Monday, February 12, 2018

Costa Rica

Pura Vida!

Please note these pictures were all taken from friends, as my camera was stolen while in Costa Rica.
Emily gets speeding ticket in Costa Rica

Market in Quepos

Bride and Groom!

Walking through the National park, we found this thirsty guy

At the reception 

Black Volcanic Sand, Player Hermosa

Our house for the week!

These little guys woke us up each morning.

Storm rolling in, driving to Jaco

I’ve been to Costa Rica twice, I’ll throw in some highlights from the first time with my friend Michael, but focus on this last go at it. As most of you know, I spent Thanksgiving week of 08’ in Costa Rica for a friend's wedding (Brie and Rob).  We had a great time while there but the trip home is definitely worth mentioning. With one missed flight we ended up visiting 3 countries, 4 airports and drove through 7 states in 48 hours - all on about 8-10 hours of sleep.

Part of the reason there were so many countries, states and hours involved was due to a much failed attempt to save $450.00. It was $450.00 cheaper to fly out of DC than RDU with a route of USA, El Salvador, Costa Rica vs. USA to Costa Rica. The DC folks convince us this is the way to go. We should have known we were in for a full week of adventure when an hour before we leave (very early in the am) Kristin realizes her wallet is gone. It must be at the bar we were at the night before. But that does us no good at 5 am heading to the airport (you’ll be happy to know they had her wallet and she got it upon returning to the country).

We had an amazing week. The girls rented a newly built teak house that slept 13 or so of us. owned and operated the house. About 10 minutes down the road was the Jungle Villa, aka the boy’s house, with the bride and groom to be and their families about in the middle between the two.

Our days were filled with excursions, laying on black volcanic beach sand, wandering through the jungle/ rain forest, exploring, watching local soccer games, shopping the open markets, people watching and being amazed about the simple way of life.


1.      Set on the edge of Manuel Antonio's hillside with a great view of the ocean and surrounding forests, this restaurant is actually housed under some permanent tents and the starboard wing of a retired army transport plane, hence the name El AviĆ³n, which means "The Plane." This specific plane was actually shot down by the Sandinista army, leading to a scandal that uncovered illegal CIA supply missions to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
5.      Horse Tours:
6.      Palm Tree Forest

We decided to go out with a bang - dancing to a live band in Manuel Antonio, where were staying... ending up staying out a big too late. We had to go to bamboo jams, I mean the live music is only on Tues/ Friday and we missed the Tuesday band.

The next day, Amanda, Kristin and I set out for San Jose in the rental car.  Our morning alarm was set on my phone. Set for 7:30. I hear the alarm at 7:30 am, and make an executive decision to reset to 8:30. I get up, get showered only to find my alarm on the phone is set to eastern time, not central... so it was actually only 7:30 (no wonder I was so tired when the first alarm went off, it was only 6:30... and we went to bed at 2:ooish). Since we had all this extra time, we decided to stop in Hermosa, which is a big surfing community/ beach outside Jaco. This beach is a black sandy beach due to the volcanoes. We collectively decided we should stop and eat some eggs, hope to see some of the huge surfing competition that was going on (we did not however) and get one last look at the beauty of it all.

Next since Amanda and Kristin had never been to Jaco, I drive them thru the town... rather cute town I must say. I then tell them we MUST stop and see the crocodile bridge in Tarcoles, right outside Jaco. So we did. There were about 20 HUGE crocs lounging in the sun. Since we had been sipping on fresh fruity drinks all week, we decided we needed one last pineapple/ mango and rum frozen drink. And guess what? Right after crossing the croc bridge, we saw a bar. We stopped. This is when the "departure saga" began....

As we danced and sang and took photos all of a sudden, Costa Rican police step out into the road and we were pulled over. They got my NC license and passport and informed us we were going 103 km. Having never seen a speed limit sign while we were there, we didn't know what the hell this meant.  What it meant was we got a ticket. This also meant 20-25 min banter with 4 cops who could not speak our language or us theirs. We did get that we were speeding, 103 in a 60-80K (who knows how fast that is anyway?), we were probably getting a ticket, that were supposed to pay at a bank, but it was Saturday so banks were closed, which meant paying at the car rental place with a 30% mark up.  The cops chat us up asking where we ate, how we liked Costa Rica
 and if it had been our first visit despite us telling them we were running late for our flight. One cop even had the audacity to answer a telephone call mid convo with me. He walked away from the car for about 2 min and didn’t come back. I got out of the car and had to lay the law down "I realize we were speeding, but that is a done deal. We need to go to the next step. I am sorry for doing it, but had no idea how fast I was going, since this country is in Kilomoters... and there are NO speed limit signs, or none that I can read, again, sorry... but what are we going to do about this? If you need to write me a ticket, fine write it, but we GOTZ to go, we got a flight to catch!" FINALLY, they wrote the ticket ($102 that we had to split 3 ways, awesome) and we were on our way. Please note nothing was said about the fruity drinks we each had in our hand...  Once arriving at the airport we find some of our crew and tell them about the ticket. They laugh as they told us they had been pulled over as well, but 5 min and $40.00 later, they were on their way. Geezus.

