Since I finished writing my memoirs I have been doing a lot of cogitating and I have come to the conclusion that I have let my readers down, so to speak. I have decided that I need a chapter dedicated solely to travel. While I have singled out several mishaps that have taken place in my excursions, I have neglected to cover many of the trips themselves and as a result you as the reader have missed out on many fun and not-so-fun experiences that have taken place. So make sure you have your seat belts on because we are in for a bumpy ride.
In previous chapters, I have discussed my trip to Acapulco, Mexico where I got deathly sick and drowned. You would think that would cure me of ever going back to that country, well you would be wrong. I have made several trips to that country and every time, interesting things have happened. I also mentioned Fish Creek and my first girl friend or puppy love as it is commonly termed. We also managed to get in one trip to Florida with our travel trailer. These trips took place with my real father Roger was still alive. Unfortunately, due to my father’s poor health they were the only ones I was able to take with him. I want to just touch base on our maiden voyage to Florida. My father loved pecans and he had talked incessantly about his desire to buy a pecan pie once he got into the deep south. If you know anything about the south in the 70s, you will be familiar with Stuckey’s and gator farms and if you are a true connoisseur of southern life, you will have heard of the world famous Silver Springs. You can take Interstate 95 from New York all the way to Florida. By taking this route, you will come across a wonderful little gem known as “South of the Border”. It is a tourist trap located between North Carolina and South Carolina, hence the name. It is also where the first Stuckey’s appears. So, of course, we had to stop so Dad could get his pecan pie. This little trap has since become a must-do ritual on each of our trips going through this stretch of road. It doesn’t matter which direction you are going you have to stop at least once. If you don’t stop the travel gods will wreck havoc on your trip. Knowing my track record I don’t dare take any unnecessary risks. I have even spent the night there in one of their hotels to appease these ever hungry gods. It actually was a pretty nice hotel that had a really cool indoor pool.
Being the world travelers that we were, we also had to stop at a gator farm. Because nothing screams the deep south more than alligators. If you have ever been to one of these farms, you will truly know the meaning of the term “cheesy”. But back in the 70s, they were a big deal and also a must-do item on any travel list that involved the deep south. The final mandatory theme park that had to be visited was the aforementioned Silver Springs. They were known for their glass bottom boats. They also had gators and snakes and all sorts of exotic southern animals on display. In retrospect, most people would not even give this park the time of day, unless you are looking for hokey and cheesy entertainment. Well, I guess I haven’t outgrown my love of cheese as is evidenced by my most recent trip this summer where I went to visit Bearizona. After spending a delightful and albeit mandatory pit stop at Silver Springs, we were free to actually do what we came to Florida for in the first place and that was too spend way too much time in the sun at the beaches in Panama City. Because if we did not at least get third-degree burns, our Florida experience would not be complete. Peeling and blistering skin were worn like badges of glory when we arrived back home. Only our most worthy friends earned the right to peel a little bit of our skin off. Oh, to be awarded such an honor. We were like gods, how wonderful it was to be able to travel to Florida. Little did they know the absolute agony we suffered to bring back these badges of honor. Looking back, it is a wonder that we all did not get skin cancer. Because we made this sacred pilgrimage to the deep south several years in a row, and each time we got sunburned.
You may also recall the purchase of our Winnebago motorhome. This event ushered in Randy’s Golden Age of Travels. While we had several group family road trips with our RV’s, the only detail I remember from these trips that I have not already mentioned earlier was that we all had hand held radios. This made it easier to communicate in the case we got separated on the road. They were especially solicitous towards my recently widowed mother in this regard. On occasion, my brother Robert would tag along on these trips. However, the excursion that stands out the most was our trip to Cape Cod. In the early 70s, Cape Code was not all commercialized and you could find lots of areas that were only infrequently touched by human hands. There were lots of sand dunes in Cape Cod. You had to traverse these dunes before you reached the water. It was a great deal of fun doing this because they were extremely steep and fun to roll down them. I would take a great deal of delight in losing my footing and rolling back down the steep dunes. This exasperated my brother to no end because for some reason he actually wanted to get to the water. I don’t know why because it was just too cold to swim, so it was more fun just playing in the sand. But we finally made it to the water, where we did the ever famous “Chevy Chase” look and then we just turned around and walked back. Where is the fun in that? We also got to go on a ferry boat ride to Nantucket Island. This was really cool because cars could ride on the boat with us. I had never experienced this before. I remember the island being a little lame for kids because all we did was walk and go into shops. We did not have enough money to really buy cool things. But we all had to get little replica lobster traps. Though Robert had to get a real one which was a royal pain in the butt to get back to the motor home since we had to carry it with us on the ferry boat. That damn lobster trap was bigger than me. One thing I do remember doing is eating lots of lobster because they were so cheap. I felt like royalty cracking the lobster claws and tails with my nut cracker. It was really cool.
