Friday, February 9, 2018

A Sneak Peek

We’re flying down to Panama tomorrow.  Our first trip was in 2006 and was absolutely wonderful.

Panama is in Central America.  It is bordered by Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the southeast.

When we were there in 2006 the country was gearing up for an election to expand the canal.  At a cost of 5 billion dollars, expected completion was 2014.  The new locks opened 2 years after the expected completion date and one billion dollars over budget.

We watched several ships move through the locks.  This coming trip we will not be in the area of the canal so we’re glad we were able to see it previously.

Ship in the locks.

The national bird of Panama is the Harpy Eagle.  We were able to see two Harpy's in a zoo but didn’t see any in the wild.  This coming trip will put us in prime Harpy habitat.

Harpy Eagle

Would you like to see the largest rodent in the world?  Actually they’re pretty cute!


We haven’t seen all 987 bird species of Panama but we have seen lots of beautiful, colorful birds.

Capped Heron

 Crimson-backed Tanager

 Blue-gray Tanager

 Spectacled Owl

 Keel-billed Toucan

 Red-legged Honeycreeper

It’s not all birds - there are plenty of other things to see here.

 Blue Morpho

 Green Vine Snake eating a Palm Tanager


Hanging out with the hummingbirds.

3-toed Sloth

Our first week will be spent in the Darian.  An area we haven't visited before.  From there it's several days at Canopy Lodge.  We spent some time at Canopy Lodge in 2006 and really enjoyed this beautiful place.

Our room in 2006.

I'm sure the time will go by way to fast and we will be home before we know it with lots and lots of pictures.

Hasta la vista.

Friday, January 12, 2018


Have you ever heard of SAS Shoes?  Do you know what SAS stands for?  Did you know they are made in Texas?

I have heard of SAS shoes and, wrongly, just assumed the name was short for sassy.  I never really put much thought into it.

Well, SAS stands for San Antonio Shoemakers.  

 The General Store.

We can get to San Antonio in about an hour.  When you live in Texas an hour doesn’t seem that far.

The company was founded in 1976 by Terry Armstrong and Lew Hayden.  There is also a much larger factory in Del Rio, Texas. 

Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed in the factory.  Besides Mark and I there were two other people on our tour.  We boarded the bus at the General Store at 9:15.  The trip to the factory took about 30 seconds!  Our guide, Celia, has worked with the company for over 30 years.  She was very nice and knowledgeable.  There were a couple of rules we had to follow.  Probably the most important was to not talk to the workers.  We were told that they get paid by the piece and to not disturb them.  Everyone was friendly and we got a lot of smiles.  At every station Celia would pick up the finished piece for that station and explain what the employee was doing.

We learned that the leather is cow hide that comes from Mexico, Italy, and the northern US.  Even though the tour was only about an hour long, we were able to see the entire production of making a hand-crafted shoe.  Of the couple of hundred or so employees, that we saw, there were only a handful of men. Celia wouldn’t tell me how many people were employed here but she did say that most of them were women.

I will say, these shoes are expensive.  After seeing how they are made, I can see why.  There were no conveyor belts with shoes whizzing by while computers did all the work.  Every station had a person either doing all the work or part of the work.  We saw employees laying out giant cow hides that would be cut by a computer but we also saw employees hand stamping the leather pieces (just like cutting out cookie dough!).  Others were hand laying and gluing the various pieces together - they had to fit perfectly.  There are 65 - 100 steps, depending on the style, for every shoe made.

But the sight that will stay in my mind forever - the women hand sewing the shoes!  Holes are pre-cut into the leather so that every piece lines up perfectly but it still looked like a lot of work pushing a needle through the leather.

The top of the shoe is hand sewn to the sides!

After the tour we went back to the General Store.  I saw some sneakers that I really liked (mostly because they were orange), but I didn’t find my size so no purchases were made.

 Lots of shoes for sale in the General Store.

There was a small area inside the store were kids shoes were being made. 

 Mark holding a tiny shoe.

Industrial size sewing machine.

There was one employee working in this area. She was very friendly and didn’t mind talking to us. 

Roughing up the botton of the shoe before the sole is glued on.

The founders of the company were also car collectors and there are many displayed outside the General Store. 

