Monday, August 29, 2022

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2022

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Lounge 24, Riu's Do-It-Yourself Bar in Costa Rica

I think I count six bars at the Riu Palace in Costa Rica. There may be a couple more but there's definitely not any less. Plus, guests of the Palace also have full bar privileges at the Riu Guanacaste next door. 

You don't have to walk far to get your buzz on, that's for sure.

Watch the Video!

One of the unique bars is Lounge 24, at the back of the lobby behind the coffee and pastry bar.  It gets its name by being open and available to guests 24 hours a day. Feel like a nacho and beer craving at 3 in the morning? This is your place.

A fairly good selection of quality snacks and bar food line the back wall. It's definitely a step up from the all-night offerings of the last Riu we stayed at in the Dominican Republic. For drinks though? You're on your own.

That's not a bad thing, it's just what makes Lounge 24 unique...all the liquor and fixings are there for you to make whatever you want.

Think the lobby bartender is making your mai tai too weak? Make it as strong as you want here.  It's a nice break and even makes a good arts 'n crafts activity for those who want to play with a little mixology.

Watch in the video above as Tim and I demonstrate how to make a mai tai in this little DIY bar off the lobby of the Riu Palace in Costa Rica.  As an aside, after we finished, the other people in the bar watching us film the video, had me make mai tais for the whole group.  For the rest of the week, wherever we went in the resort, when one of those guests would see me, I'd get a greeting "hey, Mai Tai Man!"

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 26, 2022

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2022

CLASSIC TRIP: Costa Rica Touring - Liberia, Guanacaste

Even though we were ripped off a bit and had quite a row at the rental agency, we still ended up with a car so let’s get in and go for a drive. The big city here in Guanacaste is Liberia, where we flew into, so we head in that direction.

Watch the Video!

Driving in this country is quite an adventure as we find out. A good portion of the drivers will pass you at any moment and in any traffic condition. Another large portion will drive exceedingly slow and will never, ever pull over. You soon learn that passing is a very necessary part of driving here in Costa Rica and passing lanes are pretty much nonexistent.

Add to that all the pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals that can be in the middle of the road at any given time, and you have your work cut out for you. In cities and towns, all the above turns into a free-for-all.

We make it into Liberia and find a place to park near the town’s plaza. The local church presides over it all…an ugly one, according to my wife…and it’s fiesta weekend.

Not much too festive in the daytime though. A few booths are open selling chicken and rice or dessert. We opt for dessert with some fritters covered in caramel and condensed milk and some churros.

It’s hot, quiet, and a few kids hit us up to buy a t-shirt or just to beg for money.

Walking around the perimeter of the park, I notice about 1 out of every 5 taxis are wheelchair accessible. One driver lets me take a picture of his for posterity.

We also notice that every public transit bus we see has a wheelchair lift and a spot to tie down a wheelchair making this the most accessible Latin American country we’ve seen for transportation.

The town’s a bit down in the mouth and sleepy in this humid heat so we move on.  We program the GPS unit in our rental car to take us to the nearby Rincon Vieja volcano but soon the pavement runs out and we’re on a very bumpy dirt road. When the Garmin says “drive 22 kilometers on this road,” we give up and look for a new plan.

On the map, it says there’s a zoo in nearby Salto. We head that direction.

In Liberia, we switch to Ruta 1, which turns out to be a modern freeway except it’s not quite finished. Instead, only one side is open and it’s on the honor system to be one lane in each direction. Again, we run into the problem of 25 kilometer per hour drivers on a 90 kph road.  One truck had over 50 vehicles behind him but, despite an abundance of space to pull over, he obliviously soldiered on.

We find the zoo, called the Adventure Park, and pull into the empty parking lot. A lady greets us at the entrance, offers us a cool drink, and wants to explain their “packages,” the cheapest being a basic zoo entrance fee of $100 per person.

That explains the empty parking lot which is empty once more as we hightail it out of there.

For today, we figure we’ll have more fun back at the Riu pool on the beach and spend the rest of the afternoon there.

Dinner will be at Papagayo, the steakhouse on the beach where Tim has this great looking burger…

…and Letty and I have steak, hers with the surf ‘n turf option.

It’s fine and delicious but down on the beach, the mosquitos know where dinner is also. Luckily, we put repellent on before dinner. Not many of our fellow diners were such forward thinkers, unfortunately.

