Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Bamboo Rafting on the Martha Brae


Back in April, I spent a week at a resort in Runaway Bay along Jamaica's north coast with my best friend.  The one time we ventured off the resort, we went to Ocho Rios where we snorkeled and climbed Dunn's River Falls.  We, like so many visitors to the island, didn't venture beyond the coast.  Earlier this month, I found myself back in Jamaica, this time on a cruise ship stop. Not wanting to duplicate what I had done in April, my husband, my parents, and I decided to explore an area of Jamaica beyond its beaches.  Bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae provided the perfect opportunity for just that.

The Martha Brae is a river in northwestern Jamaica.  Located in Trelawny Parish near the town of Falmouth, the river is approximately 20 miles east of the more well known Montego Bay and 40 miles west of popular cruise ship port of Ocho Rios.

During Jamaica's 18th and 19th century plantation era, the river was used for transporting sugar and other crops from the plantations upstream to the port town of Falmouth.  From there, the crops were loaded onto ships sailing to Europe.  The river no longer serves as a means of transporting crops, but due to its constant flow, it provides water to many local towns and towns in the western part of the island.  Even when much of the island is experiencing  drought, apparently the Martha Brae continues to flow.  The locals say that it never runs dry.

There are many variations as to how the river got its name.  Our tour guide requested that each of us ask our raft captains how the river was named and during our ride back to Ocho Rios, each couple reported what they had been told.  Interestingly, none of the explanations were the same. Some were told that Martha Brae was the first and last name of a woman; the raft guide R and I had said that the river was named after a couple - Martha was the wife and Brae was her husband.  However, despite all the inconsistencies, there was one constant - that Martha was probably a witch who practiced voodoo.  The gist of the legend goes something like this: Spanish settlers were looking for gold on the island and enlisted the help of Martha.  She led them to the gold which was located in a cave hidden by the river.  Before the Spaniards could collect the gold, Martha used her powers to reverse the flow of the river, trapping the settlers in the process.  Some say that she also died as a result.

Raft trips begin at a starting point called Rafter's Village where there are restrooms, an outdoor bar, an herb garden, and a shop or two selling souvenirs.  The launch site is a short walk away from the village.  


The boarding/launch site.


Each 30-foot bamboo raft carries two passengers and a raft captain.  According to our raft captain, the rafts can weigh upwards of 700 lbs. and typically last 4-5 years.  Much to my surprise and delight, the raft R and I shared felt very stable as we boarded and disembarked the craft and throughout the one-hour float.  It definitely didn't feel flimsy!  Using a bamboo pole, our captain steered and sometimes propelled the raft in the gentle current to Martha's Rest, the ending point 3-miles down the river.  



Rafting on the Martha Brae has been a popular tourist activity for 40 years.  It has been said that such notable celebrities such as Chuck Norris, Queen Elizabeth II, Spike Lee, Kenny Rogers, Patrick Ewing, Johnny Cash, and Usain Bolt have taken raft trips down the green tinted river.


My parents on their raft.

A Martha Brae traffic jam.

My excursion down the Martha Brae was very relaxing, tranquil, and quite a dramatic departure from the snorkeling and Dunn's River Falls excursion I had taken in April.  R, my parents, and I all enjoyed the peaceful float down the river under the lush, green canopy of trees and I have no reservations recommending this excursion.  It provided me with an opportunity to see a part of Jamaica that I hadn't seen before and to interact with some interesting locals.



Out of convenience, I booked our excursion through our cruise line, MSC.  I'm assuming that most, if not all, cruise lines that port in Jamaica probably offer Martha Brae rafting excursions but I can't say that with 100% certainty.  The tour is also available through private shore excursion operators.  For more information on this uniquely Jamaican experience, click here.


Linking up with Random-osity




Thursday, June 20, 2019

Hiking Among the Hoodoos - A Photo Essay

During my American Southwest road trip last summer, I spent one morning hiking among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park. Hoodoos are columns of weathered rock and they are in abundance in this remote national park located in the southwest Utah about 4 hours from Las Vegas, NV.

