Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Cocktail Hour - Tequila Party!

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Last year, we went to a tequila tasting event at Rudy's, a Mexican restaurant and cantina in Monrovia, California.  It's held once a year and is an invitation only event where different tequila companies come and let you taste their wares.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
jlastras under CC-BY license

There were three tasting tables featuring four different brands - Hornitos, Tres Generaciones, Chincao, and Asombroso.  Each brand had three varieties - silver (or platino), reposado, and anejo.

See the Video - Part 1

Each distillery was serving only 100% agave tequila.  The blue agave plant is similar to a yucca and has a core that looks like a pineapple.  These cores, or "pinas," are roasted then crushed to get the juice.  The juice is fermented into mezcal which is distilled into tequila.

Some lower brands and generics can mix other spirits in the tequila - these are called mixtos.  Under Mexican law, only tequilas that use 100% agave  (or 100% puro de agave) can be labeled as such and only distilleries licensed under Mexican authorities can be make agave liquor that can be called "tequila."  These are laws that the Mexican goverment takes very seriously.  An agave distiller in Temecula, California...who makes a very good product by the way...cannot call his product "tequila,"  he cannot even call it "temequila" as he tried to do.

See the Video - Part 2

There are three main varieties of 100% pure agave tequila.  Silver is not required to be aged at all.  Reposado must be aged a minimum of six months by law and Anejo must be aged at least a year by law.  Oak barrels are preferred for aging.  Some tequilas also use old whiskey barrels and the very good Asombroso La Rosa uses old French Bourdeaux barrels (more on that later).

Aging has a big effect on taste but older is not always better.  There are seriously good silvers such as Partida and Asombroso.  Anejos are very good but can have a strong whiskey flavor to them.  Our favorite of all tequilas is the Asombroso La Rosa, which is a reposado.  It is silky smooth, has a strong agave flavor (one of my favorite flavors), and has a pink color due to its being aged in old French wine barrels.

See the Video - Part 3

To prepare for this event, we decide how to get there.  We are not going to be drinking 12 varieties of tequila and driving.  We walk to the event, which is a two mile trek and helps us get some exercise to offset the drinking.  Going home, we end up walking half-way and taking the bus the rest of the way...which you see at the end of Part 3 in the videos above.

To answer your questions...yes, it is all you can drink.  Be good though or you won't be invited back next year.  A large buffet is served with rib eye steaks, pork medallions, crab & shrimp enchiladas, and ceviche along with all the chips and salsa you can eat.  Soft drinks and water are also available.

Here are our conclusions...

Best of Show - Asombroso La Rosa, described above.  Even better than the Asombroso Anejo, which at $250 for a 750ML bottle is around five times the price.

Best Anejo - The Chinaco Anejo which is aged in old whiskey barrels for a minimum of 5 years.  Like drinking a good whiskey, it is smooth but with a bit of a bite.  The taste is unbelievable.

Best Silver - Asombroso.  Smooth and with a hint of buttercream (?) frosting flavor along with the agave.

Best Bargain - The Hornitos Reposado...with its florally, perfumy taste...and the Hornitos Anejo...which is aged in old Jack Daniels barrels.  Both are about half the price of premium tequilas like Patron or Cabo Wabo but more than hold their own against that competition.

Also in the room, but not open for tasting, was the Asombroso super anejo, aged 11 years and going for $1,100 per bottle. You can see it in the videos above.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
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Friday, December 29, 2017

PISMO BEACH AND ALL THE CLAMS WE CAN EAT! - Yes, You Can Make That Left Turn at Albuquerque

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I guess we did make that left turn in Albuquerque because we’re in Pismo Beach!
Yes, it really exists (as does the great town of Walla Walla, Washington…but that’s another story) and this beautiful, classic retro California beach town can be found about an hour north of Santa Barbara on California’s awesome Central Coast.

Watch the Video!

Our home for two nights is the Oxford Suites, located adjacent to the 101 freeway on the south side of town. The room is a true suite with a living room, a separate bedroom, and a bathroom. Each room has its own flat screen TV. In the front room, there’s also an L-shaped sofa that folds out into a rather large sofabed. A wet bar and fridge complete  the living room amenities.

