Apprehensive about the four hour bumpy ride to Placencia…

Yesterday, I was feeling a little apprehensive about tomorrow’s upcoming trip to Placencia, Belize. The almost four hour ride through the mountains on bumpy dirt roads with one way bridges tends to make me slightly anxious. Tom, as usual, is totally at ease. I wish he were driving.  He’s the safest driver I know and he’s been on plenty of one way bridges in his 42 years on the railroad!

With the driver picking us up in Belize City at 12:30 for a quick trip to the FedEx store to drop off the XCom Global WiFi, we’ll be on our way.  We’re bringing along our four Contigo mugs filled with ice which usually keeps for hours, one quart of pre-made Crystal Light iced tea and one quart of purified water.

In a reply email from the owner of Little Cottage in Placencia we’ll be about two miles from a grocery store or restaurant. She suggested we stop along the way to buy some food for dinner until we figure out a form of transportation to get around.  Car rentals are $250 a day or more. 

Golf cart rentals may be our best option.  We can rent one for about $27 for three hours.  We figured we’d do this at least twice a week so we can go grocery shopping and I can work out at Robert’s Grove Hotel gym  ($39 a month). 
If we get the golf cart one morning a week, we can grocery shop and go out to breakfast.  The next time, we can get it in the afternoon, grocery shop again and then go out to dinner.  We’ll figure it out.  Also, I sent a request to a local vehicle rental company for a two month rate for a golf cart. They responded saying they’ll give us a price by tomorrow.

Norman, the owner’s property manager, will drive us anywhere for a nominal amount for gas and his time. We can ask Norman to take us sightseeing and to further explore the area. Placencia is far from the tourist hustle and bustle which is exactly what we’ve wanted although, it does have a busy downtown area with shops, activities, restaurants and services. 

The lifestyle in Belize will be very different from that which we’ve known and loved: no TV, limited Internet (the cottage has wireless but its unpredictable), no transportation round the clock. We’ll adapt.

Linda says the water in potable but “it may take time for our systems to get used to it.”
Does that mean we’ll get sick? It might be best to use bottled water. Hopefully, we’ll be able to eat uncooked vegetables. Life without salad is hard when eating my restrictive diet. Then again, when we travel to Africa in seven months, lettuce will be out of the picture entirely, along with any uncooked vegetables.

Nurse Marsha from the Travel Clinic in Minnesota firmly stated that we should use only bottled or boiled water for everything and tototally avoid any uncooked vegetables, including lettuce. 

Two schools of thought here.  Shall we bite the bullet and use the tap water, allowing our systems to “toughen up” even if it means a few uncomfortable days?  Or, shall we avoid it altogether as suggested by Nurse Marsha? I guess we’ll decide this tomorrow when we arrive. 

On our second week’s dose of the malaria drug, we’ve relived that neither of us is experiencing any side effects so far.

It’s now Monday morning. We’ve had breakfast and we’re sitting outside on the shop on the deck off the restaurant each of us reclining on two comfy sofas, a strong warm ocean breeze swirling around us, a fresh glass of iced tea in our mugs. 

Soon, we’ll go back to our cabin to begin packing, much easier this time since we’d only opened
a few of the many bags when we began this cruise one week ago today.

Today, we’ll buy two of the soft beach towels for sale on the ship at $28 each, well worth the price and two bottles of Courvoisier for Tom, liters at $35 each, a good duty free price. Belize allows tourists tobring one bottle of alcohol per person in the country.

The ship is swaying due to high winds but after 23 days at sea, we barely notice it. Could we
have developed “sea legs?” We both feel that we could cruise indefinitely.
Perhaps, down the road we’ll encounter a great last minute price on a “world cruise” that lasts for 120 days or more. 

Once situated in Placencia we’ll write a review and comparison of the two cruises we’ve experienced thus far, the Celebrity Century and the Celebrity Equinox. Definitely not experts after only two experiences, we’d love to document our observations while it is still fresh in our minds,
coming back later to see, after six more cruises, if we’ve changed our opinions.

We won’t be writing here tomorrow as it will be a long travel day. By Wednesday, we’ll update you on the process of getting off the ship, our perspective of Belize City, the four-hour drive on the bumpy road and photos of our new home, a cottage on the beach in Placencia.
__________________________________________
Tom to the rescue…

The live show begins at 9:00 PM each night in the Equinox Theatre.  In order to get a good seat, it’s necessary to arrive at least 30 minutes before the show  begins. With the majority of the ship’s passengers 65 and over, it’s not unusual to see folks scrounging for seats as early as an hour before the show.

Seating in the Silhouette Dining Room each night between 6:30 and 7:00 PM, we’ve found we have time to enjoy dinner, the companionship of our “table mates” and a three course dinner with time to scurry off to the theatre for the show.

While comfortably seated on bar stools with cushioned backs at a high bar top table, we’ve had a “bird’s eye view” of the hundreds of passengers picking out where and with whom to sit. In itself, that’s been entertaining. “People watching” aboard ship can be quite an adventure.

Saturday night, we couldn’t help but notice an adorable couple, possibly in their 90’s, as they managed to find two seats to their liking. We laughed. Hopefully, that could be us in many years.