My aunt, uncle, uncle's brother, and I were up early (this was a recurring theme during the entire trip) and in the park even before the rangers arrived to man the entrance gates. Starting at Sunset Point, we descended into the hoodoos via the Navajo Loop Trail for a closer view of the mysterious rock formations.

The trail led us down a series of switchbacks and through a section known as Wall Street, a narrow canyon with high rock walls.






After reaching the canyon floor, we opted to continue along the Queen's Garden Trail instead of finishing the Navajo Loop (which leads back to the canyon rim). This trail is known as the Queen's Garden & Navajo Combination and most hikers (from what I've gathered) do it in that order whereas we did it in reverse.







Some of the park's most spectacular formations can be found in Queen's Gardens, including the formation for which the garden is named - Queen Victoria.





After a final ascent, we arrived back on the canyon rim at Sunrise Point (1/2 mile from Sunset Point, where our hike originated). The Navajo Loop/Queen's Garden Trail is a heavily trafficked, well marked 2.8 mile trail (Sunset Point to Queen's Garden to Sunrise Point back to Sunset Point), that has an elevation change of 623 feet. We didn't encounter many other hikers on the trail until our final ascent to Sunrise Point, where we met a steady, increasing stream of hikers descending into the canyon.


One bit of advice - remember, if you descend into the canyon, at the end you must ascend to get out.  This is very important to keep in mind, especially when hiking during the summer months.






Linking up with Random-osity




Friday, June 7, 2019

50 Before 50


Lawd, have mercy...  just typing this post's title just about sent my head into a frenzied spin. Seriously, how in the world can I even be contemplating turning 50 when I'm just...  LOL!  Wait, that's right.  I'm not as young as I think I am.  Even though I feel like I'm in my 30s, I'm not.  I'm solidly in my mid 40s and at this point - I'm closer to 50 than I am to 40.  Even though the big five-oh is still a few years off, it will be here before I know it.

I'm not exactly sure what compelled me to do this.  I've seen several bloggers do things like "101 in 1001" and "30 Before 30," but, I had honestly never felt compelled to attempt anything similar until recently.  I mean, seriously...  50 Before 50 sounds like such a daunting task, even more so because I'm already halfway through this decade and I don't have a full 10 years to dedicate to the list, but I digress.  I definitely believe the untimely passing of my 23 year old stepson last month played a significant part in changing my mind.  I know I've been in my head a lot more than usual - you know, contemplating life and loss and dreams and the meaning of it all.  As a result, I've really been reassessing my time on Earth and how I wish to spend it.  

Before I get on with my list, here are a few things I need to clarify:

- This is not a "bucket list."  My bucket list is something that I've never published (and probably never will) and has things on it that might not be possible for me to do until I retire. Unfortunately, one of the downfalls of being a public school employee is that I can't take vacation whenever I want and that is why some things must wait.  Also, some of my bucket list items are expensive and they have to be saved for.  I just have to be realistic; I can't afford to do everything right now or even in the next 5 years.

- Yes, there are things on this list that I've always wanted to do so they do seem bucket list-y, but overall these are just things I want to accomplish before I hit the half-century mark.  Trust me, some of them are rather mundane.  LOL!

- I will share/post my ongoing progress towards these goals on or around my birthday each year (which is in February). 

- Items marked with an asterisk* might not, due to health insurance age requirements, be able to be completed until after I turn 50.  As long as I have a plan in place to fulfill them by my 50th birthday, I will count them as completed.

- If I don't complete all these items, no biggie.  I'm a firm believer in the John Lennon quote, "Life happens to you while you're making other plans."  Some of the best things that have happened to me so far in my life were not planned and I'm extremely grateful for that.

