Here I sit in Kingsport Tennessee

 

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I’m spending time on the blog today, something I have neglected terribly.  I’ll backtrack later on my 2018 travel season.  But for now, I would like to tell you a little about Kingsport, Tennessee and the surrounding area known as the Tri-Cities.

I arrived Sunday to see my brother Scott and sis-in-law Stacy.  They picked me up in Charlotte, North Carolina which is 3 hours and 17 minutes away!  I fly into Charlotte because I try and refuse to fly any airline but Southwest Airlines.  They must like me or really need a dog sitter.  We drove back and stopped for dinner at a groovy place in Johnson City, Tennessee called White Duck Taco Shop.  We all had different tacos.  I recommend the Thai Peanut Chicken or the Shrimp Diablo (have water handy!).  The restaurant is located in the historic and newly fancied-up Tweetsie Railroad Depot; adjoining the Yee-Haw Brewing Taproom.  The Duck offers skee ball, bocce ball, and plenty of outdoor seating with a fire-pit.

My brother Scott gets wound up once a week at the prospect of beer and whiskey night at Stir Fry Cafe where on Tuesday they have craft drafts starting at $2 for a pint and whiskey shots starting at $5.  Wednesdays and Saturdays feature half-price sushi!  Yummers!

Lunch specials can be had any day at The Main Street Pizza Company where we had a small salad and a slice for a very reasonable price and it was mighty tasty.

We had to walk off all of that food so my brother and I took the pup Jazz to the The Kingsport Green Belt for a nice and reasonably easy morning hike.  Lot’s of Eastern Bluebirds, woodpeckers and waterfalls.

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My journey here continues for many more weeks.  Looking forward to telling you all about it!

Wishing you a Happy New Year from Free and Roaming.

Blarney

Just a quick post today to tell you about some secret gems.

When you plan your time at Blarney Castle…

Remember to visit the cave.

And the gardens…

And walk beside the river…

Free and Roaming wishing you a blessed day from the Blarney Banks.

Birds of Costa Rica (no Polly parrot jokes allowed)

Click photo to visit gallery

When I first moved to Costa Rica a few months ago I was astonished at the sheer number of little parakeets flying around town.  They wake me every morning with their silly chatter, they fly in large flocks, the drop nuts and mangos on my head and in my pool.

See pictures and learn more about this pranksters…click here.

 

 
Image result for macaw images freeMy friend Camilla and I headed south for adventure last week.  We were shocked at how many Scarlet Macaws we saw flying, usually in pairs.  Nineteen in all in 2 days!  A pair was even flying along side the car.

Learn more and see pictures on the Costa Rica Guide.

 

 

 

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One of the most interesting birds we saw was a Swallow Tailed Kite.  Check out the Wikipedia page here

 

 

 

 

Cherrie's Tanager

 

In Costa Rica we have an abundance of Tanagers including the Cherrie’s Tanager, the Blue Grey Tanager and many more!  Perhaps you would like to take a bird tour.  Check out tours here.

 

 

I’ve only seen Grey-headed Chachalaca in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  Check out this interesting video and notice the parakeets cannot keep their chatter even out of a video highlighting the Chachalaca!  Great video of a couple of Chachalacas.

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My friends…this is just a tiny sampling of what my beautiful home, Costa Rica, has to offer.  I highly recommend a visit.  If you need help with a glorious itinerary please feel free to contact me.

I head out tomorrow to fund my Costa Rica life with my wonderful job that I truly love.  The rest of this year I will have the fortune to travel to Alaska, Ireland, The Carolinas, New England, to the beautiful Sierras in California, New York’s stunning Hudson Valley, Nashville and the Smokey Mountains, and will spend the New Year at the Rose Parade!  I don’t take a minute of this for granted and I know that I have been blessed greatly.

Blessings to my readers and please subscribe.

Polly

Figs in Heaven

The world lost a magnificent creature a few months ago.  I have been unable to face it, write it, talk about it but rather pushed it away.  It’s time now to honor him with a little remembrance.

His name was Marley.  He came to us by accident as most of them do.  We got a call and Dan said, “hey why don’t y’all come over and take a look at this little puppy we found before we take it to The Animal Defense League”. Click here for information or to donate

Under a bar stool was a smooshy little sleeping yella baby.  Too much skin, big baggy eyes and a broken toe, he already had my heart.  There was no way this little seven pound bundle of sweetness was going anywhere but home with us.  The first few hours were pure bliss.  We watched him as he slept (he was cutest when asleep) and waited for him to wake so we could watch his floppy little ears when he ran around the yard doing his bunny hop.  This is the beginning of the story of the ten thousand dollar free puppy.