The bedroom features a king-size bed (rooms with two queens are also available, sink, ironing board, and a patio. The bathroom was basic with a tub and toilet…the sink is in the bedroom. Accessible rooms with roll-in showers are also available.

The room also includes a full, cooked-to-order breakfast in the dining room next to the pool and spa. There’s a fitness room and beer and wine are served in the lobby lounge each night for 2 hours.

Dinner time arrives and we have a selection of restaurants we’d like to check out. A couple, we scratch off the list right away because they are in the town of Guadalupe and no one wants to make a 20 plus mile drive for dinner.

The rest are in downtown Pismo Beach but each one features a long line heading out the door and an even longer wait.

This is not our first time to the Pismo rodeo, so we know that the little town of Avila Beach is just a few minutes away and the always reliable Fatcats sits at the shore end of the pier there.

There is no wait here and the outdoor seating, under heaters in the chilly air, makes us want some comfort food. No problem…Fatcats serves breakfast all day so Letty and I have French toast and chicken fried steak while Tim is satisfied with his roast beef sandwich.

A quick stop at the local grocery store in Avila for an overpriced bottle of local wine and we head back to the hotel to drink it.

The morning finds us in the southwest corner of town, next to the only beach in California that allows you to drive your car on the sand.

We’re here for something else. Each winter, thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate up to 2,000 miles to winter in a tiny grove of eucalyptus. A web of wheelchair accessible trails surround the grove where all we do it look up and see the air filled with the orange insects.

Big clumps of butterflies cling to the branches where they huddle for warmth and mating.

After another night, the next day finds us heading south down the coast.

At Ventura, we turn east and head a dozen miles up the mountains to the little town of Ojai. Here, we’re going to a little restaurant sitting all by itself about a mile out of town.

This is Boccali’s Pizza and Pasta, a country casual Italian restaurant that is oh, so relaxing.

We have a pizza with their flaky crust and a little of their house wine. It’s oh, so good too while we enjoy it outside under the California sun surrounded by orange groves and condor country.

It’s a great end to another trip as we finish up and head slowly over the winding road back towards L.A.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

D-Day - Type II: Better Living Through Chemistry

Yeah, it's been awhile since I've done one of these posts and even longer since I updated the other blog that they appeared on (just don't have time to maintain multiple blogs right now, hopefully that will change in the near future but that's a topic for another time). So let's catch up...

Until last fall (in 2016), I'd been able to maintain a sub 150 blood glucose reading and a 7.0 A1C score fairly easy with diet and exercise alone. Then, I was hit with a double-whammy.

First, I neglected to get a Flu shot and came down with a bout of it late November.  That put my system out of whack and my liver tried to overcompensate and lost it's calibration for awhile.  My numbers shot up to over 200 and over 9 for the A1C.

Just when I was managing to get those numbers to inch down again, I came down with a nasty cold in January which had the same effect.

I couldn't get those numbers down fast enough for my regular check up in March so the doctor put me on metformin, pioglitazone, and a statin. Suddenly, I was the one with all the prescriptions at the pharmacy (I already picked up a monthy supply of test strips, needles, and lisinopril for my blood pressure) and another date with the doctor in two months to see how the new medicine routine effected me.

One thing that concerned my was the pioglitazone. First, most diabetics start off with just metformin, why the extra pill? Second, my doctor said the number one side effect was weight gain.  I'd fought pretty hard to lose 25 pounds and didn't look forward to adding a medication that promised to wipe that out.

So, I faithfully followed instructions and by June my daily readings dropped down to the 150-160 range and A1C to 8.4 plus I had gained 4 pounds.  My doctor advised that I start insulin injections and lose weight.  I told him I wanted to hold off as long as my numbers were trending downward and we made a date for September to check progress.

After that visit and the weight gain, I was a little beside myself, especially with the weight gain that I'm sure was a result of the pioglitazone. To test that theory, I stopped the pioglitazone for a week. At the end of the week, I was down four pounds.

That seemed like some progress.  That same week, I started seeing news about the promising effects of broccoli sprout extract on blood glucose readings in studies. It was easy and cheap to order some via Amazon so I thought "what the heck" and ordered a bottle to see what happened.

Taking the broccoli extract did wonders. Along with the metformin but without the pioglitazone, taking it brought my daily readings down to the 100-140 range. At the September checkup, my A1C was back to 7.1 and I'd lost another pound, bringing my post pioglitazone weight loss to five pounds.