Yesterday afternoon, while cloudy and drizzling while out to sea, we decided to go to the 2:00 PM movie in the Celebrity Central Theatre, for the showing of “My Week with Marilyn”. Once again, arriving early to ensure a good seat, we perused the room for yet another 30 minutes of “people watching.” 

As the lights went dark, suddenly from out of nowhere, Tom bolted out of his aisle seat so fast, I didn’t know what happened.  There on the floor lie a little old man, of the couple we’d seen on Saturday. He apparently tripped while maneuvering to his seat in the darkened room and Tom with his hawk-like ability to scan the room, moved so quickly to assist him, it was
startling.
He reach the old man about 15 feet away in but two seconds flat, checking out his condition as he lay completely flat on the floor, helping him to arise after he insisted that he was uninjured.  Thanking Tom profusely for his prompt assistance, he was able to sit through the entire movie.  
When the movie ended, Tom again, dashed to the old man to see how he was feeling asking if he’d like further assistance. 
This incident, luckily without injury, reminded me of how safe I feel with Tom at my side. No matter my apprehension or fear, he’s at my side offering loving reassurance and comfort no matter the situation. His quick responses and ability to “think on his feet” put my mind at ease knowing he will be at my side through any “out of the box” experiences we may have along the way.
So… bumpy, mountainous, narrow road with single lane bridges, here we come! I’m ready for
you!

Disembarking the ship before the end of the cruise…

Remember our motto, “Wafting Through Our World Wide Journey with Joy, Simplicity and
Ease”?


We strive to keep this in mind.In order to accomplish doing so, we must be proactive.On occasion, proactive behavior requires assertiveness that may, on occasion, be off-putting to those with whom we are dealing. As we plan to disembark from the Celebrity Equinox tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29th we are faced with a few potential obstacles:

1.  How will our luggage be handled on the smaller “tender” boat taking us the 20
minute ride to the pier in Belize?  Will
we need new luggage tags as when we disembarked the Celebrity Century?
2.  What time shall we schedule the hired driver to appear at the pier, holding up the sign
with our name based on a projected time the ship will be cleared for
dismemberment?
3.  What is the procedure for acquiring a visa, which based on our research is provided at the
time of entering the country of Belize, not online at an earlier date? Will they in fact grant us a visa for 2 1/2 months?
4.  What is the process with the Belize Immigration Department? Will they go through our
bags?  (We didn’t purchase anything aboard the ship).
5.  Will our scheduled driver have a large enough and reliable van (as promised when we
booked) for the four hour drive to Placencia? Will we arrive at the dock at 12:30 as scheduled?
In an effort to be proactive on Sunday morning I visited the customer service desk to review the process of getting the above four items
addressed.

The staff person tried to dismiss my concerns saying all would be fine. Ha! This is not the answer I was seeking!  (Tom and I agreed to let me handle these kinds of potentially testy situations. I tend to stay calm and pushy at the same time).

After the staff person attended to the answer to

Question #1, I was able to secure two PRIORITY TENDER TICKETS, enabling us to choose a time to get onto the tender with support staff.  This helps.

Unfortunately, when I pressed for the remaining answers, the staff person was unable to answer, preferring to say again, “everything will be fine. Nothing to worry about.”
“Yes,” I said, “there is something to be worried about.” She straightened the lapel on her navy blue blazer, wincing at my comment.
“Let’s say we get into Belize with immigration and 2 1/2 months later, we’re stuck in immigration for 24 hours or more trying to “get out of Belize” if we didn’t have a proper long term visa. (A
visa for Belize is not required for under 30 day visits).
“We need immigration to meet us at the pier,” I insisted, “to provide us with a visa good through April 9, 2013, when we depart.” (We had tried to get this ahead of time but was told by Belize Immigration to get a visa when we arrive).
“Whatever you need to do to arrange this is imperative.”  I continued. “If you don’t know the answer, please direct me to the staff member who does handle these types of concerns.  Is there such a person on board?”
“Yes,” she said meekly, “I’ll call her and she’ll contact you.” 
“OK,” I said, feeling frustrated, “We’ll watch for a message from her by the end of the day today.  We spend little time by the phone in our cabin.”

By the time I walked over to Tom who was sitting in a lounge area waiting for me, I had cooled off enough to tell him what transpired, reassuring him that all will be taken care of and not to worry. 

When passengers get off of a cruise ship, returning after a day of spending money in their city, there is little, if any hoopla.  Getting off the ship and staying for an extended period is an entirely other matter.

Once we hear back from the on board immigration handler, we will report the results.  Hopefully,
all will go smoothly. 

Persistence prevails.
__________________________________________
A few hours after writing the above, we returned to our cabin with a phone message from Jennie, the on board Celebrity immigration officer. Immediately returning her call, she suggested I bring our passports and our itinerary to the customer service desk and she’d meet with me.
I couldn’t get down there quickly enough, leaving Tom behind in the cabin. As I dashed to the
elevator, it dawned on me that this was the first time since January 3rd when we boarded the Celebrity Century, that I was out of Tom’s sight.  I chuckled to myself.  Imagine. We aren’t sick of each other yet!

Meeting Officer Jennie put my mind at ease.  Her crisp white and black uniform with
epaulets, the official name tag as “Chief Officer of Immigration coupled with her professional demeanor immediately reassured me that we were now in the proper hands.

