Monday, March 26, 2018

March Showers Bring May Flowers?

March has been unusually gloomy this year. I haven't been able to locate a chart that says how many days of cloud cover we have had, but so far 16 of the 26 days this month have had rain. My response to that is, "If I wanted to live in Seattle, I would live in Seattle!" I am definitely one of those people who need light. I would not go so far as to say I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but I would definitely take a cold, sunny day over a warmer, cloudy day. It especially bothers me when I cannot go out and shoot photographs, something I hadn't been able to accomplish since going to Cabo.

But yesterday, despite the cool, cloudy day, I drove with Jim and another photographer friend to Perryville, Missouri to attend an event at one of the projects Jim has been working on. Along the way I made them stop at a couple of oddities I had read about on the website Roadside America. I have written about this site before, but in essence it is a documentation of weird or unusual things you can find while driving around America. Since there is nothing too exciting about spending a bunch of time in the car, you might as well stop and see some fun things along the way, right?

For purposes of this trip, I found two stops that seemed worthy of our time. The guys might disagree, but hey... First up was the life-size Pink Elephant. Once part of the Pink Elephant Batting Cage and Mini Golf, the recreation center closed but the elephant remained. Later a gas station was built on the lot on Missouri Highway 141 in Fenton. A martini glass was added to the elephant, but someone broke it off, so the elephant's trunk is oddly wrapped around a metal rod.
Pink Elephant
15 foot bowling pin
We continued south on 141 until we reached southbound I-55. Next on the list was a stop in Imperial to see a bowling pin that stand 15' tall. Easily seen from the interstate, the pin is located appropriately next to the Imperial Bowl bowling alley. The place was hopping on a Sunday morning! Lenten services at the lanes?

After another hour on I-55 we arrived at our destination in Perryville. Missouri's National Veterans Memorial is a new 46-acre site encouraging veterans, families and citizens to gather and pay tribute to our service men and women. The heart of the development is a built-to-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. Attendees at yesterday's Mark of Remembrance were encouraged to write a message on the concrete wall before the granite panels are placed. The messages were very moving, and I was thankful I had a tissue on me. To see all the veterans gathered in one spot was amazing. This project is funded all by donations, so it will take time before it is completed. The master plan, created by SWT Design, contains walking trails, a reflection pool, an amphitheater, burial areas and gathering spaces, among other things. What an amazing thank you for the vets!

In meeting with the volunteers and those who are working on this project, you couldn't help but be touched by their passion and enthusiasm. It will take a lot of time, energy and money to accomplish the whole plan, but I have no doubt they are up to the challenge. Judging by the hundreds of people who came for the Mark of Remembrance event yesterday, I think they will have a lot of support. Considering the weather, it was amazing to see the number of veterans who arrived on their motorcycles. I can only image the turnout they will have on Memorial Day.

Missouri's National Veterans Memorial

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Eyes Have It

My annual eye exam was in January, and I anticipated that the test would reveal what I already knew - my eyesight was worse than the previous year. Though I had passed the driver's license cursory eye exam in October, I know that I am slipping my reading glasses on more frequently. Still, I was unprepared for the ophthalmologist to suggest a prescription for glasses. Huh? I had LASIK done on both eyes in 2004 to eliminate the need for glasses or contacts. I was expecting the doctor to suggest a "tweak" of my previous surgery, not offer up glasses.

When I told him I would like to discuss an enhancement, he explained that he would need to do a more in-depth test for cataracts before we could consider that. If cataracts are present, then LASIK is not a choice. Instead, the option is cataract surgery. As my mom, dad and sister all had cataracts, I knew it was a matter of time before they showed up on my eyes. And sure enough, the additional test revealed the beginnings of cataracts. On the plus side, insurance covers basic cataract surgery, while LASIK is considered an elective procedure.

Before it could be determined if my cataracts were far enough along, additional tests needed to be run. I had a two hour appointment this morning, which entailed multiple tests on my eyes, a discussion with the doctor after he performed an eye exam, a followup test as the optic nerve in one eye was a little enlarged and they wanted to rule out any problems, and then a meeting with the scheduling department.

