Whale shark tales

Captain, crew, film makers and friends on the whale shark charter

Captain, crew, film makers and friends on the whale shark charter

A friendly wave as I get close to a 30 footer

A friendly wave as I get close to a 30 footer

A curious 20 footer keeps an eye on me

A curious 20 footer keeps an eye on me

My brother, Larry decides to put the brakes on as one approaches

My brother, Larry decides to put the brakes on as one approaches

Happy campers after an epic adventure

Happy campers after an epic adventure

August 2014

Greetings fish lovers,

         In response to some of your expressed fears of me being overworked and suffering from dental burnout, I reluctantly decided to take some more vacation time. I started with my Denver buddies in Hood River, Oregon for a few days of windsurfing on the Columbia River and gorging on fresh blackberry pancakes and blueberry cobbler. After some good sessions over a couple of days to satisfy my high speed wind fix, I headed south to meet Pat and my brother, Larry in Cancun, Mexico. We joined up with Beth, an underwater film maker friend of mine who was there with her partner, Tom to film the whale sharks while they migrate through the Gulf of Mexico and stuff their bellies with tons of plankton and fish eggs. We were invited to join them on a charter boat that was heading out daily to find the beasts and spend a few hours in the water to document their feeding, and who could say no to that? Lest you be concerned, whale sharks are 20-50 foot whale sized sharks that filter feed and wouldn’t harm you unless you mistakenly got sucked into their mouth like Jonah, which would be an embarrassing epitaph to say the least. After a dishonest Mexican taxi driver (is that a redundancy or what?) stole my suitcase of clothes I re-supplied myself with a trip to a Mexican Wal-Mart, and we departed the dock at 9 AM the next morning with the Gilligan’s Island theme music playing in the back of my mind. Two hours and 25 miles later we found the feeding grounds of the whale sharks, and we plopped in the water with snorkel gear to get a good look at the monsters as they lazily swam around sucking in mouthfuls of ocean and plankton. Once you got over the fact that they were the size and weight of a Greyhound bus it was an amazing experience, and even Pat jumped in the water with wild abandon.

            We had a great dinner that night and returned the next day to repeat the event, and my Antarctica camera took some great underwater photos to prove how easy it was to get close to the action. The film crew got some good footage, and the other folks on board agreed it was magical to swim with such remarkable creatures. Beth and Tom continued south to film salt water crocodiles, which I decided was a little outside of my comfort zone, so our crew returned to the US to help keep the economy humming along. Hope your summer is going well and write some news from home.

Cheers,

        Whale shark swimming Bob

 

Cape Town downpour

Some sample wines and food helped take the chill out of the excursion

Some sample wines and food helped take the chill out of the excursion

Canopy walkway at the Cape Town Botanical Gardens

Canopy walkway at the Cape Town Botanical Gardens

Cape Point at the tip of Africa has many shipwreck stories

Cape Point at the tip of Africa has many shipwreck stories

A colony of South African or “Jackass” penguins at Boulders Beach

A colony of South African or “Jackass” penguins at Boulders Beach

June 2014

Hi flood fans,
      It’s been raining for almost 36 hours now in Cape Town, so after walking around the botanical gardens, lunching on grilled ostrich,  and checking out the waterfront
yesterday we decided to rent a car and see if the moisture would follow. Armed
with a chatty GPS we headed out of town this morning, only to drive into a
spectacular hail storm that drowned out the GPS voice very effectively.
Undaunted we made it to Betty’s Bay to wander among the penguins in the
downpour, and enjoy the coastal driving as the waves crashed among the rocks.
One striking sight was the marauding baboons along the streets of Gordan’s Bay
who delighted in tearing apart bags of trash laid out for the morning pick-up,
or easily hopped over 6 foot fences to have their way with trash cans in the
driveway.

      Soaked but not deterred, we pressed on to the wine region and found a great lunch spot in Stellenbosch for some sample reds and whites from the vineyard to compliment our chorizo tapas and Persian lamb wrap. Our GPS brought us back to the hotel with nary a wrong turn, and after a brief nap, we are enjoying the  quiet of the hotel while most of our clothes are hung to dry out in the room.
     It may be of interest to inquiring minds that our first night in Cape Town was spent in Bob’s carefully selected no star B & B near the waterfront, but after a fairly heatless night in near freezing temperatures, that selection was vetoed by Pat’s majority opinion. With little fanfare we toured a few upgraded properties and moved to a luxury 4 star hotel even closer to the waterfront that included not only a heated room but a breakfast fit for a sheik and his full entourage. Naturally my protests were squashed like a bug and it looks like we’re here for the duration, but I’m flexible and will keep my complaints to a minimum.
    We’ve got the rental car for another day and hope to drive down to Cape Point to see the tip of the continent tomorrow, so hopefully the forecast of sunshine will prevail. Hope your rainbows are complete and your sunshine is brilliant.
Cheers,
Drip-dry Bob

 

Suave South Africa

Wisely yielding to an elephant in the road

Wisely yielding to an elephant in the road

Open vehicles on safari don’t offer much warmth or protection from the lions!