While the formal studies are ongoing, my experience with it seems to support the general thesis that it does work very well in helping to reduce glucose levels. It has also allowed me to stop taking the pioglitazone for now, which only seems to make me gain weight.

Another thing I've noticed is that the metformin in particular, and with the broccoli adding to the effect, is that I cannot eat as much food as I used to. At first, I have the same appetite but if I eat a full portion like I used to, I will get physically ill.  After several episodes, I'm learning...and my body is learning...that smaller portions keep me feeling better.

I'm hoping this effect will also help me peel off a few more pounds. It also means I'm taking quite a bit more leftovers home from restaurants so it helps me save money as one meal turns into two.

While type II diabetes is a progressive disease, so far it seems like I'm able to keep it down with the current medication, diet, and exercise routine (I walk at least 10,000 steps a day and work out two days a week).

This year, I made sure I got my flu shot early and am working hard so that the next check up in January will show some more concrete results.  We'll check back after that to see.

(DISCLAIMER: This series about Type II diabetes is not meant to apply to everyone. This is what works for me, you need to consult with your own medical professionals to find out what will work for you.  My goal here is to simply give you hope that once you're diagnosed, life as you know it does not have to can still enjoy life and the treats it offers.)

Copyright 2017 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

The World on Wheels is taking today and tomorrow off in honor of Christmas.  Merry Christmas, everybody!

Thank you to all our friend, fans, friends, and family for supporting our blog and helping to make it  a success.

The Musick Family

Friday, December 22, 2017

CLASSIC TRIP - Central Coast (San Luis Obispo), California 2000

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Take a little trip back in time to the Central Coast with us...

San Luis Obispo lies just about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many use it to stay overnight along the way however it is also a destination unto itself. San Luis Obispo is located about 12 miles inland from the ocean from Morro Bay. It is the starting poing of the scenic portion of Highway 1 that runs through Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay before ending up in San Francisco.

Our trip begins on a Friday afternoon. It’s 3 to 4 hours driving before we get to our destination, the Sands Motel. For $70 per night, we get an adequate room with 2 queen beds and an extra large bathroom. It has a bathtub with a shower on a hose, no roll-in. Parking was difficult here as the handicapped spot was not large enough for us to deploy our ramp. We had to park away from the room (update - rooms now appear to be in the $100 plus per night range).

Having had dinner on the ride up, we watch a little TV and then hit the sack. In the morning, we have breakfast across the street at the Monterey St. Café. The motel provided a continental breakfast but to be honest, it just did not look appetizing. The restaurant provided a decent meal.

San Luis Obipso is in the middle of the Central Coast wine country so we headed east of town to visit it. We ended up at Edna Valley Vineyards which has just built a big new tasting room. The wines were good but with prices starting at $18 a bottle they’d need to be a bit better. The demonstration grape vines out by the parking lot were a lot of fun. 15 different varieties are planted here and you can wander through and taste the grapes right off the season of course.
Back in San Luis Obispo, we have dinner at F. McClintocks, a western themed steak joint. Dinner was excellent and the restaurant was accessible but small. After eating we take a walk along the creek that runs through downtown. Accessible walks allow wheelers to stroll along here too.

There is also an interesting, if a bit gross, attraction in the downtown area. That is “Bubble Gum Alley”, a narrow walkway where locals and visitors alike deposit their chewed gum upon the walls - sometimes to artistic effect. There is almost a half century work of gum deposited on the walls.
Wheelchair seating at Santa Maria Speedway
That evening, we head south to Santa Maria to take in a night of racing at Santa Maria Speedway. The sprint cars were running that night and the place was packed with race fans. Wheelchair users have reserved spots at the top of the stands overlooking the track by turn one.
Santa Maria Speedway
The racing that night was spectacular with typical sprint car hijinks and a lot of fun.
The next morning we drove over to nearby Avila Beach for breakfast. Avila has an interesting recent history. Years ago an oil tank farm was installed in the hills above town. About a decade ago it was found that those tanks had been leaking for years, fouling the ground under downtown Avila Beach. The company was sued and now must pay to remove all the soil under the downtown area (which was largely demolished), restore the downtown area and the beach, plus pay a huge settlement to the tiny town itself.
A sea lion begging for scraps off the San Luis Pier
Downtown Avila Beach is still under construction. Just up the road (past the equally infamous Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant entrance) is Port San Luis pier. This 100+ year old wharf nestles in a beautiful little cove. We had an excellent breakfast at Fatcats at the foot of the pier and then walked out to the end where sea lions cavorted in the water begging for handouts at the back of the fish market. Diners also know that the Olde Port Inn at the end of the pier offers some of the finest dining on the central coast.

