United States of America

OGGA! Oh My! — An Orangutan, A Giraffe, A Gorilla and an Anteater at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

Winston was waiting for us in the corner of his exhibit with his female partner, son Monroe and other family members behind him because Winston is the dominant silverback lowland gorilla at the World Famous San Diego Zoo Safari Park (SDZ Safari Park). Fernando, an anteater, just awoke from a nap and Zinvvhi (ZenVee), a giraffe, was waiting on us too. The one thing they all had in common was food. Each one clearly loved their cuisine.IMG_2275 (1) Winston gorilla 2018

For Winston, age 48 and 600 pounds, lunch included a large whole green squash. Clutching the squash in his huge plastic-like polished leather right hand, he eagerly stuck it in his big pink mouth and chomped it in half. Several chews later, he finished off the other half. Next was a huge carrot which he finished in two bites.

The gorillas and orangutans just love these treats and they have to find them wherever they are given to them.

After several rounds of mixed whole vegetables, it was time for the grand finale, corn. It obviously was his favorite as he loudly smacked and chewed and smacked till it was gone. He hit the wall with his big right hand telling his keeper, Mandi, he wanted more corn and she gave him another corn on the cob. As he took his first bite, young Monroe could no longer maintain his composure and suddenly lunged to grab Winston’s corn. Winston lunged back at him.

Mandi showed us one of the gorillas bedrooms. And the keepers keep it nice and clean for them so they can relax and sleep. The bedrooms are connected and the gorillas choose who they want to sleep with each day.

Winston was hitting the wall again wanting more corn. And when we left, Winston was smacking loudly eating more corn. The other seven members of the gorilla troop watched, waiting patiently for Winston to finish so they could eat their lunch at the eating station.

The San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California USA  has four Orangutans who are known as the clowns of the apes. They will keep you laughing at their funny antics.DSC_0095 Our visit coincided with their afternoon snack time. Each day, volunteers take the snacks and put them in different objects so the orangutans experience different ways of extracting food from various objects that Tanya gives them.

Karen was peeking through a glass wall to look at the people looking at her. A glasss wall has to separate them because orangutans can get any illness a human has. So, the glass viewing wall keeps the orangutans well.

Clever and smart, orangutans quickly figure out how to get the snack from an object. Watching the discovery process is great entertainment for the zoo guests.DSC_0013

One treat was encased in a round plastic ball with several holes and each hole stuffed with excelsior. To get to the snack, each orangutan had to pull the excelsior from the ball to find the treat. It was so much fun watching each one figure out how to get to the treat of in-shell peanuts.

Aisha, the youngest orangutan, is learning to hunt the treats.

And then watching their plastic-like polished leather hands peel the shell from the peanut and put the nut in their big pink mouth was both intriguing and fun to watch. They all were just so precious.

Karen had finished her snack when she started rolling over and over for the guests.

Then there was Fernando, an anteater from a South America Rain Forest, who lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. DSC_0296.jpgDSC_0289At 10 am, Fernando had just awakened from his nap and was ready to eat. So, with a bowl of soupy tan liquid with tiny pellets in the bottom, Fernando began to slurp and slurp and slurp the liquid and suck the pellets into his mouth the same way he would slurp up ants. His tiny mouth and long skinny tongue are perfectly designed for sucking up ants, his favorite food.DSC_0290

Fernando is an “Ambassador Animal” at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. He goes around with his keeper, Ryane, for guests to pet him and learn about anteaters on an up-close-and-personal basis. He obviously loves being petted by guests.DSC_0287

Another Ambassador is Milo, a Kinkakou, a native mammal of the South American Rain Forest. His thick, short dark brown hair made him look like a live fur collar on Ryane. Goldie, a male Cockatoo, was ready to show us his tricks. Goldie is very smart and loves the attention he gets being an Ambassador. Some of his tricks included hollering like a hawk, swinging upside down and fluffing his head feathers like he is mad.DSC_0318

Zimvvhi, a giraffe, had a baby just two days before we met her. During our tour of the 1800-acre Safari Park, Zimvvhi came up to our Caravan Safari truck seeking a treat. And of course, we just happened to have her favorite leaves.DSC_0444

Kinvvhi’s 2-day old baby

Her best friend, Mara, approached us, wanting to join Zimvvhi’s party. We loved watching their long dark tongues wrap around the long skinny leaves we were giving them. It was exactly like giraffe’s eat in the wild from Africa’s Acacia tree. And each person on the Caravan Safari gave them more and more.DSC_0561 - Copy

As we fed Mara, we spotted Kacy with her new Rhino baby, Justin, the 97th Southern White Rhino baby born at the SDZ Safari Park. Two other female Rhinos are pregnant and due in July, making the 98 and 99th baby Rhinos born at the SDZ Safari Park.DSC_0600.JPG

Rachel, our guide for the Caravan Safari, said when babies are born at a zoo or animal park it means the animals are happy and comfortable there. When no babies are born, something is wrong. The Safari Park is using in vitro fertilization to produce the almost extinct Northern White Rhinos.DSC_0605

The Safari Park’s terrain closely resembles some areas of the bush in Africa. Our very popular Caravan Safari truck came upon Maoto, a Southern White Rhinoceros, who also wanted a snack. Each person on the truck gave Maoto his most favorite leaf snack. How thrilling it was to be so close to a dangerous wild animal and have our photo taken while feeding him!

L to R Barbara, Sharon and Rachel showed us some of the snacks we could choose. In the background is our Safari Caravan truck we rode in all over the Safari Park. It was like we were on an African Safari. Caravan Safaris offered are 2 hours or 3 1/2 hours.

And then a surprise happened just like on an African Safari. We stopped for OUR snack and restroom break half-way through the 3½-hour tour. Waiting for us right in the middle of the wild open land was a portable potty made private by a bamboo fence, and a short walk away, a covered patio with table and chairs. At the serving table displayed three large trays of all kinds of snacks, vitamin drinks and water served to us by Rachel, our guide, and Barbara, our truck driver. We were as delighted as the animals we had just visited to get OUR snacks and potty break.DSC_0486DSC_0525

Refreshed, our Caravan Safari truck came upon a herd of Somali Wild Asses, including a barely dry baby born that morning. So cute. A camel was accompanying them.

Next, we saw a Black Rhinoceros which had just arrived from Florida that morning. A Roan Antelope’s new baby was hiding motionless in the grass just like they do in the wild, to be safe while Mother is away eating grass. And we saw a beautiful Kudu with big antlers.DSC_0508DSC_0535

As we toured the big park, we learned that 9,000 pounds of food is fed to all animals per day at the Safari Park. The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park have 750,000 plants and 197 species of birds, with over a thousand specimens available for viewing. Mammals total 138 species, with 1728 specimens on view. Reptile Amphibians number 16 species with 40 specimens on view.

The 100-acre San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California and 1800 acre SDZ Safari Park in Escondido, California, 35 miles north of the Zoo, contain more than 4,000 different animals.DSC_0338

Another beautiful experience was The Bird Show at the Safari Park where we were able to see some of those bird species. Jenn, the MC and keeper of the birds, just loved those in the show and each one was presented with its attributes. We got to enjoy Gazzy, an East African Crown Crane, who flew over our heads to another keeper who had a snack. And then Gazzy flew back to another keeper and then to its perch.DSC_0347

Then, all of a sudden, a Red River Hog from Africa named Rudy, walked from one end of the stage to the other and didn’t say a word. He was so cute, colorful and so funny that everyone laughed. He made several trips back and forth on the stage and stole the show. Then a huge owl flew over our heads to a keeper with a snack and back to another keeper with one.DSC_0355

Next, it was Nelson’s turn to fly over our heads and fly he did. He was so fast, if we blinked, we missed him. Nelson, a Falcon, is known as the fastest bird in the world. And he presented a show for us to see his attributes and abilities.DSC_0401

The final bird at the Bird Show was the Secretary Bird, Aren. He was so beautiful and colorful and large. We learned why the bird is called a Secretary bird because the person who named him many years ago in Africa said “he walks like my secretary.” So, the bird was named the Secretary bird for her strutting walk. And Aren is a perfect Secretary bird.

Twelve guests from the audience volunteered to line up side by side and hold out their arms with hands in a knot while this Hornbill walked from one person to the other. Sharon did a good job letting the hornbill pass over her arms twice.

We couldn’t leave the Safari Park without seeing the Lemurs from Madagascar at the Safari Park. DSC_0226The Ring-tail Lemurs were sunbathing themselves with their arms straight out to make sure every inch received sun. DSC_0232 Lemur 2019And this Coquerel’s Sifakas Lemur was viewing the entire area and seeing what was happening while doing a little sunbathing.

We left the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park loving each one we had a personal encounter with and agreed to return to the world’s best zoo again and again for there were hundreds more animals for us to meet. And when we left Winston, was hitting the wall again wanting more corn-on-the-cob and Monroe was still trying to grab it from him.

Photo Copy © 2019

DSC_0241 pinl orchard 2019DSC_0394Carolyn at the Zoo 2019

United States of America

Horses, Hats, Bets and Bourbon in Kentucky

It was like watching a silent movie. We could see the action but there was no sound and the action was so fast we couldn’t comprehend what our eyes had just seen. The only noise we did hear came from the screaming people watching the action happening. And for these first timers, it registered as a dream to actually witness such an event.DSC_0139

Thus, was our feeling of experiencing the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, live and in person. It was dream-like viewing “The Run for the Roses” as we saw the famous horse race from our Jockey Club Suite overlooking the racetrack because we were on a Tauck Events tour to see the Derby and experience the beautiful horse country area of Kentucky.IMG_1573IMG_1669JPG

On the way to the Derby, I happen to sit beside a man who said he was from Louisville so I asked him what horse was ranked high for winning the Derby. And he told me several names. But when he mentioned Always Dreaming I said that’s the one I will bet on because I just loved the name. It was so appropriate for the horse to always be dreaming for a win.DSC_0714.jpg

IMG_1590June Landrum. my traveling companion, and I are not gamblers. But we were at the Kentucky Derby #143 and just had to gamble once. So, June came up with the idea of betting $2 on each horse so both would gamble $20 on 20 horses. Our bet would total $40. And we would pick the winner no matter who it was we reasoned. DSC_0091And yes, we picked the winner Always Dreaming and collected $11.50 for first place. We split the winnings and had a wonderful time with our scheme of betting and picking the winner.IMG_1635JPG

But I just had to bet on Always Dreaming as it was the horse I said I would bet on. So, with $10 in hand, I placed my first bet ever on a horse race. And yes. I won and after I won, I asked myself why I didn’t bet $100 or $1000 if I was so sure Always Dreaming would win. But it was fun gambling for the first time at the Kentucky Derby and picking the winner.DSC_0092

At the Kentucky Derby, it was “normal” for women and men to dress up and it was a fashion show like no other. IMG_1537Every color, size and shape of hat was worn by ladies of every color shape and size. But the most outstanding of the fashion show was the huge outstanding statement-making ladies hats. IMG_1648JPGThose hats set the southern mood of the Derby as it had been done for 147 years. And the men’s outfits completed the fun and theme of the classic Kentucky Derby.IMG_1538

But before we could go on this tour, we just had to make our hats to wear to the Derby although they were not required for the tour event. But attending the Derby without that world-famous tradition of a big hat would not complete the experience for us first timers. So, June Landrum and I designed and re-designed our hats until we were happy with our creations.