It was killing me not to be able to take pictures of this fascinating tour!  If you like factory tours, this is worth the trip.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

2017 Review

2017 was an amazing year for us. 

January:  We started out celebrating our 34th anniversary with a fabulous trip to Costa Rica with friends Rick and Sharon.

We saw birds, snakes, frogs, monkeys, etc. and had a wonderful time.

We spent a few weeks home before we headed out to our summer volunteer job in Washington.

February:  After leaving Texas we spent a very short time in New Mexico before heading into Arizona where we visited friends Randy and Serene.  Mark and Randy played disc golf while Serene and I visited. 
Mark, Serene, Randy, and Elko.

We saw London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Mark walking across London Bridge.

Next stop was California where we saw plenty of flooding.  With terrible weather we were not able to get out and do very much sightseeing.

Heavy flooding on IH-5 in California.

We spent a couple of days in Oregon where we saw very little sunshine.  Then headed on to our summer gig at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in Sequim, Washington.

Mark on "The Spit".  Dungeness NWR.

March:  We spent a little over 4 months at Dungeness and were able to do quite a bit of sightseeing. 

New Dungeness Lighthouse.

Snow!  March might not be the best time to be in Washington. 

We tried to visit as many tourist attractions as possible while we were in Washington:  Olympic National Park, Marine Life Center, Neah Bay, Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rain Forest, Naval Undersea Museum, USS Turner Joy Destroyer, the Bug Museum and lots more.

 Pacific White-sided Dolphin.  Marine Life Center.

 Troll Haven.

Undersea Naval Museum.

We also celebrated 7 years of retirement on March 31st!

April:  While still volunteering at Dungeness NWR, we went on a 3 day cruise to the San Juan Islands with Puget Sound Express.  We spent our evenings at the beautiful Roche Harbor Hotel while taking day trips on the Glacier Spirit.  We saw whales, seals, birds and many other interesting things.

 Aboard the Glacier Spirit.

 Dall's Harbor Porpoise Hybrid.

 Stellar Sea Lion.

Our friends Randy and Serene visited and we had a fun filled day at the Olympic Game Farm.

Feeding the animals at the Olympic Game Farm with Randy and Serene.

May:  We took a two week vacation from Dungeness in order to take a cruise to Alaska.  It was an unforgettable adventure aboard the UnCruise Wilderness Discoverer.  While on-board we also celebrated Mark’s birthday.

 Alaska inside passage.

 Dawes Glacier.
Watching critters from the skiff.

 Humpback Whale.

 On board the UnCruise Wilderness Discoverer.

June:  By the end of June we had finished our job at Dungeness and decided to start heading South. We received word that we could start work at Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area in La Grande, Oregon.

Finishing up the trail work at Dungeness NWR.

July:  Our main job at Ladd Marsh was to get the volunteer site cleaned up and ready for use. 



We were only at Ladd Marsh for 7 weeks but during that time we saw some beautiful areas such as Anthony lakes and Hell’s Canyon.

 Anthony Lakes Recreation Area.

Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area.

August:  After leaving Ladd Marsh we quickly make our way south.  We spent a couple of days in Idaho where we visited friends Randy and Serene and saw the Devil’s Washbowl.  Then it was on to Utah for the solar eclipse and finishing the month in New Mexico.
Devil's Washbowl.

Checking out the eclipse.

September:  We made it back home!  We spent a lot of time playing our favorite disc golf courses and eating at our favorite restaurants.
One of many disc golf courses in our area.

October:  By this time we know that, due to hurricane Harvey, we will not be volunteering at Goose Island State Park.  We make some calls and are on the road to Martin Dies, Jr. State Park in Jasper, Texas by the end of the month.

Our site at Martin Dies.

November:  We spend time hunting for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, play several new disc golf courses,  hike, bike and kayak while volunteering at Martin Dies.

December:  We’re finishing up our 2 month stint at Martin Dies with 2 1/2 weeks of stump grinding.  Our last work day was December 31st.

One of a couple hundred stumps to be ground.

We volunteered a combined total of 1,454 hours in 2017!

2018 is going to be just as exciting and fun.  We’ve got an amazing trip planned for our 35th anniversary and have locked in our summer volunteer jobs.

Stay tuned!