Sunday, December 13, 2009

The New I-64

We live just a couple of blocks from I-64, which St. Louisians call Hwy. 44 ( I still haven't figured that one out!). They have been redoing the interstate for two years now, and they've done it by completely closing down sections of the interstate for a year at a time. Our section closed down last January, and reopened on Dec. 7th. On December 6th, they opened it up to walkers on one side, and bike riders on the other. It was a very cold and blustery day, but we were determined to do the bike ride down the newly opened stretch of road. So...we bundled up in many layers of clothing and headed out! Here we are with our many fashion contest winners, for sure!
I REALLY need to go shopping for some fashionable outdoor attire!

Here's the view from the Big Bend Avenue bridge that is close to our house. There were few runners and walkers when we first started, but later on the crowd got a little braver.
They had a flag flying over the Hanley Road bridge....
It was a fun afternoon, and after I was all bundled up, the only thing that got really cold were my feet. Sneakers don't do a darned thing to block the wind!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day Nine and Ten, the long trip home

We awoke on the last day heading back to Baltra, Ecuador, Miami and home. Lindblad had reserved the VIP lounge for us to wait for our plane, which was very nice. We went back to the same Hilton in Guayaquil that we stayed at on our way to the Galapagos, and we walked down the street to a "barbecue" restaurant that the tour guide recommended. Barbecue is ubiquitous for charbroiled, not the BBQ that I am used to in GA! It was basically a steak place, but it was very nice. We had difficulty ordering, since we are very limited in our Spanish, and they were limited in their English. I finally got the waiter to make recommendations for us, and all of us ordered one of the two recommendations. Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera for this final Last Supper, and I missed a picture that I will always regret: Jane and Babette, who are tiny, dainty ladies ordered the fillet Mignon. When it was served it was the entire fillet, like you would buy from Sam's or Costco. It came on a tabletop grill, and basically you allowed it to cook to your liking. The steak was HUGE sitting in front of them! They made a brave attempt, but I believe they still didn't eat half of what was served to them. Mark and I ordered a different steak, but again, they were these huge inch thick cuts of steak, for about $10 apiece. The beef was superb and we ate till we could hardly move!

The next morning was another early wake up call, breakfast buffet, and a few good byes before we headed back to the airport. Again, we were shuffled through the airport in rapid order, had a little bit of time to shop, then it was time to board. Mark and I had several hours to wander around the Miami airport again, then finally, we were headed home.

Here is a picture of me with two wonderful ladies that we met. Our group on the trip had two Marie's, two Barbara's, and two John's. I made the comment that I was pretty sure there wouldn't be two Alice's, when a minute later Alice Number Two showed up! She was traveling with the mother of our Head Naturalist on the ship. I didn't have the nerve to ask them their ages, but they were some very spunky women. They hiked, swam and snorkeled with the rest of us. These two, along with all the other women in Jane's group were quite inspirational for me in how to grow old...stay busy and active!

Here I am with Margaret Fowler and Alice Waddington.
And here is what I fondly referred to as Mark's Entourage...the group of Jane and Babette's friends that gathered for this expedition. I look forward to future outings!

Snorkeling pictures

Mark's grad student Shannon graciously lent us her underwater camera for our trip. It was wonderful to have for the snorkeling expeditions! Mark took charge of the camera and was able to get some incredible photos of the aquatic side of the Galapagos. Because it was a different camera from mine, my software didn't recognize it, so the pictures were not saved by the date taken. is just a hodgepodge of the pictures, I'm not sure which snorkeling expedition the pictures were taken, but all of them were great fun! We are already discussing where we can go snorkeling again soon!
Here is a white tipped reef shark
Unfortunately, our field guide doesn't have too much information regarding the invertebrates of the islands. This is a beautiful starfish!
Two sea turtles mating

Mexican hogfish
We asked one of our fellow snorkelers to take a picture of us with the penguins in the background. She kinda cut off the penguins, we are in full snorkeling gear with penguins in the to the left side of the photo are two marine iguanas fighting over a female that was close by...
And here's a better shot of the penguins that Mark took.
Another sea turtle