I wanted a black hat with a big brim, so my sister offered one of her sun hats that had a large brim. And from that, I took it around with me as I shopped for the perfect decorations. It was fun creating and making our hats and June and I had many fun conversations on how our designs were working for our Kentucky Derby event. June’s hat was a gift from her grandson and she never planned to use it for the Derby. DSC_0092.JPGBut after purchasing little roses, she decided to put them on the hat to wear to the Derby because it was “the Run for the Roses.”IMG_1637JPG

Our next creation was how to get the newly created hat to Kentucky. So, I used an old packing trick that worked for many other hats I had purchased on several of my foreign trips and it worked for this Derby hat. I put the hat flat in my luggage and stuffed the crown full of clothes I was taking that did not wrinkle. And I put clothes flat under the hat and on top of the brim. That kept the hat in its original shape and it made it to Louisville safely and intact. The decorations were in a rigid plastic container.IMG_1535

When we arrived, we glued all the silk flowers and feathers on the brim and the hat was ready to wear. June made her hat by gluing those silk roses on the hat and we had our personal creations to parade around at the Derby.IMG_1538

But we didn’t just parade around at the Kentucky Derby in them. We also wore them the day before the Derby at the Kentucky Oaks, the “pre-Derby” race and ‘The Run for the lilies”. IMG_1567 And we wore them for all the 10 races before the Kentucky Derby on Derby day. It was so much fun walking around in the rain in our decorated hats as we looked at others with their decorated hats. It was a first time to ever do such an event and it was just an awesome experience.IMG_1645DSC_0220DSC_0214.JPG

Now that our hats were designed and worn at a race, we had to participate in Bridles and Bourbon. So, we visited the time-honored art of distilling, aging, and bottling fine Kentucky Bourbon at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, the oldest continually operating distillery in America. DSC_0092And yes, we had to sample their award-winning product and then have a barbeque lunch in the Clubhouse at Buffalo Trace. It all was so delicious as was the welcome reception and dinner with a local bluegrass band and folk-dance troupe.DSC_0103

As we drove to Margaux Farms, we enjoyed the clean and gorgeous green-hill farms of Lexington, Kentucky. This visit was to see the horses in their stalls at the Brood Farm and how they are worked and managed for breeding. As we walked into one barn, all the horses bellowed at once their neigh-neigh sound as they looked at us. DSC_0112.JPGAnd I just loved our wonderful unique horse greeting we were given until the keepers told us the horses were calling for food, not us. And another keeper told us they were wanting to exercise. Anyway, each of our Tauck group greeted a horse and enjoyed learning the methods used to make sure each mare got pregnant. But we didn’t have any food or exercise for them.DSC_0041

But then, the next morning, we had to be at Kneeland Race Track at 6 a.m. to watch the jockeys exercise the horses at that race track. It was cool enough for a jacket and we could see the horse’s breath as they finished their race exercises.DSC_0031 Again, I was amazed how quiet it was as they ran. And it was so fast, we didn’t get a good look at them until they stopped and came up to us for photos and a visit. DSC_0040

Having dinner at Kneeland Race Track with Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron was another highlight of our Kentucky Derby experience. DSC_0240.JPGIn his speech, he gave a wonderful overview of his unbelievable racing wins from the beginning at 19 years to retirement 28 years later. And when he retired he was thoroughbred’s All-Time leader, and his purse earnings totaled more than $264 million in winnings and 7,141 races won.IMG_1514

It had been raining for 2 days but as soon as the thoroughbreds started running, it stopped and they stopped after 2 minutes and the race was over. And the rainy and muddy conditions didn’t hinder anyone at the Kentucky Derby. But the excitement before the race was so much fun and it kept building as 150,000 persons placed their bets on the winners. And we picked the winner, Always Dreaming. But If you blinked your eyes, you missed it because they were running 40 miles per hour for the roses.

Photo Copy © 2018


United States of America

A 47-Day Party for Mardi Gras

People raised their hands and arms high in the air wanting more and more trinkets and then surrounding our pedicab and begging for more. Why are these trinkets wanted so much, I wondered.DSC_0367

It is the human exchange of value from one person to another, I was told by natives of New Orleans. And it is the thrill of catching those beads, plush toys, necklaces, plastic cups, doubloons (Krewe coins), and shells and getting a little gift during this time of celebration. It is the tradition of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.DSC_0310

And catching and throwing trinkets has been going on at Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, since 1870 when the Krewe of Twelfth Night Revelers became the first Krewe (crew) to throw Mardi Gras “throws”. And the Krewes have been throwing them ever since. And the people love it, both the throwers and the receivers, for this is celebration time in New Orleans before the fast begins for Easter.DSC_0038

Mardi Gras began in 1703 in Mobile, Alabama and soon was celebrated in New Orleans by the 1730’s where it became the premier celebration in the USA to this day. Mardi Gras is always held 47 days before Easter in the Christian religion. It begins Jan. 6 each year on the Feast of Epiphany or King’s Day. Parades are held all over New Orleans during this 47-day period by scores and scores of Krewes.DSC_0096

And it all culminates on the last day, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) when people stuff themselves, before the start of Lent on the next day, Ash Wednesday, where all begin to fast or give up something for Lent for 46 days to Easter. Mardi Gras is the time of parties, celebrations, food and drinks to the max before the fasting begins. And everyone joins in with the Krewes to party.DSC_0052

A Krewe is a group of revelers that band together to host a Mardi Gras ball, ride on a Mardi Gras parade float, and participates in social gatherings. So Sharon and I joined the Krewe of Tucks which began in 1969 by a group of students from Loyola University who came up with the name “Tuck” from a no-name pub. It started as a rag-tag group or animal house “theme” where anything goes yet keeps its sense of humor on everything.Carolyn-Sharon together-Mardi Gras 2017

We were told we would be lionesses, queens of the jungle, and each would ride in a pedicab “float”. So we arrived the day the final 5-day festivities began. Awaiting us was our costumes, designed by Mardi Gras costume designer, Alan. We laughed and laughed and took photos as we put on each costume piece. As luck would have it, that stash of large safety pins that had been riding in the checked bag for months came in handy as we pinned the lion’s furry “legs” to our black sweat clothes to keep them from falling off. More pins kept the lion’s ears in place. With all on and pinned, it was show time.DSC_0812

Arriving at out parade gathering location around 10 am, we saw some of the other funny characters in our parade. As we waited for the parade, we learned that it would be delayed for hours because a float in the parade before ours had a tire bend under the float. It was so bad; the repair man had to come to the float because it could not be moved.DSC_0734

So we had time to see other floats like the man riding in a recliner chair on wheels complete with beer and cigarettes. And a group of bicycles that became a dinosaur, an elephant, a tiger and other fun designer animals. It was hodge-podge and it was so much fun.DSC_0303

But I didn’t realize what fun was to come as the parade finally started 1 ½ hours late. As our pedicab advanced along the parade route, we were inundated by revelers, one after the other. Soon our bag full of beads and shells and necklaces was empty.Carolyn Blows Kiss to Black Lady at Mardi Gras 2017

Talking to the people, seeing them in their creative costumes and interacting with them was the ultimate fun. And we did this for 6 miles and almost 4 hours. DSC_0528

When it ended, we did walk and move our arms slowly but we were very happy to have had a one-of-a-kind experience. And the people seemed to enjoy our costumes and pedicab “floats” as they took many photos of us..

Even the trees catch the trinkets. But after Mardi Gras, the person who owns the tree cleans all the beads off so it doesn’t harm the tree.

We thought we had seen all the Mardi Gras parades until we attended the Mardi Gras Indian parade. It began by meeting the big chief, Shaka Zulu, a Mardi Gras Indian, in Congo Square in the French Quarter where he told us about the Indians and showed his elaborate costume. Shaka Zulu explained that the Indians began doing their own celebrations and parade because the Indians felt they could not do Mardi Gras with the American Sector of New Orleans.

Chief of the Mardi Gras Indians is Shaka Zulu who also made his costume and personally hand beaded all accents. Then he added the feathers to make his costume an outstanding piece of art.

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So the 42 tribes started their own mask making, creating and hand sewing their beaded costume and finishing it with elaborate colored feathers. Then, each put it all together to wear and show in their “Black Parade.”DSC_0157

“We used to burn our costumes after Mardi Gras so no evidence existed of us.  And, we would make a new one anyway for the next year’s Mardi Gras, “Shaka Zulu said. But now their incredibly gorgeous costumes are placed in the Backstreet Museum for all to see.DSC_0908

Before or during parades, each day we attended a party along a parade route at a private home all decorated up with Mardi gras colors of purple signifying justice, green for faith and gold for power. At these private home parties, we also viewed a major Krewe’s night lighted parade while sitting on the front porch or balcony in perfect viewing seats.DSC_0166

At one parade, Sharon and I were sitting on the front porch of a gorgeous 1850’s home watching the parade go by. Sharon stood up one time with her hands in the air begging for a trinket. A man on a float saw her and threw her a bag of beads full of many necklaces and it landed on my foot. It was like a large rock had landed on my foot/ankle. My foot hurt so much and so long that I had to have a bag of ice applied to stop the pain. And it worked and I was fine.DSC_0912

When we watched parades, we were eating delicious New Orleans dishes like Jumbo, Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, PoBoys, or Muffelettas, with King Cakes and Beignets for dessert. This Virtuoso trip was a dream to experience plus we had a major adventure with Mardi Gras.mardi Gras

And all I did was ask that my travel agent Maureen Paap ( book a hotel for us during Mardi Gras. And we got wonderful revelers begging us for trinkets as we rode in costume in our pedicab with the Krewe of Tucks, went to parties at private homes, watched many parades, enjoyed our own parade as we participated in Fat Tuesday in our pedicab, and other experiences of a lifetime during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.DSC_0931

Contact your travel agent for this Virtuoso experience.