Showing her our lengthy itinerary set the pace for a lively conversation with her enthusiasm to ensure that everything goes smoothly in our early departure from the cruise. She handed me immigration forms to complete, made a copy of our itinerary and immediately addressed all of our
concerns.

She suggested that she’d hold onto our passports until Tuesday when the Belizean Immigration Officer will board the ship (also via tender). She’ll handle everything for us including arranging for our 2 1/2 month visa. Should there be an entry fee, she will let us know and charge it to our
cabin.

She answered all of our questions including the seamless handling of our bags via porter to our cabin, taking our bags to be handled by the tender staff who again will assist at the pier.  She said there is no need for us to so much as touch our bags. No luggage tags are needed since we’ll be the only passengers staying in Belize.
In addition, she explained that our having PRIORITY TENDER TICKETS, we can board the tender at any time we’d prefer. Contacting our private van company in Belize by email today, they reassured me on the vehicle’s good condition, the size of the van and that the driver would meet us to be at the pier at 12:30 pm holding a sign with our name. According to Officer Jennie we’d have no trouble being there on time for the driver.

On Tuesday morning when the ship anchors in the harbor of the port of Belize at 10:30 am, requiring one hour to be cleared, we’ll have our bags down by the gangplank ready for us to get on the tender. Jennie will call our cabin instructing us when to come down to the desk to retrieve our passports and our new visas and head to the tender, knowing that our driver is scheduled for 12:30 pm. 

Anything could go wrong and throw this plan into total chaos. There is absolutely nothing WE will do to throw it off.  However, we’re subject to the responsibility and timing of others. As we all so well know, we can’t always count on the diligence of others, only on that of ourselves.

Then, of course, is the four hour drive to Placencia, only after the driver takes us to the FEDEX office in Belize City to return the XCOM Global MiFi device which won’t work in Belize. They are aware of the slow return mail and aren’t charging us for the time it takes for the package to get back to San Diego, California. 

We’ll need the device again by April 9th. We’ll have to pay the international shipping charge back to Belize so we can collect it at the same FEDEX office in Belize City before we depart on cruise #3 back to Miami for a same day departure of cruise #4.  At the cost of $395 a month for the device, it made no sense to hang onto it for this extended period. Postage both ways will be about $140.

Details, details, details!  The perception that this adventure of ours is comparable to a long vacation is delusional. This is work, lots of work and endless planning.  Fortunately, I find the process is pleasurable and much to my surprise, Tom does as well. 

We are both reminded, each and every day, to enjoy the living in the moment, even when it entails a phenomenal number of specific events falling into place. 

We’ll see how we feel about this premise when its 7:00 pm Tuesday night, arriving in Placencia in the dark, tired, hungry, opening one particular suitcase that has no clothing inside, taking out the multiple allergy and bedbug protecting mattress covers, putting them on the mattress, box springs and pillows all before we open our other bags.

We shall see and of course…report how it all goes.

A holiday message…

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate with warm wishes to those who don’t and to those who may celebrate another holiday this time of year.

Comfortably ensconced in this Henderson, Nevada home, from which we’ll leave in 48 hours to head back to Scottsdale for our final four days of organizing and packing. 

The five-hour drive awaits us as a time to unwind after the busy but enjoyable eight days of precious time spent with family reminiscing about the past and dreaming about the future.  It’s all so clear to me now.  More than ever.

The preparations for Tom’s birthday party on the 23rd, again last night, Christmas Eve, and today, Christmas Day flowed with ease for me.  I over-bought food, more than we could possibly need, throwing my cooperative house guests into an eating frenzy when they say so much less would have been fine. I agree.

Never in my past have I ever over-bought food as I have done this time. Perhaps knowing this was my last cooking “hurrah” for what may prove to be years to come, my association of “food is love” was definitely overdone. 

I couldn’t get enough, the preparation or the love, the laughter, the memories, the photos or the stories, old and new, or the sound of Tom’s laughter in the background. 

Saying goodbye.  For us now, it was all about saying goodbye.  A repeat of the sorrowful goodbyes in Minnesota.  As I have written in the past, our choice to embark on an amazing journey doesn’t make us exempt from feeling sad about leaving everyone behind.  It’s now becoming more real as we’re only 9 days away from leaving the US.

Today, Christmas Day is yet another family-filled day, the third in a row with too much good food, an abundance of stories we’ve all heard before, laughter filling the air, and love all around. Sound familiar? Ah, the human spirit gathers to celebrate this joyous time of the year.

Merry Christmas to all of our readers, the people we know, and the people we don’t know, and to the people all over the world as I see in the stats are somehow finding this blog reading it regularly. We’ll see you soon. 

From couch potato to world traveler…Happy birthday to my husband…

A hard-working, dedicated man, helper around the house, a supporter of my every whim, compassionate to my every sorrow, and infinitely able to make me laugh when I wanted to cry, my husband Tom has been a rock.

Today, we celebrate his 60th birthday. The world didn’t end of the 21st as he so fervently predicted, leaving us here today to celebrate his special day, the holiday season, and our upcoming world travels beginning in a mere 11 days.

