Monday, June 15, 2015


Susan and John enjoying a glass of wine on the terrace before cooking some burgers

Wow!  what was supposed to be a 2 week return to Florida turned into a 4 week fiasco.   It started with Spirit Airlines.  It ended with Blue Cross Medicare Supplement. 

We were heading back on Monday for a Wednesday Doctor appointment.  I was concerned that the Gastrointestinal problems of 9 years ago were returning.  I was concerned and truthfully, a bit frightened.  We spent Sunday night in San Jose so we would be sure not to miss our flight.  About 9 in the morning we got an email from Spirit that our flight was cancelled due to Volcanic Ash in the air.  We were still at the B&B and I immediately got on line and scheduled the same flight for the next day.  Got the reservation.  Went to the airport as we paid for the next flight (which they charged more for) and said we were told on your web site that we could exchange at the same price if the flight was changed or cancelled.  It took several phone calls, but they finally agreed.  WE ALSO NOTICED THAT EVERY OTHER AIRLINE WAS FLYING!  Went back to the B&B for the day.

Next morning, Tuesday, decided to get to the airport very early.  4 hours before flight time.  We had gone on line and all was good,  Arriving plane was on time, flight leaving at noon.  In line with 10 others at 8 AM.  No Spirit people there.  Waited for an hour watching the signs saying all was on time.  Employees showed up at 9 as the signs changed to honor their arrival.  Flight Cancelled.  Volcanic Ash.  Susan stayed in line, I ran to an internet connection to find another flight TODAY!  Fortunately, all the other airlines were flying, but all of the others were a LOT more expensive.  I had a Doc appointment the next morning, so I had to be there.  It took two months to schedule this one. 

Our kids had taken COPA airlines from Chicago, so I checked with them.  They had a flight to Panama City, then a direct flight from Panama City to Tampa.  Arriving about midnight.  It cost about $400 more (for both of us) than Spirit, but we would get back in time. 

COPA is a wonderful Airline.  Seats are bigger, MUCH more leg room, and on both legs of the flight they served food.  They fly throughout Mexico, Central America, South America, to a limited number of destinations in the US and one in Europe.  I think they are the best airline I have flown on in many years. 

End of sales pitch. 

Start of un-sales pitch.  SPIRIT offers nothing in the way of help for cancelled flights other than your money back.  No rebooking, no meal vouchers, no help with rooms.  You are on your own.  I have enough points for a free flight sometime, and will use them, but  NEVER fly I will NEVER fly with SPIRIT again. 

Arrived in FL at midnight.  Turned on my cell phone and read an email from my doctors office.  Blue Cross had refused to pay for my Doctors visit the next morning and they cancelled my appointment.  Next opening was in a week.  Frantic calls to BCBS led to them saying that to see a specialist I had to have a referral from my primary care Doc in MI, not from the GP they had paid for several times in Florida.  Over the next 7 days, I called, Docs called, nurses exchanged, Insurance ruled, but finally they agreed to let me see the specialist.  I called them back and said that this would likely end up with a Colonoscopy, and Endoscopy.  Did I need a separate OK for them?  No, I was told...if we approved the visit, the treatment was also approved.  Saw the Doc.  His next procedure opening was in 2 months, but he agreed it was important, now, so on one of his "procedure days" he agreed to stay late and do it. 

It was at 2 PM, which required me to start the prep work the previous afternoon about 1.  At 4:30 the phone rang...Doc's office...BCBS had just said they would not pay for the procedure...They said I should drive back to MI and have it done there.  I said to hold the appointment, I would call BCBS.  then another call.  The hospital said BCBS would not pay for their end of the procedure.  I called BCBS.  Nope, no payment, but I could appeal and they would have a response in 30 days.  Something is wrong here.  BCBS had a week to let us know this, but the day before, late in the day, after starting drinking the gallon of prep stuff, they decided to cancel everything.  I decided to self pay, and all went well.  Got some new meds.  All biposies were good as well.  Only frustrated.

