Jamaica Part 4 - The Dunn's River Falls Jeep Safari

Schoolkids in Ocho RiosOn Wednesday, Mel and I went on another tour. This time we were headed to Dunn’s River Falls, but we didn’t go there directly. Instead, we took Chukka Caribbean Adventures’s Jeep Safari to Dunn’s River Falls. Our resort was about twenty minutes away from the falls, but first we had a ride in a jeep for about four or five hours. Our guide, Gene Lilly, was awesome! He told us so much about what we were seeing. First we drove through Ocho Rios. Our driver/guide taught us all about local plants. While on a street in Ocho Rios, we pulled to the side of the road, and Gene bought some fruit from a man on the street. He passed the fruit around so we could all see what it was. It was an ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica. The fruit is only edible if it opens naturally. When it is cooked, it looks like scrambled eggs. I confirmed this when I had ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish, for dinner that night.

We also stopped in a schoolyard where Gene taught us about some of the national symbols of Jamaica that were painted on the school wall. He also told us about Marcus Garvey, National Hero of Jamaica, as the schoolchildren gathered around the jeep and listened in.

Our tour then continued to take us through Fern Gully. Fern Gully used to be a river, but an earthquake hundreds of years ago caused the river to change its course. Now it is a three-mile-long windy road with hundreds of species of ferns located on the sides of the road. It was beautiful.

Gene offered us some refreshments during our tour. He handed out plastic cups and then passed back a one-gallon jug of rum punch while he was driving. The punch was good, although it was hard to get it into the cups while he was driving quickly on the rough roads. I think everyone got some of the punch, which he called “cough medicine,” on themselves.

Our next stop was on Murphy Hill, 2000 feet above sea level. If it had been a clear day, we would have been able to see Cuba from the top of the hill. Unfortunately, it was a bit overcast, so we couldn’t see Cuba. We also drove through a cattle pasture. This involved a lot of stopping as the driver had to keep opening and closing gates to keep the cattle penned up. We also drove alongside a very long conveyor belt that carries bauxite to a port.

On our jeep safari, we also stopped for a snack of some fresh fruit. We were served pineapple, watermelon, oranges, mangos, and coconut milk. We also got to try the jelly of the coconut. The local who helped serve us told us that the coconut jelly would help us men “put lead in our pencils.”

Mel and Me in Dunn's River FallsAfter hours of driving around seeing various sites in and around Ocho Rios, we ended up at Dunn’s River Falls. There, we climbed 600 or so feet up the waterfall. It was a lot of fun, even though it was a little challenging at times. We spent about an hour at the waterfalls. I only got one photo taken at Dunn’s River Falls. As we would be in a waterfall, I only brought along the waterproof, single-use camera. By the time we got to our final destination, I only had one exposure remaining, and here’s the photo that was taken.

After returning to the resort, we spent some time at the beach before having dinner. We were pretty tired out from our day’s trip that we didn’t do much else in the evening.


Jamaica Part 3 - The Blue Mountain Bicycle Tour

Blue MountainsMel and I had to get up a little earlier on Tuesday than we had the previous two days. On Tuesday we went on a tour away from the resort. A little after 8:00, we got on a bus headed to the Blue Mountains. We went on the Blue Mountain Bicycle Tour. We had a bus ride of about three hours to get from Ocho Rios to the Blue Mountains, the highest mountain range in the Caribbean. On the way, our bus driver pointed out several landmarks, from Ian Fleming’s estate Goldeneye, to Noel Coward’s house Firefly, and even the James Bond Beach. Our bus driver also told us about the different parishes of Jamaica that we passed through. We stopped at a restaurant for breakfast.

The drive on the main roads was scary enough, and then we hit the mountain road. The road was very narrow and carried two-way traffic! At one point, our bus driver told us that if we all did exactly what he said, he’d show us a pink rooster with purple wings and white legs. All we had to do was to look to the left and not look to the right. Naturally, we all looked to the right to see that we were at the very edge of a steep drop-off down the side of the mountain. Later we went over a very narrow bridge. It was so narrow, that our guides insisted that we walk our bikes across it. This is the bridge shown below.

Blue Mountain Bicycle TourAfter driving up the mountain for a while, we got off the bus and got our bikes and safety equipment. After being told the rules of riding down the mountain – whenever we heard a whistle it meant that there was an oncoming car, so we had to pull to the left side of the road to stop – we began our ride down the mountain. The ride was about 18 miles with 95% of it downhill. So I did get some RAGBRAI training in during our trip to Jamaica. Now I am all ready for going down hill!