In the afternoon we took in a matinee at the theater in downtown San Luis Obispo (Meet the Parents, funny movie).

Dinner tonight would be at the F. McClintock’s in Pismo Beach just south of San Luis Obispo (yes, the very same Pismo Beach that Bugs Bunny was always in search of). This is a much larger and much more tourist oriented location than the one in San Luis Obispo. It’s also a tad more expensive and not quite as good food wise. This night it seemed to attract every birthday and anniversary celebration on the coast. I don’t think I want to hear the wait staff sing the F. McLintock-generic celebration song again for a long, long time...

This being our last night here, we pick up a couple of bottles of local wine from the on-premises liquor store at the motel and soak in the inn’s hot tub before retiring for the night.

Of course, we couldn’t do it all in a weekend but over the years we’ve found the following area attractions to be well worth your time...

Hearst Castle is an hour’s drive to the north of San Luis Obispo

The Apple Farm Inn at the north end of town has a wonderful restaurant plus a working grist mill powered by the local creek.

The Monarch Butterflies spend their winters in several eucalyptus groves near Pismo Beach.

You can soak in natural hot springs and swim in naturally warm pools at Avila Hot Springs for a reasonable price or nearby Sycamore Hot Springs for a significant amount more. Both are just south of San Luis Obispo at the Port San Luis/Avila Beach exit of the 101 freeway.

Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

CEREBRAL PALSY STORIES: Adventures Of A New Power Traveling Wheelchair - UPDATE


Well, it's no secret that the power chair from GeoCruiser came out of the gate underwhelmingly. As you can see from the story below, the chair actually started falling apart while we were in Germany (necessitating a visit to the Berlin version of Home Depot to find wrenches and parts for an 'on the fly' repair) and went so frustratingly slow that I ended up pushing it in manual mode for most of the trip.

While that was good for exercise and weight loss on the trip, it was also very frustrating and was making me rethink what I thought was a good idea to buy this light-weight fold-able power chair for traveling.

The chair comes with a one-year warranty so off to San Jose it went, via UPS, for the company to make it right.  It came back within a month.

Fast forward to May when we went to Texas and the Florida Keys. While at first the chair seemed a bit better, as the time went on, it went right back to just crawling after about five minutes of operation.

At least this time, it wasn't falling to pieces on us.

Phone calls for help were made to GeoCruiser's dealer in San Jose, who walked me through various tips to try to improve the speed of the chair. Among the advice was to turn the batteries over and, when I told them one of the batteries wouldn't lock into place, to push it in very forcefully.

Nothing worked so off the chair went to San Jose (this is where I found out that the one year warranty only covered shipping back for the first two months - I had to pay shipping back this time since it was the 11th month).

I got an e-mail saying that they might not cover it since one of the battery connectors was smashed, the same one they told me to push in "forcefully." Several e-mails, with increasing anger, back and forth convinced them that it was their tech support that told me to mash in the battery as hard as I could.

When the manager sent back an e-mail complaining that they had to spend over $1,000 for parts to fix the chair, I basically lost it with them and reminded them that I had paid far more than that for a chair that was basically useless and that their contract with me gave me 12 months to force them to make it right...I really didn't care if they were losing money on this since the chair was a lemon from the get-go.

A week later the chair returned. Tim and I took it out for a long walk.  It worked and went much faster this time and was working very well. We decided to roll the dice and take it with us to Canada for a two week trip. I was knowing that I'd be doing a lot of the mountains...if this happened again.

To make a long story short, the chair performed brilliantly with absolutely no problems. I just wish it had been that way from the would have been nice not to push this chair to the heart of Europe and southern Florida.  

Now, finally, the chair is worth it.  If you do decide to buy a chair like this, make sure it really works as promised as soon as it's delivered...and hold the vendor's feet to the fire if there is anything at all you're not happy with.