The flight to El Salvador was uneventful but we failed to take note of what accurate time our flight from there to DC was.   We stayed with the bride and groom the night before leaving for CR so Amanda’s car and all of our stuff was in DC at their house. This would be no big deal, were we all on the same flight back, like we were going down, but we are not. Kristin, Amanda and I are now 3 peas in a pod. Well, 16:15 = 4:15 and we failed to see the 1 in front of the 6...
Thinking we had a 3 hour layover, we went to the end of the airport to a restaurant that was playing the Devil Wears Prada. We asked that they turn the volume up so we can have a snack and watch the movie. In hindsight, this is likely why we didn't hear the airline paging us over the intercom just before our flight left us. However those nice people did take our luggage off the plane. We mozy on back only to find we had been left.  Let’s keep in mind we are not in a very large airport. 10 gates, at most.

Customer service spoke very little English and it took an hour or two to figure out our options:
 1) Stay in El Salvador until 4:45 the next day and fly to DC then, this also meant venturing out from the 15 gate airport, since they did not stay open all night. The next sign of civilization was 28k away, the nice people suggested we not do Option 1, as three American girls with their luggage should not go into town alone at dark, with no idea where they would stay (hey, at least they are honest)
2) Get on standby for a flight to DC later that evening, which was overbooked and had only 1 seat left and well, that is not an option really. Did they really think we were going to split up?
3) Fly to NYC and figure out our way back to DC from there. 

Since we decided 3 girls spending the night in El Salvador alone seemed daunting and unsafe we chose option 3 because we were sticking together.  We figure that we could stay with one of the guys, Jeff, who was at the wedding because he lives in NYC and his flight was coming in just after ours. Or, we know tons of people who live up there who would likely put us up. We got bumped to first class and were excited to be able to go out in NYC later that night. “What an added bonus, we’ll get to go out a night in NYC” Ha, yeah right… that proves the state of delirium. A) We’ve been in Costa Rica during their summer, its November in NYC so we likely do not have the appropriate clothes! B) We’ve been awake for what seems like days now on close to zero sleep C) We’ve still got to figure out how to get from NYC to DC  and its probably best we do that with as clear of minds as possible.

Well, we got to JFK and didn't see Jeff's flight on the screens. Insert slight anxiety (we’ve called all our friends and all are out of town or unreachable). Apparently the airline goes by two different names, shew. We were told that the only flight coming in from San Jose that night had been delayed 3 hours, arriving at 4:30 AM. We then called everyone we knew in NYC - no luck. So, we sat.  Just FYI, if you are ever in JFK at 4 am, you can get some lovely chicken noodle soup from Terminal C. Knowing sweet Jeff is our only escape from JFK, we refused to get a hotel room for a mere 5-6 hours of sleep that we would be using this room for, we called and called him. Before departing San Salvador we were told by Dave, cheek's phone was almost dead... this put us in a tid bit of a panic. But we called and called anyway. Not surprisingly, his voicemail box was full and could not accept voicemail at the time. Then we moved to the good ol' text messages  2:19am text---"Hey we missed our flight to dc. We had to fly to NYC. We want to stay the night at your house, but just saw ur flight is delayed til 4 30! Its only 2 30 now. We’re trying to figure out how to get home from NYC. Help us. We are at terminal 4 behind a large partition when you walk out of customs, come find us! Oh by the way, this is Emily, Amanda and Kristin"...please note: 2 of the 3 girls had just met Mr. cheek for the first time in Costa Rica. However, we were all new bff's. haha. 3:37am text--- "so flights are expensive. So we plan to nap at your house, for a few hours then rent a car and drive to dc, and yes, we are still at JFK waiting for you". 4:44 am: Em's phone rings. We all scream (who cares about the 5 people sleeping around us). This must be Cheek we say! IT IS. I answer the phone "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII Jeff, please tell me u are at JFK!" all I hear is laughter bursting thru the phone. Jeff as much in a state of delirium as we, all he can do it laugh. "Yes, I’m here. Stay put, I will be there in a min" Em: "can we" Jeff: "yes Em, yall can stay at my house, don't move". We gather our belongings. Run up and hug and kiss Jeff, it was something like you would hope to see in a romantic comedy! We def got some stares.