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“Baby Marley”

A check up at the vet was first on the list.  The vet said, “Wow!  Did you see the size of these paws?” (later to be known as Marley’s “big ‘ol bunny feet” equal in size to my 7.5 women shoe size).  Over the next 60 days he gained a half pound a day, every day and it did not stop there.  At his heaviest he topped off at one hundred six pounds but that was after the consumption of an entire seven pound bag of cat food and the bloat that followed ($3000)…I digress.

God made Marley so cute so that nobody would kill him.   They say a dog will not defecate where they live.  After nights of no sleep we conceded and bought a crate.  The next battle was at two a.m. each morning which one of us would hose out the crate and who would hose off the puppy.  These horrible sleepless smelly nights lasted until our buddy Redneck Jack said, “I’ll show ya how to put a puppy to sleep” and threw him out the back door.

Bubby (my favorite nick name for Marley) managed over the next several years to rack up an enormous amount of vet bills.  He commonly would get things stuck in his big baggy eyes.  One time he had to see a specialist (doggy opthomologist…cha ching!).  After about $1500 worth of tests it was time for the diagnosis and treatment.  The Doctor said, “Marley has……..big baggy eyes and gets things stuck in them”.  Well thank goodness we paid for that.

One of the many good things about Bubs was that he was very trainable.  Obviously driven by food he would do almost anything for a bite of kibble.  I was even able to train him to be a great protector of the chicken flock although he still loved a romp right through the middle of them causing them to fly and cackle.  He watched over them, ate almost all their eggs before I could get them, and learned to smell their vents and predict when they would lay an egg.  No, I’m not kidding.

I spent many years in the demonstration business and had lots of “product” around the house.  I represented a company called Honey Stinger.  Marley managed to get hold of a box of chocolate bars…he ate them all then went for three bags of energy chews.  It was a long night pumping him full of huge amounts of hydrogen peroxide at the vets urging.  He finally blew and it was a cacophony of chocolate, foil packages, peanut butter, minty something and plain ‘ol bubbly puke!  Disgusting.  He felt like a million bucks and wanted dinner shortly there after.

Marley was gross!  Commonly had floor length drool out of both sides of his mouth with various stuff in it.  He would sit under the dining table at dinner and fart.  He cleared rooms at large parties with his gaseous explosions.  He regularly smelled of things you could not even explain and his belches seemed to come from somewhere other worldly, like maybe the depths of hell.  Having said all that, he was one of the great loves of my life and brought me more laughter and joy than just about anyone or anything.  His sweetness was overwhelming.

Seems to me this post is getting a little long so I will bullet point a few of Marley’s other brushes with death.

  • Cat food incident
  • Ate a water bucket and hose
  • Ate his weight in chicken poop
  • Ate a few raw not so fresh dead animals
  • Ate a LOT of chicken feed
  • Got a crab caught between his toes
  • Fell in the bay over the sea wall
  • Got kicked in the head and knocked completely out by my horse, Friggy
  • Got ran over by a golf cart (not just once)

It wasn’t all bad you see.  One of the things we most enjoyed doing together was standing by our beautiful fig tree, me with a glass of wine and him snuffleupagosing under the fig tree for ripe fruit.

Sweet Marley with the “cuuuurrrrrly hairs” left us at age 10 or so.  He lived a wonderful life and gave us so much joy.  My prayer is that they have Figs in Heaven.

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Doesn’t know he has peanuts on his head.

 

Cold Beer and Cock Fights

Thanks to Sea G. Ryder for reminding me to post.  click here to visit freerangerodeo.com

It’s Sunday morning on Isla Contadora and I am finally a little bored.  I have seen every beach, eaten at every eatery, and had my fill of rum.  I remember I saw a blurb about how the archipelago got its name and decided I should make an effort to buy some pearls.  I inquired at the office of my B&B Casa del Sol and off I went to meet a man with gold teeth on the beach.

Somebody had warned me not to go on Sunday afternoon as it was the day to drink but the man I was meeting said it was not correct.  Off we go into the beautiful waters of the Archipelago de las Perlas!

One of my favorite things about being out in the open water is speed and the air blowing on my face and through my hair.  Well “Goldie” did not see it that way.  I agreed to pay him by the hour having general knowledge about how long it would take.  I had a vision of arriving to a quaint island and picking through the shops for an hour and finding  a few rare black pearls for me and my besties then zipping back to the home island with my finds.