Tomorrow, we have grander plans but until then, it’s chill in the room while listening to the floor show below and resting up for a very long drive and a big adventure.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 21, 2022


Coming to you from lovely Guanacaste, Costa Rica, it's Tim and Darryl with another new cocktail for you.

As you may know, when we travel, we like to create cocktails out of our room's minibar or local drinks. Today, with a free minibar and unlimited liquor courtesy of the Riu Palace Hotel, it's another new cocktail named after the beach we're residing on. This time it's Playa Matapalo.

Watch the Video!

So, here we go...take a tall glass and fill completely with ice. Dump in a shot of dark rum, another of brandy and top off with Fanta and soda water.

The matapalo which, as you'll see in the video above, tastes remarkably like a picon punch of Basque fame.

Cheers from Costa Rica!


Friday, August 19, 2022

CLASSIC TRIP: Letting the Jet Lag and Stress Float Away in Costa Rica

With the rental car shenanigans behind us, it was a dark and lonely road to the Riu Palace Hotel on Playa Matapalo. Around one dark corner, a lone horse stood in the road. I almost put him down. Now and again, speedbumps would appear in front of a school.  Narrow one lane bridges popped up with some regularity. Pedestrians and bicyclists  would materialize out of the dark, moving slowly in the traffic lane.

Watch the Video!

It was a bit harrowing that first evening then coming down the steep hill into the little bay we’d call home for the next week.  My wife urged me to slow down while I informed her my foot was already pressing on the brake pedal.

Three massive speed bumps really slowed us down and then we were at the gate to the Riu.

There are two hotels here, the Riu Guanacaste...the nice but more budget friendly of the two…and the Riu Palace, the top level brand of the Riu chain.

Unloading the car, we step up to the checkin counter and I immediately remember why I love the Riu.

As a server hands us each a welcoming cocktail (especially nice after the fight at the rental car agency and the dark drive) checkin goes efficiently and effortlessly.

“Remember, we are here to serve you. You only have to dial 9 on your room’s phone and we will get anything you want.”

And, as we’ve found out at the Riu before, that is not an empty promise.

Our room is just what we booked. Oceanview, though not quite beachfront, over the pools, with a nice terrace and three beds set up just for us. The bellman shows us the ropes, with the in-room liquor dispensers, the minibar, TV, and more.

There’s also a spa tub between the beds and the bathroom that’s really more in the way than useful but I can see where some people might like it. For us, the large, walk-in shower is more of a luxury making it easy for Tim to have a bath.

It’s not an official accessible room (although they do have some available) but we find the regular rooms here work just fine for us and we get better views and locations than the wheelchair rooms offer.

After tipping the bellman, we hit the buffet for dinner before retiring back to our room for a deep, night’s sleep to catch up on all we missed the day before and to shed our travel frustrations.

The morning dawns bright and sunny.  A hot sun. The breakfast buffet is very good and extensive. Great protein in the fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and more. Costa Rican food is represented by their banana –leave wrapped tamales, gallo pinto, and several varieties of rice and sausage.

A couple of shady lounge chairs invite us to stake out a place by the pool. A ramp makes it easier to get Tim in the water. We wade in and roll the chair as far as we can, put Tim’s feet through the hole of an inner tube, stand him up, let him fall through the hole till his arms hook onto the tube…holding him up…and away he goes to float for a few hours in the Riu’s pool.

Nicole, our pool server, keeps us supplied with Mai Tais, chocolate martinis, beer, and water. The three of us float around like this, soak up the sun, and meditate on what activities we’ll be doing this week.

After swimming, soaking, and meeting new friends at the pool, it’s off to L’Anfora off of the lobby. This is the Riu’s Italian restaurant and the only one besides the buffet that does not require a reservation.

I have a local version of ossobuco while Tim has lasagna and ravioli. Letty has a nice seafood pasta.

Our room is right over the floor show area, so after dinner, we can watch from our terrace. The music can be loud, so you might want to ask for a room away from it if it bothers you. Since they have a curfew of 11pm that is strictly enforced, we can live with it.

After a day of cocktails, sun, and water, our minimal jet lag is diminished and we retire to rest up for the next part of our adventure where we head off property and go exploring the Central American countryside.

