get to our destination of Franklin North Carolina.

So we turn down North Carolina Moonshiner 28 off of US Highway 74 as it starts to get dark.   We are taking this winding road slowly because it is prime deer season time on a motorcycle.  So in the next 10 miles before Franklin we have 3 Whitetails cross the road in front of us.  It pays to take our time and ride slow not exceeding 25 MPH during this danger time.

With a deep breath we pull into Franklin North Carolina to get gas at a quick stop.  A UPS driver who was following us came up to discuss the deer.  That's good ride'n he says, you could have reached out and had some venison too!!!  

It is our lucky night we get the last hotel room at the Franklin Comfort Inn.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nashville to Chattanooga: The Caney Fork and Sequatchie River Valley

The ride on Highway 70 and Highway 111 from Nashville to Chattanooga  is one for the most scenic roads in the Southeast. The ride thru Appalachia is always awe inspiring.  Appalachia the area from the eastern slop of the Smokey Mountains to the western slope of the Cumberland Plateau  is uniquely American.  A complete culture all it's own.  Once you've done it you know you have to do it again.  This place can keep a person alive both mentally and spiritually.

Riding out of Nashville headed east it is a long climb up to the top of the plateau.   The hardwood forest and view of the Buffalo Valley dominate the landscape.   The Cumberland Plateau is about 50 miles wide, it is a different world of hunting, fishing, moonshine, meth, and old time religion.   As you arrive to the top of the plateau you cross the Caney Fork River as it meanders west down the plateau to join the Cumberland River near Nashville.

We stop for lunch in Sparta Tennessee next to the Calf Killer River.   Yep that's right the Calf Killer River, I wonder how it got that name?  From Sparta Tennessee on Highway 111 you drop off the Plateau into the Sequatchie River Valley to the little burg of Dunlap.  Its time to stop for coffee and warm up for the final push over Signal Mountain.  It is 10 degrees warmer in the Valley and the warmer 61 degree air feels good.

It is hard to imagine this trip on horseback, back in the day would be a week or more. While making the decent into Chattanooga the sun arrives and it feels good. We arrive in North Chattanooga at the base of Signal Mountain on the Tennessee River our adopted second home.

Friday, September 12, 2014

3000 Mile Motorcycle Ride: The 4 Best Roads of the Ride

This is my second ride to Denver from Tennessee.  Going to Wisconsin first really made this ride special although longer, the approach to Denver was new to me, with a completely new perspective.   Here are the highlights from the 4 best roads of the ride.   These roads are ingrained in my memory.   While on these roads I achieved nirvana on a motorcycle; it was a complete religious experience.   For people that ride this is what it is all about.  It's always about the journey, it's about the ride.

I love lonely roads;the feeling of complete isolation stirs the soul.   These 4 roads have this in common.  On these roads there are 3 equally defining parts of the experience, that you can feel deep in your marrow.  The rush of the road beneath your wheels, a direct connection to the world at that given moment, and a feeling that you are the only one really alive.   These 3 things create a freeing detachment from the rest of the world.  It is the drug that I can not get enough of.

South Dakota Route #44:   Leaving Iowa crossing the Big Sioux River in South Dakota US Highway 18 joins Route #44.   Corn fields start to give way to a more western landscape; big skies and rolling grasslands.  Riding along you are hit in the face with the Missouri River and the valley that it dominates the road for the the next 30 miles.  You seem to be alone in the west in complete bliss.

Nebraska Route #88:   In the panhandle of Nebraska you realize that this is not your farmers Nebraska.  Route # 88 is dominated by bluffs as you head out Bridgeport.   Say goodbye to the world, you will be on a different planet for the next couple of hours.   I stop for a drink of water and feel like I'm on the set of an old western.  I don't remember seeing a car on this road.  Is it a good thing or was it a short step back into the twilight zone.

Kansas Route #177:   Headed south out of Manhattan Kansas it's not long you come to the K#117 overlook.   Take a look at 200 or 300 miles of plains just riden.  When traveling through Kansas stay off of Interstate 70 and see the real Kansas.   Riding south on K177 there are long sweeping turns with changing views that will stop your heart.  Arriving in Council Grove I get gas and catch my breath.   It takes a while to savor the experience.

Missouri Route #17:  After leaving the twisting roads of the famous route #66, you turn south on Missouri 17.  It is downhill to US Highway 60 and then 4 short hours to my home in good old Tennessee.  First it is this road that I must conquer.   Back in the south it is twisting roads in the company of hardwood timber.  Rivers and the road flow south fast towards the Mississippi. The morning dew rising from the valleys gives the road a feeling of perfection that will not last into the afternoon.