The bottom line is that I am approved by the insurance company to have surgery on both eyes, and the optic nerve issue is one they believe I was born with and nothing to worry about. The biggest consideration is what type of lens I want to have placed during surgery. Insurance will cover just the minimum lenses, which most likely means needing glasses the rest of my life. They also will not cover the correction for the astigmatism in my left eye, which seems stupid but there you have it.

The next step up in lenses would be similar to what I had done with the LASIK surgery. One eye was corrected for distance, and one for nearness. That has served me well for the past 14 years, with the exception of using reading glasses in low light and with small print. The doctor is concerned, however, because of the fact that I am a writer and a photographer, the lenses might cause problems for me in one area or the other. It is not an exact science, and while it worked well following my previous surgery, those were my own lenses he was working with and not man-made ones.

The final option is using extended depth of focus lenses. Relatively new on the market in the United States, the lens provides improved near and intermediate visual acuity while maintaining comparable distance visual acuity. Sort of like what our eyes were like when we were young, I suppose. As you might imagine, because they are state of the art they are very pricey.

If I was quite a bit younger, the pricier lenses would be a no-brainer. If I was quite a bit older, going the basic route would be a no-brainer. But here I am, stuck in the middle... When Jim gets home tonight we will discuss the pros and cons of the options, along with the associated costs. Although I met with scheduling today, I cannot set up the first eye surgery until a lens decision has been made. The second surgery will take place two weeks after the first, as they want one eye healed before they work on the second. Following surgery, there is no lifting or vigorous exercise for a week. Weeks without pickleball?

Eye, caramba!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Vacation Was All We Ever Wanted

Some friends from college invited us to join them at the Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach (PBSB) in Cabo San Lucas last week. They and a couple other family members own time shares at the resort. We have been to Cabo only one other time, and that was a day stop on a cruise of the Mexican Riviera that we took a couple years ago. As we went on a snorkeling excursion at that time, we saw little of Cabo other than the marina.

To be fair, PBSB is not actually in Cabo, but is instead perched on the side of a hill west of town on the Pacific Ocean, about a 20 minute cab ride from the center of Cabo. We flew early February 27th to Phoenix, and from there to Los Cabos International Airport in San Jose del Cabo. The airport is about 30 minutes north of Cabo. Everything went smoothly, and we waited at one of the bars outside the terminal for our friends to arrive. Their flight was scheduled to land an hour after ours, so that gave us time for our first margarita.
San Jose del Cabo Airport, Mexico
The taxi ride to the resort took about an hour, and we arrived early enough in the afternoon to see the sweeping views of the ocean and the lush landscaping on the immense property. It is absolutely gorgeous! We were both put in rooms in building 26, us on the fifth floor and them on the sixth. Our friend's dad and his wife were already there, and they were on the second floor of our building. We had easy access to the pool outside our building, and though the walk to the lobby, market and restaurants was all up hill, it was doable. Golf carts were always available if you were going farther or just didn't want to walk.

Our room was huge with a galley kitchen and a lovely balcony. All rooms face the ocean, so you are guaranteed a view. It was one of the nicest rooms we have ever stayed in. We did not select the all inclusive package, but it is offered. We wanted the flexibility to be able to eat in town or on the road. With several restaurants and a market, there is no need to leave the resort if one doesn't want to, however. Though the resort has a beach and is on the Pacific, there is absolutely no swimming in the ocean. The riptides there are very dangerous, and the water drops off quickly. While that meant whales would come swimming very close to shore, and boats hovered close for fishing, it was a bit of a bummer not to be able to enter the water and snorkel or swim.
Pueblo Bonito at Sunset Beach
The day of our arrival we hung around the pool for awhile before having dinner at the resort. The next morning we walked up to the market for breakfast, then explored the resort for a bit before heading to the pool. The water was a bit too cool for me, so I enjoyed reading my book under an umbrella. Later we took a shuttle to the Pueblo Bonito Rose resort, which was also beautiful. From there we could walk on Medano Beach to the more touristy area of Cabo. We found a fun restaurant called The Office, where you can have your feet buried in the sand while you dine under their blue umbrellas. When we were finished we grabbed a cab and had the driver wait for us while we picked up provisions at a massive grocery store.
Medano Beach, Cabo
By Thursday I had connected with a man I met online (and doesn't that just sound wrong!), and Jim and I joined two couples for a few pickleball games. They were way out of our league, but were very kind in letting us play with them. The couple from San Diego was leaving the next day, but the couple from Seattle was staying until Monday, so we managed to play with them two additional times. It was so great, and we appreciated their gentle instruction on how to improve our games.