After John’s, my sisters husband’s Alabama tour of duty ended, he was relocated to Orlando, Florida. After that he would be sent to Germany. After Cape Cod, our next big trip, of course, was back to Florida. However, since my sister was living in Orlando this time we went there instead of Panama City. This was also our first trip as a new family. My mother had just married my stepfather. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, our maiden voyage together was not without drama. A defect became apparent with our Winnebago, apparently the tail pipe was too long and therefore it created a great deal of pressure in the manifold and I remember my stepfather having to go under the motor home every couple hundred miles or so and do some tinkering on the exhaust. After the trip was over, we got the problem fixed. So thanks to his heroic efforts we finally arrived safe and sound in Orlando.
Disney World had just opened up in 1971, so it was still pretty new when we visited my sister. I remember that they had not worked out all the kinks yet because certain rides were still closed. But it sure did put Silver Springs and our gator farms to shame. It really spoiled us. Now the only park that could even come close to competing with Disney World was Bush Gardens in Tampa, Florida. Eventually, SeaWorld opened up in 1973. But they had not opened up yet when we visited for the first time. They initially had tickets for each ride. Now they just have general admission tickets. With the original system, if you were not interested in going on any rides you could get in pretty cheap. If you had a change of heart you could also just buy single tickets for your favorite rides. Disney World was certainly an eye popper for a young sheltered kid like myself. We really had a blast there. My favorite ride was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. However, it is the little crazy things that I remember the most about the trip. I remember that John had a pet boa constrictor. He even let me feed mice to it. He also had a cool sailing ship model of the Constitution. And much to my sister’s chagrin, I had a problem peeing straight and to top it off, I always forgot to put the toilet seat down. I remember getting scolded by my sister because she went to sit down on the toilet and, of course, the seat was up and there was pee all over the rim, so she really got a wet potty experience. I almost forgot one more thing, she had just had her second child, Hellboy. He was pretty innocent at this time, little did we know that he would turn into such a hellion. I was, however, quite impressed by the strength of his grip. Apparently this is a natural occurrence in newborns. The crazy things that kids remember.
Even though my mother had remarried, we continued doing family-oriented trips as long as we still lived in New York. On this particular trip, it was our first outing as a new family. Needless to say, thanks to his gregarious nature and personality, he was a hit with our extended family. He just fit right in. The reason I mentioned this particular outing, is that I learned how to play horseshoes. Not only was it my first time playing this game, it was the last time I played it. Go figure. It was also the last time we did a big family camp outing for quite some time. This trip was also of note, because it was the first time I had to pay for hot water in a shower. Well, let me give you a piece of advice never let your hot water get timed out in a mountain campground. So of course, you guessed it, the water for both of us ran out at the same time. I think we could have both tried out for soprano in a local chorus. Holy crap that water went from nice and warm to instant ice cubes in no time flat. Any and all dangling body parts were immediately absorbed by our bodies. Of course, it happened when were both lathered up with soap and shampoo and neither one of us had any more money to put in the coin dispenser. So we just had to tough it out and shiver our way through the rest of the shower. My goosebumps were at least a half inch high by the time I was fully rinsed off.
Even after we moved to Florida, we continued to keep in touch with our family in New York. Even though my new father taught summer school he still had quite a bit of summer time off. So every year, we made a trip to visit my aunts and uncles where I got to see their backyards. Though, there was an upside to these trips. My parents agreed to at least take me to one place that I was on my wish list each trip. So I got to see some of the country besides my relative’s houses. On most of these trips, we also got to visit my brother Robert. I always looked forward to these occasions because he was always good for some crazy adventures. One year while visiting Robert, our family went white water rafting. Of course, my father had to fall out of the raft when we hit a category 4 rapid. We thought we had lost him but thanks to his life jacket and some extra natural buoyancy he was soon rescued by the guide. Even with this mishap we had a great time. I would highly recommend this for everyone especially if you had a relative you wanted to get rid of.
As I mentioned previously, we received frequent visitors from the north especially during the winter months. While the winters in the the north were hell they were sheer heaven in Florida. The temperatures were comfortable and the humidity was tolerable.