We stopped occasionally for our guides to tell us about the area. We learned about how the coffee is grown, picked, and prepared on the mountain. We also learned about many of the plants that we saw going down the mountain.

Once we reached the stopping point, we went for a swim at the bottom of a waterfall. The water was pretty cold, but it was refreshing. On the way back to the resort, we stopped for lunch at the same restaurant we had at breakfast at.

It was around 5:00 by the time we got back to the resort. We didn’t do much else that evening. But, we did have dinner at the restaurant the resort has on the pier that goes around the swimming area of the beach. It was pretty good food. After that, we went back to our room. I was feeling a bit dehydrated, and the rum I had at dinner probably didn’t help, so we didn’t do much else that night.


Number Icosahedron

Thanks Matt for finding what has got to be one of the geekiest quizzes I've seen in a long time. I actually got my favorite die as a result.

In case anyone is wondering about the title of this entry, in my line of work, we generally avoid using the term "die" for various reasons, and instead use the phrase "number cube." In this case, number cube wouldn't be correct as the twenty-sided die is not a cube, hence the title "Number Icosahedron."

I am a d20

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

Jamaica Part 2 - The Beach

The beach at Sandals Ocho RiosOnce we got out of bed on Sunday, June 18, our first full day in Jamaica, we went to the beach at the resort. We spent most of what was left of the morning and the early afternoon on the beach and in the sea. The water was very nice. Besides relaxing on the beach and in the sea, I did make a few trips to the bar that was located on the beach. Most of the drinks I had contained Appleton rum. Yum! At 5:00 in the afternoon, we attended an orientation session at the resort’s amphitheater where we learned about what the resort had to offer.

In the evening, we went to Valentino’s, one of the two Italian restaurants at the resort, for dinner. This restaurant required more formal dress than the rest of the restaurants at the resort. The food was pretty good, but the service was terrific! I really enjoyed not having to worry about what the bill would be, since there wasn’t one. Also, there is no tipping allowed, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

In the evening we watched a reggae band featuring the singer Maristo perform at the amphitheater. They were really good.

We spent most of Monday on the beach as we had the day before. We also rode the water trikes in the sea. That was fun. In the evening, we attended the resort’s beach party. Unfortunately, the weather was such that it could have stormed any moment, so the beach party was not held at the beach. Instead, it was at the pavilion on the other part of the resort. Despite the party not being on the beach, it was a lot of fun. They had a buffet with lots of good food, including many delicious deserts. They also had several bartenders who were all too happy to serve us some alcohol. I had a few rum and cokes and a few Red Stripes as well. We stayed a bit once the band started performing before returning to our room.


Lance Armstrong to Ride on RAGBRAI

According to the Des Moines Register, Lance Armstrong will be riding part of RAGBRAI this year! Not many details have been released, but he says this may not be a one-time thing either. He's free now for the ride now that he is not riding on the Tour de France. Perhaps I'll bump into him on the ride.

Jamaica Part 1 - Getting to Jamaica

Our trip to Jamaica began around 5:30 in the morning on Saturday, June 17, as we headed to the Eastern Iowa Regional Airport. This was our honeymoon. We got married in November, but for various reasons we were unable to go on a honeymoon until now. Our first of three flights of the day went well. We even arrived early at our first stop, Chicago. It was in Chicago where we had a problem. Once everyone was on board the plane, we learned of a mechanical problem with the plane. They tried to fix it but were unable to. Everyone on the plane then had to get off and board a different plane. We ended up departing from Chicago about an hour late. This caused us to miss our connection from Miami to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Fortunately, we were easily rebooked onto another flight that evening. However, now instead of arriving in Jamaica at 2:30 in the afternoon, we arrived at 8:30 at night. We then had a two-hour bus ride to get to our resort in Ocho Rios.

Our cottage at Sandals Grande Ocho RiosOnce we were there, we got checked in and then were driven to the other part of the resort. Our resort had two sides, the Manor side and the Riviera side. We were staying on the Riviera side, but the main check-in desk was at the Manor side. We soon got to our room and were able to get some sleep.

The photo that is included in this post is of the cottage that our room was in. Our room was the rightmost room on the first floor. It was the room behind the chess set.

I’ll continue blogging about our vacation in Jamaica over the next several days, but this is all for now.



