Penguins and Paddleboards

When traveling with Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic, there are always a number of daily activities you can choose from. Being ship-based, these include snorkeling, scuba-diving (for certified divers), swimming, kayaking (which I’m pretty bad at), and stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP). This is the first expedition I’d taken since they added SUP as a choice and, never having tried it, you know that I had to when we reached Takume Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago.

Here’s another of my infamous foot pictures! You might be asking what’s with the small stuffed penguin – I think it’s been a while since #PenguinAboutTown has made an appearance in my blog. Paddleboard3 He’s a King Penguin that was an impulse buy from a little green-roofed gift shop in Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, on my to Antarctica. He’s since traveled with me to several states, Europe and Africa. (He was quite pleased when he realized his dream of being a #PenguinOfMadagascar.) He’s even found himself in the jaws of a T-Rex skeleton. I didn’t intend for him to be a traveling companion, but on my Baja expedition I discovered a couple from WSU carrying their stuffed Cougar mascot and a young woman from Malaysia carrying a stuffed elephant, all for photo ops. I realized this is a thing, so now #PenguinAboutTown climbs into my camera bag whenever I start packing.

Paddleboard2

You might surmise from my lack of kayaking skill, I wasn’t all that great at SUP either. (I really need to work on more upper body strength.)  One of my very first acts was to have to throw myself off the board backward in a vain attempt to not run over a snorkeler. I was really at the mercy of the winds and currents, and kept ending up going in directions I didn’t want to. (This should sound familiar to Sandy, my Antarctic kayaking partner.) I even ended up stuck on a sand bar. If I remember correctly, it was Expedition Leader Adam Cropp who helped me off that and directed me into a more sheltered area within the lagoon.

Here’s my wonderful friend, Bobbie Prees, Paddleboard_Bobbieutilizing the wiser method of kneeling on the paddle board. I tried that too, but it just wasn’t as fun as falling off, getting wet, climbing back on, repeat. Even my iPhone took a brief dunk in the lagoon while tucked inside my life vest (it survived). The only thing that stayed dry the entire time? The Penguin.

Paddleboard1

 

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A Penguin and a T-Rex Walk Into a Bar

I’m not quite sure where I read about the Chama River Microbar in Albuquerque, but I was curious as to why I had scribbled the bar’s name and address in the margins of my Moon’s New Mexico Handbook. ChamaDogs I’d arrived in town two days ahead of the scheduled start of my Chaco Canyon tour and, after enjoying the city’s museums, decided to have a little adventure Friday evening. To save money, I’d booked a cheap room at the funky Route 66 Hostel, conveniently located between old town and downtown, and decided to forgo a rental car and instead use the local buses. (Hey, $2 for an all-day pass! That’s hard to beat.) Yes, this means I was riding the bus by myself at night….pssst….don’t tell my mom; no matter how old I get she’s forever telling me to not travel alone in a strange city.

I almost missed the place, which is literally a hole in the wall on 2nd Street, just a block from the Alvarado Transit Center (a major bus/train transfer point). With the gentrified-sounding “microbar” in its name, I expected something other than a small bar with half a dozen stools, maybe four tables, and what looked like an iPod-centered music system. Positive I must’ve read a recommendation for this bar in some travel magazine, I hesitated for a brief second. This didn’t look like the sort of place travelers frequent. It’s too small and too easy miss.

But as I stood in the doorway, Ado and Scotty greeted me. Who? you ask. Ado and Scotty – that’s the two dogs there in the photo. Their relaxed stances, wiggling butts, and wagging tails told me all I needed to know. I held out my hand for them to sniff and promptly got licked, and licked, and licked. You know how it is with the dogs. I petted them and asked their permission to enter. And they made a path for me, trailing behind. The tables were full, so I plopped my butt down on the last stool at the end of the bar.

PenguinAtChamaA couple of reviews I’ve since read were critical of the bar’s atmosphere: its “locals only” feel, an inattentive bartender, and “not safe for women” vibe. But I experienced nothing like that. Certainly, I kept my day pack slung across my back – but I always keep my money and ID close to me when traveling. I was instantly welcomed by the bartender, who gave me a taste test of their available brews. (The Microbar is listed as a tasting room for the Chama River Brewery on the north side of Albuquerque.) I spent a friendly evening chatting, first with the bartender and Adam, the patron on the stool next to me and then with Aaron (who replaced Adam who had to leave) about Albuquerque and Chaco Canyon. I’m certain I was the only out-of-towner in the bar, but no one treated me any different. Heck, even the couple at the end of the bar shared their pizza with me! (The microbar doesn’t serve food, but you can request delivery from any number of nearby food establishments.)