At 4:37 am, Jeff's plane arrived. We went to his house (getting a tour of Brooklyn along the way, lady liberty is rather beautiful amidst the almost sunrise) and crashed, sleeping from around 6 am to 11 am.  We decided to rent a car; it was cheaper than all other options and wouldn't take that long (or so we thought).  After waking up in Brooklyn we took our time, went and got brunch then got on our way around 2 pm. When we hit the NJ Turnpike we realized that it was THE WEEKEND AFTER THANKSGIVING, the most traveled day of the year. Awesome.  We pick up our car at Budget about 5 blocks over from Times Square, so hey, at least we saw Brooklyn, down town and mid town and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge before what would become known as a BIG MISTAKE, the drive. The 3.5 hour trip to DC took 7.5 hours. For about 4-5 hours, there was maybe 1 exit every 15 miles and every exit had a gas station with 5 or so restaurants.  Each of these exits had at least 300 cars so there was no stopping for a looooonnnnng time.  

Upon arriving to DC we discover that the key to get into Brie and Robs to get the car keys was not where we left it. Long story short, it had been taken inside because we were supposed to have a key with us. So, no matter when we got to DC, we would have had to wait for the newlywed's to arrive at midnight on Sunday to get in.  We returned the rental car Regan, the 4th airport of the day(s) and were picked up by Rob and Brie. We pack the car and set to leave and, you guessed it, the battery was dead. Got a jump and got on I-95. About 5 minutes into this portion of the trip we realized that the Honda radios require a code to reboot after the battery dies. Amanda did not have this code. So, our trip was finished up with the 3 of us cruising down I-95 listening to our Ipods...Got home right around 4:30 am. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Que on the Yazoo!

Coming into the Delta.

I've taken several trips to the Mississippi Delta and loved each and every one, including this past trip. Brantley, Executive Director of Main Street Greenwood has many projects going on year round but the big one is a BBQ contest slash festival... Que on the Yazoo! I'd only heard about the pig filled weekend, but I wanted to be apart of it and all it's smell good glory.

Each year, the first weekend in May, 20 or so rigs full of meat and peeps line the Yazoo on Front Street downtown. They start coming in on Thursday afternoon and by Friday afternoon, everyone is set up, music is going and people are cooking up a meat storm.

I arrived into Jackson Wednesday, early evening. This was a perfect time to come in, as the sun was setting just as we took the dip into the Delta. Once back in Greenwood, we got take out from Webster's and enjoyed our yum on the patio at Malone's under bulb lights and tunes filling the air. Que week is probably B's busiest week of the entire year. Early bed times are a must.

Thursday I ran errands with B around town. I played driver and she hopped out delivering Que T shirts to sponsors. One must always take in nourishment, so several friends joined us at Veronica's for lunch grub.  I'm not sure why the crew has never taken me here, but I'll be sure to go back on future visits. It's a little deceiving since it's in a strip mall, but don't let that fool you. The food is just down right good. Veronica even gave me a thank you bowl of soup!

We stopped in at the Delta Museum to see the renovations, have a chat with Executive Director Cheryl and for me to grab some Cotton hats to share.

Around 3 pm Malone, Kendall and I head to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It's a three hour drive through the country. We are set to see Brandi Carlile and The Avett Brothers at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, but we have to find our 2 star hotel first. When these tickets were purchased several months back, we did not realize it was Bama's graduation weekend. Not knowing this, we didn't see the rush to get a hotel room. In my mind we would be a cute little inn, in town and have a great little dinner then go see lives tunes. The live tunes part is the only part that was true. We stayed at the Best Western and did not get to eat at Taco Mama (but we did have a margarita, yay Cinco de Mayo!). Things in Bama start on time, like right one time. Brandi only played 45 min so we only heard 3 songs, but the Avett Brothers, killed it!

The highlight of this T.Town visit was seeing Reed! I've known Reed since 2001, which means she was 4 when I first met her. Now, she's an upcoming JUNIOR in college. I mean really, how the hell did this happen?! I don't feel that old. We sang and danced the night away celebrating the end of sophomore year! Having her dad, David, there was the cherry on top.

Since our Best Western room was also a smoking room we were in no way trying to linger Friday am. We were up and at 'em by 8 am and on the road by 8:30. For lunch I had gas station food. I know what you are thinking... but let me explain... in this part of the world, it's normal, and the shit is good. I'd never been to Carrollton. There are less than 200 people living here, there is still a confederate flag flying at full mask, and there are at least 3 churches. Malone and Kendall had eaten here before, not to my surprise. The gas station/ repair shop was on "Main Street". It was a pretty happening place for less than 200 people living in the town. Malone got a corn dog and pizza stick (I had never heard of this). I can't recall what Kendall got but I got Chicken Spaghetti and it was dank.