Open vehicles on safari don’t offer much warmth or protection from the lions!

The rhinos who cooperatively wandered over to our vehicle

The rhinos who cooperatively wandered over to our vehicle

Cheetah brothers out for a stroll at sunset

Cheetah brothers out for a stroll at sunset

“Stubby” the giraffe survived a lion attack with all but his tail

“Stubby” the giraffe survived a lion attack with all but his tail

June 2014

Jambo safari fans,

            Following our Madagascar adventure we flew to South Africa to experience the wealthiest country on the dark continent. We started with a safari for a few days in a tented camp where the sub freezing temps of -4C (25F) in the morning made game viewing a shivering affair, but as we gazed at all the amazing wildlife we thought about how special it would be to have some of the first recorded cases of frostbite in Africa. That was prevented by a roaring fire and plenty of hot tea and coffee when we returned to the camp with stories of elephants, rhinos, zebras, cheetahs and lions feasting on a wildebeest. The rhinos we spotted were quite a distance away from our vehicle which was committed to staying on the designated dirt road, so our driver chanted a sing-song “come come come come come!” as our smirks turned to smiles because the four adults and two babies sauntered over to within 50 feet of us for a great photo session. The rest of our safari time was spent taking lots of pictures, eating wonderfully prepared meals by the staff of the camp and longing for the warmth of a hotel room or restaurant once we returned to civilization.

            Half of our group headed home to the US while Pat and I flew south to Cape Town to hang out with a friend who teaches physics at the University of Cape Town and is the son in law of a patient of mine. Saalih was a great resource and took us out for some delicious meals in the city, as well as sharing sobering stories of growing up labeled as “colored” since he is from a marriage of Indian and Malaysian parents. Cape Town and the surrounding region is a mix of modern highways, schools, restaurants, hotels, malls and shops with the challenge of sprawling slums and ghettos called townships against a backdrop of the Atlantic and Indian ocean on one side and towering Table Mountain on the other. We taxied and walked though a great deal of the city, and then rented a car to drive to see penguins on the beach and gaze out on the rolling waves at the Cape of Good Hope, which technically is not THE most southern tip of the continent but was close enough for those of us that no longer need ADD medications. Both days on our way back to the city we stopped to sample wine and food around the vineyards of Stellenbosh and Constantia, which rivaled any wine region of the world. Now it’s back to work but the next trip is just a plane ride away!

Cheers,

         Bwanna Bob

Madagascar Mojo

This black and white ruffed lemur was my buddy as long as I had some banana

This black and white ruffed lemur was my buddy as long as I had some banana

Our portable dental set-up worked pretty well

Our portable dental set-up worked pretty well

Pat and Richelle with a new eye glass fan

Pat and Richelle with a new eye glass fan

The director of the school, Richard, was a ping pong fan too

The director of the school, Richard, was a ping pong fan too

Weekend jungle lodge a few hours from the city

Weekend jungle lodge a few hours from the city

A two foot long chameleon eyes us warily

A two foot long chameleon eyes us warily

Ring tail lemurs looking for mischief

Ring tail lemurs looking for mischief

May 2014

Bonjour lemur fans,

            Pat and I signed up to be part of a Colorado Springs organized dental/vision project to Madagascar last month, and it was another adventure in third world travel. We hauled a dozen 50 pound bags of dental gear and donated eye glasses to take care of the kids and staff at a well run Street Kids Center in the capital city of Antananarivo, and were kept busy for a week and a half of eye exams and dental procedures. Pat enjoyed giving exams and dilating hundreds of kids eyes for Dr. Bob the ophthalmologist, while John, a dentist I shared an office with 30 years ago and I were engaged with pulling and filling teeth subjected to too much Coke and candy. The people we worked with were fabulous and everyone felt inspired by the smiles of the kids and their families. I even found out there was a ping pong table at the school, so spent some time routing the locals when I was done pulling teeth for the afternoon. I walked to the center each morning while the rest of the group chose to sit in stalled traffic, but they missed out on the essence of squalor and street sewage.