Happy birthday, my love.  I commend you for getting up from your former comfy chair, away from your Minnesota Vikings, out from behind your computer endlessly researching your ancestry and freeing yourself from the constant chatter of mindless drivel on TV in the background.

I admire your courage to make this enormous change, leaving everyone you know and love behind (except me) to venture out into an unknown world of uncertainty, risk, and challenge.

I admire you for leaving behind everything familiar in your world in which you found the cocoon that comforted you after long days of work, the unbearable drive to and from, the smell of diesel fuel, and the wrenching exposure to chemicals around you each day.

Reaching for a purpose beyond that which we currently know, you stretch yourself to the limits, and I, a loyal follower travel with you. What lies ahead of us on the plains of Africa, the shores of southern  France, the Mayan ruins, the Great Pyramids remains to be seen.  Together, holding hands, we reach for the stars in the last decades of our lives, fearless, strong, and in love.

What more could I ask for?  Nothing.  Nothing more.

So today for the first time on your birthday, I have no gift for you to unwrap. You have no room in your luggage for yet the tiniest of trinkets. 

I give you, Tom Lyman, husband, lover, and best friend of mine, ongoing, on growing love and devotion, combined with an unending curiosity to gain further knowledge of this side of you that I have yet to learn.  This in itself, adds an element of adventure that I anxiously await.

Happy birthday, Tom Lyman, for on this day your 60th birthday as we celebrate with family and friends, you embark on this new chapter in your life, with me, my love,  simply writing the words along the way.

I love you.

Green Valley Ranch, Henderson, Nevada check in…

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, to our vacation rental in Green Valley Ranch, a newer community with massive amounts of stores, restaurants, gated communities, and a  mere sprinkling of casinos. 

It doesn’t feel like Las Vegas with its slot machines in every gas station or public building.  Instead, it feels welcoming, safe, and low on tourists.

Entering the single-family home for the eight days we reserved over Tom’s birthday and Christmas, we knew immediately that we were “home.” A fresh smell wafted through the air (love that word!), welcoming us as we maneuvered through the door arms laden with “stuff.”

Unloading my arms onto the living room floor, I ran about from room to room squealing with delight. Each room had its own surprise to behold. 

From the stack of perfectly folded crisp white towels and washcloths in each of three bedrooms, two baths, and an ample linen closet, to the full-size bars of new soaps atop each stack, no stone was left unturned.  

The kitchen, fully stocked with every amenity, had a “working” ice machine, ground coffee, cream, some basic ingredients along with every small appliance we could possibly use.  Three flat-screen TVs, a pool table, stereo, and old fashioned boxed games were available for our entertainment.

The pool, although not heated and an extra $100 a day to heat (it’s too cold here now in the 30s!) has a free-use hot tub (forgot my suit) in a well-equipped yard with high top table, chairs, and a huge newer grill. Too bad it’s not 90 degrees!

The rent for the eight days, although much more than we’ll pay outside the US for most houses, was fair at $1500 which included a $250 cleaning deposit which we expect to get back.  We did the math.  Most likely we would have paid $165 a night for a hotel (including taxes) during the holidays, plus tips, valet parking, plus all meals in a restaurant, and how much lost with easy access to gambling.  Surely we would have spent at least $400 a day for an estimate of $3200.

Staying in this lovely home, cooking for Tom’s party, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day including our guests, our grocery and dining out budget is $1050, leaving us with a total of $2300 saving us $900 or more depending on how much we’d have lost gambling (we don’t usually gamble but when it’s at hand, it’s hard to resist). 

This is the first Christmas in my adult life that I won’t be shopping in a frenzy, wrapping gifts with elaborate hand made bows, baking a wide array of delectable cookies, and of course, decorating every corner of the house. In an odd way, it’s liberating.  We’ll miss family back in Minnesota and we’ll revel in family and friends here in Nevada.  Life is filled with trade-offs.

Soon, we’ll head to our two dentist appointments for our final cleanings, then off to the travel clinic for Tom’s final Twinrix vaccine.  Then, to the grocery store for the ingredients for the lesser amount of baking, I’ll do this year. 

It won’t be gluten-free, low carb, sugar-free, grain-free, starch-free.  It will be delicious, fattening, gooey, filling up this lovely home with smells that remind us of “home.”  I won’t take a taste.  Tom will take off a few days for this special time, his 60th birthday, and some of his favorite treats.

Hum. There’s no rolling pin. What shall I use in its place?

P.S. After writing the above this morning, then rushing out the door to the dentist’s office, I had yet to post it. Upon returning a few minutes ago, it was imperative that I amend it.  We just had the most amazing dental appointment in our lives, a referral from son Richard at Dr.Patrick Simone’s office in Henderson, Nevada.

Walking into his plush, well-appointed office puts me, a dental phobic, instantly at ease. From the elegant, upscale furnishings to the artwork to the well-equipped beverage bar and, the service, impeccable!  Even the restroom was a sight to behold with every imaginable accouterment. 

It almost felt as if we should tip not only the receptionist, but also Terry, the knowledgeable, personable, and thoughtful hygienist.  Instead of the usual hand performed cleaning, scraping away at our gums and teeth, Terry used a laser implement as an adjunct to the traditional cleaning. She used “before and after” photos that were shocking. 