During these times my mother was in her glory. She just loved to entertain and cook for a lot of people. On one of these occasions, my Aunt Barbara and her husband, Uncle Clifford came to visit us. My aunt had never been to Mexico, so we all decided to go to there. With our Florida schools being on a year-round schedule, we had three weeks off after every quarter, so I just happened to be off from school. So, we packed up our trusty Winnebago…yep, we still had it and went to Mexico. Not only did it rain almost every day while we were in Mexico, our little motor home was broken into by Mexican criminals. All he managed to get from us was a really crappy portable radio that was maybe worth $5 and he left the heel of one of his shoes behind when he jumped out the back of the RV. We surprised him because we came back early after we got lost looking for a famous local church. Well, my crazy ass Uncle Clifford tore off after him down the street, hoping to accomplish what I know not. Well, my Aunt Barbara of the snoring fame, who was never at a loss for words started hollering at him to stop chasing the rapidly vanishing criminal. So he, thankfully stopped chasing him and came back to our RV. Even though no real harm was done except for a cut screen in the back window and, of course, our nearly worthless radio, my Aunt refused to spend another minute in Mexico. So we had to immediately drive back out of the country. So we basically had just driven over a 1,000 miles for nothing. Needless to say there was a great deal of frost in the old Winnebago on the way back to Florida. Not surprisingly, it so happens that Aunt Barbara and Uncle Clifford were never invited on another road trip. They did, however, come back to visit one more time when they helped take care of the paperwork regarding in placing good old Gramps into a nursing home. My mother and Aunt Barbara, of course, were at odds on his being placed in one at all. She really had no right to criticize us because she never once offered to take care of him. This was the final straw, and as a result they never talked again. You should know by know, my mother could carry a grudge like nobody’s business. So it should come as not surprise to the reader that she never even went to my aunt’s funeral.
So, my life progressed along in this manner until I graduated from high school and I entered college. However, by this time my aunts and uncles were reaching their milestone anniversaries. So we went back to New York for several 50th anniversary celebration related trips. We made these journeys even though it bothered my mother to do this. It bothered her because it brought back memories of my deceased father. If he had lived they would have been close to celebrating their 50th anniversary as well. My aunts and uncles on my fathers side of the family had all large broods. So when they had these celebrations there were upwards of 200 or more guests present. I remember going to Aunt Flora’s, Uncle Oliver’s and Uncle Danny’s anniversaries. They were so big that they rented parks and halls to celebrate these events. So I had a great deal of fun. And surprisingly enough, I actually even knew some of these relatives.
In my memoirs I have previously mentioned the woman I was first engaged to, the flaming red head, or as I fondly call her Psycho Bitch. I will bring her up this one final time because she was an integral part of my first adult trip. I was in charge of the itinerary on this trip. So guess what I did on this first excursion? I participated in a family gathering in North Carolina in the Smoky Mountains. This being my first adult trip, I had absolutely nothing. So I had to max out a credit card just to buy all the gear I would need on this camping trip. Of course, I had to buy all the best including a tent big enough for a family of 20 people. Because Psycho Bitch wanted to show off to the rest of my family, and being the whipped puppy that I was went right along with that nonsense. Despite this we still managed to have a great time. The park we were camping at butted up to a beautiful little stream on which you could inner tube right down to our camp sites. It also served as the gateway to the Appalachian Trail, so there were unlimited hiking trails. So Tim, Tom and I decided to go on an ill-prepared and ill-advised all day hike. We did not think it was going to be an all-day event because it was only supposed to be 10 miles. Well, let me tell you 10-miles of hiking where there isn’t 20 feet of level ground in a stretch is a hell of a long distance. So, a hike that we estimated would take a little over 5 hours ended up taking well over 10 hours. All we each had brought was a single chocolate bar and a small canteen of water. Of course, we had no filtration system or purifier tablets. Needless to say we were really stupid and very lucky all at the same time. Of course, we were on everyone’s shit list when we got back. Everybody was worried because we were gone so long. I am also sure I was called quite a few choice words by Psycho Bitch. So, of course, we exchanged a few choice words which we quickly resolved in our usual manner, which was with wild monkey sex. See I knew there was a reason why I stayed with her for a whole year.
My one and only cruise was a 10-day jaunt to the Western Caribbean on board a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship. I took this voyage with my first wife Tammy. One of the absolute coolest things on these cruises was their amazing cuisine and their ever tasty daily tropical beverages. Every day they would have a different mixed tropical drink. They also had a two-story library on the ship as well as more fun things to do than you possibly could have time to for. So what did my wife do, she spent most of her time in the cabin sleeping. The only time she would come out was for meal time and when we arrived at our port of calls. If you are new to cruises, let me give you one piece of advise, even if you have time to schedule two excursions during your stay at the port, just do one. You will be much happier. We scheduled two excursions on both of our ports. As a result, we ran around like maniacs and frankly none of the excursions were worth the price of admission. Let me give you another piece of advice, don’t open up your refrigerator in your cabin unless you plan on taking out what you want. On our first day, my wife took out and looked at each bottle in the refrigerator. Each time you take a bottle out, you get billed for it. So we had to have our steward reset the whole refrigerator so we weren’t billed for stuff we did not want. Even with all the crazy shit that happened on our cruise, we still had a great time. One thing of note, the drivers in Jamaica are some of the worse drivers in the world. We did a raft cruise down the Martha Brae River. To get there, it is about an hour long drive each way. On the way there, you have to go on these narrow, windy single-lane roads where when you arrive at a curve in the road instead of slowing down, you speed up and honk your horn. During each of these curves in the road you think you are going to die as your life flashes before your eyes. Frankly by the end of the trip, I was bored with my life and I was begging to borrow someone else’s life.