            One of my favorite aspects of the trip was the weekend getaway to a rain forest lodge to hang out with the wildlife and get to experience a setting where 80% of the animals are found no where else in the world. We hiked among the lemurs and chameleons, and even though Pat tried to avoid having a lemur land on her head she served as a nice vaulting horse for a few that wanted to get some banana from someone standing next to her. We stayed in a great house on church property and dined out a few times on French cuisine left from the colonization that ended in 1965. After our stint was completed we packed up and headed to the relative modern comfort of South Africa, but I’ll save that story for another email.

Cheers,

       Bob of lemur land

Owl rescue and warm weather jaunts

One of the baby screech owls Lauren rescued

One of the baby screech owls Lauren rescued

Sand Hill Crane adults and chicks in Florida

Sand Hill Crane adults and chicks in Florida

Skipping across the bay with my kite in Texas

Skipping across the bay with my kite in Texas

May 2014

Hola wildlife fans,

         My Florida college student made her dad proud when she discovered three screech owl chicks had fallen from their nest, and despite efforts to return them to their mom, they ended up back on the ground in the back yard of the new rental house. Following a Google search for the care and maintenance of screech owl babies, Lauren lovingly fed them raw liver until the local wildlife rescue center could pick them up and take them to their facility and raise them to the point where they could be released into the wild. I got to visit them last week with Lauren while I was in Florida, and one of them stared at me with such intensity that I kept waiting for him to speak up like in the Dr. Doolittle movies. The lady who has cared for them since Lauren handed them over said they would be ready for release in about 2 weeks, so hopefully they’ll fly off to a happy ending.

            In other news, my kite sailing in Texas resulted in more fun rides across the water with fewer crashes, and Pat even spent some time there with me. She’s back in FL and I’m back working in CO until our next rendezvous in Washington DC in a few weeks where we’ll hop on a 17 hour plane ride for a dental project in Madagascar. It’s a new place for both of us where I’ll fix some teeth during the week with the promise of lemurs on the weekend. When that’s done we’ll hang out in South Africa for 10 days to see the big game before finishing up in Cape Town.

       I drove to work in light snow 2 days ago but it looks and feels like spring has finally arrived in the Rockies. Hope your weather is free of tornadoes and floods, and write some news form home.

Cheers,

     Africa bound Bob

Snowy hiking, biking and bobcats

Hiking on the Bear Creek trail

Hiking on the Bear Creek trail

The Saturday Knights on their morning jaunt

The Saturday Knights on their morning jaunt

A tufted ear stubby tailed bobcat in my yard

A tufted ear stubby tailed bobcat in my yard

Two bobcats enjoy the artificial turf

Two bobcats enjoy the artificial turf

Hola spring hopefuls,

            Last weekend brought a full range of weather to Colorado, so for starters a hike in the snow was in order with the Saturday Knights, a band of old guys that likes to traipse around the backcountry no matter what the conditions. The trail and trees were decked out in their best winter coverage and it made for beautiful scenery until the sun started melting it all and dropping snow on our heads and down that little exposed part of our necks on the way out. By the next day, the thermometer was flirting with 70 degrees, so I traded my snow gear for shorts and a tee shirt to bike downtown to see some friends.

            I came home later in the afternoon and as I was cleaning out the fireplace I glanced out the window and saw 2 bobcats hanging around my artificial turf in the back. It was a rare treat to see these normally elusive predators, and I called the neighbor to bring her little girls over to have a look. Mom and the girls quietly came by, and as we watched the cats from the deck, one of the young ladies, who probably tips the scales at 30 pounds started to descend the stairs to get a closer look. I mentioned to her that a bobcat might see her as a nice mid afternoon snack, so she reconsidered her position as a menu item and came back to enjoy the view from above.

            The rest of the week the weather has see-sawed between blizzards and balmy, so I’m hopeful it will make up it’s mind and I can either leave my ski racks on the car or get ready to see the flowers start to appear. Either way it’s a good excuse to get outside and commune with the elements. No matter what the groundhog says I’m ready for some spring weather and hope your flower boxes are in order too.

Cheers,

     Bobcat fan Bob

Epic snow to the huts!

Route finding on the map is more fun in a blizzard!

Route finding on the map is more fun in a blizzard!