Photo Copy ©  2017 


Sharon didn’t catch that bag of necklaces that hit my foot so she went into the shrubbery to get other trinkets that had been thrown and also missed their intended recipient.
When I took a Deviled Egg from this beautiful plate and complemented the hostess of the party that is was so delicious, she said that deviled eggs were back in style now. I was so amazed because I didn’t know they were ever out of style. As I left the party, the plate was empty.
Another thing that caught my eye was these 6 foot (2 meters) wooden ladders that parents brought to the parade. They had a box mounted to the top of the ladder with wheels on the box and they pushed the entire thing like a wheelbarrow. The parents put their small children in them so they could see and enjoy the parades.


Carolyn waistup in pedicab at Mardi Gras 2017
In the 4-hour parade, I carried snacks and water to keep up my strength. My favorite quick snack is baby food in a pouch. It is so convenient and only takes a minute for a mid-day picker-upper.


United States of America

Stomping & Sipping in Napa Valley

It was fun and it was different. And my feet were massaged in a way much different than any other massage. All of my thoughts were focused on just the stomping and smashing. But my feet felt more.


When I went to Grgich Hills Estate in Napa Valley, California, to stomp grapes like Lucy did on the “I Love Lucy” TV show, an iconic episode of all time, I saw a 3-foot diameter wooden barrel that was about 18 inches tall.dsc_0938

In the barrel were grapes ready to crush. But to my amazement, the grapes were on the stems just like they had been cut off the vines. “What?” I said to Sean Hubbard, the handsome young man who helped me with the grape stomping. “Why are the grapes still on the stems?”dsc_0958

Come to find out, that was the way the grapes have always been smashed since the Romans began stomping grapes in 300 A.D. But I had never heard or considered that. So after my shock, and with Sharon Mason Davis taking photos with my camera, I lifted my bare feet into the barrel and stepped onto the cold grapes. My feet did not sink far into the grapes because there were just a few layers of grapes, but there were enough to get the feeling of stomping grapes.dsc_0896

My feet noticed a soft and hard feeling because those soft squishy grapes instantly smashed flat but the stems didn’t. It was like stepping on lots of twigs with mush in between and around them. I then wondered how the stomping was done many years ago if many layers of grapes were to be stomped in the barrel. How did they stand up, and did they have to hold on to the side of the barrel, I wondered.dsc_0847

Finally, after my eye-opening and foot massaging experience of smashing those grapes, it was time to end the experience by stepping out of the barrel onto a white t-shirt with my grape-colored feet. So one foot at a time I landed on the t-shirt and then I had a priceless souvenir.dsc_0090dsc_0062

The next stop was stepping into a #3 washtub full of cold water to rinse the grape juice off of my feet, dry them and put my shoes on. The end of my grape stomping experience was over at Grgich Hills Estate but another visit was just beginning.

After the stomping, we were given a glass of award winning chardonnay and the glass as a souvenir of the stomp. Plus Linda gave me a tour of the vineyard.

Sharon and I met Linda Whitted, with Grgich Hills Estate, for our wine tasting appointment by introducing us to the grapes in the vineyard where the grape stomping was being held. And we sampled Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that were hanging on the vines in the vineyard nearby. Each one tasted and looked different from each other.

Linda Whitted, Sharon Mason-Davis and me loving the wine samples. And so was the cheese.

Then we all entered the winery headquarters sales room, cellar and tasting room. And there, Linda had samples for us to try, complete with cheese and crackers.

Award winning Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s bottle of Chardonnay revolutionized the world of wine. And he continues producing the wine today.

She began by telling us the five “S” of wine tasting – See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Savor. And we enjoyed doing them very much. The first sampling was 2014 Chardonnay Miljenko’s Selection, which was like the wine at Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s first victory in Paris May 24, 1976 when the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that he crafted outscored the best wines of France in the 1976 historic Paris wine tasting that revolutionized the world of wine.

This is the bottle of wine on display at Grgich Hills Estate that changed the wine world in 1975. Shortly thereafter, Mike Grgich started his own winery.

It was delicious and wonderful to know I was sampling the best Chardonnay in the world. Then Linda told us to take a bite of the first sample of cheese and crackers and then taste the Chardonnay again. It totally changed the taste of the wine and was even more delicious.yountville

Then we tasted 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley and then the second sample of cheese and crackers. Next was 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley followed by the third delicious cheese, and finally 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville Selection, followed by an awesome cheese. All were outstanding and we wanted to continue sipping and sampling and each time cheese and crackers changed the taste of the wine. As a result, the cheese and crackers were all gone. And, we had to buy several bottles to take home for sampling with family and friends and get back to San Francisco.dsc_0901

Grgich Hills Estate was founded in 1977 by Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills, formerly of Hills Bros. Coffee Co. The winery farms 366 acres of vineyards naturally without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides in the Napa Valley, and uses its passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced, and elegant wines. His daughter, Violet Grgich, Vice President of Operations and Operations, and his nephew, Ivo Jeremaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production, assist Mike.violet_vineyard_2016

Ivo met with us and told us a story of his Uncle Miljenko and the times when he had to stomp grapes in a barrel while everyone worked in his native Croatia. “That way, everyone knew where he was and that he was safe while they worked in the vineyards. Grapes and wine were always in his life,” Ivo said.

Ivo Jeremaz, Mike Grgich’s nephew, examines the soil in the vineyard to make sure it is top shape for the grapes to grow. There are 300 kinds of soils in the world and Napa Valley has 100 of them.

Stomping grapes like Lucy did was something I always wanted to do and it wasn’t exactly as I imagined it to be. But sampling the Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignons was truly a fun and favorable adventure that we will continue to enjoy with each glass of their wine.

Rudy was our tour guide with Napa Valley Tours which specializes in taking guests to the wineries in the Napa Valley.


This beautiful lady from Trinadad followed me in the grape stomping at Grgich Hills and she enjoyed it also.

Photo Copy ©  2016 

United States of America

251 Countries & Territories Visited in 45 Years


Kim-Kay Randt of Houston, Texas Executive Director of Travelers Century Club, an International travel club, presented Carolyn with a certificate certifying  she has visited 251 countries and territories in this wonderful world. And it only took Carolyn 45 years to accomplish that goal.

“It has been unbelievable experiencing and enjoying the different customs and peoples on this planet. And following on my international travel blog are many stories and photos of the encounters I have enjoyed,” Carolyn said. “I hope you enjoy the world with me as I show and tell you of my many adventures.”

Travelers Century Club, an international travel club, lists 325 countries and territories for its members to visit. Carolyn has 74 more to visit. So keep following her to see how many more countries she will visit.


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A Dance Across the Northern Sky in Alaska

It was magic, unbelievable and magnificent. At times, it looked like lighting and at other times Comet tails gliding in the Heavens and other times a dance. All were bright vibrant green and they were doing acrobats of all kinds, going forwards and backwards and sideways. Stretched from East to West to North for four continuous hours, they truly boggled the mind.DSC_0387

This mind boggler was the Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks, Alaska, better known as the Northern Lights, which some believe give them special fertility powers. Fairbanks is right in the middle of the Arctic Oval that circles the far northern portion of the world where Northern Lights can be seen. The chance to see the lights gets better the farther north in this oval. And we saw them perfectly.DSC_0438.JPG

But it didn’t start out that way. The first night we sat and watched and waited for 4 hours for the lights to appear and nothing happened. No northern lights and we were so hyped up for them. But the next morning, we learned they did appear around 4 a.m., about an hour after we had left.DSC_0837

Through research, I learned that the best time to view the northern lights is March and the second best time is October. We were there the first week of March and learned the best time to see them is in a dark sky with no moon around 12-3 a.m.

Ben Boyd, our guide, told us that even though the weather might be bad in Fairbanks, it usually is good and clear at Chandalar Ranch. We had followed all recommendations and still no lights.

Ben Boyd picked us up at out Fairbanks Hotel at 10:30pm at night. He is a native Alaskan mountain man that we found on Trip Advisor after asking for a good Northern Lights native guide. His name popped right up. He took us to see the lights the first night not knowing if we would see the lights because the Northern Lights are natural phenomena of nature created by the heavens.DSC_0780

Ben Boyd took Sharon and me and 9 other people in his van to Chandalar Ranch, about 25 miles outside of Fairbanks. The viewing of the lights here was excellent. The Ranch has a large hostel with a main assembly room with one side glassed in so we could see what the heavens were doing. Attached to this hostel was a large deck which also provided a great area for viewing and photographing the awesome show. And the deck is easy for handicapped and wheelchair customers.

Ben Boyd showed us the magical Northern Lights and Fairbanks,Alaska.

Below the deck and beyond is a wide open area where dog sledding is available and it was the most perfect place for those with a tripod and camera. Available at all times for visitors was coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cookies and restroom facilities in the assembly room. And if we were too cold from being outside in the minus degree weather, we could go inside, warm up and visit with others. DSC_0870

Sharon and me on the deck where we took the photos of the northern lights. And it was way below freezing.

It was so much fun sharing photos and seeing how other photos turned out. Since this was my first time for taking time exposures, I was particularly interested in how other photographer’s photos looked. Come to find out, I passed because I captured them. And every time I took a photo of the lights, I immediately looked at my photo to make sure it looked just like the one I  had just seen with my eyes. And it did.

The second night, we were picked up at our hotel by Hugh, Ben Boyd’s helper, and taken to Chandalar Ranch again. And while we were going there, the northern lights were dancing and popping in and out and doing somersaults all around us. There was much joy going on in that van as we saw the lights. And I was just screaming with joy because my dream had come true of seeing what I have wanted to see all of my life.DSC_0770

When we arrived at Chandalar Ranch, we all jumped out of that van and ran as fast as we could to see those lights with our own eyes in perfect conditions and below zero weather. And we watched them non-stop for four hours before it was time to leave around 3 a.m. for our hotel and sleep.

All 9 of us were so ecstatic after seeing the unbelievable show of lights that Ben Boyd told us, ”Don’t count on seeing these lights like this every time. But the northern lights have been very active the last 2 weeks, so I am happy you got a good show tonight.” And so were we.DSC_0074.JPG

Every day at 1 p.m., Boyd offered snow activities for us and we did almost all of them. The first was our favorite, walking with reindeer. Hugh took us to the little ranch where 6 reindeer live with Jane and Doug, owners. And we learned everything one needs to know about reindeer. The first was Ruby, not Rudolph, and she was their pet. She ruled the roost.

Jane on the left and Hugh on the right helped me feed Ruby a snack but she was more interested in having her photo made.