It should come as no surprise by now that I like to cram as much as possible into all of my trips. I invariably do this because I usually am only able to afford to take one nice trip a year, so I try to make the most of each trip. During my 2nd marriage, we went on several trips to various islands to go diving. We went to Hawaii twice, Cozumel twice, Roatan and then Bonaire. I also made several trips California where I would take a boat out to the Channel Islands including Santa Catalina several times.
The only island that I never got to dive on was San Miguel.
So back to my cramming things into a trip. This tendency was never more evident that in our second trip to Cozumel. We went with our dive group for six days of diving. So I seized the opportunity for additional sightseeing and decided to extend our trip by three more days. Our add-ons included a dive in the Cenotes or caverns in the Yucatan Peninsula and the exploration of several Mayan ruins including Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba. To do this, we rented a car in Cozumel and took the ferry over to the mainland. We did this so that not only we would have transportation while in Mexico, it would give us a place to keep our luggage and gear. The last dive for our group was on a Friday morning, so we hopped on the ferry and went to see Chichen Itza. Because we had paid for Friday night in Cozumel we took the ferry back that evening. Julie also wanted to enjoy our last meal as a group in Cozumel. Unfortunately, we were too late to eat with the group. So we just packed everything up and went to sleep. The next day we took the ferry back to mainland. For the next two nights, we had hotel reservations in Cancun. We saw Tulum and Coba on the second day. While the pyramid was exceptional in Chichen Itza, you weren’t able to climb it. You can, however, climb the pyramid in Coba which is called Nohuch Mul. It is also the highest Mayan pyramid at 130 feet. Once you reached the top you were afforded an amazing view of all of Coba. Coba was also exceptional in that it is an active archeological site. So you got to see real archeologists excavating various sites. Our final day was a limited driving day for me, so I got a break from driving the entire day. We had purchased two cenote dives and a meal as a package deal. I ended up diving without Julie because she whigged out when she saw the entrance to the Cenote. So we paid a $150 for a hamburger meal for her. What a waste. She could have enjoyed a spa day at the hotel instead.
When all was done we had one more ferry trip ride to make back to Cozumel so we could fly back to the states. Each time we went on the ferry boat it seemed like we were taking our lives into our own hands. We had to go up this crazy steep little ramp to the second tier on the ship. because the first deck was for semis and other large trucks. We also put 1,100 kilometers on our little car during our 3-day extension. It felt like our car was going a thousand miles an hour when were barely going 90 kilometers and hour. To think the risk we put ourselves in. Our car was full of expensive dive gear, dry and dive cameras and computers. For this trip, I also purchased an internet phone and a WiFi booster antenna. I did this so that I could make international calls on the cheap. Little did I know that my wife had been surfing the internet on her cell phone using roaming access. When we got home I had a $1,000 phone bill waiting for me. One of the many reasons she was destined to become my second ex-wife.
Another trip of note was our first trip to Hawaii. A couple we met and soon became fast friends with from our certification trip in Cozumel was Billie and Gary. Gary’s parents just happened to own a timeshare in Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands and the one with the most established reef system in the chain of islands. The Hawaiian island chain is the most isolated island chain in the world at over 2,300 miles from the nearest land. The parents pay a $75.00 fee for staying at the house for their two week stay. So we split the $75.00 fee. Not too bad for a two week stay in paradise. Since we now only had plane tickets for our largest expense we had extra money for our adventures. With the money we saved in hotels, we were able to make two side trips, one to the Island of Hawaii where we got to do a night dive with manta rays that are indigenous to the island and the second trip to the island of O’ahu to see the Pearl Harbor memorial. While on the island of Kauai we did more diving, we also enjoyed zip lining, a helicopter ride around the island and several day trips exploring the island. The biggest perk was that we got to stay in a 3,000 square foot house replete with two master suites. Needless to say, we had a great time. But it would not be a Randy trip without a few mishaps. On two separate occasions, large amounts of my money were tied up with bad transactions. Of course, I had to wait 10 days for refunds even though it was the fault of the vendors and not mine. So thank god, we were able to limit our expenses. Since our timeshare had a full kitchen, so we were also able to save a lot of money on our eats.
