Friday, February 29, 2008

Rainy Day



After about 2 weeks of near perfect spring weather (at the end of February -- whoulda guessed?), it is all gray and cloudy and dumping buckets outside.

Fortunaatly, we're heading to California tomorrow to see my family and for Chris to go to drag racing school. The weather there is supposed to be 75 and sunny almost the whole time. This is good -- a vacation from the vacation that wasn't. The Mexican food will be just as authentic, but everyone will speak English :)

Speaking of languages, it appears that our adventure to Mexico has inspired Chris to learn Spanish. The day after we got back he purchased Rosetta Stone online access Spanish lessons. I've seen him do a couple of the lessons -- he's getting pretty good and I'm really proud of him for taking the initiative to do that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How Do You Spell Vacation? D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R

We tried to take a vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico last week. It was a non-weather related disaster. I say "non-weather related" just to rule out that potential vacation spoiler. So let's get into it.

We arrived at our hotel Friday afternoon two hours late because our plane was delayed. It then took us about an hour to get through customs because there are no lines, just mobs of people. Got to the hotel, checked in, went to our room and found this:



That's the view from our room. And that's a green construction fence. Here, let's zoom in a bit.




Still can't tell? Let's zoom in one more time.



Mmmm, yeah. Awesome. You know what else is fun? They do construction from 7am to 9pm EVERY DAY. They don't even take Sundays off.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the walls at the hotel were paper-thin. We could hear everything our neighbors said or did. Even better, we could SMELL everything they cooked. One day we came home to find that the neighbors had cooked spaghetti for lunch; we couldn't get the smell out of the room OR our clothes. FYI: we stayed at the Playa Del Sol Grand, in case you were thinking of going.

As it turns out, our hotel was not actually a hotel, it was a condo/timeshare resort. The first problem with that is that we were constantly getting hit up to buy a condo, a timeshare, a discount card, become a member, attend a timeshare presentation, etc. The second problem was that we got significantly worse service than the "members," obviously, because we were merely guests and not permanent.

Saturday we went down to the beach. The beach was nice, but we were in a touristy area, so there were a lot of people walking around. We did, however, find a great beach-front restaurant down the beach called Etc. Staff was nice, food was good, and the drinks were strong. I likey.

Sat. afternoon we went to downtown Puerto Vallarta and walked around/shopped. Bought Mexican wrestling helmets.



That was a good enough time, though we still got harassed by people trying to get us into a timeshare presentation. We took the bus back to up the hotel for that "authentic" Mexico touch (a cab cost $25, but the bus was on 10 cents -- sign me up).

Sat. night we had dinner in Bucerias, a small town north of PV. We LOVED Bucerias. The food was much cheaper than anywhere else, and there were significantly fewer tourists than anywhere else. That night was probably the best time we had the whole trip. We can highly recommend Bucerias.

Sunday... eh... can't remember what we did. We had to stay indoors or in the shade because Chris got sunburned -- big time -- on Saturday, despite that I had brought down 15 different kinds of sunscreen. I know we had lunch again at Etc, but that's about it.

By this time it was pretty clear that we weren't going to get any relaxation by staying at the hotel during the day. Every day there was some idoit on the loudspeaker announcing volleyball on the Lido Deck or some other activity that we were neither interested in parktaking in nor interested in listening to. We were refugees. We couldn't stay in our room because of the construction, but we couldn't just go sleep by the pool because of the announcements. So I hatched what I thought to be a brilliant plan: a day-trip to Las Caletas.

Las Caletas is the former home of director John Huston. It is a private beach located at the other end of the bay from where we were. Only one tour company has a lease on the property. I thought this would be perfect; if only one company can go there, the number of yahoos will be limited. According to the brochure, all your food and drink was covered, and you could snorkel or kayak as you like.

The boat left at 8:30 am. Its still cold then. And there were about 100 people on the boat. Chris was not happy.



There's a mug I'd like to avoid ever seeing again.

On the boat, the same idiots who had been yelling about the Lido Deck at the hotel were yelling at us on the boat, telling is to "be happy -- you're on VACATION." Really? That's what I thought too, but your "gentle" reminder is making me think differently! And, you're REALLY pissing off my companion, which makes this EVEN LESS like a vacation THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

And then, we docked.