Little blue markers are few and far between on the trail

Little blue markers are few and far between on the trail

100 Proof Yukon Jack fueled pink shorted John’s irreverent stories

100 Proof Yukon Jack fueled pink shorted John’s irreverent stories

The wood burning stove kept the hut warm and melted snow for water

The wood burning stove kept the hut warm and melted snow for water

February 2014

Hi blizzard fans,

            A few weeks ago I joined 7 cross country ski friends for a jaunt to one of the cabins in the Colorado 10 Mountain Division hut system, named after the legendary World War Two troops that trained in Colorado. We always hope to find fresh snow on the trails, and mother nature delivered with over 2 feet of powder that fell continuously for the 3 days we were out. That combined with the 30-50 mile per hour winds made it all the more interesting, but we all made the five mile ski to 11,300 feet in good spirits, and spent a few days enjoying good company, food and wine. The 2-3 foot snow drifts on the way to the outhouse in the middle of the night were challenging, and made crawling back into a warm sleeping bag even more rewarding. We skied out a few days later with no sign of our trail, and after getting temporarily lost in a sea of white, we picked up the trail and made in out in time for a visit to a new brewery in the town of Buena Vista that served up fresh Reuben sandwiches from savory grass fed beef. That led to a back seat nap for me on the drive back with the promise of a hot shower once I returned home.

       I put a few days of work in before boarding a flight to Florida to hang out with Pat for Valentine’s Day and spend a few days in sunshine and 80 degree warmth, including a day of windsurfing before heading back to Colorado to finish out the winter. It seems like I’ve shoveled our driveway more than I can remember in the past, but spring is just around the corner. Hope your winter has plenty of snow and ice to help you appreciate the prospect of warmer weather.

Cheers,

           Backcountry Bob

AFB and cue the monkeys

Joe’s rental kayak with sunken boat in the background

Joe’s rental kayak with sunken boat in the background

The gators looked well fed and no threat

The gators looked well fed and no threat

South Pole Mike and I cruising the St Lucie River

South Pole Mike and I cruising the St Lucie River

December 2013

Greetings fellow rule breakers,

            My December holiday break was wisely spent in warm, sunny Florida while the rest of the country was whining about the ice and cold. First up was a nice dinner with Pat to celebrate 32 years of marital bliss, and since it was stone crab season in Florida I got to break my way into the claws on my  plate while Pat munched a salad like a good herbivore. The next day I headed north to Ocala to meet up with Joe, one of the Antarctic docs I worked with last year who recently moved with his family from frigid Maine to Tallahassee, Florida, which he describes as “easy living.” Ocala was a good middle of the state meeting place, and we planned to canoe the crystal clear Silver River the next day. I lobbied for a 5 mile downstream, one way canoe ride with his wife and kids, and then driving the canoe and kayak back on my car’s roof rack instead of having to paddle upstream to return the boats. When I called the canoe rental concession earlier in the week and asked about this option, I was told it was not allowed because they didn’t have a shuttle service, so I simply figured once we were on the water who could stop us? Joe and I drove our cars to the park downstream and I left my car there and we drove Joe’s car back to the hotel to get his wife and kids. Pat had to work and didn’t want to be a part of my plan of deviance anyway.  Our group assembled at the put-in point after Joe gave the rental guy his name and we both handed over some cash for the canoe and kayak. No papers to sign or any check to see if we had a drivers license or had just shot our way out of prison, and off we went.

            The river was beautiful and soon we spotted a number of birds, turtles and gators. Once on the water Joe’s family agreed to go to the downstream park as long as it was clear that ABF (all Bob’s fault) was the explanation we would give at the end. The kids liked to chant  “ABF, ABF” as we cruised along, and as a special reward near the end of our run we saw a few trees full of monkeys left over from a 1940’s attraction that never took off but the monkeys remained wild in the swamps bordering the river. I said once I had “cued the monkeys” it would be the conclusion of Bob’s adventure travel trip. Once ashore I strapped the canoe to the roof of the car and drove back to the park, much to the consternation of the lady at the entrance gate who declared that I was a “bad boy” and the canoe rental guy that couldn’t quite get why I hadn’t asked him, knowing that he would tell me “NO!” We paid him for the extra hours on the water and bought him some beer to soothe his temper, and figured that since all he had was Joe’s last name that he was now on the “no paddle” list similar to the TSA’s no fly list and he may be banned from future rentals throughout the state. No harm, no foul and I thought the kids learned a valuable lesson of asking for forgiveness and not permission when you know the answer is “no.” Joe mentioned that he might send them to me when they are teenagers to keep those skills sharp.