Kauai is one of the most picturesque islands in the Hawaiian island chain. The island has the Grand Canyon of the Pacific named Waimea Canyon. It is absolutely beautiful. The first time I got to see it was on the John Wayne movie Donovan’s Reef. So it was a dream come true to finally see it in person. The second most beautiful part of the island is the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. We got to see it from the air on our helicopter ride. You can also see it from the ocean by boat or you can hike to the park and see it up close and personal. Since there are no roads on that side of the island these are your only options to see it. On this trip Gary also brought his sister along. She was a large girl and weighed in about the same weight as Gary did which was over 250 pounds. This is important because when it came to the helicopter ride, we had to be balanced so that the pilot could control its flight. So as a result, I was placed in the middle on the back seat sandwiched between two large humans. I was not very happy since I was the only photographer in the helicopter and I had the worst possible seat. It made it very difficult to get great shots, it also pissed me off because I wanted to ride in a door-less chopper instead, but I was overruled by the majority. So I was already pissed off when I was soon to find out that Gary’s sister frequently got motion sick. So here I am concentrating on getting my photos when they next thing I know I am hearing retching noises. The next thing I see is projectile vomit hurling through the helicopter. Of course, I was in the “wake zone” as was also the poor pilot. Since it happened so quickly, the barf bag was not really effective. Of course, she was quite embarrassed but that did not change what had happened. First of all, she should never have gone on the damn ride in the first place. Because if she had stayed at the house, I would have been spared “vomittess explosivess” and I would have also had a window seat. I know that is callous but I paid good money for these tickets and as it turned out they were one of the vendors that screwed up the billing, so I was double charged for the ride. Yes, I would eventually receive the refund but only after I got home.
Being avid readers of my memoirs you are aware that I was an avid scuba diver during my second marriage. You are also undoubtedly aware of some the close calls I had as well. During my 270 plus dives which included many untold trips to California, where I had many incidents albeit less serious ones. In addition to those involving saltwater diving I also had a few events that took place on my own boat in Lake Mead. In the following paragraphs I will endeavor to regale you with some of these events.
While all of my initial dives were warm water dives and required less gear and therefore, subsequently less demanding. However, I knew that If I was going to get more than just a few dives in a year, I would have do cold water dives. California and the Pacific coastline were known predominantly for its cold water diving, and this was the closest salt water diving available to me. You could only dive in Lake Mead so much, and unfortunately when the water was the clearest, the water was also at its coldest. So I just couldn’t escape the need to dive in the cold water. As you also know, I eventually progressed to dry suit diving which was even more demanding and complicated. Cold water diving requires warmer wet suits which entails thicker and heavier suits and which surprisingly means that they are also more buoyant. Typically in warm water diving, I could get away with 12 to 14 pounds of extra weight to achieve neutral buoyancy while diving in cold water could require upwards of 40 pounds of weights. It also entailed wearing thicker gloves, and a hood to keep your head warm. All this extra weight and coverage and thickness of the suit reduced mobility and movement.
Wet suits work by trapping a thin layer of water between your suit and your body. Your body heats up the water pretty quickly and therefore you remain warm for a period of time. However, to remain warm…your body has to continue heating that water. But you still can’t get away from that initial shock provided by the temperature of the water. The water I was diving in for the first time was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest water I had dived in prior to this trip was 70 degrees. Quite a difference. Also the cold water makes your face contract as well, so now my dive mask no longer provided a good seal on my face and immediately flooded. I had been warned that this might happen, so my ever helpful dive master instructed me to enter the water without my dive gear just so I could become acclimated to the water. So all I would do after I entered the water was to simply hang from the dive platform on the side so I was out of the way. By doing it this way the rest of the divers could still enter the water. Thank God I did this, because not only did my mask flood with cold water rendering me virtually blind, I almost went into cardiac arrest from the initial shock of the cold water. So I was in and out of the water quicker than a prom queen is out of her dress. After my dive master performed CPR on me, I tried going in the water this time with my full gear. By doing this I hoped that my mask would work now since I was acclimated to the water temperature and was no longer seizing in the water. Well, guess what my mask still leaked like a sieve. By this time,, I was beyond pissed because I had spent over $200 for the mask. The mask cost this much because of the prescription lenses mounted in them. So as a result, I was unable to dive the rest of the trip. Thank goodness it was only a two day trip.
However, this is not the half of it. The Pacific Ocean is not only colder, the seas are also rougher. This is a time that I wished I had listened to my dive master. He warmed me on not eating a heavy meal before we got on the boat. Well, I thought I knew better, I have after all been on boats before, even ones in salt water. However, all is not fair in love and war. While it is true that I had been in a salt water boat before it was in the Gulf of Mexico where the water as smooth as a sheet of glass. Of course, I did not have a problem under these conditions. What I was experiencing now was seas that were rough enough to sink the SS Poseidon. Since I now had a nice heavy meal of fried food sitting in my stomach, I almost immediately turned green once we left the harbor and hit the heavy seas. It was also too late to turn around. I proceeded to feed the fishes all the way to Island we were slotted to dive on the next day. So I was miserable most of the night. It is amazing how much food your stomach can hold. I think I vomited food from last year’s Thanksgiving meal. At least I wasn’t alone in my misery because there was a panoply of wretched soles lined up at the back of the boat also feeding the fishes. As it turns out, one way to cure sea sickness is by being out in the fresh air and also by keeping your gaze fixed on the shoreline even if it was just lights that you could see. To save daylight hours and boat time we arrived at the docks in late afternoon and sailed all night to get to our destination in the morning where hopefully the divers were all refreshed and ready to enjoy the diving. On these boats, you can dive as many as 5 or more times in a day. They have compressors on board, so they just keep on refilling the tanks the whole weekend. So not only did I suffer both routes on the dive trip, I didn’t get to dive at all, and to add salt to the my wounds I got to watch dozens of happy divers enter and exit the water all weekend long. I also got to listen to them happily prattle on about all the cool things they had just seen during their dives.