Yellowtail surgeon fish
There were huge schools of these fish in every location that we snorkeled. It was really fun to just dive right into the middle of them!
more yellowtail surgeon fish
A cushion starfish
And here are several pictures of the sea lions playfully diving and swimming around us

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day Eight, Espanola Island

Day eight, the official last day of the cruise. I think we were all a little wistful at the idea of our paradise cruise ending, but I can't say enough about the ability of Lindblad Expeditions to keep upping the ante as far as making each day's experience more incredible than the last. In case I haven't already stated this, Lindblad Expeditions is DEFINITELY the way to go if you ever want to go on an adventure cruise. They have teamed up with National Geographic, and the experience is top notch! The entire cruise was geared towards preservation and conservation, and Lindblad donates a portion of profits to the Darwin Research Station to encourage conservation among the islands inhabitants.

Espanola is the south-easternmost island of the Galapagos. This means it is it is the oldest island in the archipelago, and it harbors large numbers of endemic species. Our morning expedition was a snorkeling expedition along the small offshore islet of Gardner. Again, great snorkeling pictures to follow!

In the afternoon we went to the westernmost point of Espanola. The hike was through boulders, shrubbery and shoreline of Punta Suarez. We were greeted by a sea lion who had no intention of moving out of our way, lava lizards, iguanas galore, and many sea lions, including a baby following mom around while his placenta was still attached! After awhile the trail reaches the cliff edge were many birds nest.

Another Christmas card picture!
Entrance sign to Punta Suarez.
Immediately upon our arrival, before we had gotten off the paved dry dock, we encountered this brilliantly colored iguana.
And his close up portrait!

Next up was the mockingbird, who seemed determined that we were going to feed him. He was mistaken! Apparently some cruises allow their guests to feed the animals, although it is strictly forbidden by the Park. Lindblad was very explicit that we were not allowed to feed animals, because it is not in the best interests of maintaining the balance of nature.
The Espanola Lava lizard, also curious as to what we might be bringing.
And one of his more shy fellow brethren.
The iguanas pile up together for warmth. They create quite a sight!
Here is a momma sea lion with the baby keeping up. This was the baby sea lion that was still attached to his placenta. Talk about newborn!
See the little trail behind him?
Nazca boobies in a courting dance
Nazca booby nesting on an egg
Blue boobies...I kept seeking the perfect shot!
These were two baby blue blue feet yet!
The adult albatross on the nest
And a juvenile albatross waiting on his parents
Galapagos hawk
And the scenery! You could forget about the birds and still be completely amazed! This shoreline reminded us of Maine.
There is a blowhole right there off the cliffs...

There are thousands of birds nesting along these cliffs.
The white areas are caused by the build up of bird poop

And another glorious sunset....
The last evening was quite a delight, some wore Halloween costumes, others came as they were. Here was our particular table for the evening. Mark, Jane, Babette, Dorcas, and Barb.
Some of our fellow cruise mates
The little lady's name was Joan. She has been to Anarctica, the Arctic, Russia, and many other places I can't even remember. She was very arthritic, but when it came time to snorkel, she was the first one in and the last one out!

After dinner that evening, we went up to the top deck to hang out in the gorgeous night. As we were talking a bird came flying by that we initially thought was a gull. After it landed and we got a better look at it we realized it was a short eared owl! I grabbed my camera and decided that rules or not, I was going to use a flash to get a picture of this guy! If you don't know owls are very shy and reclusive, and are very rarely seen. This bird was about two feet from Mark, sitting on the boat railing and just hanging out with us. For some unknown reason I couldn't get my camera to take the picture although I tried desperately until he flew off. It occurred to me on the flight home that I was too close to the owl for the telephoto lens to work. I missed the picture of a lifetime because the subject was actually TOO close! Only in the Galapagos....