Alright, the clock is ticking.  As of today, my 50th birthday is 4 years, 8 months, and 7 days away. Here is my 50 Before 50 list:

HOME
1. Renovate kitchen
2. Rejuvenate/redo landscaping in front yard
3. Landscape around deck
4. Massively purge garage
5. Remove miscellaneous items from gated side of house
6. Paint hallway
7. Paint trim in great room/kitchen
8. Repaint front door
9. Annually purge clothes
10. Replace shutters on front of house
11. Thin out and repot giant peace lily
12. Move to different house/build

CREATIVE
13. Assemble a shadowbox with art ribbons
14. Redo my "Twin Spires Starry Night" painting
15. Paint a portrait of my dog
16. Paint a picture of the New River Gorge
17. Create a new tile mosaic 

TRAVEL
18. Go to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (I live 4 hours away and have never been)
19. Visit a sunflower farm in Kansas
20. View the moonbow at Cumberland Falls State Park (KY)
21. Visit the resting place of the 1973 Triple Crown winner, Secretariat (Paris, KY)
22. Take tour of Waverly Hill Sanitorium (Louisville)
23. Visit the Ali Center (Louisville)
24. Visit the Falls of the Ohio State Park (OH)
25. See the Christmas Story house (Cleveland, OH)
26. Zipline in Pipestem Sate Park (WV)
27. Visit Coopers Rock State Forest (WV)
28. Take a tour of the Homer Laughlin China Company Factory, the maker of Fiestaware (WV)
29. Visit my 36th state
30. Visit my 37th state
31. Visit my 38th state
32. Visit my 39th state
33. Visit my 40th state
34. Take a solo trip

ATHLETIC
35. Complete a mud obstacle course race
36. Achieve a sub 3:15 PR in a half marathon (I'm a walker, not a runner)

HEALTH
37. Reach ONEderland 
38. Get a colonoscopy*
39. Get the shingles vaccination*
40. Visit dermatologist annually
41. Participate in a Heart Walk sponsored by the American Heart Association
42. Participate in a Alzheimer's walk in memory of my grandmother

FINANCES
43. Reduce credit card debt by at least 70%
44. Open a new $500 CD each year
45. Save $7,500 - 10,000 in travel fund

MISCELLANEOUS
46. Watch The Sound of Music
47. Make a will/living will
48. Make annual donation to American Heart Association in my stepson's memory
49. Read a banned book during Banned Books Week every year
50. Volunteer for something non-school/work related





Linking up with: Random-osity



Thursday, June 6, 2019

Currently... (Vol. 40)


Pissed...  about Trump's recent Cuba travel ban, which now prevents cruise ship passengers from going to Cuba.  Next week, I'm going on a cruise with my mom and on the 15th and 16th we were supposed to port in Havana.  The Trump administration nixed that two days ago.  Honestly, the only reason we chose to go on a cruise in the first place was because my mom wanted to see Cuba.  Not only am I super pissed, but I'm also indescribably disappointed. 

Apologizing...  for starting my post off in such a negative manner.  Sorry, I'm just really aggravated by this.

Starting...  to chisel away at my summer "to-do" list.  So far I've hauled off aluminum cans, donated several bags of stuff to charity, and I just began deep cleaning my kitchen (Lord, give me strength!).

Listening...  to the audiobook Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus.


Reading...  (yes, like with my eyeballs) To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han.  I've had a couple of false starts with this book over the past 4-5 months, so hopefully this time will stick.


Recommending...  Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  If you like rock music documentaries like VH1's "Behind the Music" back in the 1990s, then you will like this story of this fictional band that is set in the 1970s.


Anxious...  to see Toy Story 4 and Rocketman later this month.


Participating...  in a 154.8 mile virtual race along Australia's southern coastline.  LOL!  Why on earth did I pay money to do a virtual race?  Well, I figured it would be a good way of keeping myself motivated this summer.

Agreeing...  with this:
Laughing...  at this:



Adjusting...  to what my husband and I are calling our new reality after the sudden death of his son last month.  This is something we won't get over; instead, it will be something we merely learn to cope with.