We were thrilled to pet her and watch her eat, check out her horns and watch her walk in the snow with the other reindeer. When we were finished playing with the reindeer in the snow in the little boreal forest around Jane and Doug’s farm, we were invited into their home for hot drinks and awesome oatmeal cookies. They were so good each lady had to have the recipe. It was our favorite adventure and it is ranked the best thing to do in Fairbanks. But nothing could beat those Northern Lights.DSC_0082

Another afternoon at 1 p.m., we were picked up at our hotel for our tour of Chena Hot Springs, located several hours outside of Fairbanks. The most fun was touring an Ice Museum where we could have an Appletini to drink at a bar made of ice, in a glass made of ice, while sitting at a table and chair made of ice or at the bar with a stool made of ice. DSC_0647

There were 4 bedrooms made of ice and an igloo, a sculpture of a man on a horse, a castle and more. It was so much fun to explore and to see what it would be like to stay at an ice hotel. After viewing the cold museum, we could warm up in the natural hot springs or have dinner at the restaurant.DSC_0396

Touring the Fairbanks area was another afternoon treat at 1 p.m. Going to North Pole, Alaska to see Santa Claus and his house full of gifts was a highlight for us both. Hot chocolate and cookies were waiting for us if we wanted them and we did.DSC_0412

Many of the business around the city had ice sculptures outside their buildings that were outstanding. At first, it shocked me that an ice sculpture would be outside. And then I remembered that I was around the Arctic Circle where it is freezing or below and those sculptures were doing just fine outside.DSC_0219

We also visited an Ice park where more outstanding and award-winning ice sculptures were displayed. In one area, an ice sculpture contest was held. One feature of the park was a huge tall ice slide for children to enjoy. And it was made totally of ice.DSC_0357

Our final afternoon activity in between seeing the northern lights was ice fishing. Sharon and I went with Keith Koontz, an ice fishing pro for many years. With a BIG 3-feet long fishing drill (1 meter), he dug 12 holes 8 feet apart. Each participant was given a plastic bucket for sitting and fishing with a 2-foot fishing pole, complete with hook and string, to drop in the hole and catch a fish. Sharon was the first one to score a little 4-inch fish.DSC_1008

The fishing experience lasted for about 4 hours on a frozen lake about 2 hours from Fairbanks. All of the men and women participants caught about 10-12 fish each, making for a great meal which was had afterwards at Chandalar Ranch. It was a great time had by all and an experience like no other.Sharon  sitting

We chose to not do the dog sledding because being bounced around was not safe for our medical issues.DSC_0986

The third night we had to view the lights, we chose to stay in the hotel and get a good night’s sleep. And it turned out to be the correct decision because no lights appeared that night.DSC_0814

But the fourth night, we arrived at Chandalar Ranch at 11 am, and there were the brightest and biggest lights of all. They lasted about 30 minutes, just long enough time for us to get our last photos and have the final experience of seeing the northern lights before it was time to leave.

The entire 6-day experience turned out to be a fantastic time for both of us and an experience and adventure of a lifetime. We loved it so much we are planning to do it again because it was and is the greatest display of celestial lights in Fairbanks, Alaska.

If you wish to contact Ben Boyd, he can be reached at

Photo Copy © 2016

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Mothers + 2 at the San Diego Zoo

It was the gentleness and patience plus coddling, cuddling and non-stop attention that we noticed first of the Mothers with their babies. And it was totally amazing to see them showing such compassion and love for their little infants when they are such huge and powerful animals.

Aisha carefully moves a few inches on the climbing apparatus from Mom Indah.
Aisha carefully moves a few inches on the climbing apparatus from Mom Indah.

But Indah and Imani have almost the same DNA as humans explaining their Mother human-like behavior because Indah is an orangutan and Imani is a gorilla who live at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Imani lets her little infant Joanne on the ground for a little free time to play.
Imani lets her little infant Joanne on the ground for a little free time to play.

When we saw Aisha, the 9-month-old daughter of Indah and Satu in the San Diego Zoo, she was hanging on tightly to her Mom, Indah, on the climbing apparatus in their exhibit as they sat in the shade.

Indah with her baby Aisha patiently watches her.
Indah with her baby Aisha patiently watches her.

Carefully and slowly, Indah let Aisha move several inches from her on the ropes, and then several more inches, but always making sure her large Mother orangutan hand was close by in case anything happened to her.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha close to Mom.
Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha close to Mom.
Indah swings Aisha on her stomach while hanging on to the climbing apparatus.
Indah swings Aisha on her stomach while hanging on to the climbing apparatus.

And Joanne, the 4 1/2-month-old daughter of Imani and Winston at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, was sitting next to her gorilla Mother when we arrived. And Imani was allowing her to play on the ground right beside her leg.

Joanne gets a ride on Momma back because she can't walk at almost 5 months of age. The ape infants develop like human infants since they have almost the same DNA as humans.
Joanne gets a ride on Momma back because she can’t walk at almost 5 months of age. The ape infants develop like human infants since they have almost the same DNA as humans.

But then, it was time to move to another position in the exhibit because 3-year-old Monroe and 5-year -old Frank were play fighting, and pounding their chests to show each other who is dominant.  Imani did not want her baby Joanne to get hurt by their rustling and tussling game.

And thanks to the expert Vets, University of California San Diego medical team and keepers at the San Diego Zoo, Joanne and Aisha are alive and well.

Like Mom like baby.
Like Mom like baby.

Baby Joanne, named for Joanne Warren, first chairwoman of the San Diego Zoo Global Foundation, was delivered by a rare emergency C-section on March 12, 2014 by the Zoo’s Vets and the UCSD medical doctors and nurses. The C-section was performed after Imani made no progress after showing signs of labor earlier in the day.

Weighing just 4.6 lbs., Joanne was born with a collapsed lung and pneumonia.  So she was placed in the Zoo’s Intensive Care unit where she received 24/7 care until she was ok.

Joanne's dad, Winston, checks on his baby regularly.
Joanne’s dad, Winston, checks on his baby regularly.

Meanwhile, in her Safari Park bedroom, Imani was healing from her emergency Caesarian section surgery. And to keep her company, zoo officials allowed Frank to be with her because she had raised him and they had bonded.

Two weeks later, Joanne was well and ready to join her Mom Imani who took her in her arms immediately and 3 hours later Joanne was nursing and Mother and Baby were inseparable. Shortly thereafter, Imani let Frank hold Joanne for a few minutes.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha hanging on the ropes a few inches from Momma Indah.
Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha hanging on the ropes a few inches from Momma Indah.

Aisha was born Oct. 25, 2013 when her Mom, Indah, delivered her by natural childbirth in her San Diego Zoo bedroom. Aisha was Indah’s second baby, having had son Cinta a few years earlier.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha holding on the rope real tight.
Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha holding on the rope real tight.

When a keeper came into her bedroom, Indah held up Aisha for the keeper to see her. The keeper was so pleased to know Aisha was doing fine and trusted here by showing her baby. And then she saw baby Aisha was a female. DSC_0173

From the ropes on the climbing apparatus in their public exhibit, Indah and Aisha then leave the exhibit for the bedroom to spend the rest of the day in private. There, Indah lets Aisha play on the floor and enjoy more time to explore on her own.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha gnawing on a soft branch.
Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha gnawing on a soft branch.

Because both babies have DNA close to humans, they develop like humans. Both are beginning to chew at leaves, branches and the same food Momma eats. And when Mamma eats food, the babies sometimes reach for it. Both have a few teeth and are still nursing.

Imani lifted baby Joanne up to her back so they could move away from the  sparing boys.
Imani lifted baby Joanne up to her back so they could move away from the sparing boys.

DSCN4715 DSCN4860

Photo by Denise Carlson of Imani playing with baby Joanne.
Photo by Denise Carlson of Imani playing with baby Joanne.
Boys will be boys and chest pounding was being practiced many times.
Boys will be boys and chest pounding was being practiced many times.

And gorillas, Frank and Monroe, continue their play fighting and chest pounding so Imani takes Joanne back to the bedroom until they calm down. Daddy Winston comes into the exhibit to see what is going on and then he leaves for his bedroom.

Satu, Aisha's Daddy, eats a piece of fruit for a snack and regularly checks on his little girl.
Satu, Aisha’s Daddy, eats a piece of fruit for a snack and regularly checks on his little girl.

Watching the orangutans and gorillas living their lives in the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park is a wonderful adventure. And watching each gorilla and orangutan Mom taking excellent care of their baby in a loving and compassionate manner is a priceless joy.

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200 Countries-Territories Visited and Enjoyed

Carolyn received the 200 countries-Territories GOLD certificate from Kim-Kay Randt of the Travelers Century Club July 2014. She had already received the TCC Silver Award for 154 countries in Jan.2012.DSC_0057The countries she visited for this award were:

Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Mongolia, Greenland, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, Vanuatu, Western Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, New Caledonia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Dominica, Bequia, Curacao, Bonaire, Surinam, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, Grenada, Angola, Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Benin, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Western Sahara, Canary Islands, Sinai Peninsula, Chilean Peninsula Antarctica, Argentine Peninsula Antarctica, and Bismark Archipelago.

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Almost Human in a Gorilla Suit


Fernando serves Maka his first spoonful of banana baby food.

  He ate sitting up just like a baby as Fernando fed him a snack of banana baby food from the jar with a metal spoon. And he ate it fast because he LOVES human baby food. But, instead of being a baby, he is an silverback adult male Western Lowland Gorilla named Maka living at the San Diego Zoo, California, United States of America.


He opened his big pink mouth full of big white teeth and ate each spoonful in an instant. Fernando Covarrubias, a gorilla keeper for 30 years at the San Diego Zoo, cannot feed Maka fast enough. And if he stops, Maka knocks on his bedroom door or wall for more. Maka has 98% DNA of a human yet he is a gorilla with 2 chromosomes from being human.

All gorillas have access to the open air yard, and are rotated on exhibit and off exhibit throughout the day. When they are off-exhibit in their bedrooms, it gives keepers a chance to check their health and work on training.


Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.
Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.


Many times, Fernando explained, vitamins and needed medicines are mixed in the baby food to keep Maka healthy. And Maka always takes his meds because he loves his baby food so much and he doesn’t even wear a bib or get one drop of food on his beautiful black hair or his body.


Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.
Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.

For their main nutrition, Fernando gives each gorilla daily biscuits full of plant matter and vital nutrients because gorillas are leaf eaters. These biscuits are formulated to be like the nutrients gorillas eat in the wild. As the gorillas eat their biscuits each morning, they are kept separate so Fernando will know each one is getting complete nutrition.


Now it was time for different vegetables and fruits like bananas, apples, figs and plant-based foods they feed the gorillas. Between the bite-size fruit treats, Maka showed how he communicates with Fernando.  “Show me your left ear,” Fernando said, and Maka showed his left ear through the bars in his bedroom. “Show you right foot,” and Maka lifted his huge right foot into Fernando’s hand so he could check it out.

Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.
Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.

 Next, Maka stuck his left hand out and Fernando held his hand and examined it. It was the cutest big plastic-looking hand with huge fingers twice the size of a male human adult’s. “Turn around and show your back,” and Maka showed his beautiful silverback so Fernando could look at it. “You are good to go for today,” Fernando told Maka, as he had just completed his daily medical exam.DSC_0428


“We train the gorillas and all the animals here in the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park to respond to our requests so we can keep them healthy just like a Mother would do her child.”We are their keeper, primary nurse, chef, behavior specialist, maid and cleaner, friend, and teacher,” Fernando said admiringly. “We would like to teach Maka how to work a touch screen computer.”

20-month-old Monroe in constant motion
20-month-old Monroe in constant motion

While all of this was going on at the San Diego Zoo, 20-month old Monroe was romping, tumbling, rumbling, running and eating carrots for all the visitors to see at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where he was born June 17, 2011. In a second, he would be riding the back of his surrogate great-great-grandmother, Vila, for a few feet and then she would put him off.

Vila died January 25, 2018 surrounded by her gorilla family group. She was 60 years old and the second oldest lowland gorilla in the world. DSC_1003

Vila held the record as the second oldest gorilla in the world living in captivity. when Monroe was nearing his terrible two’s, most of the adults in the gorilla troop don’t want to run and play full time with Monroe.

Monroe eating s snack on the run.
Monroe eating s snack on the run.

Enter Frank, a 4-year-old gorilla from another gorilla family troop at the San Diego Zoo, as a potential playmate for Monroe”, Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Dept. at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park explained.

Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“We’re bringing Frank and Monroe together so they can be together throughout their lives in a bachelor troop, if necessary, and it is best to introduce them as youngsters.


Watching Monroe!
Watching Monroe!

Monroe and Frank, being from different troops, however, are getting to know one another as they visit through bars in their adjoining bedrooms. Smelling, watching, touching, running back and forth, and playing is helping to bond these cute little gorilla children together so they can eventually grow up together in the same troop. After a careful introduction period, they were brought together in the same exhibit to run, play and have disagreements just like real brothers while the older adults continue to sit and watch. Vila,the great-great grandmother and Monroe continue to be best friends.


Another one who doesn’t run and play much is Winston, the dominant silverback male, born in the wild in West Africa. “This huge gorilla with a beautiful silverback, loves to eat raisins that the keeper throws around the free roaming exhibit for him and his troop members to pick off the ground one at a time with those huge fingers,” Rex Little, volunteer docent at the gorilla exhibit, pointed out. Then 420-pound Winston walked around and collected 15-inch long lettuce leaves then sat on a log to eat them. He was a picture of contentment, happiness and joy as he sat on the log eating lettuce and watching Monroe.

 Monroe’s Mother, Kokamo, also closely watches her active baby as she goes about her daily life in the exhibit and he goes about his baby antics and is into everything. He practices pounding on his chest with his fists like a silverback gorilla does to show dominance. Monroe watches every move the adults make and then copies them.

  Another adult female listening to all the action is Imani. She is Frank’s surrogate mom who waits in her
bedroom with Frank until it is their turn in the exhibit yard. Imani is included  in Winston’s troop with Frank now.
Gorilla females can have a baby every 4 years, and, hopefully, in the future, Monroe may get another playmate in addition to Frank.

 After a full day of non-stop activities, Monroe, Kokamo, Winston, Vila, and Kamilah, sleep together in their bedroom on wood excelsior and other nesting materials. In the morning, after having their morning meal (including low starch primate biscuits), Winston, and Kokamo carrying baby Monroe in her arms, make their grand entrance into the exhibit together for the world to see the leaders of their family troop. The others follow, until all 5 troop members are in the exhibit eating their raisin treats.


Monroe "playing" with an elderly family member.
Monroe “playing” with an elderly family member.

And they all watch Monroe and Frank while they play, explore, romp and get attention and admiration of the guests at the Safari Park while Maka awaits his next snack of banana baby food at the San Diego Zoo. It’s a wonderful gorilla life.

Monroe and his antics.
Monroe and his antics.
Sitting and watching Monroe.
Sitting and watching Monroe.
Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I are talking about.
Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I were talking about.
Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.
Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.
Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.
Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.
Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.
Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.
Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.
Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.
An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.
An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.
OH, what a big yawn!
OH, what a big yawn!
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154 Countries Visited by Dec. 10, 2012

Carolyn receives the SILVER AWARD from the Traveler's Century Club (TCC), USA & International for visiting 154 countries. Presenting it to her is Kim-Kay Randt, (right)  leader of the Texas delegation to TCC.
Carolyn receives the SILVER AWARD from the Traveler’s Century Club (TCC), USA & International for visiting 154 countries. Presenting it to her is Kim-Kay Randt, (right) leader of the Texas delegation to TCC.
Borneo United States of America


It was our impossible dream. The first attempt at seeing those orange orangutans in the wild in Borneo had to be cancelled due to my medical problems. The second attempt at seeing them was aborted by the ship I was on due to a docking problem. The third attempt was an experience I will never forget.

Our first flight from home on a 3-leg journey to Borneo on August 1, 2012 was the beginning of our adventure.  The United Airlines jet took off as scheduled and about 20 minutes later, the pilot announced he was returning to our home airport because the air conditioning-cabin pressure was not working. I noticed I was freezing and then all of a sudden I was very hot and my ears were popping constantly. So we landed and all passengers waited in the terminal at the gate for repairs to be made.

That’s when the negotiating began between Maureen Taylor, my home-based A+ travel agent with Nexion, Inc., and Nancy Hamrick, an United Airlines Premier Dept. supervisor, because we just had missed our connection out of San Francisco to Seoul, South Korea and on to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo to see those orangutans, one of only 2 places left in the world where they live in the wild.Image

Hunting for 2 seats went back and forth. One minute we were going via Japan to Borneo, and the next minute, we were going via Hong Kong, then Singapore, and then Bangkok. Every possible route was examined for availability. It was like going through a maze trying to find that one open route. And Maureen Taylor was on the case with United Airlines from the minute I called her at 7:30 A.M. as we landed at our home airport. The value of having a travel agent proved priceless again. She knew how to work with the airlines, all the routes and how much we wanted to see those orangutans in the wild, plus she knew from experience to build in 2 extra days prior to a trip or cruise.

Maureen talked with Nancy at United Airlines for hours. Nancy was beyond super and gave beyond outstanding help and service, trying to come up with an itinerary that would get us into Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo by 2 p.m. Saturday, August 4, 2012 because we had a ship to catch. That ship, the Orion II Expedition Cruises out of Australia, was going to take us on a 22-day cruise around Borneo to see those precious orange orangutans in their natural wild habitat in the rainforests of Borneo.

But there was a problem. Every United flight was full and every class of service was full that would get us to Borneo by 2 p.m. August 4, 2012. Nancy and Maureen continued the challenge non-stop to find a solution. Somewhere, somehow, both were determined to find 2 open seats any way they could that would get us to Borneo by our deadline.

During these discussions, the original plane that had the air-conditioning-air pressure problem was declared repaired and ready to fly to San Francisco. And it was decided by both ladies that our number one goal was to just get to San Francisco, and the 3-hour flying time would give Nancy and Maureen time to find a route with 2 available seats that would meet our deadline from San Francisco.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, I called Maureen and she immediately sent us to the international United Airlines gate 100 because 2 seats had been found. “Go straight to Gate 100 immediately and don’t even go to the restroom, just go fast as possible,” Maureen said to me in her desperate sounding voice. And to our shock, the seats were in first class and they were the only seats available that would get us to Borneo in time to meet our Orion II Expedition cruise.

But there was another roadblock. It would cost more money to get those first class seats as we were not originally in first class. Nancy and Maureen then went to work on this new problem and a solution was found whereby a certain number of my United Frequent Flyer miles would be used to upgrade us to these 2 available seats. Finally, there was a solution for us to meet that Orion II ship.

But wait. Another problem then surfaced. Asiana Airlines, which was originally scheduled to fly us from Seoul, South Korea to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, Borneo, would not release our seats on their flight. Again, Nancy and Maureen went to work to find a solution to this new roadblock and they found it. A United Airlines supervisor at the San Francisco airport personally walked over to the Asiana Airlines desk at the airport and spoke to an agent about releasing our 2 seats due to United’s mechanical problem.

And to our amazement, Asiana Airlines released our seats and United was then able to confirm our 2 seats in United first class to Hong Kong, followed by 2 seats in coach on Malaysia Airlines to Borneo. And they were all in time to board the Orion II cruise.

But it was not that easy as another problem then occurred. Tom and I would have to spend the night in Hong Kong because we would arrive there after the one Malaysia airline flight had left for Borneo that day. So Maureen immediately grabbed a hotel room for us in Hong Kong, solving that hiccup, and then learning it was the last room available at the Hong Kong airport hotel. What luck!

Still, another problem occurred. We did not have a visa to enter China as we had not planned to go to Hong Kong. After much discussion, it was determined that “in transit” passengers did not need a visa to enter Hong Kong. So we were OK on this problem.

Photo & copyright approval by Dr. Birute Galdikas

But we were not out of the maze yet. The United Airlines gate agent in San Francisco could not help us claim our 2 first class seats because we did not have a boarding pass and she could not provide us one. Maureen and Nancy continued their work on this challenge and soon two United Airlines customer service supervisors arrived at the gate providing boarding passes for us. And then they escorted us onto the plane to our seats at 3H and 3K. What an experience we had just had and we weren’t even there yet. We were scheduled to arrive in Borneo on Aug. 3 and would spend one night in the Hyatt Kota Kinabalu in time to board that Orion II ship. Finally, our emergency re-scheduling had been solved and we were on our way to Borneo.

Photo & Copyright approval by Dr. Birute Galdikas

But it was due to Maureen and Nancy, who took the bull by the horns, to personally solve this unforeseeable and almost impossible problem and to get us successfully and safely to Borneo.

It was a dream come true and we are forever grateful to these two awesome ladies for never giving up until we were re-routed successfully to our dream destination and those orangutans. Going first class on United Airlines was amazing and our first experience was one of adventure, discovery and just plain luxury and enjoyment. Everything we wanted was provided and we thought we were royalty with the outstanding service.

To get us to the orangutans, these two ladies were on the phone working together non-stop to solve the problem for us. Changing an entire itinerary and airline at the last minute was almost impossible and therefore, took time to solve the unbelievable complexities. Beyond Priceless.

Finally, when I told this adventure to Kim, an attendant on our Hong Kong flight, she said “You are so calm and cool about it.” I told her I learned long ago to handle a problem remaining calm because you have to be to handle one and it usually turns out good if you do”.  Kim also was awesome and fulfilled our every need and wish on that first class flight for us. Priceless.