"Beautiful! Wish You Were Here!"



Umm... I take that back! Not really!



Here's a shot down the beach, the other direction.



Turned out that all the activities they had available on Las Caletas could only be done at certain times, much like being on a cruise. If we wanted to snorkel, we could only do so from 10:30-11, kayaking from 11-11:30, yoga from 11:30-12, etc. Lunch was paella, but it was seafood paella. Chris hates seafood. I like seafood, but this was octopus legs and shrimp that were neither de-veined nor peeled. In fact, they still had legs. Gross. Well, at least there were drinks.



There was also wildlife. They had trained a couple of parrtos and macaws, which was actually pretty cool.








Mas poquito? Si!



An owl. Not exactly tropical, but I'll roll with it.



Touch my monkey?



Aquiiiii gato, gato gato!



Speaking of animals, this reminds me of something that bothered both of us.



That's a boat with a cage. The cage was for a "trained" sea lion they had. You could pay extra and go swim with the sea lion. The poor thing was on a leash and could only be either in the water or in the cage. This company also has a dolphin facility where you can pay to swimming with dolphins. This may have appealed to me when I was 10, which is probably who their customer is, but now it just makes me sad for the animals. Also, the water looked gross, and both dolphins and sea lions are known to bite people. So there.

Tuesday we headed back to the States and to the mutts. I think the dogs actually had a better vacation than we did. Tick hung out with Chris' parents while we were gone, which I think he LOVED. I think he loved being the center of attention and not having to compete with Goose.

Goose, on the other hand, went to a boarding facility that is "kennel-free." We figured that would be perfect -- she could just play all day and night for 5 days. And that's exactly what happened. They had to give her a 1/2 day "time out" just to get her to rest for a bit. Here she is after we got her home, which pretty much exemplifies how we all felt: pretty tired, and really happy to be home.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Leavenworth

The weekend after New Year's we went to Leavenworth, WA. Chris' buddy Tyler was throwing a surprise 30th for his wife Anna up there. I had never been there, and Chris wanted to see his buddy, so we boarded the dogs overnight and headed up.

Apparently, Leavenworth is an old train stop town. In the 1960's the town started to die and someone came up with the idea of turning the whole town into a Bavarian Village.



Say Cheese! (New Year's, part deaux)

Arch Cape was just a little up the coast from Tillamook, home of 1) Tillamook Cheese and 2) the Tillamook Air Museum. Luckily, both were open and available for tours.



The Tillamook Cheese factory.



Wow, that's attractive...



The cheese getting packaged and ready to go.



And now, gratuitous photos of Chris eating cheese.





After inhaling a bag of cheese curds we headed out in search of the Tillamook Air Museum. The Tillamook Air Museum is housed in a gigantic hangar that was used to house blimps during WWII. Seriously, the place is HUGE. Which is why I was so surpised when we got on the road and Chris said, "I hope I can we can find this place. I can't remember where it is."

Gee, I don't have the slightest idea...



And, a picutre of a weird looking plane, nicknamed a "Guppy."

New Year's (part 1)

Yes yes yes, there is much to catch up on. And I lied about having a full update at the end of last weekend. It happens.

Chris and I actually had time off at the same time this year around New Year's so we took the opportunity to get out of Enumclaw and head down to the Oregon Coast. The coast is suprisingly very dog-friendly. However, finding a dog-friendly room 2 days before New Year's is a bit of a challenge. After a massive online search I came up with a "cabin" at the Inn at Arch Cape.

Arch Cape is a little south of Cannon Beach. You would miss it if you blinked on your way down Hwy 101. PERFECT for our purposes; we like to avoid large crowds of unimportant people.

I'll spare you most of the pics I took of the place. It was clean, quiet, and had a well stocked kitchen that would have allowed us to cook almost anything we wanted. Also, we only had one common wall, so there wasn't a problem with Tick barking.

So with that intro -- the living room and fireplace.



Oh yeah, forgot to mention. The cabin had a fireplace, cable TV, and wireless internet. Ah wireless interet; the key to "getting away from it all."

And now, time for a siesta.