Once back we helped B prep for the festival, showered up and were there by 6 ready to get the party started. We walked the rigs smelling food, I snapped pics, we drank, we got in some excellent people watching, and ate meat.

Downtown Greenwood is one of those town where you feel like you are in a different time period, but in present day all at the same time. The buildings are beautifully old, but the vacancies are filled with clothing stores, art galleries, cafes, cooking schools, cooking stores, book stores, coffee shops and more. It reminds you to slow down and not to take things for granted. It's a much slower pace of life in the Deep South. I know when I head to visit B, hectic for them is still slow pace for me, relaxing is really relaxing and just hanging out is a favorite past time. It's a life I sometimes think I could do.

I always forget when I'm in the Delta the amount of fried food that is served up. That Friday dinner consisted of street food: Chili cheese fries, and chicken on a stick. I was confused when I got my chicken on a stick. I thought I was getting a grilled chicken kabob- with chicken and peppers. It was indeed a kabob, but it was fried. Onion, chicken and diced potato, deep fried on a stick. 

Once that sun went down, it was like people really came out to play! The music got louder, the drinks got heavier and consumed faster, the dance moves were stronger and there wasn't a stranger in sight. I talked a big game about late night, but once everyone arrived to Malone's back porch, after one drink, I just reallllllllllly needed that cozy bed in my room. The rest of the crew stayed up to the wee hours and even took a trip around the world. Around the world is when someone of the sober caliber drives us around the country roads with windows down and music blaring. It almost always leads to a stop at "my bridge"on the McIntyre Lake. I'm proud to say, my name is still on the bridge a year later! I love when I wake up to text and videos of trips from around the word and pictures of my bridge with my name on it!

I woke up Saturday and needed to get my sweat on, so I biked downtown to meet B and helped her set up. Don't be too impressed. It's a 10 min bike ride from B's to downtown.  I was super thrilled when I learned our set up/ errand route was done in a Gator! We set up tents, organized stations, got water to everyone, checked on the rigs and got sun kissed. There was a feeling of excitement in the air.

Friday night, smaller awards were handed out, but Saturday was the main awards event. People had been up all night cooking (and drinking). They were probs eager to hit the road and head home, but awards were not started until 4pm. The sun was out, music still going and Saturday provided the perfect weather and activities for children and families. Minion and Elsa (or maybe it was Ana) even joined the party.

For $5 you could get a wrist band and sample 17 different bbqs- all that were being judge by the professionals. By noon everyone was drinking again. Either they hadn't stopped or thought hair of the dog would do the trick!

Before the adult awards started at 4, B had a pig snorting contest for the kiddos, which was hilarious! They would each come up to the mic and snort like a pig then runaway. Robert Litten won the shiny pig trophy for best snort. This legacy will stay with him for years to come.

The awards for the other winners were made locally and were trophy perfection for a bbq award ceremony! Pig cutting boars, and mini grills planted on slabs of wood!

Saturday night the inner circle gathered in Malone's backyard then we went for a drink at the Alluvian bar before dinner at Lucsco's, a favorite among the locals. They are known for the sauteed shrimp, roasted chicken and filet. It's housed in an old grocery from the early 1900s. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1929. The current location has been home to Lusco's since 1933 with one of Marie Lusco's daughters buying the building. After tragedy struck her family, she went back to the only thing she knew to do, cook... like her mother had taught during all the years she spent helping in the kitchen. Today it is run from 4th generation family!

They have little "booths" which are actually private cubbie rooms for dining, complete with a curtain for that extra needed privacy. This establishment like many other in the area are BYOB, and bonus, there isn't even a corkage fee for bringing them in. You can bring wine, beer, liquor and mixers (or they will provide mixers for a charge). From here, a few of us grab a night cap at Webster's before calling it a night on Mother's Day, eve.

que on yazoo weekend

B's 30th bday dinner a couple visits ago

Sunday was Mother's Day. Since B and I couldn't be with out Mothers (sorry Mama Bear) Malone invited her mother who could be there and cooked up the best Sunday hungover meal. Burgers & dogs on the Viking Egg, baked beans, sauteed onions, potato salad, and chips... and water. LOTS of water. For some reason I'm always super dehydrated on the departure day from the Delta! After lunch, naps were required before the drive to Jackson to drop me off.

Another Delta trip in the books!