Copyright 2016 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 15, 2022

CLASSIC TRIP: The Rental Car Con - Welcome to Costa Rica

Signs say the new LAX is coming but, today, it’s still the same old worn out Terminal 6 only with more construction.  The old bones of the terminal are clearly visible…the circular gate area, the old tiled columns, and the stained acoustic tiles…while new shop and construction barriers sit in the middle.

It’s not ready for prime time, yet, and there are only three places to buy hot food. All with long lines. Instead, we opt to get some sandwiches from Hudson News to take on the plane with us

Alaska Airlines doesn’t serve free food to us in steerage and no First Class upgrades were available this Thanksgiving morning.

The plane does leave on time and the crew is bright and cheery.  This is because, as one told me, they get a 48 hour layover at our destination, Liberia, Costa Rica.

While the crew enjoys their two day adventure on the company dime, we’ll be at the Riu Palace over on the Pacific Coast for the next week but first, we must procure transportation.

The flight was flawless but the rental counter was a nightmare.

We’d booked a full-size SUV through Alamo’s web site for a little over $300 a week. Once at the airport, we found the Alamo rep who got us on a shuttle to the off-airport lot a few kilometers away.

I waited while the three parties in front of me argued endlessly with the two rental agents over their costs and cars. I was thinking “quit whining and get your car” so I could get mine and be on our way.

Finally…it’s my turn at the counter. I hand the agent my reservation. Thinks are moving along swimmingly. Then, he pulls out a notepad, “let’s talk about insurance.”

“I bought a policy from CTA that covers $75,000 in damage,” I tell him. “I just need your cheapest liability.”

“Senor, that insurance is no good here in Costa Rica. You have to buy the mandatory insurance.”

“No, it’s a special policy I got for this trip.”

“It’s no good. You must buy our insurance. It’s an extra $681 dollars.”

“Let me use your phone.”

I call CTA…”our offices are closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Please call back tomorrow.”

I argue for two hours. I have a copy of the entire policy. He won’t budge. I finally make a deal for a smaller car with a smaller insurance policy and only get ripped off to the tune of $120 instead of over $680.

Welcome to Costa Rica. Now I get to feel my way through a dark, narrow, mountainous road to our hotel instead of getting there at sundown like I planned.

Let’s see how the rest of this trip goes.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2015 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 14, 2022

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: St. Pete Pub Crawl, Part Two

Last week, we took you along for our warm-up pub crawl in St Petersburg, Florida. Today, we delve in a little deeper, hitting four pubs and a pizza joint. All are within a block from our hotel, in fact, we just walked across the street, went up one block, crossed over to the next one, and walked back to the hotel...all in one square block.

Easy walking and easy drinking.

Watch the Video!

Another good thing about the bars along this route is that they seem to be in a perpetual happy hour during the daylight hours. I know, but we're beyond our nightlife days and enjoy an earlier party life now.

First stop, the Del Mar Gastro Lounge.  Almost all the bars on our walk had $2 beer specials on select varieties. Here, one of those varieties is Rolling Rock so it's a little better than the usual Bud or Coors Light specials you see. They're also 16 ounce tall boys, which went well with the pulled pork sliders we got to go with them.

The sliders and beer were delicious, cheap, and the cold beer really hit the spot in this Florida heat.

Next up is Mastry's, which is the alcohol pouring outpost of Mastry's sportfishing not far from here over on the bay. According to the signs inside, this is the city's oldest bar...and also voted the best dive bar in St. Pete.

I'd have to conduct a much deeper investigation to see if that's true but it is a nice, dark, cash-only spot where we get a shot of whiskey and some wine...served in disposable plastic cups.

Back out into the light and up the block, it's the Five Bucks Drinkery. The name says it all, although my drink...a Captain Morgan on the rocks...was considerably less at $3.

Letty met a couple of friendly dogs here, too.

Coming around the corner into the home stretch,  MacDinton's Irish Pub has just opened for the day. Inside, to the strains of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, we have some beer and Jameson shots while having a lively discussion with the bartenders.

Lastly, it's Pacifico and slices of cheese pizza at Joey Brooklyn's about 100 feet from the hotel lobby. the Pacifico is good as always, the'll do.


Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 12, 2022

ECONOMICAL LIVING: Getting Stuff (Delivered) Free!

Living through Covid restrictions was bad enough. Now, inflation has made everything very expensive which can create big difficulties if you live in poverty or a fixed income. 

Time to start coming up with strategies to save and conserve our money.

Today, let's save some of that precious gas money by getting our shopping delivered to us for free (think about the items you can get delivered, reading below, and then think how much you'd pay to go to the store to get them at today's gas prices).

You probably know about Amazon Prime, where you pay a fee (currently $139 annually or $14.99 per month) to get free two-day shipping on your purchases...which comes with other perks like Prime Video (a streaming service similar to Netflix), photo storage, and can also get free shipping without prime if your order totals $25 or more on qualified items (check the shipping costs in your cart before buying). It won't always be two-day shipping but free is free.

Some items also can be bought by subscription...we use this for supplements, air conditioning filters, water filters for the refrigerator...which nets you a small discount on the price and gets you free shipping. If you're going to need something regularly, consider this option.

You can also get a discounted Prime membership if you're a student, are on Medicaid, qualify for EBT, or other government assitance programs. See if you qualify for a discounted Prime Membership here.

Amazon's biggest competitor is probably Walmart. The discount giant has tons of stuff available at their site at the same low prices you'd see inside the store. If your total is over $35, you also get it delivered free. In our neighborhood, that also means it comes via Federal Express.

We use this for things like toiletries we can't find cheaper anywhere else like mouthwash, shaving gel, etc.

Then we come to Costco. I admit that a trip to Costco for us is also like a nice day out but sometimes we just don't have the time or the inclination to drive 30 miles or more to our nearest location.

You have a couple of options here, both of which require you to be a member (starting at $60 per year). First, items on their site that qualify for 2-Day Shipping can be delivered free if your order is $75 or more (click on the link to see what qualifies).

We use this for things like laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, vitamins, and other non-perishable items.

The second option is Same Day Delivery. This is just like Instacart, Doordash, or other grocery delivery services. It's not available everywhere but I was surprised that it's offered in our area (click the link and enter your address to see if it is).

You go through the items, just like you're in the store, and put in the basket. You can get pretty much anything including perishables like meat and can even get one of their delicious and cheap rotisserie chickens.

Once you're done, a personal shopper will put your order together and drive it to your house.

There is no charge for this service although a tip for the driver will be included in your total (which can be deducted, making it optional). I do urge you to leave it in to help your driver with gas costs, though, but technically it's free delivery saving you the time and gas money of driving to Costco.

There are more options out there, these are just the three that we use regularly to help keep our fuel costs down. Consider and look for the free option online whenever you need to buy something to help save money.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 8, 2022

THE CHEAPSKATE RURAL GARDENER: Lawn Killers - Racoons, Skunks, and Grubs

Racoons and skunks are pretty adept at finding food. In fact, they can smell the grubs that sit a few inches below ground when they infect my lawn each fall.

That's a problem because they have no qualms about digging up my yard to get those tasty nuggets.

Now, I have to figure out how to keep those critters from completely destroying my lawn each fall. I could trap them but that's a pain in the butt, I'd have to relocate them, and others would take their place. I could try a solar powered high-pitched device that senses movement and puts out a sound that would annoy them away...actually, I tried this and saw a racoon digging happily away in front of the device that was clicking away furiously with no effect on the animal.

I could poison the grubs. Which, is what I did last fall when nothing else would work but I don't want to do this if I don't have to because it kills pretty much all insects in the lawn, including the beneficial ones. It did stop the digging pretty much immediately, though.

This year, I'm going to try another natural remedy. I would have done it last year but you need to apply in mid summer and it was too late when the animals came in the fall.

You can buy beneficial nematodes (hb nematodes if you're trying to find the correct ones) which are microscopic worms that are parasites to grubs. They attack and feed on the grubs, killing them, and robbing the racoons and skunks of the food their digging for in my lawn.

The nematodes come refrigerated, you can keep the package in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. They're microscopic so it looks more like a powder than worms.

You need to apply them either early in the morning or at dusk. First, you water your lawn.

Then, I pour the package into my watering can...

...fill with water...


..and sprinkle into the lawn.

That's it, I'm done. Let's see how it works.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2002 - All Rights Reserved