I am sure you are all thinking that this would end my cold water California diving, well, you couldn’t be further from the truth. The more roadblocks thrown in my way, the more I wanted to succeed. So, I discovered Dramamine and Scopolamine patches for the sea sickness. I not only bought another dive mask, I bought two new dive masks. Both of which worked just fine in the cold water. So I was happy as a clam, I made several other trips to California without further mishap that is until I tried dry suit diving. This is when my learning curve started all over again, but you already know all that. You may ask what could possibly be worth all this work and expense under the water? Well, California and the Pacific coastline is known for kelp diving for one. On a good day, you can have upwards of 50 feet of visibility. The variety of sea life is absolutely astonishing in the kelp beds. The experience can become quite addicting. Even though I have not been diving in a few years, I still think about it all the time. I would love nothing more than to get back into the water. Who knows maybe I will.
This brings me to my boat. I thought by getting a boat I could get more dives in at Lake Mead. Because I soon found out that shore diving was very unrewarding at the lake. So my only option was boat diving. My thought was to buy a used pontoon boat. Of course, my wife was totally against that, so we went out and bought this brand new and very expensive pontoon boat. The boat was so damn big that it soon became evident that the Durango I had just bought was not up to the task of pulling it up and down our mountainous roads. So now I had to do something that I had avoided all my adult life and that is trade in a vehicle before I had paid it off. So I, of course, got screwed but now I had my powerful gas guzzling Silverado. Well, let me tell you something, there is a lot of shit to learn about owning a powered boat. My previous nautical experience had involved canoeing down a lazy Florida canal. When you buy a boat, it comes with nothing not even an anchor. The stated reason is that there are so many different types and sizes of anchors how could the seller of boats know what to supply with the boat. That is BS. So let’s move on. The first thing is that sailors have to be different than regular people. They have to speak in a different language. Everything has a different name even the terms used for directions are different. First of all, any rope used in sailing vessel is not called rope. That would be way too easy. It is called line, and rope used for an anchor is called a rode. You also need a length of chain attached directly to the anchor, because if you use rope, it will get cut up by the rocks and other sharp things at the bottom. The list goes on…you, of course, need life jackets, flare guns and radios and all sorts of goodies. If you are lucky you will only get set back about a $1,000, and that is just for regular boating. I had to take a class on boating to learn all of these intricacies.
Now you need to add diving associated paraphernalia. Forget about the swim ladder that came with the boat, you need a dive ladder. After losing one ladder off the back of the boat, I settled for a professional dive ladder, which set me back an additional $1,400. You even need special flags, so the other boaters can ignore when you are diving. Because if you dive without a dive flag you can be fined by the park services.
So after spending 10 million dollars to get my boat dive ready, it was now “D-day”. Well, guess what happened next. I back up the boat into the water like a champ, and Julie does her part with a great deal of alacrity and starts up the boat and disengages it from the trailer. She is now patiently waiting in the water for me to park the truck and boat trailer, when lo and behold, I discover that my truck is locked. I must have inadvertently pressed the door lock when I had hurriedly and excitedly gotten out of my truck. To top it off, the truck was still running and it was half in the water on the boat ramp. What the hell do you do? I tried to pop the lock but I did not have a slim-Jim, I even tried breaking the back passenger window with a hammer to no avail. So, Julie drove the boat back up on the trailer and we re-secured it. We called a lock smith and proceeded to wait. Just when we were resigned to waiting approximately an hour for a locksmith and all the while our truck just happily chugged away in the water. We had also effectively cut the boat ramps from two down to one because we had it totally blocked off. When out-of-nowhere fortune shined on us when a nice young gentleman came by with a slim-gym and popped our lock. The question is why did he have one of those, I don’t even want to know. So we high tailed it out of there. Just as we entered the main road leading out of the marina, our locksmith came around a curve in the road. Thank god, I had not given him any of my personal information. I know it was mean to leave, but I simply did not want to deal with it. I was already too pissed off.