Remembering and recommending... this:




May in a Snapshot:

1) Ka, H, and I at Thurby
2) My Kentucky Derby pick, flowers in the park
3) My cupcake is my co-pilot (trying to get my cupcake from Teacher Appreciation
luncheon home in one piece); hanging out with my stepdaughter's dog, Jax;
remembering GA; voting in the Kentucky primary; R napping with Jax.



What have you been up to lately?

Linking up with:

Friday, May 31, 2019

My Happy List - What I Enjoyed in May (Vol. 8)


In keeping with my plan to periodically "check-in" and share some of the things that have brought me enjoyment, (ENJOY is my word of the year, after all), please allow me to share a sampling of the things that I enjoyed in May.

I enjoyed...

May 2...  attending Thurby (the name given to the day of racing at Churchill Downs the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby) with my speech path buddies, Ka and H.  We enjoyed the weather, the abundant opportunities for "people watching," being off from work, and being able to spend the day together.

4...  spending a quiet day at home, watching the Kentucky Derby on TV, and making bad bets from the comfort of my living room.


9...  having dinner with two very dear friends whom I used to work with at my previous school.

15...  the phone conversation with my octogenarian grandparents during my afternoon commute.

21...  dinner with my former carpool buddies on a day when I   desperately needed a time-out from life.  It was nice just to do something "normal" for a few hours.*

24...  joining my R's siblings for a few hours to listen to a live band and celebrate my brother-in-law's 60th birthday.

29...  watching Aladdin.



And, because a friend of mine pointed out that I posted my April Happy List post before the month was "officially" over, here's a bonus item:

April 27...  finishing the KDF Mini Marathon in less time than it took me last year and establishing a new PR.





Have a wonderful weekend!

Linking up with:




*I despise cryptic messages, so I'd like to elaborate as to why I needed so do something "normal" on the 21st. Three days before, on May 18, my stepson died of cardiac arrest. He was 23 years old.  We are, as one would expect, still adjusting to our new normal.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Day Seven of My New Reality

"I’ve always believed that life is weird and random and mysterious. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why some things happen and some things don’t. In short, more often than not, life makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. 
Despite this belief, there’s a certain natural order that I, along with most people I think, typically expect - we are born, we grow up, we grow old, and then we die. From an early age, we expect grandparents and parents to die before us. That’s the “natural order” that we presume our lives should take.  
Death, under any circumstance, is hard. The death of a child, however, is often more difficult because it completely disrupts this natural order that we believe in.

My paternal grandparents outlived two of their four children. My grandfather once told me, in a rare moment of emotional expression and vulnerability, when my uncle and aunt died, that he lost a part of himself. 
Yesterday, my husband's 23 year old son died.  Yesterday, R lost a part of himself. 
Right now, life make absolutely no sense whatsoever. 
The upcoming days will bring rolling waves of emotion and an endless array of questions that probably have no answers.  Our lives are forever changed."

My stepson died on Saturday, May 18, 2019.  On the day after his passing, I posted the above statement on Facebook.  It came a day after my husband woke me in the early morning hours to tell me that his son had apparently collapsed in the house he shared with 3 friends and was found unresponsive by one of his roommates.  Despite the best efforts of first responders, he was unable to be revived.  

This time last week, neither my husband or I had any idea that our lives would be so drastically and permanently changed within 7 hours.  We had no idea that when the sun set that evening, it would be the last sunset his son would ever see.  Whoever coined the phrase "life turns on dime" was absolutely right.

Today is day seven of what R and I are calling "our new reality."  During the past seven days, we have survived the initial shock, made the necessary arrangements, attended the services, and said our goodbyes.  We have taken GA as far as we can take him; where he has gone, we cannot follow.




Thursday, May 16, 2019

Why the Week After a Half Marathon is Always Weird


On the last Saturday in April, I walked my third half marathon and I beat the time it took me to complete the same half marathon ten years earlier (at the age of 35) by 20 minutes.  I also shaved 4 minutes off my time from last year and established a new PR!  In the moments after I crossed the finish line and for the next 48 hours or so, I was absolutely elated. 

