Saturday, September 12, 2015

Summer Catch Up...Panama Visit, Road Trip Part 1...Chicago, Milwaukee, Saugatuck

WOW…over 2 months have passed since our last blog entry.  Of course, we have created many reasons in our minds to account for this delay, but that is the way we rationalize life sometimes.  We made a major trip back to the states, in John’s case…it was his first in almost a year!  He wanted to be right there as the house was built and finished, and the 6 month project somehow mushroomed into over 15 months. Susan and I moved in last year, and this year in July we started renting it out while we are not there.  The response has been overwhelming. 

It is being rented as "The Home of The White Hawk...A Private, Romantic Retreat for Two."  The best rental deals are on Air BnB, and our listing number is 6713160.  Should you want to visit Costa Rica and spend a few days in the rural areas near Arenal Volcano, just go to and search on our listing number.  See if the dates are available then drop me an me your name and when you are planning to stay.  Then go ahead and make the reservation and before I confirm, I will drop the price by 10%, just for being a blog reader.  Good for all of us.

White Hawk is nestled in the Cloud Forest with amazing views...
Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal
Toucans and Monkeys and flowers and Jungle

Is there a better place to grill out?

Sunrise from the terrace

Sunset From the terrace

Back to the USA via Panama City, Panama

Once again, I digress...Anyway, We were both ready to spend time with friends, family and Amazon.  So we are going all the way back to July 9 when we left Costa Rica to return to the states.

We have been flying on COPA airlines, our new favorite.  COPA is based in Panama, has a large fleet of newer planes, and outstanding record of on time and safe flights.  They serve a hot meal on all flights, even between Panama City and San Jose.  Their planes have MUCH more legroom than any flight I have been on in years.  Free wine and soda with your meal.  Our previous flight from Tampa to Panama City offered 16 movies to choose from, on a screen on the back of each seat.

As the time to head back to the states approached, of course, we looked at COPA.  The flights were perfect.  Leave San Jose to fly to Panama City at 12:30 in the afternoon (we will not have to spend a night in San Jose to catch an early morning flight) and then Panama City direct to Tampa at 7:30 PM.  Without investigating as closely as we should have, we booked it.  A few days before leaving, we checked the reservations and discovered, to our dismay, the connecting flight was the next day.  We had a layover in Panama City of over 24 hours!  Every day but Thursday…our flight day…there is a connecting flight the same day, but not Thursdays, the chance day we happened to be flying.  Time to try to make something good out of this surprise. 

We had Marriott points and made a reservation at the Marriott in Downtown Panama City.  And on our way out of the airport in Panama City we met Ramon.  A great guy who spoke a bit of English.  He was like the Uber of Panama, a freelancer.  He gave us a great price to our hotel, and as we talked, he agreed to also take us for sightseeing the next day. He agreed to pick us up at the hotel the next morning, take us sight seeing for 4 hours, then back to the hotel to get our bags and then to the airport.  Instead of 4 hours we drove and walked from 10:30 in the morning and got back to the airport by 5:45 in the afternoon, just in time to catch our flight home to Tampa.  Here are some photos of our first…and not our last Panama adventure.  We loved Panama...

The surprise view of this beautiful city in a 3rd world Country

And it gets even more beautiful as you approach the Ocean

 As you move explore further, it becomes even more unique

 A closer view of that unique building in the center of the previous image

 But even in this modern area, parts of the third world stick out...
This is a main street downtown Power pole

We also spent a bit of time at the Panama Canal...
but a storm was approaching and no boats were going through today...

 The Bridge in the background was a USA gift 
to connect the main downtown to the canal

The boats are waiting to be allowed to enter the canal from this end

The visitors stand view of the canal.  If it looks narrow it is
often there are only a few inches on each side for the container ships to pass through

The rain and fog moved in...all ship traffic stopped
time to move on 

Next stop, Old Town, and area of restoration and renovation and history.  
Many of the these buildings go back to the early 16th century

Of course, most of the oldest areas start with the churches...some restored
some under restoration...some just there as they remain.
But all well cared for.

 To the right, a portion of the building (white) has been restored and is in use

 A Beautiful Bell tower is...