Yeah mon! Our luggage has been located. The airport's delivery service will be bringing it by tonight. They should be here by 11:30. I would like to get some sleep, as I have been up for nearly twenty hours now, but I would really like to get the baggage. I could have gotten them delivered tomorrow instead, but then I would have had to get up early. I just want to get this done with.

I'm Back!

And amazingly, I'm quite awake at this moment. My wife and I got back to Iowa from a week-long trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, this afternoon around 5:00. We had to get up a little after 1:00 this morning to get ready to check out of our hotel room by 2:00. We then had to catch a bus at 3:00 for a two-hour ride to the airport in Montego Bay for out 7:13 flight to Miami. When we got to Cedar Rapids, we discovered that our luggage did not follow us the entire way back home. We saw it in Miami, where we had to take it through customs then re-check it for the remainder of our journey. We had a flight from Miami to Dallas-Fort Worth. There we barely made it to our flight to Cedar Rapids. By the time we got to the gate, they had just started boarding. So, I am assuming that our luggage just didn't make it to that plane.

Hopefully our bags will be on the flight from Dallas arriving in Cedar Rapids at 9:15 tonight. If it is, the airline will deliver it to our house tonight. This wouldn't be too much of a problem, but tomorrow we are going to dinner for my grandparents' sixth-fifth wedding anniversary, and we would like to wear something nice. Unfortunately, all of Mel's nice clothes are in her suitcases. If we get it early enough, we can do some laundry so we will look decent tomorrow.

I'll be blogging about my trip during the upcoming week. I'd do it tonight, but I have other things I need to get done.


Time Off

I'm going to be taking some time off from blogging. I should be back a week from Sunday.


Greg LeMond

I'm posting this a little early, but I don't want to worry about doing it tomorrow morning. The photo of the week for this week is from RAGBRAI XXXI in July 2003. In the photo are my dad and Dave Plummer, who runs Dave's RAGBRAI Page, with three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. He was along on the first day or two of RAGBRAI that year. Here we were in a bar in Shenandoah, Iowa. We went there after Dave got released from the hospital. He had collapsed a few hours earlier when we were in line at Godfather's Pizza for dinner. Dave had become dehydrated and was taken to the hospital.

Bank Robbery

Yesterday afternoon, around the time I was returning home from work, one of the three banks around the corner from my house was robbed. I may have seen this happening if I had taken a different route home. The robber was a six-foot-three, 230-pound white man in his 20s. Now I am six feet three inches tall and weigh about 220 pounds, however I am in my 30s. I could maybe pass for 20s (ok, probably not) and the weight is only off by ten pounds from me. Too top it off I don't have an alibi, but I insist it wasn't me. I don't own a white suit coat, which is what the bank robber was wearing.

** UPDATE **

See, I look nothing like the suspect:




I've been getting some bike riding in the past couple of weeks, training for RAGBRAI. The RAGBRAI web site recommends riding at least 500 miles prior to RAGBRAI. I have never gotten in that much riding before the previous RAGBRAIs I have been on, and I am sure this year will be no exception. After my 13.57-mile ride tonight, I have ridden 137.87 miles so far this year. I have ridden longer than I did before RAGBRAI last year. Of course, with moving, the new job, and other distractions, I had a difficult time finding time to ride. What I really need to do is get in a couple of long rides some weekend. So far, the farthest any of my rides have been this year is 16.66 miles, and that was my first ride of the year, in April. I really wanted to get out this past weekend, since Mel had to work, but the weather did not cooperate. Perhaps the weekend after we get back from Jamaica, Mel and I can go for a ride together.


The Animated Star Trek Series

The animated Star Trek series will soon be released on DVD, although the date and other details are not yet available. Let's hope that Paramount offers these episodes at a more reasonable price than they offer most of their TV series on DVD.


To Waterloo

I went to Waterloo after work this evening to visit my mom and to help her move some things around. She didn't want to be alone this evening as it was one year ago today that my father passed away. She made it through the day pretty well, as did I. I had been worried that I would have a hard time getting through the day, but I was so busy at work, that I didn't have time to think about anything else. My mom and I went to Olive Garden for dinner. She had said that it had been a while since she had been there. She doesn't like to go there by herself, so she hasn't had much of a chance to go there recently.

