The Rio Grande river is running high and fast with a bigger than normal snow pack this last winter. It is July and there are still big rocks in the middle of the river that you still can’t see the tops of.
Along the river’s edges, rafters have parked their vehicles in turn off’s, pulled on orange life preservers, boarded inflated rubber rafts and edged into the cold water, eight to ten people a raft going for a bumpy joy ride down stream..
For several miles their hired river guides maneuver them safely through the white water, and the rafters, excited after the trip, have an experience to talk about for years.
This area used to have hard rock miners leading their donkey’s to drink from this same river before they would start a new mining hole high up in the side of a mountain, throwing their diggings down hillsides behind them like burrowing animals. On Saturday night the prospector’s would clean up, a much as they could, and go into Creede to gamble, chase women, fight, and brag about their prospects. Riding the river would have been seen as something only crazy people would do.
The rafts, passing me as I pull my car off the road to watch their procession, hug the middle of the river where the water is deepest and the rapids are most challenging.
Riding rapids is what we are all doing these days in our Excited States of America..
These river guides are making more money than those hard rock miners ever dreamed of making.
It only takes a few crazy people to change an entire group’s mindset.
An old man with a cane shuffles past us in the grocery, squinting to read the fine print on a box label.Two little children pull on their mom’s dress at the bank as she makes a deposit and reaches them a sucker out of a little bowl on the teller’s countertop. A homeless vet passes our vehicle to take a dollar from a hand reaching out of the window back of us. We don’t talk to the politician rushing past us to hold up a baby and smile for news cameras.
On the road to Westcliff, I pass a black wagon pulled by a black horse, driven by a young man wearing a black hat, black pants and black vest, a white shirt, with a reddish beard. He pulls his horse and wagon towards the shoulder as I go past, and I wave. I watch him in my rear view mirror as he goes another block, then pulls his horse and wagon into a little drive leading to a country house on the other side of a closed gate.
Amish, from Pennsylvania, have come to this part of Colorado and the San Luis Valley for farming, solitude, the ability to worship as they choose, to raise their families in an old way, and drive to town in a wagon pulled by their favorite horse.
This, my first Amish sighting of the season, makes me wonder how they can maintain their traditions in the onslaught of 21st century propaganda, polemics, politics and problems?
The march of 21st century technology, information, control and surveillance, secularism, is crushing.
Seeing a horse and wagon on the road is like seeing an old John Wayne movie on television.
It pictures a way of life, long gone, that some folks still never want to leave.
If I were on this tour bus I wouldn’t have been able to take this picture.
There are a myriad of ways to transport yourself on a vacation. This tour bus, as it goes by, shows faces inside glancing at me as the tour driver describes thIs area with a microphone in his hand. Inside a tour bus you can’t stop a moment, poke around, talk to someone, have a bite to eat, try to understand a sign in a foreign language. You are moving quickly and if you are thinking about your security system back home you miss a Presidential Palace, or the church where Columbus attended his son’s wedding, or a great cafe where locals eat.
The tour bus passes me and I can hear the driver talking to the whole block on his microphone, his facts sounding garbled and out of sync as the vehicle bumps past me.
His words sound, to me, like the clouds in your coffee.
They wouldn’t be the words I would use to tell about this place.
Albuquerque has just introduced E-Scooters to the Downtown Civic Plaza, Nob Hill, Old Town, and, eventually, other well frequented locations in the city. These scooters are lined up across from the Albuquerque Museum of Art, chatting up a storm and telling scooter jokes.
Two ladies, I talk too, say the scooters are fun to ride but you need an App on your phone to use them. There are about 750 of them, to start, and a private company, Zagster, has exclusive rights to promote in our city.
The scooters are available from seven in the morning till seven in the evening, have tracking devices installed, go 15 miles per hour, and cost the operator a $1.00 plus fifteen cents a minute to rent. The rationale is to address climate change, provide other modes of transport the younger generation will like (18 and older), encourage people to get out, and eliminate traffic in high traffic areas.
One of the big concerns of the Albuquerque Police Department is people driving these scooters while intoxicated, something that has already happened.
One of my issues is grasping how large American bodies are going to balance on these small running boards while going fifteen miles per hour with just hand brakes?
If the city was serious about climate change they would just make us walk in a transportation free zone.
Riding at your own risk, these days, has to be in all of our plans of the day.
We have come now to a place, in America, where adults dress and do what kid’s do,
In airports we are moving to someplace new or returning to someplace familiar. We are waiting interminable hours then squeezing into airplanes that take us 35,000 feet above the Earth and show us movies. We are victims of delays, layovers, plane cancellations, Customs, paperwork, pat downs, x rays and questions. For some, these indignities are acceptable. For others, they are barely tolerable.
This trip, authorities with TSA, in Newerk, confiscate a small bottle of flavored rum that Scott is taking home to enjoy, legally bought at the Museo of Rum in Santo Domingo. The size of the bottle, according to the TSA limit, is “over the limit. ” The agent says ” leave it, or consume it now. ” Figuring they will give me a ticket for flying drunk next, I give up,leave the rum,and board my plane.
Are we to a point in this USA that this micromanagement is necessary, or even healthy?
Governments are, according to more than just me, too big for their britches.
This trip is over, and, I hope, another quickly follows.
Even without my rum, which TSA agents have already enjoyed, staying healthy and traveling is my Doctor’s best prescription.
Next time, I will drink the whole bottle before I get to the airport.
Those going on this day trip from Santo Domingo to Sanoa Island start at the Pizzerelli Pizza Palace at six forty five in the morning.