After the cleaning, she performed what she referred to as “sandblasting” the surface of our teeth with a high powered baking soda spray.  The taste was awful.  The result, mind-blowing. My teeth hadn’t been this white since I was a toddler. We couldn’t be happier. 

As we paid our reasonable bill of $226 (for both of us), they thanked us profusely handing us a giant apple pie! Who gets an apple pie from the dentist?  I was thrilled with the bag of dental supplies Terry loaded up for our travel. And then, this giant pie. Wow! 

Need I say that we were impressed?  If you live near or around Henderson or are visiting Las Vegas and a dental situation arises, Dr. Simone’s office is the place to call.

Gee, for the eight days we’re, here in Henderson over the holidays, this does feel like home, minus the grandkids, the grown kids, the friends, the beautifully decorated tree, the elegantly wrapped gifts, the oversized glass jars filled with home-baked cookies, the Santa Bears adorning every corner and on and on.

Life will be different going forward.  Good, but, different.

For Jerry…we’ll be your eyes…

Tom is the youngest of a family of eleven with eight surviving. The eldest, Jerry is a sharp 84, funny, loving, savvy in today’s world and totally blind. Tom will be 60 five days from today, December 23rd. They share a 24-year difference in age.

While in Henderson, Nevada on December 23rd (we’re leaving tomorrow), we’ll celebrate Tom’s milestone birthday with a gathering of the family, including three of Tom’s sisters, two brothers-in-law, several of my family members, and local Henderson friends with a wide array of homemade foods, special drinks and as we pleaded, no gifts! (There’s no room in our luggage).

Originally, the intent in writing this blog was to stay in touch with family and friends as we travel the world over the next 5-10 years. Initially, the plan was to post once a week with photos and updates.  As the preparations began, we realized that this information, so diligently researched, may be of benefit to other travelers both young and senior.  Much to our surprise, we’ve attracted readers from all over the world. 

It wasn’t long before Jerry and his lovely wife Lee, heard about our blog as did many other family members. Jerry began “reading it” on his computer utilizing a software program, Jaws, instituted for the blind many years ago.

A few months ago, upon updated the look of our blog, Jerry was no longer able to “read” the text due to formatting changes.  His frustration was evident when he asked if there was a way we could get it to him.  His problem was a dial-up connection in his home, not friendly to intense graphics.

Tom and I discussed the options and Tom suggested that he copy and paste each new post he receives in his email (he signed up to receive email notifications of each new post), text-only, and email it to Jerry.  This proved to be a perfect solution and Jerry has happily followed along with our updates. 

In addition, when Jerry receives each post, he prints a copy to share with Lee, and Tom’s sister Patty, who doesn’t have access to a computer.

A few days ago, I received this email from Jerry that touched our hearts.  Here it is exactly as it was received:

I SURE DID
TRY TO FIGURE HOW I COULD JOIN YOU GUYS FOR TOMS PARTY.
FIGURED IF I
MADE ALL THE PLANS ABOUT THEN MY OLD BODY WOULD GIVE OUT ON ME.

SO DECIDED TO
STAY HERE WITH MY FAVORITE NORWEGIAN.
SO AS YOU
TRAVEL YOU TWO  WILL BE MY EYES.

JERRY AND LEE

It’s evident from this sweet message what a terrific guy Jerry is, as a brother, husband, and friend. It brings us great comfort to know he and Lee are “following along” with us in our travels. 
So, as we travel, documenting our experiences along the way, we will always keep Jerry in mind, knowing that he is hearing our adventures, hearing our dilemmas, hearing our joys, and hearing our photos which we’ll describe in a way enabling him to “see” what we are seeing, feel what we are feeling and share in the many treasures our world has to offer.
Thank you, Jerry.  The gift you give us, is your interest, your enthusiasm, and your love which we will carry with us, wherever we may be. 
Yes, Jerry, we’ll be your eyes.

Photos of upcoming vacation home in Nevada!…

Pool and Spa
Pool and hot tub in Nevada house.
Living room
Living room.

Below are the photos of the Henderson, Nevada vacation rental we’ll be moving into this upcoming Wednesday after a five-hour drive across the desert. We posted these photos many months ago, doing so again today for our newer readers.

Master bedroom.
Second of three bedrooms.

A charming house with great reviews in VRBO.com located in the fabulous Green Valley Ranch area in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, will definitely serve our needs for eight days over the holidays with family and friends coming to visit for the three days between Tom’s 60th birthday on the 23rd and Christmas.  We couldn’t be more thrilled.

3rd bedroom
Third bedroom.

Over the next two days, we’ll busily pack for the eight days in Nevada, finish the balance of our paperwork, pack the food and cooking supplies we’ve accumulated while in Scottsdale, and the hardest part of all, decide what we’re leaving behind in one final bin we’ll leave at son Richard‘s house.

Kitchen, dining area.

This is the hardest part.  Once we leave the vacation house in Henderson on the 27th, we return to the vacation house in Scottsdale for our final packing before leaving on January 1st for San Diego to ultimately sail away on January 3rd.  Any items we don’t bring to Henderson now become a part of our luggage, an impossible scenario.

2nd Living room
Casual dining and lounge area off of the kitchen.

We have warm clothes that we aren’t bringing (Good thing we brought them along for the cold weather we’ve experienced lately), piles of papers to pass off to my sister Julie who’ll spend Tom’s birthday and Christmas with us as well. 