The third time was a charm and an adventure we will never forget because of those orangutans, Maureen Taylor and Nancy, Orion Expedition Cruises and United Airlines. It was a successful impossible dream come true!

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A Taste of the Old South in Charleston & Savannah

§  On our tour of Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort and Hilton Head Island, June and I recall the fun, interesting things, following memories and comments, in no particular order:

§  Visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital and seeing sick turtles being nurtured back to health by Vets and caregiver assistants, and seeing a newly arrived Snapping turtle with medical problems being operated on by that Vet and his assistants. Priceless.

§  Seeing an assistant caressing and holding the leg and foot of that Snapping turtle with her hand as the Vet worked on it. Priceless.

§  Sitting on the front porch of Jekyll Island Club Hotel, watching 6 men and women play croquet on the hotel’s perfectly manicured lawn. The hotel is an old time southern resort that set the mood of this Charleston and Savannah Tauck World Discovery tour.

§  Riding the tram around Jekyll Island with Phyllis and hearing all her stories of the old days when the Rockefellers and other oil rich millionaires came to the island in January, February and March to hunt, fish and party.

§  Learning that the beautiful Spanish moss that hangs out of the trees is not a safe decoration or stuffing because the moss is loaded with bugs, parasites and other dangerous things.

§  Learning that Jekyll Island is now a state park and the land is leased for 99 years to the homeowners who are not allowed to own the land under their home.

§  Learning that the area’s Hercules Corp., one of the largest corporations of its kind in the world, extracts products of all kinds from pine trees.

§  Seeing, feeling and learning that the ballast rocks that ships carried to the Savannah port were used to “pave” the streets of Savannah.

§  Hearing from a city guide that 46% of the USA’s peanuts are grown in Georgia.

§  Seeing and learning about the 2 kinds of iron fences in Savannah-wrought iron and cast iron, and that New Orleans and Savannah have the most of both.

§  Learning that Savannah has 2.2 miles of ironwork on the homes and in the yards.

§  Discovering that the Girl Scouts of America began in Savannah March 12, 1912 and that the lady who started it, Juliette Gordon Low “Daisy” was born and lived in Savannah.

§  Knowing what caused Low to seek new directions in her life was being divorced by her husband, William Mackie Low, who considered her below his level.

§  Learning that this tour of Savannah-Charleston was the #888th for Tauck World Discovery.

§  Learning about tabby-sand, lime, oyster shell and water- construction and seeing several buildings made that way.

§  Learning about and seeing the Ha-Ha, a moat like trench built around a plantation or estate to keep the animals from escaping. It was named Ha-Ha because of the element of surprise when it was encountered.

§  Learning that the Georgia peach originated from China and that it is related to the almond, plum and cherry, and that Georgia is the third biggest producer of peaches in the USA.

§  Seeing how Oglethorpe originally laid out Savannah into planned squares pattern. The first planned city in the USA had 24 squares surrounded by homes.

§  Seeing the remaining beautiful 22 squares with fountains or sculptures and trees, blooming shrubs and benches.

§  Knowing that the Girl Scouts founder-Juliette Low-had ear and hearing problems that nearly left her deaf, and that she was an accomplished artist which was frowned on in her time.

§  Meeting magnetic Robert Baden Powell at a London luncheon in 1945 that she didn’t want to attend because she thought it would be boring, caused Low to found the Girl Scouts.

§  Learning that Johnny Mercer who wrote and sang “Moon River” lived in Savannah and that he had an affair with Judy Garland and was a founder of Capital Records.

§  Learning that Low was serious about making her Girl Scouts a success because all girls were invited to join.  And in 3 weeks there were 102 Girl Scouts. And by the time she died at age 66 of breast cancer, there were 165,000 Girl Scouts. Today there are 59 million Girl Scouts.

§  Enjoying the expert and excellent leadership of Tauck World Discovery’s tour director Andrea Rovito, who LOVED the South’s Savannah and Charleston, and had us loving them from the beginning.

§  Seeing the intricately custom built model ships in the Ships of Sea Museum that were used in the early years of Savannah, many which were built by the same man over 15 years.

§  Taking the free trolley tour and free ferry tour of the Savannah River

§  Seeing Chippewa Square, where Tom Hanks sat on that bench in “Forest Gump” movie, and knowing that 1 of 3 of the benches used is in the Savannah History Museum.

§  Learning that Savannah was founded as a colony where slaves, lawyers, Catholics and hard liquor were prohibited.

§  Knowing that Savannah was the first planned city in the USA and was laid out by Oglethorpe, who designed the city with 24 squares. Today there are 22 squares, with 2 made into parking garages.

§  Seeing the beautiful Dogwoods. Azaleas and Indian Hawthorne in full bloom, and then seeing Magnolia trees, Wisteria, and Jasmine, and smelling their wonderful fragrances.

§  Learning that South Carolina was the rice bowl to the world in the 1700’s.

§  Learning that all brick and rock have been brought into Savannah.

§  Seeing the holes blown in the walls of Fort Pulaski by the Union Army with their new rifle barrel machine guns.

§  Hearing that Sherman gave President Lincoln Savannah as a Christmas present, thereby saving Savannah and all the beautiful colonial homes.

§  Seeing the first Black Baptist Church totally built by slaves and the basement used for Underground Railroad activities.

§  Learning that stucco was put on homes for beauty and to keep moisture from penetrating the brick walls of a house.

§  Learning that Savannah was occupied over 2 years by the Union army.

§  Riding the Pedi-cab to and from the Savannah Theatre to see “Southern Nights” and “The Beat Goes On”, both outstanding performances which featured songs of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and both of which were fun and enjoyable.

§  Enjoying the 18th and 19th Century Savannah homes, in the style of Regency, Federal, Second Empire, Adams and Italian Renaissance.

§  Learning that Savannah has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade and celebration in the USA.

§  Learning that the 1886 Cotton Exchange warehouses on River Street by the Savannah River are now tourist shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.

§  Learning that 7 ladies in Savannah got together to stop the destruction of the Davenport House, thus starting the Savannah Historical Society to save the past.

§  Learning that Fort Pulaski was built of 25 million bricks by slaves and area masons at the entrance to Savannah River and that, to this day, there are no cracks in the 7-foot thick walls.

§  Learning that the battle of Fort Pulaski, between the Confederate and Union soldiers lasted only 30 hours and that the Union won.

§  Knowing that the first use of the Union’s rifle cannon that had grooves in the barrel giving a spin to the bullet as it passed faster out of the gun, was the thing that won the battle for the Union.

§  Knowing that the fort was used as part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War and that it served as a prison at one time.

§  Visiting Hilton Head Island and seeing that it is 42 square miles.

§  Learning that Hilton Head Island was named for Captain William Hilton who discovered the island during a voyage from England.

§  Sampling Key Lime and Benne flavored Byrd Cookies made daily in Savannah, provided by our tour director Andrea Rovito. Delicious

§  Knowing that Savannah is one of the largest port in the USA and seeing container ship after container ship arriving with thousands of containers per ship.

§  Serving as the Gullah Queen in Aunt Pearlie Sue’s presentation of what it was like to be a slave who spoke the Gullah language. Priceless.

§  Hearing Aunt Pearlie’s Sue closing her presentation with love for all people and sharing it with all people. Priceless

§  Experiencing Antebellum Civil War, Beaufort, South Carolina, that was not destroyed by the Union soldiers in the Civil War.

§  Riding in a carriage pulled by Paul Newman, an 8-year-old Belgium Draft horse bought from the Amish, around Beaufort learning the story of the antebellum homes and Civil War.

§  Seeing the house and other buildings that were the subject of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.

§  Learning how some residents in Beaufort buried their valuables in the ground so the Union couldn’t find it or steal it from them.

§  Getting a CD of Memories of our entire tour from our Tauck World Discovery tour director, Andrea Rovito. Priceless.

§  Touring the Drayton Hall Plantation outside of Charleston, built between 1738-42, that stands alone as the only authentic survivor of the Ashley’s River colonial past, intact and in its original condition and Georgian-Palladian-inspired architecture. Priceless.

§  Learning that Drayton Hall was saved from destruction during the Civil War because it was surrounded by red flags indicating a dangerous disease, serving as a “small pox hospital.”

§  Seeing the blue porch ceilings of the old Southern homes because it was believed these kept out ghosts. Ghosts wouldn’t go into BLUE water!

§  Learning that a brick fence with every other brick missing allowed air to pass through the fence.

§  Learning the pineapple was used as a sign of hospitality in colonial America.

§  Seeing that rooms with very small windows in them were to keep ghosts from getting inside.

§  Ordering Colored paint from England that was very expensive if any other paint was desired because the only color available was white.

§  Learning that Beaufort, South Carolina was occupied by then Union and served as the Union’s hospital supply, therefore, saving Beaufort as is.

§  Learning that indigo was a huge cash crop for plantations and that the 5-foot tall plant with dark berries was cut off at the ground and shipped to Europe for dyeing fabrics.         

§  Learning and seeing that there were 11,000 graves in the Charleston National Cemetery due to the Civil War.

§  Attending the Praise Session at the Circular Church of Christ by 3 ladies singing in Gullah and other songs that the plantation slaves sang as they worked the fields of the Old South.

§  Visiting several churches and their graveyards, some dating back to 1695, and hearing the stories of the various ghosts that appeared there.

§  Learning on the Ghost Tour that a tall, pillar-like slender stone in a graveyard indicated a life cut short, such as a child or murder victim.

§  Learning that several gravestones were stacked against the church wall because no one knew where they belonged after Hurricane Hugo removed them from graves.

§  Learning that sweet grass grew in the low land of South Carolina and that very fine, exclusive baskets are made of the grass and are super expensive due to the extremely labor intensive work to yield one.

§  Learning that in the year 2011, 102 cruise ships docked in Charleston harbor for a visit.

§  Learning that the Charleston City Market, now used for shopping on dry land, was built in 1807 and used to be the fish market on the dock where the boats unloaded their day’s catch.

§  Learning that the College of Charleston is now a state university with 12,000 students where women graduates wear all white and carry red roses and the men wear white jackets with a red rose in the lapel, all to receive their diploma.

§  Learning that in 1904, iced tea was served for the first time at the St. Louis World’s Fair

§  Learning that rice, indigo and cotton made Charleston the richest city.

§  Learning that a Charleston law prevents a structure from being demolished that is 75 years old or older.

§  Learning that Charleston’s military academy, The Citadel, has 2,500 students and the freshmen are called “knobs” because they have shaved heads and walk on the street beside the sidewalk. The females have their hair cut short. All have no obligation to go into service for their country.