There is no one on the street this morning when I walk to our assigned pick up point, but, at the pizza place, there are five of us who are met by Isidro of Colonial Tours. We follow him down stone steps, out of the Colonial Zone, where we load onto our tour bus transport. Picking up more passengers in Boca Chica, along the way, we are full by the time we all get to Bayimbe where we board several small boats and a catamaran and putt putt out to Sanoa Beach, our destination.
Santo Domingo is, I have found, far away from the best beaches of the Dominican Republic. The real sand and surf activities are on the north shore of the island and at Punta Cana, Bayimbe is a cute little town being discovered and developed by foreigners and Sanoa Beach is clean and secure for all travelers even if locals walk the beach selling their jewelry and local crafts that you have already been showed a hundred times.
On our sail back to the mainland at the end of the day, where we re- board our tour bus and return to Santo Domingo, there is dancing on our catamaran, too much booze, but very happy passengers.
It is dark when we all get home, a twelve hour trip for sixty five bucks, a value when you add all the pieces.
I never see these beaches without wondering about sailors marooned, Robinson Crusoe, pirate treasure buried by the foot of palm trees marked by an X on a yellowed map hidden deep in an old chest that has been in storms around Cape Horn.
A trip to the Dominican Republic isn’t complete without getting sand between my toes.
After each trip, new moments join old moments in one big jigsaw puzzle.
Today’s moments can stand on their own, but, they seem to pick up depth and velocity when they hold hands with older ones.
Comparing moments bring wisdom, but learning, I have been told by experts, is most easy when best done with a Pina Colada in one hand and a barbecue wing in the other.
These are a pair of Scott’s work shoes from when he used to work hard.
Instead of being covered with paint, which was Scott’s income when public school teaching became intolerable,one of these shoes has residue from floor tile adhesive on its toe.
The issue is wearing this pair when I go to public historical places in less wealthy Caribbean or Latin American countries. In these places there are shoe shine hustlers who want to clean them on sight. Before I see the shoeshine guys, they have swooped down out of nowhere and are fiddling with my shoes even though I insist that I and my shoes are perfectly happy to be left alone.
Part of travel is using precautions. Make a copy of your Passport to show to people in lieu of the real thing. Don’t wear flashy jewelry. Don’t tell strangers where you live. Don’t drink water, except bottled. Go in groups at night. Don’t do things abroad you wouldn’t do at home. Get all your shots. Use sunscreen. Use local currency. Don’t insert yourself into police business or arguments between men and women.
My newest precaution, before traveling again, is going to be to clean this adhesive off my shoe.
I hate to tell people ” no” when shining shoes is their livelihood and is all that stands between them and hunger.
Looking out through a small porthole, flyers can see parts of our plane, but mostly see clouds. Sometimes the clouds are white as your grandfather’s hair while other times they are puffed up like a boxer’s bruised right eye. They make fantastic shapes, but, at this moment, look suspiciously like the unwelcome mushrooms growing in my back yard this last Spring.
The terra firma of the Dominican Republic fills my porthole as we fly over the island and begin our descent. Instructions for landing are given over a sound system in Spanish and English. We are thanked for our compliance, urged to take all our belongings with us, go through Customs, enjoy our trip and fly United again.
This island is large, with plenty of water, and grows cocoa, tobacco, sugarcane, coffee, rice, beans, bananas,potatoes,corn,cattle,pigs, chickens, eggs, and the surrounding sea has plenty of fish. I see Dominican Republic stickers on clusters of bananas sold in my back home grocery. This island is the size of Georgia and is one of the largest of the Caribbean islands, behind Cuba and Jamaica.
Setting down with a bump, on a wet runway, this ninth Scotttreks trek, has begun.
I’m not going to white sand beaches and all-inclusive resorts with margaritas and fajitas.
I’ll be stepping back into history this trip, jumping into the Unesco certified Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo where Spain established its beachhead in the New World.
Landing, my travel notebook is empty, waiting to be filled.
Some of what fills Scotttreks is by choice; but the rest is up to fate and the travel God’s.
Where my attention goes is what I write about and photograph, and what draws my attention usually doesn’t have lots of bells and whistles.
Before you get somewhere you have to go somewhere.
The collection of airports this trip will be those in Albuquerque; Denver; Newark, Houston and Santo Domingo. With checking in, security, eating, waiting, layovers, flight time, twenty hours will go by as quick as a Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry marathon on Saturday afternoon television.
At eleven this evening, waiting for Newerk ticket agents to check in to work and get us boarded, all the familiar sights are in play..
There are transport golf carts picking up stragglers who have trouble walking long distances between terminals and gates. There are security men and women with walkie talkies on their hips, blue ball caps, and whistles dangling around their necks,looking vigilant. There are pilots dressed for work, standing in line for coffee but able to whisk past security easily. An announcement, repeated often, advises us ” not to take luggage from strangers and report such incidents immediately..” Bartenders do inventory and waitresses make sure they have two pens for taking orders.
The Newark air terminal is clean and a United Airlines hub. There is shopping here for those that want it and many travelers, even at this late hour, are plugged into the internet, charging cell phones, playing video games or watching movies.
Some hours later, leaving Newerk, flying at night around eight hours, Scott is coughed up in Santo Domingo feeling like Jonah exiting the damn whale that swallowed him.
Picked up by Berluis at the Santo Domingo airport, whisked down Avenida of the Americas past palm trees with the Caribbean Sea on one side, industrial areas, hotels, restaurants on the other, my Airbnb accommodations are waiting for me.
Escaping snow is one of my main directives.
If I see a penguin, I’m going to check my airplane ticket, call the pilot a drunk, and demand a full refund.
If I wanted to be cold I would have gone north instead of south.