Pool Table
Pool table in the living area.

Julie will keep our medical files with test results, our health care directives, and stacks of legal documents that we completed on Friday.  We’ll leave our tax prep receipts in a banker’s box with Richard

Kitchen
The kitchen is dated, but serves our needs.

Oh, it goes on and on.  There’s so much to remember much of which I listed on a Nevada “to do” and others that require me walking around and “looking” at everything to further remind me. Thank goodness, my memory is serving me well. 

Living room
Main living room.

Not only will we move into the house below, but we’ll get ready for Christmas, baking (for guests), decorating (just a little), and go to our dentist appointments for final cleanings.  After the dentist, Tom has an appointment at a local travel clinic for his last TwinRix vaccine. 

Spa
Hot tub as part of the pool.

Plus, we’ll complete the arrangements for the sale of Tom’s car (prospective buyer in the works), hopefully, to transpire while we’re in San Diego over the last two days.  If that doesn’t work out for any reason, of course, we have a Plan B. 

On January 2, we’ll take the SUV to a local dealer and sell it for whatever they’ll give us.  Apparently, there’s a shortage of clean used vehicles. After pricing it at Edmunds, we feel confident that we will sell it for close to the dealer’s wholesale price. It’s a 2010 model and in perfect condition.  We’re already prepared for a low offer accepting this reality as part of the process, especially after doing so poorly at our estate sale. Ouch!  Nobody cares to pay what we feel “our stuff” is worth.  

Here’s the link to the details and photos about the Henderson home.  (Please excuse the formatting issues. It’s rather tricky copying and pasting photos from other web sites.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, web design is not my forte).
http://www.vrbo.com/301335

Tom’s day for tests…

Most often I write the post for this blog every other morning.  This morning, as typical for medical procedures, we must be out the door before 8 am.  Tom is having both his colonoscopy and endoscopy, the final medical tests before we leave the US, four weeks from today.

Yesterday, was “clear liquids only” day.  He amazed me how well he did without a single complaint about hunger.  Since we’ve been on our low carb, gluten-free diet, either of us is seldom hungry, certainly never ravenous. It’s ironic how, when you feed your body what it needs, whole nutritious food, it sends out a few hunger signals.

Recently, we decided to stop eating based on the clock. Could we get our appetites in sync eating whenever we felt hungry as opposed to the time of day? Did the caveman watch a clock and go out and kill his meal in time for lunch or dinner? 

Hardly.  Most likely he hunted and gathered food for himself and his family, preparing it quickly to prevent spoilage which they consumed until stuffed, perhaps not eating again for another day or two.  Maybe we are meant to eat the same way to a degree. 

It’s not so much about hunting for our food in this modern world, but gathering our ingredients to create a healthful, nourishing and delicious meal to be fully enjoyed, eating again only when we’re hungry.  Both Tom and I love this concept.  Over the past several weeks, we’ve had dinner at varying times, huge breakfasts, and no dinner later that day, and now, for the first time, no real food all day.

So, yesterday, when “my hunter” was unable to hunt, I decided that I too would follow along and consume only simple liquids.  In this temporary home, smaller than that which we are used to,  there would be no place for me to eat without him smelling and seeing the food.  His gentle soul encouraged me to have whatever I wanted and he’d be fine. Instead, I decided to join him in this one day fast.

I considered making myself liver and onions, which he dislikes, but figured the smell might be intolerable on an empty stomach.  Instead, we ate a few sugar-free Popsicles, chicken bouillon, sugar-free Jello that I’d made the night before and plenty of iced tea and purified water.  We made it through the evening, hardly giving it a second thought as the day wore on.

At 5 PM he drank the first of two 6 ounce bottles of the prescribed SUPREP (with a ridiculous retail price of $75.  We paid a $25 co-pay) mixed with 10 ounces of water and the same again this morning at 5 AM, each time followed by an entire quart of water within an hour. 

He managed to chug down the 16 ounces of nasty tasting liquid along with the required quart of within an hour.  Nonetheless, it worked. Surprisingly, he slept through the night to be awakened by my cell phone alarm clock going off at 5 AM.  After the same drinking process again this morning, the results continued. All in all, the prep was relatively easy. 

If you have hesitated to have a colonoscopy due to fear of the prep, please reconsider.  A day at home watching mindless TV, lots of liquids, a few minutes of chugging a foul-tasting drink, multiple trips to the loo, and the first phase is over.
 
So, this morning we’re preparing to go out the door for the appointment soon for the second phase.  We’ll be reporting back here later today with what we hope and pray will be great results…that all is well and we may proceed with our plans to travel the world for as long as we want, as long as our health holds out until we get tired until we are sick of our bags or until we find a place along the way, that we mutually agree is truly where we’ll call “home.”  One never knows.

11:15 AM – We’re back from Tom’s test.  His signs of Barrett’s esophagus are gone!  He has no polyps!  The visible signs of irritable bowel are gone!  Dr. Larry Pass, here in Scottsdale, tells Tom to keep “doing what you’ve been doing!”  Our healthy diet has paid off in only 16 months. 