That night we took a cab into San Jose del Cabo for an Art Walk. It was colorful and fun, with many galleries open and serving wine and traditional music and dance going on in the town square. Our driver took us to a favorite restaurant of his for dinner, and we had a great evening.

Friday was Jim's birthday, and we celebrated at the resort as we could not get reservations for a sunset catamaran cruise until the following night. We played pickleball in the morning, and hung around the pool in the afternoon. While the temperature was in the 70's the whole time we were there, the pool water did not warm up enough for me to get in until Friday. It was very pleasant from then on.

We had dinner at The Bistro on site, sitting outside at a lovely table overlooking the ocean. While it was dark and we couldn't see the water, it was lovely to hear the waves crashing down below us. The wait staff brought Jim a piece of celebratory cheesecake, and sang happy birthday to him. He was only missing a sombrero. Ha!

Saturday we finally made the trek down to the beach. The sand is not as fine as Jamaica, and I found myself being thankful I had my flip flops on to protect my feet. In all fairness, I'm not sure what the sand was like before the hurricane took away the beach several years ago. They had to replace the beaches in the area. From there we made our way to the pool before getting ready for yet another cab ride into Cabo. Once we arrived at the marina we had some time to kill while waiting in line for the sunset cruise, so Jim and I walked the boardwalk to get some pictures.
Marina Cabo San Lucas
The cruise itself was very fun, with drinks and snacks served on board. We saw an amazing show put on by a couple of whales, who seemed to think it was their job to provide entertainment for the boats. I've never seen them so active. The sunset somehow seemed anticlimactic, but it was beautiful as well.
sunset catamaran cruise
We began Sunday with a light breakfast followed by an hour and a half of pickleball. The rest of the day was spent around the resort. Late in the afternoon we all took a cab into Cabo to have dinner at a nice restaurant called Alexanders. We were celebrating the birthday of our friend's dad.

Monday was our last full day, and we took a private tour vehicle that our friends had used before. Our driver Daniel picked us up at the resort, and took us first to a glass blowing factory in Cabo so we could watch the artisans work.
Glass Factory
From there we headed north along the coast, with our final destination being Todos Santos. Along the way we found the Blanket Factory, where blankets, rugs and other items are woven on site. The colors are just magnificent!
Blanket Factory
Our next stop was at Playa Los Cerritos, a well-known surf spot south of Todos Santos. It was fun to watch the surfers trying to catch a wave, though I suspect the surf was pretty tame the day we visited.
Playa Los Cerritos
Finally we arrived at Todos Santos, an artsy community on the Pacific Ocean. The driver gave us a tour of the town, and then we stopped at the Tequila Sunrise restaurant for a late lunch. As we had to wait for a table, we popped across the street to visit the Hotel California. While it is actually not the inspiration for the song of the same name by the Eagles, it was still an interesting place to explore. Jim and I thought our meal at the Tequila Sunrise was the best we had in Mexico, with the exception of the steak and lobster dinner at Alexanders in Cabo.
Todos Santos
After lunch we headed back to our resort. All in all, it was a fabulous day and we appreciated being able to see a little more of Mexico than the touristy spots we had been to so far.

Tuesday was our travel day, and we got a shuttle back to the airport at 10:20. We arrived with enough time to catch an earlier flight back to Phoenix. As we originally had a short one hour window in which to go through customs and catch our next flight, we appreciated having the additional time in Phoenix.

And so the sun sets on another wonderful vacation. Adios, Mexico!