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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Playing Catch Up

Our two months in the States is over and here we are back in beautiful Costa Rica. It is absolutely wonderful to be here again! But I do face a challenge in trying to summarize for you all the joys and sorrows, adventures and misadventures we had in our travels.

Our first two weeks were spent with my mom in San Angelo in West Texas, where some of the all-time best barbeque can be found. And find it we did, rather often. Our favorite place was Bodacious Barbeque where the chopped brisket and baked beans are a standout.
Chili Relleno at Henry's

But we also wanted some Tex-Mex, chock-full of the spices and chilies that we miss in Costa Rican food. Armenta's, Los Panchito's and Henry's all fit the bill; we enjoyed enchiladas, tacos, chili rellenos and nachos to our heart's content.

One of the main attractions for us in San Angelo is Sealy Flats Blues Bar and Diner, where live music is on stage most every night. Lucky for us, my old friend world-class blues diva Candye Kane was playing there just a week into our stay. With help from her outstanding band, featuring that killer lead guitarist Laura Chavez, Candye brings the house down every time she steps on stage decked out in one of her sparkly, spangled costumes. We made it to the club for two of the three nights she performed and loved every minute.

Candye and Yours Truly
But it was soon time to head for Portland where much less happy duties awaited us. With Layne's sister Annie in the last stages of cancer and suffering as well from Alzheimer's, we knew that her time with us was limited, and indeed, she passed away only days after our arrival. Then the sad task of planning her memorial service fell to us and a few other loving relatives, culminating in a beautiful and remarkably celebratory event honoring her life of love and devotion to family and friends.

Fun in the cold!
Our work in preparing and conducting the memorial service meant canceling our trip to California to see my son Damian and grandson Kai, a missed contact that we deeply regretted. But we did manage to drive to Central Oregon for an overnight visit with Penny and Joel, very dear friends from our horseback-riding days in California. Although the weather was a bit chilly for Layne and me, accustomed as we are to the tropics, Penny served up delicious food as always, and Joel entertained us with his wry humor. It was as if we had been together only the day before.
Upon our return to Portland, we found time for a few walks enjoying the beautiful fall colors and watching a family of muskrats gamboling along Fanno Creek trails.

But soon it was time for us to return to Texas where we planned to spend most of our two-month stay helping my mom with some of the projects around her house and getting the upstairs in shape for our eventual residency there next spring. Now that my mom is a woman "of a certain age," Layne and I feel that we need to be with her to make her life a little easier. She's a very independent person and we respect that, but we also know that some things have become difficult or painful for her so we plan to step in to ease the load a little. Besides, it's free rent!

Even in the last days of our trip, we managed to squeeze in a very brief, but utterly wonderful visit to rugged and scenic Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. Our good friends Sally and Leonard, expats we met here in Costa Rica a few years ago, last spring decided to return to the U.S. They bought a luxurious big RV and are now serving as volunteer hosts at national parks around the nation, feeding their unquenchable taste for adventure. It was our good fortune that they had just begun a gig at Big Bend and when they invited us to visit, my mother urged us to go. She had visited Big Bend some years ago and she assured us it was not to be missed, especially with well-trained hosts to guide us. And by Texas standards, it was not all that far away: only a four to five hour drive!

So we rented a car and drove across the boring West Texas landscape to Big Bend, which turned out to be a stunning park of amazing geologic formations and extravagant desert vistas. Our first afternoon there, with Sally doing volunteer work in the Visitor's Center, Leonard drove us for miles around the huge park, all the way down to the Texas-Mexico border of the Rio Grande and Santa Elena Canyon, a truly astounding panorama of vertical cliffs running along the shallow meandering river channel. 
Our guide Leonard points out the geology
 Solitary hiker at Santa Elena Canyon: Mexico on the left, Texas on the right

The next morning all four of us made the drive up to Chisos Basin, a magical valley at 5400' elevation held in the embrace of huge rock formations and monstrous volcanic peaks such as Casa Grande, which towers over the Basin at 7300 feet. As we enjoyed the breakfast buffet and the view through the "Window" to the desert far below, we had the good luck to see a mother black bear and her two cubs scrambling down the side of a nearby hill. Unfortunately, the battery on my camera was dead and Sally's shots on her phone didn't quite work but what a thrill it was to see these animals in their own habitat and to enjoy spectacular Big Bend National Park.

Soon it was back to San Angelo and last preparations for our return to Costa Rica and the happy reunion with our adorable puppy Winston. No longer the little insecure fellow we left in the excellent care of our friends Chris and Sue, now he's all grown up and well deserves his nickname: The Moose!

Check out Layne's novel "Moral Turpitude," Kindle edition now available for only $4.99 at Five star reviews! High adventure with corporate intrigue, danger and romance; from the exotic jungles of Borneo and Costa Rica to the erotic jungles of San Francisco. A great read! Pick up your copy here -

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