Back home in the deep south I start to sing Rocky Top it is good to be home in Tennessee.  Looking back I realize that these roads are now part of me and no one can ever take them away.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

3000 Mile Motorcycle Ride: Fishing in the Rockies at Stagecoach Reservoir

What can I say it's another fishing trip to Stagecoach Reservoir.  This place is near Oak Creek in Western Colorado. We always catch fish there so that's why we always go back.

First, it is a quick trip to Rocky Mountain National Park through Longmont and Lyons.  Lyons was affected quite a bit by last Fall's flood, but they are coming back.   What can you say about Rocky Mountain National Park, it is the stunning beauty.

We work our way to through to western Colorado stopping in Kernelling it is the best Mexican food of the trip.   Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant is in an old house at the corner of US 40 and Colorado Route 9.   It is so good we stop again on the way back.

We make it to Stagecoach by mid afternoon we are fishing.  After a few hours, we have 5 big trout.   You can only say fish fry once we get back to Denver.   We meet a character called Rudy who seems to be catching all the fish.   If only we had his spot.  It might have been the whiskey he was drinking that was attracting all the fish.

Once it started getting dark we make it to the Oak Creek Motel and dinner at the Colorado Bar and Cafe.   The food isn't bad, but average.  It was a good sleep but time to get back at it.  The next morning we are up at 7 am and back to fishing.  Rudy beats us to our stop again.  This time with no luck.

So back to Denver and a fish fry. First another stop at Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant.   We get what we need to make it over the Eisenhower Tunnel and back to Denver.   A short overnight trip is just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

3000 Mile Motor Cycle Ride: The Nebraska Pan Handle and Denver.

Riding into the Panhandle
Well it's the final push to Denver it was a clear morning in Chadron Nebraska on the pan handle.  The western part of Nebraska has a unique western flavor.   Riding through the Nebraska National forest was exhilarating; part plain, forest, and bluff.  It is a good morning to be alive.

On Route 88 in Nebraska 
The high sandstone bluffs in western Nebraska provide western vistas one cannot imagine.  You must ride through them yourself.    Riding out of Bridgeport on Nebraska Route 88 for a hour I never encounter another car.   Bluffs and forest giving way to grassy plains on both side of the road.  Definitely the right road at the right time.

Sunset in the Panhandle
It is still a couple hours to Denver after leaving the Bluff Country.   Before Denver it is the desolation through Pawnee National Grassland and the high desert plain of eastern Colorado and Nebraska.   Heading south Nebraska Route 71 turns into Colorado route 71.  On this a lonely road there is a strange eerie beauty to it all.  Once through the grasslands its a left turn on Colorado Route 14 for more of a ride on the Colorado high desert plain.  Once reaching US Highway 85 in Greeley it is a short  romp on 4 lanes to my destination in North Denver.

The trip is now 2/3 over with.   My fantasy football draft party is in 3 days; but first a trout fishing trip in the rocky mountains.

Monday, September 1, 2014

3000 Mile Motorcycle Ride: Route 44 in South Dakota and Pine Ridge

Have you ever been on a perfect road at a perfect time in a perfect place.  South Dakota Route 44 and US Highway 18 is just what I needed on this trip to Denver.   Leaving Spirit Lake Iowa it is about a two hour ride to the South Dakota Border.  The rest of Iowa on Route 9 in Northern Iowa is one big cornfield.

Once crossing the Big Sioux River into South Dakota the terrain is much the same.  Cornfields and small towns consume the landscape until you run into the the Missouri River and everything changes.  You are truly in the west and heading into the high plains.  As you drop into the Missouri River basin there are hills, ridges and forested areas on both side of the river.   It is a site for sore eyes after the 150 miles of cornfields.

After crossing the river I climb out of the basin through rolling hills.   This is cattle country with the badlands in the distance.   It becomes a lonely road once entering the Lakota and Pine Ridge Indian Reservations.  A little depressing as well worn Government housing dots the Landscape.  Stopping to get gas in Winner SD, I did get to exchange words with some people of the Lakota Nation. They did seem to be a happy lot.   A proud warrior nation I pass the cemetery with it's veterans monument.    I have to admit they do live in a beautiful area in this place of South Dakota.

The ride becomes lonely without any traffic.   It is good to own the road this day.  Once reaching the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation it was time to turn south into Nebraska.    This real pine ridge runs from Western South Dakota into the panhandle of  Nebraska.  This part  of Nebraska is highly unusual with the Nebraska National Forest Dominating the area.   This is not your Instate 80 Nebraska.  There is a unique beauty here like no other place that I have been too.

I finally stop for the night Chadron on the edge of the Nebraska National Forest.   I vow to one day return and make this ride again.  I must do it again on another road less traveled.