It was good to have Amazon as part of our lives again.  We shopped for things for Costa Rica, visited with friends, did some more shopping.  Tried to work with our new realtor in Saugatuck without much success, bought a new camera (7D mark iii).  We never made it to beach a single time in the 4 weeks we were there.  It was hot during the day, but usually pleasant at night.  We just relaxed and tried to catch up with banking, credit cards, some maintenance issues, a few gardening things. 

I forget how special it is to photograph in Florida...Big birds and bright light.  Beautiful and colorful sunsets.  Who can ask for more...well..I miss the volcano and the jungle and the quiet of Costa Rica. 

The quiet.  We both forgot about the sounds of the city.  Boats at all times of night.  Airplanes flying around.  Police sirens.  People talking.  Cars and trucks driving, and starting and stopping.  Traffic everywhere.  Huge stores, filled with people.  Malls.  Enough said.  the first week it was hard to sleep and then hard to stay awake from lack of sleep. 

While in Florida, I only took pictures from in front of our condo...never made it to any of my favorite birding are a few...

 A beautiful Great White Egret reflected in the evening sun

 This Wood Stork is feeding on some little creatures in the bay.

A Skimmer, skimming...I have tried to get this shot for several years, then one evening, here it is.  This is the only bird with a lower bill substantially longer then the upper, allowing him to fly very close to the water's surface drop his lower bill into the water and scoop out his meal as he flies.

A laughing gull...plentiful this time of year in Florida

A black crowned Night Heron, sneaking along the shore line looking for something to eat in the grass

 A tern, looking for small fish in the water.  When he sees one, he dives into the water to get it...

A tri-Colored Heron in breeding colors.  The blue is something that attracts the female.

 Florida Sunsets are amazing

Storm clouds roll in

It will rain tonight...soon.  The storm approaches from the North

Back in Costa Rica about June 1.  You can tell that the rainy season has started as even around San Jose, things are green.  There has been a drought throughout the country, much like California.  In the Pacific Northwest, there is 95% less rain than normal.  Same in the far southwest.  Around the central valley, about 60% of the normal rainfall.  Same on the south east Caribbean coast.  As you get to the northeast Caribbean coast, they have had about 60% MORE rain than normal and in the central north, where we are, about 95% MORE rain.  It is lush here.  The great news since we got back 2 weeks ago is that the days have been beautiful.  Warm, low wind high clouds and slight overcast.  Temps in the low 80's.  Nighttime is another the sun sets, the rains arrive.  One night, over 2 inches in just 4 hours.  Several other nights over an inch.  Some nights just a slow rain.  But interestingly, by sunrise, it has usually been clear.  We awaken and see the the Volcano, hidden the evening before by rain clouds.  It is good.

Sadly, we expected to return to a completed house.  Not so.  Little was done since we left a month earlier.  The reason???  It seems that Greivin, our construction person, was going boating with some friends.  The truck with the boat behind it parked on a hill first, then Greivin's car behind it a bit.  Greivin was between his car and the back of the boat trailer, when one of his friends disconnected the trailer from the truck.  He did not know Greivin was between, and he could not hold the trailer because of the slope.  It slid back and trapped his lower leg between the two.  Nothing like a month in a cast with strict orders not to put any weight on it.  No Boss, no workers.  No workers, no progress.  No progress, stuck in the same place once again.

Our plan is to rent the house (without the master suite and office) between the 10th of July and the 20th of January.  We have worked out a plan with Charlie and his son to meet and greet visitors. Lillian and her husband Adan (and 3 year old daughter Dianna), will be in charge of the house and grounds while we are gone.  Lillian will clean the house for guests and cook breakfasts.  Adan will be in charge of the grounds.  It is not the main season for rentals, but we hope this is a good way to at least pay our expenses for the Costa Rica house.  We are now listed on Air B&B and will find another place or two to list as well.  We only plan to rent during the time we are not in Costa Rica.