Our most recent European traveling adventure to Germany and the Czech Republic was special enough that it is worthy of not just one, but two...YES TWO...Cerebral Palsy Stories.  The first Cerebral Palsy Story from our time in Europe was about the basic fundamentals of using an aisle chair while boarding and getting off an airplane.

The second Cerebral Palsy Story from our time in Europe comes courtesy of a new traveling power wheelchair we bought from a company called GEO Cruiser up north in San Jose, California.  When we were looking at the different models they offered, we opted to go with the elite model in the Geo Cruiser line of power wheelchairs for a cost of about $2,500.  Considering that there are only two models of the wheelchair offered, the choice of models wasn't very hard for us in terms of the number of models offered.  We just had to make what we felt was the best decision for us in terms of which model of the chair we thought would give us the best bang for our buck.

We also wanted to get me a new power wheelchair for traveling purposes so that I could have some independence while seeing the sights in Europe by driving myself around and not having to rely on my parents to push me around all the time to wherever we went.

There are a couple of different electric chairs to choose from. To their credit, when we called Geo Cruiser, they suggested we also look at their competitor's chair before buying. This was the EZ Cruiser wheelchair.

EZ Cruiser's warehouse is located in Van Nuys, California and Geo Cruiser is in San Jose. We were heading up to Northern California so we decided to visit both locations in person to test drive the chairs.

EZ Cruiser seems like a well-built chair and has a nice turning radius and a good warranty.
The problem with it is that the back is at a too-severe angle and it feels like I'm reclining.

Geo Cruiser is more comfortable to sit in but takes a little getting used to with it's wider turning radius and slower speed. The warranty is good but not as good as EZ Cruiser's.

The price for both chairs is almost the same and both weigh around 60 pounds, including lithium batteries. They both fold up to easily fit in a regular sized car trunk, although the Geo Cruiser folds up just a little smaller than the EZ Cruiser.

As I mentioned above, we chose to go with the elite model of the Geo Cruiser when purchasing a new traveling power wheelchair a few months before we left for Germany mainly because it's a more comfortable chair to sit in.  As with most of our other purchases, we had the wheelchair delivered to our house similar what one would have delivered to them from an purchase.

During the time after the new chair was delivered, my family and I took full advantage of the time we had left before our trip so that I could practice driving it around and get more comfortable with it.

Those weekly driving tests consisted of driving it to and from our backyard and back inside the house.  From what I can remember, the only negatives we discovered from these pre-traveling weekly driving tests was that the new chair didn't have quite as nice of turning radius for tight and sharp corners compared to my regular power wheelchair and that it wasn't as fast.  We even got in touch with the company again before we left to ask how we could adjust the speed and they walked us through the steps on how to make it go faster.

Fast forwarding to the week when we leave for our trip, I can already feel a difference while driving it around the airport before our first flight leaves in terms of feeling better about how to use it when navigating it around tricky turns and sharp corners, so I can't say that the weekly driving tests I did before we left didn't help because they did in terms of making me feel more confident and comfortable about my skill level when driving it.

What my family and I didn't find out until the trip was in full swing were are the cons of the wheelchair that weren't present before we left.  For instance, when I had my chair at its top speed at times, it would suddenly decide to start slowing down for whatever reason even though I hadn't turned it down to a slower speed in the first place.  When this happened, I kept having to remind my parents to slow down their walking pace just so I could keep up with them.  When that didn't work, I had to have my dad put the chair in manual mode and push it so we could get to where we were going faster.

Then there were times when some of the screws and bolts on the chair would come loose from going over the lovely cobblestone sidewalks and streets that Europe is famous for.  To manage this obstacle we ended having to go to a hardware store near our hotel as well as borrowing a wrench from the helpful staff at the hotel's front desk to tighten the loose screws and bolts.  This became a nightly ritual during our time there.  So much so that one night, the lady at the hotel's front desk already had the wrench in her hand when we returned from our sight seeing one night and said that we could give it back before we had to leave.  The good thing about that is we didn't have to hold on to it and give it back since we went to a nearby hardware store and got the necessary repair supplies.