§  Seeing that a person could get married, pick up their mail, pay their taxes and go to jail, all on the corners of one intersection in Charleston because there is a federal, county, and city office and a church.

§  “The shot heard around the world” that started the Civil War at Ft. Sumter only lasted 30 hours because the Union army didn’t have enough ammunition.

§  Knowing that The Citadel freshmen have to march to football games and then stand at attention while the seniors claim their seats first.

§  Being told that freshmen have to march to meals and eat square meals, i.e. their arms must make a square going up and down to the plate at all times.

§  Learning that the colonial home, kitchen and privy were all separate structures to protest the main house from fires, heat, cold and unpleasant fragrances.

§  Telling that the bricks in the old colonial homes were made by slaves because they had black spots in them.

§  Tasting she crab soup, a signature dish of the area that used to be made only of female crabs. Now, we are told, any old crab is used. It was rich, flavorful, hearty and just perfect soup that was full of crabs.

§  Eating raspberry crème bruleé which was “to die for”, extremely delicious and the best we ever had.

§  Learning that the traditional Charleston garden is shade and winter blooms.

§  Seeing the multi-colored row houses saved on the 1740 waterfront by several ladies and in 1950 were “tarted up”, spruced up and painted those multi-colors.

§  Learning that the AME Baptist Church stood for African Methodist Episcopalian Baptist Church that was formed by the slaves.

§  Learning that South Carolina is gaining a balanced economy with a great ocean front and port that is 5th largest in the US that exports more frozen chickens than any place in the US.

§  Visiting the only tea plantation and factory in the USA.

§  Eating fresh strawberries every day while touring Savannah and Charleston-priceless.

§  Learning that the tea plantation gets 7-10 leaf cuttings between May and September and that tea leaves are insect and disease resistant with no pesticides ever used.

§  Learning that it only takes 20 hours from the time the tea leaf is cut in the field until the tea makes it to your cup. Awesome.

§  Learning that 34 nations grow tea and that the USA buys 50% of its tea from Argentina.

§  Learning that 1 pound of coffee and 1 pound of tea have the same amount of caffeine but tea has less caffeine because it takes less tea to make a cup of tea than it takes to make a cup of coffee.

§  Discovering that first cut tea is the first time a field is cut and is the best.

§  Learning that 5000 pounds of tea leaves yields 1000 pounds of dry tea leaves.

§  Learning that tea leaves are flavored with natural protein of the seed or essence of the oil.

§  Listening to our Tauck World Discovery tour director, Andrea Rovito, telling the complete story of the Civil War during our tour from memory with no notes. Priceless.

§  Learning Middleton Plantation house was saved during the Civil War from destruction because little red flags were placed around it indicating a dangerous infectious disease was there and that all should stay away because of small pox.

§  Seeing that the Middleton Plantation House was Georgian-Palladian design, which was simple, symmetrical, balanced, boxy and beautiful.

§  Learning that the National Trust for Historical Preservation now owns the Middleton Plantation and 19 other properties to preserve not restore.

United States of America

Winter in Yellowstone National Park

Magic Moment Memories of Tauck’s World Discovery’s “Winter in Yellowstone” Event

*The pack of wolves howling on the other side of the valley while a wolf, a golden eagle and raven were on the opposite side eating an elk. It was so loud and lasted 2-3 minutes

*The ride from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful Snow Lodge in a school bus yellow bulldozer-wheeled bus-Glaval-a one of a kind ride

*Seeing a wolf and raven thru a telescope eating an elk

*Seeing fumaroles, hot springs, geysers and mud pots while walking in the snow at Fountain Paint Pots

*Gerard Baker, the Mandan Hidatsa Indian, on our tour who spoke to us about his Indian customs and traditions—a priceless one-of-a-kind encounter. He wore a full length bison coat and coyote Davy Crocket style fur hat

*Bob Landis, the world renowned filmmaker-movie maker, showing us some of his outstanding footage of scenes in Yellowstone-the red fox diving head first in the snow, otters sliding down a snow-covered hill, a swan walking in the snow, 2 eagles grasping each other in flight and then letting go right before they fell to the ground and more.

*A coyote jumping up and then diving head first into the snow to get a rodent and capturing the instant it happened on my camera

*The snow and snowing to white-out was so much fun

*Walking in the snow and hearing crunch, crunch, crunch as we walked

*The Hop-On Hop-Off method Tauck used to tour Yellowstone- pull up to the dedicated path, get out, walk in a little loose snow, then onto the dedicated path, see the feature, and return the same way back.

*Standing in line in 23 degree below zero snow for 10-12 minutes waiting to use the “one-holer”  porta potty with a foot of snow on its roof. Priceless.

*A herd of snow-covered Bison on the road walking right by our Bombardier and blocking our passage

*Three Trumpeter Swans just a swimming in a snow-covered river while it was snowing heavily.

*The Indian Prayer given in native Indian language and English by Gerard Baker while we stood in the snow-covered road of Enchanted Forest surrounded by snow-covered pine trees in 23 degrees temperature. Priceless

*Stopping for hot chocolate and popcorn in a Warming Hut in the middle of a day’s sightseeing

*Seeing the “Ice Trees”, flocked trees, Rime Frost crystals and Needle Frost crystals around steam vents and hot springs and learning about them from Jim Halfpenny

*Having Janee and Jim Sundby as tour directors, both beyond outstanding

*Having the Tauck 3-generation family on tour with us and getting to know them

*Walking in the snow at night

*Dressed like mummies in so many layers to keep warm we could barely bend or move

*Getting the one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience this winter wonderland, thanks to Tauck World Discovery

*Getting the opportunity to meet personally with the best experts associated with Yellowstone National Park.

*The Bighorn Ram looking down at us from a 15ft. hill

*Getting the opportunity to have a first-time encounter the entire tour with Gerard Baker, a real Indian that we could relate to and understand

*Learning that our final Bombardier ride would be the last Bombardier ride in Yellowstone because of new snow transportation being introduced.

*Getting to wear very casual, plain warm clothes everyday of the tour, including to Cocktail Parties and Welcoming and Farewell Dinners. Priceless

United States of America

Roar, Snore and S’Mores on Safari

Instantly, we became tigers and others became lions, elephants or hippos. And, in case we forgot, a simulated tiger skin wristband imprinted with our tent number reminded us. Next came a t-shirt. Then the tiger group was on its way to a roaring and snoring good time on a safari in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Hand luggage in tow, we began searching for our tent, one of 46 overlooking the African savannah where giraffe, Northern White Rhino, Cape buffalo, African crowned crane, grant gazelle, oryx, and giant egret roam daily in the Safari Park, 35 miles north of the Zoo.

Finally, we found our tent #37 written on a tree stump stool. Unzipping the tent “door” revealed a normal hotel room encased in a heavy canvas tent. The electric lamps, fan, heater and hot and cold water all worked so we were in business next to the elephants..

The 17 elephants were putting on a welcome show for us: eating hay,  pooping, swimming and submerging trunk and all under water, rocking and rolling and twisting to their silent music, and flipping over in their daily ritual. And they could do this because their exhibit compound had just been cleaned by 4 keepers who had hand raked and collected their poop from the previous day. Each day, 2,000 pounds of poop is gathered and placed in a Bobcat bulldozer and larger truck, then delivered to local farmers for fertilizer.

Too soon, the tiger group had to leave the elephants and continue our orientation tour.  This time our hunt was for the restrooms, as there were none in the tents. A block or so away we found our target, full-service restrooms including showers.

The dinner bell was calling us so off we went for cocktails, then chicken, green salad, squash, and cake overlooking the Park’s African savannah. All 87 of us ate dinner on wooden picnic tables while watching the sun and animals end another day.

On our safari, we were given a glimpse into “as the elephant world turns.” Drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa, allowed the San Diego Zoo to acquire 7 elephants, arriving via 747 aircraft. They were going about their daily lives, eating, pooping, sparring and resting with each other. Since males only associate with females for mating, one solitary bull elephant was by himself and was busy throwing dust all over his body to kill insects, to cleanse and to cool.

Meanwhile Umngani, a female elephant, was standing in the elephant yard nursery waiting her third calf’s birth. Her male and female offspring, Ingadze and Khosi, were visiting every day to see if they had a new playmate.

As we became more involved in the elephant world, we learned that male and female African elephants have tusks, but only the Asian males have them. So, when an Asian bull elephant first saw a female African elephant, he didn’t know she was female. He only knew females did not have tusks. After a few days, he figured it out and started showing her what a strong elephant he was by picking up a log and running with it and dropping it near her over and over.

In the Rhino world, two female Rhinos looked like they were in relationship as they napped side by side in the savannah.  But then we learned only one male and female  Rhino pair was put together in an exhibit, but no baby Rhinos were born. By
1972, the solution was discovered when another female was added to their exhibit. Like elephants, a female Rhino only associates with a male when she is ready to mate. The rest of the time, female Rhinos prefer being with their female Rhino friends. Now, there are many baby Rhinos.

After a break for S’Mores and hot chocolate by the fire pit, we revisited the elephant world to find six elephants of all sizes and ages taking a late-evening bath. They totally submerged themselves in the water, rocked and rolled over with all four feet in the air, and did elephant acrobatics. What a soothing and calming experience this was to watch.

After dark we entered the lion family world, invited there by the lion’s keeper into their kitchen and bedrooms. Their freezer was filled with large round stickless popsicles made from meat blood drippings. “The lions LOVE them, the keeper told us. And every time she works with the male lion, Izu, she collects hair shed from his huge mane and keeps it in a plastic container for all to feel. It was downy soft. What an unexpected and rare glimpse into a world we would never have known.

Finally, it was time to snore at this Roar and Snore safari adventure. We had no trouble meeting the 10:30 PM “lights out” curfew. Having been warned that elephants would trumpet and lions would roar during the night, we asked others if they heard the sounds. We didn’t know since we slept so soundly in our comfortable bed in the tent. So at breakfast, everyone we asked said “Yes” and we never heard one sound as we enjoyed snoring in our tent.

The grand finale was petting and feeding a rare Rothschild giraffe, Chomoa, and a rare Northern White Rhino, Bhopu. Caravan safaris are a regular event at the Park and these two animals know treats are available from the truck. So, each voluntarily nonchalantly sauntered straight to the truck to pose like a movie star with each person for photos in exchange for their favorite green leaf snack. Amazingly, each animal knew when all photos were taken so they just turned around and sauntered off just like they had come. The movie star Choma was finished with this truck and awaited the next safari to arrive. Then it was time to leave an awesome roaring and snoring fun safari adventure in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and return to our normal everyday lives. But it sure was hard to leave those precious, priceless animals and their fun, unique personalities.