We hoped for this good result since Tom’s acid reflux disappeared within 30 days on this way of eating:  low carb, grain-free, wheat-free, starch-free, and sugar-free (no corn, no rice, no beans, no grains of any type). Plus, he’s lost 50 pounds of belly fat since August 2011!

We’re free to breathe easy knowing we can continue with our plans to travel the world. We are grateful.  We are relieved.  Perhaps, now, we can begin to allow ourselves the privilege of getting excited without trepidation and without hesitation. 

Now I must jump over to Dr. William Davis’s blog and thank him for the great inspiration he offered us when we read his book, Wheat Belly so many months ago.  Thank you, Dr. Davis!

Cruise decisions…

As the date for our first cruise inches closer, we find we must make some decisions about our upcoming cruising experiences.

Our first cruise, on Celebrity Century, has had a price increase since we booked it many months ago.  We paid $2199 plus tips and taxes for a balcony cabin, for a total of $5545 for the two of us, a locked-in price.  If purchased now, the total for two would be around the $9500 range (at $4199 each) with tips and taxes, $4000 more.

Here’s the current pricing information directly from our cruise booking company Vacations to Go

15 nights departing January 3, 2013 on
Celebrity’s Celebrity Century
Brochure Inside $1,449
The  Inside $1,049
You Save 28%
Brochure Oceanview $2,449
The Oceanview $2,449
You Save 0%
Brochure Balcony $4,199
The Balcony $4,199
You Save 0%
       
Thu Jan 3 San Diego, CA 4:00pm
Fri Jan 4 At Sea
Sat Jan 5 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 11:00am 6:00pm
Sun Jan 6 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 12:30pm 7:30pm
Mon Jan 7 At Sea
Tue Jan 8 At Sea
Wed Jan 9 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala 7:00am 6:00pm
Thu Jan 10 At Sea
Fri Jan 11 Puntarenas, Costa Rica 7:00am 6:00pm
Sat Jan 12 At Sea
Sun Jan 13 Panama Canal (Full Transit) 6:00am 6:00pm
Mon Jan 14 Colon, Panama 6:00am 4:00pm
Tue Jan 15 Cartagena, Colombia 9:00 am 4:00pm
Wed Jan 16 At Sea
Thu Jan 17 At Sea
Fri Jan 18 Fort Lauderdale, FL 7:00 am

We decided when booking this first cruise that we would exercise our right to “buyer beware” by educating ourselves to the possible “up” charges that inevitably exist on cruises.  After reading reviews over these past several months, talking to experienced cruisers, and more recently calling the cruise line and asking questions, we feel satisfied that we have an idea as to potential additional charges. Over and again, we’ve heard from experienced cruisers as to the shock of seeing their “tab” at the end of their cruise, always backed up by a credit card, leaving no margin for negotiations or adjustments. 

One big point of discussion for us has been as to whether or not to purchase a “beverage package” for Tom.  I seldom drink alcohol.  Mostly, I drink copious amounts of iced tea or hot tea which is provided at no additional cost.  Tom, when socializing, may enjoy a few cocktails, otherwise, he doesn’t drink at all.  His drink of choice is Courvoisier, a pricey cognac, which we discovered would be $8 per cocktail plus a 15% tip.

The beverage package that works for his cocktail of choice is $810 (just for him!) for the length of the cruise, allowing him to drink all he wants and includes tips.  For one second we considered this.  He feels he cannot justify the expense since he doesn’t want to feel like he is pressured into getting his money’s worth.

On the other hand, I don’t want him to feel he can’t have a cocktail when he wants one so we went to work and did the math.

If he has three cocktails a night (highly unlikely he’ll drink every night), the total would be $27.60 per night x 15 nights for a total of $414.  Considering that some nights he won’t drink any alcohol but instead may have a non-included soda, we feel comfortable that the drink bill won’t exceed $400. 

Then, there’s the question of dining in any of the non-included restaurants. It’s unlikely we’ll choose to dine in these extra-charge restaurants due to our limited low carb, grain, sugar, and starch free diet. The exception to this would be a social situation whereby fellow travelers we’ve befriended invite us to join them at one of these restaurants. We’ll decide at the time if it makes sense to bear the added expense. We aren’t “tightwads.”  We’re world travelers with a desire to continue traveling for as long as our health holds out and that we stay within the budget we’ve established for our travels. 

We’ve allowed ourselves an average of $75 per day for extras on cruises.  If our alcohol beverage budget is $27.60 per day, that leaves us $47.40 per day in other extras. 

The next expense we’ll most certainly incur is the cost of Internet access on the cruise. At a cost of $395 for the 15 days, we will each be allowed 60 minutes of Internet access per day. (There were other less costly packages available but, cost per minute increased with lower minute packages).

As a result, I will write the blog offline then go online for posting, editing, and adding photos. This amount uses up $26.33 per day leaving us $21.00 per day average for incidentals which is enough for us to go on two excursions if we so choose.

Our habits of researching our travels, mindless reading online will literally be metered while we’re on a cruise.  Odd?  Yes, but do-able. We’ll have plenty to do to keep us occupied leaving us ample time to read one of many pre-downloaded books. 

Oops, there’s another task we must complete before the month ends…download books to the Kindle app on our phones and laptops, all of which may be read offline. It’s easy for me to imagine sitting in a lounge chair on the deck of the ship reading, NeanderThin: Eat to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body” while Tom peruses, “The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors.”    Ah, nice.