One final downside that the chair presented during our trip was a problem with one of the chair's motors that was making it even more difficult to use because it went even slower during these times and it was also making an unpleasant grinding noise in the motor while driving it.  At this point, I was already having enough of a hard time trying to keep the chair on the right side of the sidewalk to avoid any oncoming pedestrians and bicycles that it was getting really frustrating for both my parents and myself that more often than not, we had to put the chair in manual to save us from even more headaches.

About the only silver lining we found for easier navigation of the chair for future trips came at the end when we discovered by accident a little trick where we would put the right motor on manual while driving the chair and somehow this seemed to improve the overall performance of the chair and it also seemed to go a little bit faster once we discovered this trick.  It's too bad that it took us until the trip was over to find this out for ourselves since it would have made things a lot easier for all of us in the beginning.

Since the chair is under warranty, we shipped it back to Geo Cruiser to repair the problems that we had with it. The company took about a week to make repairs and ship it back to us. We will see if the problems we encountered are fixed.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.        

Monday, December 18, 2017

Leaving Liberia

On arrival to Daniel Ober airport on Thanksgiving, after the melodious tones of the flight attendants noting that we have many options that they appreciate us for flying Alaska Airlines, a more jarring , male and official voice comes on over the plane's PA system with a local accent.

"Be advised that before leaving Costa Rica, there is a mandatory twenty eight dollar exit fee that you must pay before checking in, therefore it is necessary that you arrive at the airport no later than three hours before your flight time to allow time to pay this fee."


It's been a week of adventure, ripoffs, exploring, meeting people, and enjoying the unspoiled beauty of Costa Rica. Now we have to leave early to get to the airport. Also, because we had such a hassle at the rental counter when we arrived, I'm allowing two hours to allow for any necessary arguing or fighting at the rental agency when we return the car.

I'm kind of dreading that part the most.

We also notice that we haven't bought anything in the way of souvenirs.  Not that we really want too much from here, Tim and I already have our t-shirts from the zip lining park, but we would like to take home some of that great Costa Rican coffee.

Driving around our hotel, we've noticed signs for Sun Burst Coffee with tours and store in the "doit" center. We decide to stop there on the way back to buy some.  Following the signs, we come to realize the the "doit" center is actually the Do It Hardware store center and the tour is just a slide show and some exhibits on the counter there.

There is a roaster and many coffees available for sampling and sale. I particularly like the dark roast but they don't have any in stock and are unloading the raw beans from a truck as I'm there so I settle on some French roast to take home.

It's good but not as good as the Trader Joe's French roast I have back home as a later taste comparison test will reveal.

At the Alamo rental agency, the turn in of the car goes smoothly. I find the agent that I dealt with at the beginning and he comped the GPS unit rental in the car, which came within eight dollars of negating the $120 of insurance I was forced to buy and had no need for, so I'm letting that issue drop.

Now, it's four hours til flight time, we're at the airport, and we're told that Alaska Airlines won't open their counter for at least another hour and a half. It takes all of two minutes to pay the exit fee and now were stuck in the non-airconditioned ticketing hall until the Alaska crew shows up.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Bernal Saborio under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Eventually they do and two of them even recognize us from our arrival last week and make sure everything goes swimmingly from there.  We make it through the easier-than-TSA security, have a nice lunch in the air-conditioned gate area, buy some duty-free Nicaraguan rum (better than the Costa Rican stuff, in my opinion), and take an easy flight home.

Now that that's over, please use the links below to catch up on our complete Costa Rican adventure:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Cocktail Hours:
The Matapalo
Lounge 24

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 15, 2017

More Fun Than a Barrel Full of Monkeys: The Capuchins of Costa Rica

Catch up on our previous chapters here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

One more item on the agenda for our Costa Rican adventure. We want to see some monkeys.

Down the beach from our hotel, the Riu Palace, there's a little jungle bar called the Monkey Bar.  The local monkeys come down from the trees at sunset to beg from the tourists gathered there.

We tried to get down the beach to it but, at a certain point, the sand just gets too deep and soft for the wheelchair.

Letty talks to a security guard at the hotel and he tells her not to bother...just go to the trees along the south side of the hotel and you can see monkeys there too. It's also hard-packed enough that we can get Tim and his wheelchair to.

Watch the Video!

Armed with a couple of bananas from the buffet, we head over in the late afternoon to see what we can find.