On July 9th when we head back to the states for the Summer, fall and holidays.  John is performing a wedding for the son of a dear friend in Chicago.  John was so honored to be asked.  We will visit Susan's daughter and family for a few days after the ceremony.  Then to Milwaukee for a few days to see Johns family and some friends.  From there to visit to friends in Saugatuck for a week or so, then  to New Jersey to see Susan's brother Ted and his family.  Heading somewhat south again, we hope to see Susan's Aunt (now well into her 90's) on the border between West Virginia and Ohio.  The timing is such that as we continue driving we should be able to stop by the youth track Nationals where Grandson Lewis should be running in 4 different National track races again this year.  And we hope to join Lewis and his family in DC for two days as well.  (Hard to believe, but neither Susan or I have spent any time in DC.)  From there to Mississippi to see Susan's daughter Heidi and her family, and finally, back to Florida by late August. I am exhausted just writing all this down.  We did the trip on Google Maps and it is about 3000 miles, assuming we never drive anywhere while we are visiting. 

But, back to Costa Rica...  Wish I could show you pictures of the completed home, but that is not to be just yet.  Guess the best thing is to simply show you a picture commentary of what has happened at The Home of The White Hawk in the two weeks we have been here.

 The upstairs bedroom is almost completed.  Still a bit of terrace painting and a new floor drain and a screen on the bathroom window.  Then it will be ready!

 We built a web site for AirBnB for fall and early winter rentals.  Thought I would show some updated photos that are on that site.  

The house as seen from the driveway

 The kitchen

 The dining room looks great.  Everyone loves the table and chairs

 Living room with floor to ceiling glass wall and chairs that swivel to either watch TV or look outside

The terrace garden continues to grow and to bloom.   This is the jungle side.  Just outside of the photo are 30 coffee plants, a dozen pineapple plants, a big row of edible Hibiscus, 
hot peppers mango trees grown from seeds, Papaya from seeds, orange trees and more banana trees.

The other side of the terrace garden.  A bit more infant, but lots of potential within the next year.  Some Ginger, Helliconia, eucalyptus, orchids, big flowered hibiscus, bougainvillea and more.

And the ever changing faces of the Volcano. 
All pictures from the Terrace

One of the beautiful things here is the cloud forest.  As the temperature of the air changes, pockets of clouds appear from the jungle floor and move across the landscape.

At times they get dense, obliterating everything in sight. 

Then they move on...

Changing the landscape in moments, painting a new canvas soon to be repainted again...
and again...and again

Last night a huge lightning and Rain storm.  Captured this beauty showing 2 ground hits on 
different distant mountain ridges and multiple side bolts as well. 

Of course we have to share some new garden flowers...This one was cut from a small tree along a road.  Someday it will be a beautiful tree that blooms almost year 'round.

The smallest of the large bloom hibiscus.  This bloom is just over 5 inches across

Susan selected this beautiful blue flowering shrub.  It will grow to about 5 feet 
and be covered in blossoms year round

One of our favorite Orchids.  They grow in clumps that grow ever larger, 
often reaching 8 to 10 feet tall with 50 or more stalks.  These are just starting.  
Only a single stalk 6 months ago.  Today, there are already 6.

The Spider Monkeys paid a visit today.  In the trees only a short distance behind the house.  
It was a real treat.  
This guy was concentrating on what path to take to catch up with his traveling family.

Apparently the big bean-like fruits in this tree taste pretty good

Contemplation and concentration.  Not sure if he is thinking about food or staring me down

And the birds...there are always new birds flying around.
I think this is an Osprey, a surprise visitor

This American Swallow-tailed Kite has returned to our area.  They spend about 6 months a year here. A big graceful bird, always a beautiful sight to see as they soar across the valley...

Our garden is filled with these Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds.  They are around from morning till night, and the purple foxtail you see in this shot is their favorite food.  We have planted many.

 Mother and child.  These gray-capped Flycatchers are either practicing flying in place, or the baby is asking for food and mom is saying "sorry...I have none."

Similar looks but a different size.  This Tropical Kingbird is a fixture around here.

 This Blue-gray Tanager is nesting in one of the palm trees in front of the house.

This tiny female smashed into our terrace window.  We picked her up and held her cupped in our hands for about 10 minutes as she recovered.  Then she sat on one of our terrace plants for another 10 minutes before flying off.  Cannot find her in any of my books. 

That's it for today.  Thanks for spending some time with us.  Will try to write again soon...and to all of you who follow our Blog, thanks so much.

Susan and John