P.S.  Please excuse gaps in editing.  When copying and pasting from other websites, spacing becomes an issue in Blogger.

New unlocked phone ready to go…

The Motorola Razer Maxx that arrived on Wednesday is now activated, loaded with my contacts, my email, all my apps, and of course, has a slot ready to receive the first SIM card, we will soon install, along with adding a SIM card to Tom’s unlocked SIM card-ready Motorola Razer.

As I had mentioned in the last post about our phones, the newer smartphones come with a slot only suitable for a micro SIM card as opposed to a standard SIM card which is much larger.  Many countries only offer standard-size cards.  This was a concern until I found that a nifty device exists, the SIM card adapter.

Needing a case/protector to fit the new phone, that was priced at $25 each at the Verizon store, I researched my favorite cell phone supply site:  www.cellphoneshop.net.  There, I purchased the appropriate case for the phone and the SIM card adapter for a grand total of $9.97 including shipping.

If you shop there, use the coupon code: “freeship2 ” (minus the quotes) for free shipping on orders over $20.  I only spent $6 for the two items happily paying the $3.97 shipping fee.  It would have been over $38 for the two items purchased elsewhere.  I’ve been shopping at that site for years, extremely pleased with their products, pricing, return policy (only returned an item once), and customer service.

Much to my delight, the 368 photos I had on my phone automatically loaded to my Dropbox cloud on both my new phone and now to my Windows 8 laptop.  On numerous occasions, I’ve tried to move the photos on my old DroidX phone to my computer.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t move them over. 

Somewhat adept at this technology stuff, the frustration factor was intense.  At times, I literally spent an hour or more trying to find a solution, utilizing software, apps, cables, Bluetooth, and sheer determination to no avail.

Yesterday, while setting up the new phone with most of my apps rolling over, Dropbox “suggested” we move over the smartphone photos.  “YES!”  I hollered at Dropbox. “YES!  Do it!!”

An hour later all the photos of those precious grandkids, Mother Nature’s whimsical morsels, those adorable dogs we’ve so much treasured, and the special foods lovingly prepared, finally in the Dropbox folder on my computer and my new phone. 

As much as I love learning technology, at times I am totally oblivious of how things work.  It was a total surprise to me that my old Droid X phone, now de-activated actually still picks up a WiFi signal and can be used to go online.  Had I taken the time to think about this, it makes all the sense in the world.  Live and learn.

Now, I am challenged by how we can use this 3rd WiFi receiving device (my old phone) when we already have two unlocked smartphones ready to install SIM cards in any country in which we’ll travel.  Once we leave the US, five weeks from now, we’ll surely figure it out.  In any case, this 3rd device is coming with us.

I’ll go back to shopping online (to be received at our mail service in Nevada, where we’ll be over the holidays) to find the perfect SIM cards that will not only work with our specific smartphones in any foreign country but also here in the US for the few occasions that we are in Florida between cruise ship sailings. 

Keep in mind, our two contracts with Verizon have expired.  We are under no obligation to continue to be connected with any carrier.  Thus, beginning January 3, 2013, we will request to be disconnected from Verizon and begin utilizing SIM cards for both phone service and data.  Yes, we’ll pay for the data we use via the cards and the calls we make.  Mainly, we’ll be making calls using SKYPE, most often at no charge. 

The data, although expensive using a SIM card will be as much as 90% less than the cost of using data offered by a cell phone provider. Thus, no need for cell service.  When we are using the previously mentioned XCOM Global MiFi device, as needed, in a few of the vacation home where wireless broadband is not available or working, the data on our phones will work from that connection.

In any case, the cost of the MiFi device, which may be needed for about four months a year on average, is roughly $400 a month, averaging annually at $100 a month.  In itself, this is less than we paid for our cell phones and Internet access in our home in the past. (When using the device from XCOM Global, which provides data only, we’ll only use the SIM cards for emergency phone calls when we aren’t near our computers to use Skype).

Would the average traveler have to go to this length to figure out how to use their smartphones?  No, a one month vacation or less would not require this much use of technology.  They’d gingerly use international roaming at exorbitant rates, potentially racking up $100’s in data charges if not careful. 

We’ve all heard the stories of youngsters playing games on their phones on cruise ships, resulting in $1000’s in charges that shocked the parents when they later received their final cruise bill payable before disembarking. 

That won’t be us!  We’ve been warned.  We’ll turn off roaming to prevent the cruise ship from charging us any more than we’ll need.  On the cruises, we’ve booked (eight so far) we’ll bite the bullet going online for short periods each day to download our email, upload our photos and of course, post our blog. 

So, enough about phones. On to other matters at hand, such as having guests for dinner this weekend here in Scottsdale, Tom’s two sisters and brother-in-law, and again, the following weekend when friends from Minnesota arrive for the weekend. 

Whew!  It’s about time we begin to relax!  Oh, then there’s Tom’s colonoscopy prep next Wednesday for his two tests next Thursday and taxes to prepare for the year’s end and more technology to learn, and 2nd passports and visa’s to process and the trip to Las Vegas for Christmas and Tom’s 60th birthday party and on and on.