For the next few trips to the lake, we had little additional nagging issues as we continued to learn how to use our boat and to dive with it. Eventually we actually became quite proficient using it. So much so that we hosted a few dives for our dive shop. But just when you think you got everything all sorted out fate comes in and throws you a curve ball. On this particular occasion, I had invited friends of ours. A couple and their daughter for a nice day on the lake. It all seemed pretty innocent, right? We were going to go fishing and then afterwards we were going to use my inflatable water ride to pull their daughter around the lake. So, just calm down…this after all is a story about Randy’s life. Has anybody heard of a bearing buddy? Well, I had not heard of one until that particular day. Apparently you need them, I have four wheels on the boat trailer, so I needed four bearing buddies. Well, apparently I only had three of them. One must have fell off on my last trip to the lake. So now we are happily driving down the highway with our friends following behind in their car, when I see him pull up on my driver’s side. He is frantically motioning for me to roll down my window. I calmly do so, thinking what could be the problem, when he gasps out the word, “FIRE! Your damn boat is on fire”. So I hurriedly pulled off the road to see what is the problem, well sure enough one of the axels on my boat trailer is on fire. So I quickly hopped in the back of my boat where I grab a fire extinguisher. FYI, you need at least one fire extinguisher on board a motor boat, I had two. This is also a good time to inform the reader that I had never used one before. While it was true that I did know the basics behind its use, that was about it. So I pulled the pin and guess what happened, my friend became covered in white powder. Boy the look on his face, it was priceless! I did not know that the damn handle was spring loaded. So I quickly grabbed the handle and the powder stopped shooting out. Now that I had all the kinks worked out, putting out the fire was pretty basic. However, our day was ruined. So I told him to go home, there was no point him ruining the rest of his day. We ended up having to get a flat bed truck to not only put our boat on it but our truck as well. That was pretty cool. So that is how I found out about bearing buddies. So now that became part of my pre flight check each time we took the boat out. Yes, we finally did get to take our friends out on the boat, but we neve got to use the inflatable because by the time we finished fishing the wind had picked up too much. As a matter of fact, I never got to use it at all.
You would think by the time of my third marriage, I would have all the kinks worked out regarding travel. Nope the kinks just keep on changing and they never seem to get smoothed out. Well you have to give me credit, I just never seem to give up. Is it a question of an indomitable spirit or sheer stupidity and stubbornness? I believe one way and my wife believes another way. I won’t, however, bore you with the details on that discussion.
I do have one thing to be thankful for and that is my wife’s unremitting patience and love. I am sure she has already earned her place in heaven by putting up with my shenanigans.
Our first major trip together was to the Philippines and Hong Kong. We had a lay-over in Hong Kong, so we decided to stay there for three days and two nights. What an amazing place and so full of life. The public transportation system is simply amazing. We stayed at an Airbnb while we were there. While it is not my cup of tea, we did save a lot of money by doing it this way. Once we learned how to ride the public transit system, we zipped around the city and countryside like professionals. We only had one minor hiccough, and that was when we got separated. It was quite scary, since our cell phones did not work there and we did not know the city that well. But we finally found each other. So now it was time to fly to the Philippines. There are a couple of things you need to know about this country. While the Philippine people are nice and hospitable they live for today, with no thought given to the repercussions of their actions. So, basically they will screw you today without trying to retain you as a future customer. Don’t turn your back on them or leave anything unattended. Also give twice as much time as you think necessary to accomplish anything and then double it besides, and maybe you will have enough time to do what you want to do. To travel 35 miles in the Philippines you need to allot about 5 hours of travel time. You need at least four hours or more between connecting flights because the flights are never on time. Give up the thought of driving yourself anywhere in the islands, just don’t do it, put the thought out of your mind. They have no concept of lanes or which direction the road is going. The only reason that they don’t have thousands of accidents a day is that they are going so damn slow, that they can stop on a dime. Safe following distances are measured in mere inches. There are no limits to how many people you can fit on a motor cycle. I have seen seven people riding on a motorcycle built for two. Manila is a very dirty city, as a matter of fact, most of the islands are not taken care of very well. There is no reason for this, the islands are a virtual paradise, and they should be treated like a treasure. I guess because the islands are so poor, few people give this a thought. They are simply trying to survive.
So my wife’s brother picked us up at the Manila airport and promptly got lost driving to his house. We spent the next two hours circling the airport. This is a person who lives in these islands, can you imagine a total stranger trying to navigate the roads? We stayed at a nice resort that was basically empty because we were there off season. The resort was also very close to my wife’s brother. Forget about staying at their house, they are just too small. We spent a couple of days there in Manilla, then we took an all day taxi cab drive to go the said 35 miles to our dive resort in Batangas, where we were the only ones staying at the resort. I tried to get bumped up to a nicer room, but they refused. Again thinking about today, and not tomorrow. We were given a charge card that had to be handed in after every meal so they could tabulate our expenses. Because they were overwhelmed by their one client. The dive boat even charged for drinks. I have never seen this before. At least there was no charge for Dory, my wife to come along with me. Since I was the only diver on the boat there was plenty of room. We wasted another day driving back the same route, because the driver refused to take the toll roads. These are tolls that were factored in on the rates we had paid for already. He just wanted to pocket the fees. I estimated that out of the three weeks we were in the Philippines, one was lost due to inner island transportation issues. There are few direct flights… you have to keep on going back to Manila so you can fly to the next city. So if you are in Island B and you want to go to Island C you have to fly back to Island A and then you can fly from Island A to Island C. That is one of the reasons travel takes so long. To visit Dory’s mother we had to fly to Davao City then take a taxi all the way to her town. Our final destination was Puerto Princesa in Palawan then back to Manila and home. Of all the islands we visited, Palawan was the best maintained, and if I had to live there, that would be the place I would chose to live at. Unfortunately while we there, my body started to work against me, and I got diarrhea. Poor Dory had to go to a 24 hour RX in the middle of the night to get me some Imodium so that our next days events would not be ruined. We stayed there for 4 days and nights. Our room cost less than $100 for the four nights. That price included breakfast and the slowest Wi-Fi in the world. Download times were measured with a sundial.