Photo Copy ©  2015 

United States of America

Foot Work at the San Diego ZOO

Three orangutans with toe sacks over their heads, a bear that used to dance, a jaguar wanting meat, and an elephant having a pedicure were part of a unique animal experience Christina and I had on our behind-the-scenes tour of the 94-year-old San Diego Zoo. Stepping into the lives of this menagerie of animals for a few minutes reminded me of my many African safaris. And visiting one of the top zoos in the world for preservation of species and humane treatment of animals was a thrill.

The purpose of my trip to the 100-acre San Diego Zoo was to see the seven elephants in their new multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art Elephant Odyssey and Care Center. As I came upon the center, I was surprised to see that the custom-built treatment enclosures were in full public view.

In one, a huge, 10-foot-tall African elephant had a foot sticking out of a hole in the enclosure. The elephant’s veterinarian was filing its toenails. Having seen hundreds of elephants in zoos and on African safaris, I had never seen anything like this. How such a huge animal could submit and place a foot out of a hole in the fence was beyond my comprehension, even though I had cared for many cows, bulls, and calves on our dairy farm when I was growing up.

I learned it takes months of training to show the elephants how to do the procedure because the San Diego Zoo uses cooperative training where the animals are never forced.  One thing that kept the elephant cooperative was the keeper sitting next to the veterinarian. This keeper was feeding the elephant 18-inch-long lettuce leaves. As the elephant got its pedicure, it would stick its trunk out of another hole in the 15-foot-tall steel fence to grab a lettuce leaf.  It did this every 10 seconds throughout the pedicure. I just couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.

When I watched veterinarians and keepers shining a flashlight into the eyes and ears of another elephant, I asked what was wrong. One veterinarian replied, “She has an infection.” As we watched, they gave the elephant a shot in the hip to cure the infection.

Our next stop on the Zoo tour was a visit with Tanya, the keeper of the Orangutans. It was so funny because it was raining and two orangutans were sitting on a tree branch with a toe sack over their heads to keep dry. Next to them on another branch was another one with a toe sack over its head. Keeper Tanya told us that 39-year-old Clyde, the adult male of the bunch, was in his bedroom because he did not like getting wet. Also with him were Satu, Inda and Janey, who brushes her hair every morning, loves to paint and has sold several of her paintings. Janey is the only Sumatran orangutan in the Zoo. The rest are all from Borneo.

The highlight of this stop was when keeper Tanya went into the orangutan habitat and fed them a morning treat of grapes and other fruits. Two of them stood up on their back legs ready to receive the grapes thrown to them just like humans stand to catch a ball. Tanya told us the orangutan gang loves air-popped popcorn, nutritional biscuits, leaves, fruits, vegetables, termites, honey, and barbecue sauce.

Tanya explained that the Zoo has a glass wall to separate the public from the orangutans because “they don’t have immune systems like we do so they easily catch human diseases.” The final fact we learned was why the concrete viewing area floor was covered with shredded rubber tires. I thought it would be to keep my feet and legs from hurting after standing for so long enjoying the antics of the orangutans. But no, that was not the reason. It was because the orangutan’s bedroom was right under the viewing area and the rubber “rug” would keep the bedroom quiet while the orangutans rested!

Our next stop was to see a Sloth Bear. Now, I had never heard of a Sloth Bear until the keeper told us it used to be known as the dancing bear that performed in circuses and animal shows. It would “dance” like a ballerina with skirt and all. Ken was the cutest bear, with long fluffy fur and long, long claws just like a sloth has. But the highlight of visiting Ken was when the keeper fed him a bottle of water and honey with a straw. A Sloth Bear’s lips are flap-like, enabling it to suck food and water. Watching Ken form those long lips tightly around the straw made us laugh out loud for several minutes. Even funnier, while he was noisily sucking the water and honey, Ken was sitting on his behind with his legs straight out front. Oh, he was so cute.

Next stop was a visit with Orson, a velvety and beautiful black Jaguar. The entire time we visited Orson, he enjoyed five pounds of ground beef. His keeper explained that Orson weighed around 150 pounds and that a female jaguar is gold with black spots and half Orson’s size. Jaguars come from Central and South America, and have huge feet and a head full of muscles that can bite through a skull.

The Zoo is a breeding ground for many species, and one is the California condor, which has the longest wing span of any bird. Thanks to the Zoo, there are now 400 California Condors in the world. The experts at the San Diego Zoo work with other zoos and animal research centers around the world, helping them with their animal challenges in nutrition, diseases, medical needs, and habitats.

Experiencing the San Diego Zoo on a behind-the-scenes tour gave us the total animal encounter, with surprises all along the way and an education too. Watching the elephant get a pedicure while eating long-leaf lettuce has to rank as one of my most wonderful unexpected sights to behold. If only I could have told that elephant how beautiful it looks with its new pedicure!

United States of America

Swirls, Light and Slot Canyon

In an old beat-up dented 15 year-old red Ford F150 pickup, Christina and I and 10 others crammed in the front and back of a Navajo style 4WD ride. The driver-guide was Vera “pure Navajo through and through from head to toe in every sense of the word” the Navajo said. She rocked and rolled and rattled and spun us for 2 miles all the way down hot and sandy Antelope Canyon to the entrance of the Upper Antelope Canyon or Slot Canyon, all a part of the Navajo Nation land near Page, Arizona and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, USA.

We had to have a Navajo guide with us at all times because Upper Antelope Canyon is an active flood area at any time when rain occurs even miles away from the canyon. And the Navajo have the experience and the communication system to know when flood waters will hit Antelope Canyon and especially Slot Canyon. When the raging force of flash flood water enters Slot Canyon, it can fill this canyon up to 60 feet high with such great force that people have died. Knowing the weather was agreeable, we entered Upper Antelope Slot Canyon, the most visited slot canyon in the Southwest because all conditions here are ideal.

And what an entrance it was. It was at least 20 degrees cooler inside and the walls were 60 feet tall and the slot at the top ranged from 3-12 feet wide.  They were carved, scared and twisted in such beautiful formations it was just shocking that this was a natural creation. The red-orange sandstone walls had been shaped for thousands of years by winds and powerful floods through the skinny canyon. And the twisted and swirled red-orange sandstone walls the length of a football field were the result.

Another highlight of the visit came from the sun. The prime time to visit Slot Canyon is 10 am to noon because of the angle of the sun into the canyon. All of a sudden, through one area of the canyon’s slot ceiling, the sun shone a foot-wide beam of white light down to the sandy floor. It was such a mystical magical event and created a feeling of heavenly euphoria. We didn’t want to leave.

But, too soon, the magical walk through the canyon ended and it was time to get back into the old dented F150 Ford Pickup and rock and roll back to the main Navajo tourist office and our Tauck World Discovery tour coach, thus ending a one-of-a-kind walk through Navajo candy-looking corkscrew canyon land.

Costa Rica North America

The Maleku Hospital in Costa Rica

It took 3 1/2 hours to get to their Guatuso reservation in an isolated area around Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica but it was a priceless experience. Since I had an extra day before my Tauck World Discovery tour, I took a day trip to visit the 600-member Maleku Indigenous people, one of the 7 indigenous tribes totaling 60,000 people or 1% of Costa Rica. We were met by Alcides, our Maleku guide, who took us into the village where we were welcomed with their traditional greeting of knocking on our right then left shoulder while saying “capi capi”, which is hello-welcome in Maleku. The main welcoming area of bamboo huts with palm-thatched roof had a ground wood fire going inside to keep mosquitoes away. Outside 6 Maleku people were making tamales by wrapping hominy-size corn in banana leaves. Alcides showed us around the reservation, explaining the beliefs and ancient traditions of his people.

Maleku and Boruca tribes are known for their colorful hand-carved masks out of balsa wood that they wear for the Day of the Devil festival each January, and for burying their family members inside their dirt-floored huts. With the majority of Maleku living in concrete houses built for them by the government in 1968, burying inside the concrete house is no longer possible. Now, they have to get permission to follow their traditional burials outside the home since they live in a reserve. Burials occur at 4 a.m. so only Maleku people will attend.

Lunch was served in the Maleku dining area on wooden tables. It consisted of large amounts of black beans, papas or potatoes, rice, pork, lettuce and tomato salad, fried plantains(bananas) and orange juice or cassava juice (yucca or tapioca plant). It was delicious.

Then it was time to go into the forest, known as the “Maleku hospital.” Alcides showed us leaves from a Hombre Grande tree, when boiled makes tea for a bad stomach ache, another plant used for insect repellant and the black wood tree used to build houses. The tubar root makes potatoes, pataste makes cocoa. Their ceremonial clothing is made from the mastate tree which is disappearing because of forest destruction. The  bark cloth is painted with the fingertips. Finally he showed, a cinnamon-like leaf, an anise leaf that numbs the tooth for surgery, the curcuma plant makes yellow paint, achiote seed makes a natural red paint, Jamaica tree, a relative of ginger, and cassava root, which is like yucca or tapioca.

Then it was time for a Maleku language class.They still speak the Maleku language and they even have their own radio station and the elders still teach their language to the school children. They also speak English and Spanish. Fufu means butterfly, herra means iguana, uriuri means holler monkey, capi capi means hello or greetings. And we had gracious greetings by the Maleku indigenous people of Costa Rica.

Canada North America

Arctic Inuksuk & Polar Bear Jail

On a recent trip to the Canadian Arctic tundra to see polar bears, my Tauck World Discovery tour took me to Churchill, Manitoba, on Hudson Bay to see an Inuksuk.

I had never heard of an inuksuk and thought that it looked like a stack-of-rocks traffic cop giving directions. Then I learned that the Inuit people have been building these rock stacks since ancient times to act in the place of messengers, sometimes to indicate a good hunting or fishing place, a spot where surplus food is stored, the way to a certain place or a trail across the tundra.

While observing that 15-foot-high inuksuk on Hudson Bay, I wondered if it was pointing the way to a polar bear. I turned my head and saw our first polar bear from the comfort of our warm tundra vehicle, a converted school bus. This 850-pound bear got down on the ice and rolled like an acrobat, ending up on its back with all four feet up.

That bear, then, just got up and continued walking to an area with small bushes to lie down with his back to the fierce-blowing wind and snow like nothing awesome had just happened.

Every now and then, the polar bear gets to wait out the wind and snowstorm in the comfort of the polar bear jail in Churchill. The town has a law that polar bears cannot come within five miles. Fourteen bears had violated that law when we were visiting and were in jail. Some were repeat offenders, as they continued to come to town looking for food and interrupting people’s way of life. They eat in jail and when the jail is full, they are taken back into the tundra to give others a priceless experience.