You see, it was an accomplishment I wasn't sure I would be able to attain this year.  The overly rainy winter made it difficult to get in all my training walks and coming down with food poisoning (or whatever it was) knocked me out of commission for two weeks in early April.  In the week leading up to the race, I admit that I didn't feel ready and I seriously doubted I'd be able to beat last year's time (my only goal).  Once I crossed the finish line and realized that I had beaten my time, I was so overcome by emotion that I cried.  I rode that accomplishment high for the next two days.  Then, just as I had anticipated, three days later the post race blues hit.  The week after a half marathon, for me at least, has always been weird.

Luckily, I knew to anticipate this weirdness because that wasn't, as they say, my first rodeo.  

In 2009, after my first half marathon, the post race blues hit me hard.  For that race, I had overcome numerous obstacles ranging from plantar fasciitis to shin splints to lower back issues caused by an auto accident.  Start to finish, I invested 16 months of my life to a road race that took me less than 4 hours to finish.  I was so happy when I crossed the finish line and I felt so proud of myself for having pushed through all the difficult challenges I faced to see that endeavor through to the end.  But, considering all the time, effort, money, sweat, and tears that I put into that half marathon, I truly expected the euphoric feeling to last longer than it did.  Within a few days, my life had returned to normal and I realized that despite everything I had sacrificed, that nothing had really changed, with the exception that I felt directionless and that walking had lost all its appeal.  Seriously, I didn't walk again for exercise until 2016 - 7 years later.  I burned myself out that badly.

I've always heard that the higher your emotions soar on the day of an achievement or the more consumed your are towards the attainment of a goal - be it a race or graduation or whatever - the lower you feel afterward.  That's exactly what happened to me.  The sudden shift from months and months of training and having such an intense focus on the goal to everyday real life left me feeling more let down than I had ever known.  The best way I can describe it is like zipping along the intestate going about 80 or 90 mph for hours and then suddenly slamming on the brakes, bringing the car to a complete halt. 

When I opted to participate in the same half marathon in 2018, my approach was completely different.  Instead of being so consumed by the attainment of the goal, I simply focused on enjoying the journey.  Also, my motivation had changed.  I had two motivating factors - one, to do it with my friend who is a breast cancer survivor and two, to simply better my physical well being. The overall experience was so different from my first, I actually enjoyed it and it didn't consume me.   But, even despite this, I still felt a little let down the week following the race.  From January to the end of April, a significant portion of my life had been spent preparing for that race - and I'm not just talking about the training schedule and actual walking.  In addition to pounding the pavement, I spent a lot of time looking at weather reports, planning my walks around the weather, sometimes rearranging other life and work obligations in order to get in my walks, and planning what I would would wear in various elements I encountered.  Even though I wasn't hard-core in my training, the KDF Mini Marathon shaped what I did nearly every single day. Once it was over, there was a palpable void in my life.  

Knowing that these weird, post race blues are inevitable, here are some things I did this year to combat the weirdness.

First, I gave myself permission to feel what I was feeling and not to beat myself up about it.  A simple Google search brings up dozens and dozens of articles and blogs that touch on the subject of post race blues.  This feeling is more common than one might think.  It helped knowing that I wasn't alone in what I was feeling.

Second, I made plans to attend Churchill Downs for a day of horse racing with friends during the week after the half marathon.  It was nice to have something, even if it was just a small, single day event, to look forward to.

Third, I set my sights on my next challenge - a mud obstacle course run in September.  Although I will still utilize my walking for my cardio training, I have to diversify my workouts to include upper body strength.  Switching it up has been a nice change of pace and I do enjoy having something to work towards.

I fully expect to have another weird week after I complete the Rugged Maniac in late summer. Thankfully, I know how to deal with the weirdness and know that the weirdness won't last forever.


Have you experienced any kind of post-event blues?  How did you cope with feeling down?



Photo Credit: Bui Huy via Pexels
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