Beyond the entrepreneurial massage tables, trinket stands, and enterprising banana salesmen that congregate right on the other side of the Riu property line, it's a short walk into the trees and jungle. We notice that the 100 feet or so from the beach into the forest also means a temperature spike of another 20 degrees.

It's hot in here.

A few people have come before us so we join them in admiring and tempting the little capuchins that scamper among the branches.

Some are timid, some are a little more brave and will guardedly snatch a banana out of your hand, and one was downright mean.  He took the banana offered but growled at me and slapped my hand as hard as he could when taking the free food.

And there we have it, we've completed our goals of coming to Costa Rica...lazing in the pool and on the beach, wandering out into the countryside to experience regular Tican life, adventure touring (zip lining on a volcano), and now interacting with the local wildlife.

It's been a grand time, we'll spend the rest of our time with the drunk Canadians ("we was hammered, eh!") we've made friends with in the pool before heading out to the airport in the morning. 

We'll update you on that in our final post.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

CAREGIVER CHRONICLES: Navigating the Route from Childhood to Adulthood - Parents Edition

We are not only primary caregivers for Tim but also his parents. This has been a path of growth for both of us over the three decades we've been together and it is not always easy to let go of being a parent and transitioning over to letting him be an adult.

I imagine it might be easier if your child is able-bodied and able to do things for themselves. They can get a job, move out, start a family...but that is not how it is for us.

It's a precarious balance. On the one hand, we have to provide care for Tim's needs. We have to protect him, and I mean that literally, as he can't really fend for himself without being watched over such as being out in traffic, getting stuck somewhere without help for feeding or bathrooming, even just getting his chair stuck in a rut...someone's pretty much always got to be with him to keep him out of trouble or from getting into it.

On the other hand, we need to let Tim grow up and be an adult. He's intelligent and able to make decisions for himself. We have avoided the 'conservator' or 'legal guardian' route because he is of age and has the mental capacity to think and reason his way around things.

Since Tim graduated from college and reached adulthood, I've been striving to treat him as an adult, to let him know he's an adult, and to know that I am no longer in the role of raising him to adulthood. Yet, we live together and out of necessity have a very close working relationship with each other.

As you can imagine, sometimes that leads to frustration and one of the other of us losing our patience with each other. Tim may lash out at something and, out of habit and frustration, I will slip back into parent mode and snap back.

It's not something I'm proud of and we have both been working on it for awhile now.

While I strive to clamp off my parental instincts, it's not always that easy but I do work hard to see him as an adult and treat him as one.  I also remind others sometimes that, yes, Tim is an adult and you need to see him that way too.

Independence is another big hurdle for us. At this point, we know that Tim will never be fully independent. Even without us, someone will always have to be there to provide care for him. That being said, we still strive to get him to be independent as possible. Try to get him to go out by himself to see a movie or other excursion; let him be alone in the house for a bit while we go to the store...things like that.

Those periods of independence work out pretty good but we've still got to remember the five hour rule...Tim can only go so long before those needs that need caring for bubble back up to the surface.

Another thing I try to do is not hide anything or sugar coat things from him. We've talked about the inevitable mortality of my wife and I and what he'll need to do at that time. We've worked with him on achieving a financial literacy so that he will be able to manage his money once we're not around anymore. What he needs to do in an emergency. I've even trained him on how to get out of the house by himself if there's an emergency and we're not there to do it for him.

At the same time, we do try to provide a loving and caring environment for him. He knows that he's welcome to stay with us forever and we'll be his caregivers for as long as it's physically possible. He knows that we love him and that we see him as a valued family member, not a burden.

And, yes, sometimes we'll snap under the pressure but that we'll take a breather and talk it out until we reach a resolution. We'll admit our mistakes, and work on ways to try to remember...we're all adults here.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tim of the Jungle...Watch Out For That Tree! (Accessible Zip Lining in Costa Rica)

Need to catch up? Read our previous Costa Rica posts...part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Our hotel is on the beach. This is a beach vacation. All our activities were supposed to take place on or near the ocean.

This was the task at hand when planning our trip and I was researching things we could do on the water.

Watch the Video!

While looking in vain for a boat that could take us on the ocean,  and maybe even go snorkeling, I came across a video on Youtube of a guy in a wheelchair zip lining in Costa Rica.

I knew my timid son would never go for that but, just for kicks, I went over to the living room.