 Part of a restored church...stained glass intact

And interior restoration when finished is beautiful

The homes and apartments, when finished are also beautiful

 Often seem to be right out of a story book

 Many of these are for rent on a daily or weekly basis

Just as fascinating are the many under restoration.
Once the interior walls are destroyed to modernize, nothing is left to hold the building together. so a unique form of braces are added to the outside to hold up the 300 or 400 year old walls

Look in the windows of this exterior and see the remnants of the interior structure...
now waiting for a roof and then interior construction

Same building with a view of how big it is...
Amazing to see so much work being done in a small and ancient area

And, of Course there are many not nearly as far along
but they hold dreams worth of potential

These two blocks on both sides of the street are under various stages of restoration

Ocean Front...can you imagine the potential?

 Looks a bit like New Orleans

And those of you who follow my photography know how much I love doors

You gotta love the cell phone antenna

I always wonder what is on the other side of the closed door

The old ironwork is beautiful

People here are beautiful as well.  
Old Town is the night life of the city...the day life of people just trying to get by...

We got back to Florida for a few days.   
 But it was SOOOOOOO hot.
About the only photograpahy in Florida were Sunsets, taken from the condo.

It was time to start the Great 2015 Road Trip. 

It would cover a bit more than 3,500 miles in the next month and a half.  



We headed north to Chicago where John was to perform a wedding for Greg and Shimmy. Greg is the son of a dear friend of ours from Saugatuck, Ann Horton. When Greg called John to ask him about marrying he and Shimmy, John said it was one of those great honors that sometimes happen in life.  At the wedding we had the chance to spend some time with family and friends, walk the city, and have a wonderful time at a beautiful wedding at the University club. 

 Greg and Shimul...the newly just a few moments

Susan and our friend Ann, Mother of the bride

Then, of course, we spent some time with our daughter Shawn, her husband Jeff and our two granddaughters Emmy and Ally.  With them, we went to the lake shore to walk the dogs, ate ice cream, and had a great time in the city.

The Peace of the lake...something we all strive for

Guardian Tree

The energy of a Border Collie

Is exceeded only by two of them...

 Susan and John enjoying the Windy City

Susan surrounded by her umbrella toting friends

Daughter and Granddaughters

Spending some time at the Natural History Museum...How are these for amazing Totems

Us, right after Ice Cream 

Daughter and Granddaughters riding the horse


We made the drive to Milwaukee to see John's family.  We stayed at daughter Brenda’s house, and took the family…Brenda, Johnny, Jim and Becky and grandsons Max and Lewis (now14 and almost 16) to the Washington County Fair, the next afternoon.  The next day we took the Grandsons on a Boat tour of the Milwaukee harbor and river walk, and the next day visited friends and then a family cookout.   We left after visiting Brenda at the stable where she keeps her beautiful horse, a jumper.  Three days later, we were exhausted...

The hit "ride" of the fair...a big inflateable pond with plastic spheres you climb into
and then they are blow up and you try to walk or run or fall

Grandson 2 in the pond

Grandson 1, inflating

A beautiful River Cruise, starting in the Milwaukee River

Susan in the wind on the lake

Perhaps the most beautiful Art Museum in the world...the wings rise at 11 AM every day 
and close in the evening 
Keeping the interior light perfect for viewing the collections

The harbor lighthouse, actively inhabited before the turn of the century till the 60's. 
The keepers lived there year-round, walls are thick concrete, the glass is 1/2 inch thick 
to withstand the pounding of the waves during the fierce storms.

An old Railroad swing bridge  from the 1880's allowing both rail service and boat passage

We visited Brenda's horse, a beautiful Thoroughbred

And they love each other completely

And what is a family visit without a family picnic?


Leaving Milwaukee, we went to Saugatuck, MI where we stayed with friends for 5 days, went to lunches and dinners, saw doctors, walked the beaches, visited the house, met with our Realtor and pretty much exhausted ourselves again.  It was good to be in the place we called home for 10 years, but seeing our empty house and the many changes in so many places in just a year or two, left us a bit sad.  Another chapter of our lives closed.  It is time to move on.  We will miss many of the friends we both have there, but many of our friends are within our general age group and a surprising number of them are settling in Florida, fairly close to us.  Life changes…and change, when you accept that it will be for the best, is good.  Thanks to Dar and BJ and George and Dawn for the room and board…

The lake beckons here as well 

The shore always plays a beautiful song to hear and see...

And the woodlands let the sunset participate in the visual feast

But even though beauty surrounds, it is the friends and friendship
that really make the location special.
who could ask for more?

We will be back soon, we promise...
with the next installment of our 3500 mile summer road trip,
Niagara Falls, Willmington, Washington DC, Sparta New Jersey, 
Ocean Springs, Mississippi, a drone flight, 
and much more...stay tuned.

Susan and John