            The rest of my holiday was spent enjoying time with Pat and her family, hanging with Lauren and her dogs, biking on some new trails with friends and windsurfing and kiting when the wind gods were smiling. I also got to dine with my mom and dad, and did a final canoe run on a river near our Florida place with Mike and his family, another Antarctica hiking buddy who just returned from a dark, soul crushing winter at the South Pole. Now it’s back to work and the Colorado snow country until the next jaunt to the warmth of the south.

Cheers,

       Bad boy Bob

 

Kiting Success!

Sailing along the bay with the wind at my back

Sailing along the bay with the wind at my back

October 2013

Hi kite fans,

            Last month my buddy, Dave called and told me his wife decided she didn’t want to go to Texas to hang out while he perfected his kite sailing skills, and asked if I would like to join him for a week on the water. It took some arm twisting and almost 10 minutes to cross out my schedule and book the tickets, and a few weeks later we were on the beach and ready to make it happen. I’ve been stuck at “mid-beginner” for what seems like a few years now, and was determined to either get the hang of kite sailing or put my gear up for sail and move on to a more suitable old guys sport like golf. I signed up for what turned out to be a “breakthrough” lesson and within a few days I was zipping across the water with my kite firmly attached to my waist, and had a ball. We spent half our time at the beach known as the flats in South Padre Island, and the only mishap was when I decided to take a shortcut across the soft sand and ripped out the plastic underside of the car that we had initialed on the rental agreement that we would NOT be driving on the beach. Fortunately between my dental and Dave’s machinist skills we were able to reattach the piece that I had left on the beach that afternoon and we could continue to sail with a clear conscience. I’m more hooked now than ever, and will be looking for a place to rig my kites and sail in Florida when I go down to visit Pat and Lauren for the holidays.

            It’s back to work for now though, and I went to an implant lecture today with Jack, the dentist I share an office with in Colorado Springs. I picked him up this morning with light snow on the ground and the thermometer pegged at 12 degrees F. When Jack asked what I thought of the weather I reminded him that a year ago I was down south on the ice and a day like this would be considered a pleasant summer day. So it’s all about attitude and perspective, and I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one with more holiday fun to follow. And, if you really want to get in the holiday spirit, since Hanukah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day you can order a Menurkey from an enterprising 9 year old who created a turkey menorah.

Cheers,

     Kiter Bob

Pilgrimage in Spain

September, 2013

Hola fellow travelers,

            Jet lag is slowly fading from the latest trip to the hinterlands, this time meeting Pat in Bilbao, Spain to see the sights and test our endurance on a portion of the trek known as the Camino de Santiago. We played tourist in the land of great architecture, history and food and were never disappointed. Bilbao was put on the map with the Guggenheim museum, but the building is far more impressive than the modern art inside, although well worth the admission to see how tons of titanium was fit together to form an image of sails along the river. We then spent a little time in Pamplona, famous for the madness known as the running of the bulls in July,  but we were too late to see any stampedes or goring, so settled on flavorful wine and tapas, known as pintxes in the Basque region.

            Then the real fun began as we hit the trail for the Camino, logging in 50 miles over 5 days, which was child’s play for many of the people we met along the way, but enough to build up some sore muscles and relish in the thought of a hot shower and a nap at the end of each afternoon. Life was simplified to eating, walking and sleeping, with some of the toughest decisions being whether to have a deliciously fresh butter or chocolate croissant at the morning break in some quaint town along the trail. We got an official pilgrim passport which gave us access to the hostels, or Auberges along the way, and shared bunk beds with dozens of new found friends in the communal bedrooms that seemed to encourage competitive snoring all night long. We ended our journey back in Bilbao, refreshed and encouraged to return someday to do more of the 474 mile trail.

            I missed the Colorado floods while I was gone, but am drying out the carpet in the basement bedroom as a reminder of the blessing and curse that rain can deliver to this part of the country. Hope you’re all dry and ready for winter, since the temps are dipping down in the 40’s here at night and it’s only a matter of time before the first snow makes an appearance.

            Cheers,

             Bilbao Bob

The Guggenheim Museum is a tribute to titanium

The Guggenheim Museum is a tribute to titanium

Spider sculpture outside the museum

Spider sculpture outside the museum

Flower dog guarding the museum

Flower dog guarding the museum

 

Bedtime with 100 bunks in an old hospital building on the church grounds

Bedtime with 100 bunks in an old hospital building on the church grounds

The Camino winding its way to the next town

The Camino winding its way to the next town

Mid-morning break for croissants and tea

Mid-morning break for croissants and tea