"Hey Tim, guess what?"


"I found a video on Youtube that shows a guy in a wheelchair zip lining."

Before I could say anything more, the reply came back immediately "Sign me up!"

A few e-mails back and forth to Erick Zalaya, owner of Volcano Lake Adventures in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, and we'd set a date.

Twenty years ago, the three of us went to Maui and drove the road to Hana. Today, this three hour drive over mountains covered with thick jungles reminds of of that trip with its narrow roads and dozens of one-lane bridges.

Finally, we break through to see Lake Arenal.  Once across the dam, it's just a few more miles to the busy but little town of La Fortuna.

Volcano Lake Adventures is located off the lobby of the Hotel Central Lofts in the middle of town. The parking lot is being repaved today so I park around the corner and leave Letty and Tim in the car while I go check in.

I meet Erick and he tells me he'll call the zip line park. At first, it's 1:30 then it's a no-go. 

"They're booked."

"I though you booked us when I e-mailed you six weeks ago and confirmed it last week?"

"Let me call another place that does it, is there anything else you'd like to do if you can't go zip lining?"

"No, I emailed you six weeks ago before we flew the 3,000 miles here and drove the three hours this morning to get here. I thought we had an iron-clad reservation to go zip lining. That was the only thing it seemed we could do."

Luckily, his plan B came through and, with voucher in hand, we drove over to Ecoglide Adventure Park just outside of town.

We arrive at the office about a half hour before our new appointed time of 12:30. The guy in the office tells us it's 3:00. I tell him what Mr. Zalaya said.  

"My guys are out to lunch, you'll have to wait until they're through."

No problem, we brought a lunch and the gardens at Ecoglide are a pleasant place to have a picnic.

1:00, the tour guides show up. There's Armando, Eduardo, Alfredo and Warren. We make introductions and they proceed to gear-up my wife and I with all the safety equipment we would need. It is cinched up very tight all around, let's just say it's a good thing my child producing years are behind me or this would put a big crimp in that plan.

In a nearby clearing, there's a zip line strung up between two poles where we learn the pun intended...of zip lining.  We're shown how to regulate our speed with the thick, padded glove on one hand and how to hold on to the ropes on the other hand.  Once that's done, we take a test glide on the training line in the clearing.

Next, they put Tim into the front seat of a large, four wheel drive truck while the rest of us ride in the bed. We're driven up a rough, jungle road up to 2500 feet on the Arenal Volacano and hike the last couple of hundred feet up to the first platform.

And Tim? How does he get up here? Well, notice I said "handicapped accessible" not wheelchair accessible. One of the crew, Warren, is called "la mula" by his mates.  He's a big, strong man and carries Tim on his back, piggy back style, to the first platform. A plastic patio chair is brought along to set Tim on between platforms to give him and Warren a little break.

It's quite a bit of hooking up, clipping onto lines, and making sure we're ready. Warren is not only Tim's mule but his zip lining companion, too, and helps Tim fly through the trees with the greatest of ease.

Soon, him and Warren are a couple of lines ahead of us on this 12 line, approximately 2 miles course down the volcano.

Letty and I follow behind, on our own with no companions, and it's a glorious sight, skimming the treetops through the jungle, with miles of views across the Arenal valley.

About halfway through, we take a break and are given an opportunity to take a ride on the Tarzan Swing, which is kind of like a bungie jump but is instead a giant rope swing where you jump off a cliff and trust the the rope will hold and swing you high into the trees safely.

Of course I'm doing it. Scared the crap out of me, too.

Letty passes and, since he'd have to go on unaided, I advise that Tim take a pass on it too. Wisely and with rarity, he takes my advice.

The last few lines take us to a platform very high into a ceiba tree and on to another line that's half a kilometer long.

Finally, a rather tame last line takes us back to the visitor's center.

It's a blast and Tim has said this was his biggest highlight of the trip. It's a fantastic day that, unfortunately, does not leave us any time to do any other adventures while we're in the area.

It's a long, windy road back so we stop to get a couple of strong cups of Costa Rican coffee for the ride home.

Click on the links, above, if you'd like to take advantage of this very unique opportunity while you're in Costa Rica. You'll thank me later.

Ecoglide  -
Volcano Lake Adventures

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick - Copyriht 2016
All Rights Reserved