And no one laughed when I pulled Penguin About Town out of my pack and posed him next to a glass of the Chama River Amber Ale. I figured he’d had a tough day, nearly getting devoured by Stan, the T-Rex at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. He needed a drink and a friendly welcome to Albuquerque. So did I. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening: a couple of dogs, a dozen or so humans, and a stuffed penguin. It didn’t matter how far any of us had traveled to get there, or why anyone was there. Only the beer and the conversation mattered. Words. Drink. Time. All cocooned in a non-descript hole in the wall that the average tourist would walk right past.PenguinAtMuseum

…but I’ve been to Oklahoma

Is it just me or is it beginning to sound like a Three Dog Night song around here?

Here I am preparing for the Camino and…rats…gotta run out of town for a quick business trip. But I’m back now and, shaking off that disruption, trying to finish getting everything ready that I need for Spain with less than two weeks left. Got extra memory for the camera, got the European plug adapter, got a ready supply of allergy and migraine meds….but more items still to acquire. Not to mention this is the last week of my graduate “Introduction to Emergency Management” class with one more paper to write (yet another distraction from my Camino prep). Wish me luck getting back on track!

In the meantime, I did get to enjoy myself last week in Oklahoma where they have delicious barbecue, juicy steaks (Cattleman’s), damn good fried chicken (Eischen’s),beer served margarita-style (ChelinosChellenosand old-fashioned shrimp boils on back patios spiced up with a visit to a tornado shelter and a little 4-year-old running around chanting “Boomer Sooner, Texas Sucks” to taunt our colleagues from Texas. (Yes, her father put her up to that.)

I also got to have some more Twitter fun @TheFarPlaces with #PenguinAboutTown who – despite his diminutive stature – has developed a fondness for food, beer, and gambling.Penguin_gambling Fortunately he’s too short to drive my car otherwise I might wake up one morning to find it parked half on the sidewalk/half in the bushes, full of empty beer bottles and fast food wrappers. Some people think Penguin is adorable, some think his photo antics are cute, and others think his Twitter appearances are corny and/or dumb.

Penguin_Beer

So…if you’re one of the latter, brace yourself because, yes, Penguin will be going with me to Spain, where he will (temporarily) become #PinguinoEnEspana. (Please correct me if that is a wrong translation for #PenguinInSpain.)

(Sadly, Penguin does not have his own separate twitter feed; #PenguinAboutTown is too many characters long – violating Twitter naming rules, so he has to share mine @TheFarPlaces.) So, please, if you are so inclined, watch for Penguin on Twitter. I will also be blogging here on WordPress whenever I can.

I’d also like to thank those of you who have offered your comments and suggestions, and provided links to your blogs so I can get better prepared. I’m just catching up with myself now, so once I get that last paper written for Crisis Management, I will be checking out all of your helpful information. Thanks!!

Penguins, Sharks, Zombies, Shatner…and Crisis Management

Two weeks ago, I vowed to finish the first draft of my latest zombie short story. And I’m proud to say that I did! (I even finished it a day earlier than promised.)  It’s not quite ready for publication. I need to allow a little time for it to marinade…I suppose I could get gross and make some kind of zombie analogy about stewing in bodily fluids…but I’ll save that for the story. I did express concern to my first readers that the story wasn’t quite creepy or gruesome enough and was promptly informed “Oh, yes it is. Eeewww.”  What I need to work on, I’m told, is some character development. So I’ll be revisiting the story this coming weekend.

In the meantime I’ve started a new Twitter feed under @TheFarPlaces describing the adventures of #PenguinAboutTown. It was inspired by the humorous Twitter feed of @BronxZoosCobra and two of my fellow travelers in Baja during March who brought along stuffed critters for photo ops. So, last week when I needed to make a quick business trip to D.C., I took along Penguin (yes, my penguin’s name is Penguin) and took him barhopping.PenguinMetro Here he is hitching a ride on the D.C. Metro. After all, penguins can’t fly. They can’t buy Metro passes either (no pockets for money or credit cards) but I don’t think the station attendants noticed him sneaking on board tucked away in my bag.

Watch Twitter for future #PenguinAboutTown adventures.

And to further wake up my brain – dare I say celebrate the reawakening of my brain from the fog of migraines and pain killers – this week I am beginning a graduate certification program in Crisis Management. First class up: constitutional law. Yeah. Really. I’ll see if I survive the eight weeks without case law turning me into a zombie. Wish me luck. (But, hey, I might get inspiration for yet another zombie story! Do you think they’d let me write a case study of the zombie apocalypse?)

But before I delve into Marbury v. Madison and Jew Ho v. Williamson, etc., I gave my brain a break and thoroughly enjoyed “Sharknado 2: The Second One.” If you love cheesiness, this is the movie for you. I think it was even better than the first one. In the first 5-10 minutes alone they managed to parody “Airplane!” (itself a parody) and the classic “Twilight Zone” ‘Nightmare at 20,000 feet’ episode with William Shatner (who frequently parodies himself). I knew I was in for a great ride the moment I saw Robert Hays in the cockpit.