We took a trip to visit my family and to introduce my new wife to my family and we also brought along my roommate with us. Every thing went along pretty well. He spent most of the time at my mother’s house because his funds were limited. I do know that I have learned my lesson, and that is not to take friends along with you on a trip. My family fell in love with Dory. So that part of the trip went well. Since the trip was pretty uneventful, I will move on to another trip that did not go quite so well.
This trip started out as a back up plan for a cancelled trip. This trip was flight and road trip combo. We flew to Denver and then rented a minivan and drove a large loop taking us through Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and eventually back to Denver for our flight back home. Original plan was to have a hybrid trip, with most of our lodging revolving around camping. I figured that we would rent an SUV, so we bought an air mattress designed to fit in a SUV and a tent covering the back of it. It was meant for a simple and quick single night camping. We also brought a tent for multi-night camping at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. I had never heard of FOX Rent-a-Car but the prices seemed good, so I rented an SUV for the two weeks we had allotted for our travels. That is where things fell apart, the whole company is nothing but a scam, the price quadrupled. So I politely told them to F off, and went back to the airport where I went with Enterprise. The price was about the same for a mini van as our SUV was supposed to be. I was willing to pay a little more for an SUV, but there simply were none available at such short notice. So now we had two items with us that we no longer needed.
You already know about a few other mishaps that took place on the trip, so I will hop over to the final lulu. Prior to the trip, I had made all our camping reservations for Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. When I booked the campsite for the Grand Tetons, I asked the campsite I was planning to stay at if their campsite was close to the park entrance. Well, I guess the term close is relative, but I wouldn’t call 30 miles in anybody’s vocabulary close. So by the time I got to the campsite I was just a little miffed. So I pulled up to the campsite and I saw the office to the left of the entrance, and there were several empty parking spots located conveniently in front of me, so I parked there. Well, no sooner than I turned off my van, in comes this elderly man in a golf cart. He proceeds to yell at me and ask me if I could read, and tell me that I had parked in the wrong spot. Well, there was nobody anywhere in the vicinity, so what the hell was wrong with where I had parked? It was paved, and I had not parked on any flowers or grass. So I asked him where I should park, he rather rudely pointed to the left. So I rather loudly shut my truck door and pulled over to the aforementioned spot. Well, no sooner than had I parked and turned off my van and got out, he buzzed over to me again. This time he was even ruder. He said he did not like my attitude. He also went on to say that the benefit of being the owner of this campsite is that he could say who got to stay there. Well, I called him a naughty name and told him where he could stick his campsite and that I wanted a refund. What an absolute arrogant prick.
We ended up finding a very nice campsite in the park itself, that was cheaper and had the wonderful fringe benefits of both elk and moose wandering around the borders of the campsite. I think we made out pretty well. So sometimes planning ahead doesn’t always work out for the best.
The last trip we took was an 18-day road trip to Florida and back. Our original plan was to make a loop with us taking the southern route first going through Texas and the northern route taking us back through Colorado. Due to a storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, we had a large amount of rain, at least fifteen inches in one day in Louisiana. So we had to cancel a lot things on the first leg. We, therefore decided to go back on the southern route albeit with a few modifications. So with the exception of a few key destination spots, our trip did not resemble the original plan very closely. We had also planned on doing a lot of camping along the way, but a lot of the campsites ended up being almost as expensive as the economy motels and hotels. So, we only camped a few nights on the trip. We still managed to have a great time even though it was a quite lengthy trip and we did it without fighting, amazing as that may sound. We both agree that the highlight of the trip was one that was totally unplanned. It was an overnight stay at the Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. I also got to ride a paddle boat down the Mississippi. Even though I wanted to eat at Brennan’s Restaurant for breakfast in New Orleans, we did get to eat at the Two Sister’s Restaurant instead. Our meals were absolutely fabulous and we even splurged and had Banana Foster’s for desert.
Our next trip is planned for the spring of 2022. We are hoping to go to Egypt and Jordan. As usual, we have a back up plan ready just in case. You never know what COVID-19 has in store for you. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, it certainly was interesting living it.