I did not know a boat could go that slowly and stay afloat.  When I agreed to pay by the hour I should have agreed to an actual amount of hours.  So after a one hour boat ride that should have been 20 minutes we arrive.  The island is a wreck and I ask him if I can walk to the shops.  He just laughs.  There are thousands of shells lying about and my hopes are high.

He gets me as close as he can on the jagged beach and I walk on waiting for Goldie to join me.  My bubble is popped pretty much on arrival to this dirty and barren place.  Two rows of shacks are erected from scrap and there is literally nothing else in sight.  I am beginning to believe that the row of quaint shops is not here.

Come to find out this is Goldie’s home island.  He is related to everyone and I am not exaggerating.  He starts asking around to see if anyone has any pearls but they do not.  We walk along the dirty path and he asks all his uncles, aunts, cousins and brothers if they have a pearl to sell.  Finally at the end of the path there is a hut serving some food and a bar with loud music.  There are some strange apparatus that I do not recognize.

I decide it is in my best interest to buy beer for Goldie and a few relatives so I do.  I thought if this was my last beer at least it was freezing cold.  I did not feel safe.  Oh Lordy I have to pee!  I ask for a bathroom and am directed into a shack with a bucket.  It’s time to leave.

There is a ruckus and we head over to see what is going on.  The apparatuses are being used to weigh the roosters to begin the cock fights.  In Panama they breed the roosters with a crazy wild pheasant to make them meaner and more aggressive.  I told Goldie I was unwilling to stay for the big event and that if we had no pearls to buy that I am done here.  Finally one of his cousins comes up with a small black pearl which I purchase for thirty-five dollars.  And we are off.  Slowly we putt putt putt off into the distance back to civilization.

I am on my boat now and do not have the ability to post pictures of the black pearl which is tiny and misshapen.  When I say “my boat” of course I am talking about the four hundred passenger steamboat on which I live and work most of the year.  The American Queen is a perfect specimen of beauty and luxury.  Next post probably about living aboard an American Icon.

 

Part 2: The Many Faces of Panama

When I left you we were heading out to Santa Fe.  My experience here was interesting on many levels.  Busses were easy breezy.  I found that if you have a small somewhat fancy London Fog suitcase and you look around with your mouth hanging open, somebody will shuffle you onto the correct bus.  The locals were extremely friendly and helpful.

Santa Fe is a small village.  The basics are available but they do not yet cater to tourists.  There are about 15 full time Gringos living there now.  The taxi drivers have caught on about getting more money from the Gringos but everything else (except real estate) has not yet been Gringoized.  An effective manner in which to deal with the busses and taxis is to give them a small amount of money that you believe will cover the fare then keep your hand out as if you are expecting change.  Most of the time the gave me my change and the times I was incorrect they asked for a few cents more.  Always negotiate taxi fares before you get in.

I love Santa Fe!  Few Gringos, very quiet, friendly locals, stunningly scenic, and you cannot walk 100 feet without falling into a beautiful swimming hole.  It is very hilly and would not accommodate the unfit.  The roads are not good and wash out in the rain.  The wildlife here seems undisturbed by progress so far.  Oranges and beautiful hardwood trees grow wild everywhere.

Progress is coming!  There is supposed to be a highway connecting the Pacific and the Caribbean in the next few years (in Panama 15 or 20 years).  There are developments developing.  They say it is the “Boquete of the future”.  I sincerely hope not.  Onto Boquete…

I was excited as my sister was meeting me in Boquete.  From the beginning of my research into Panama I wanted to go to Boquete.  I try to give information without much bias but in the case of Boquete it is just not possible.

Boquete is Gringo Central.  Everyone speaks English and some of the signs are in English. You can easily get a $5 latte and it has lots of crepe restaurants.   They have completely screwed up the idea of a local market by building this large ridiculous thing that resembles a storage unit place.  It has sliding garage type doors and concrete walls between the vendors.  I won’t go on about this but it sucks the life out of this thing we know as a market.

Don’t get me wrong.  We were not able to do much because of the horrible weather.  I am sure that had something to do with our not so great experience.  Also this is just not “my thing”.  Lot’s of people have only nice things to say about Boquete.  It is set in lovely surroundings.

So what to do…got out when the weather was ok, drank rum and sat on the nice patio of our overpriced hotel for 5 days then left for the beach!  This time we hired a taxi for $60 to drive us from Boquete to Boca Chica to catch the boat to Boca Brava.

 

Coming soon…Boca Brava, Venao and Isla Contadora.