It's hard to believe that it has been a whole year now that we have been without my dad. It still seems like just a short time ago that I answered the telephone on that Sunday afternoon to hear my mom screaming hysterically. We have all gotten along pretty well since losing him, but it hasn't always been easy. I wish he would have been able to be at Mel's and my wedding in November, and as he died the day before I was to start my new job, I was never able to talk to him about it. I suppose things will get easier over time, although there will still be occasions that we will wish my dad was still with us.


80s TV

Mel had to get up around 5:00 this morning to get ready for work. Unfortunately, I was not able to get back to sleep after her alarm went off, so I ended up getting out of bed around 5:30 or so this morning. Even with all of the channels that I can get on the satellite dish, there wasn't much on, so I ended up watching a couple of shows on the Sleuth Channel - an episode of The A-Team from 1984 and a Knight Rider episode from 1983. While watching The A-Team, I noticed that everyone on that show is just awful at firing automatic weapons. It takes a long time for anyone to hit anything and no one dies! I still found the two programs entertaining after all these years, but I'm sure not to the extent that I did when I was 11 and 12 years old when these programs first aired. Now I have shifted my TV viewing to the Game Show Network where I am watching the Bill Cullen game show Blockbusters. Match Game airs at 10:00 this morning. So once I finish this post, I'm going to plan on working at cleaning the garage, which I didn't get to yesterday. I'll be taking a break at 10:00 so I can watch Match Game, the best game show of all time!

Aaron needs...

Following the lead of Side Notes and Detours, I went to Google and entered "(My name) needs". Below are the first ten results. When multiple results of the same thing occurred, I only listed the first occurrence.

  • Aaron needs a tracheostomy.
  • Aaron needs you!
  • Aaron needs to learn how to count. (Interesting since I am a former math teacher.)
  • Aaron needs to lose some weight in this pic. (Hey, I'm trying!)
  • Aaron needs to understand that he is not "dumb." (Ok, I'm not dumb.)
  • Landon Aaron needs our help. (Apparently a high school student is in trouble for promoting National High Five Day at his high school. The event fell on April 20, a date associated with smoking weed, so the administration at his school thought that was what the day was about and he got in trouble at school. It would seem to me that maybe April 20 wasn't the best day for National High Five Day, unless of course it were about smoking weed.)
  • Aaron needs the most help with nutritional assistance and learning proper biomechanics in weight training.
  • Aaron will need to be fitted for new prosthetics approximately 3 - 4 times per year.
  • Aaron.Needs.Love (I thought I had found that.)
  • Aaron needs a job. (I actually have one I usually enjoy, and it pays well.)

This sounds like some good advice. I'm not sure how I can implement some of the advice, but it sounds good.



I am trying to get myself motivated enough to go out and clean my garage. It is a bit of a mess, and with recently acquiring some belongings from my mother's house before she moved, I need to find places to put things. This is probably a good day to work on this. I had originally hoped to go on a long bike ride today, but the weather isn't cooperating. It's a bit cool outside and it is raining. If it were just raining lightly but warmer, I'd still go out for a ride. However rain and 49 degrees, is just not good cycling weather. I don't think it will take too long to reorganize the garage, so I suppose I should get to it.


Cy and Me

The latest photo of the week is also from last year's RAGBRAI and was actually taken on the same day as last week's photo of the week. This photo is from Wednesday, July 27, 2006, in Lake Mills, Iowa. Lake Mills was the last pass-through town on the day's 83-mile ride. We stopped there for a while to rest a bit before riding the final 18 miles to Northwood. Standing in the middle of the street of Lake Mills, was Cy, the Iowa State mascot. While I am no Iowa State fan, I did go to the University of Iowa for a year plus some for grad school, my wife and her family are, so I stopped to get my picture taken with Cy. I am however wearing an Iowa shirt. Actually it's a blood donor shirt from the DeGowin Blood Center at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, but is makes a nice juxtaposition.



The End of Today's Workday

The last hour of my workday today was pretty unproductive. I spent much of it sitting in a conference room with several others, taking shelter from the tornados that were hitting Johnson County. I don't know if there were actually any tornados, but I don't think any damage was done. This actually worked out pretty well for me. I was about to look for something to work on for my last hour of the day, as I had just finished up what I had been working on, and the tornado warning was lifted pretty much at the time when I usually leave work.

Decision Time

Now's the time I have to make a final decision as to who to vote for in the primary election. I am still conflicted between voting for the candidate I think has the best chance of winning in the general election versus voting for the candidate who most represents my views. There are some aspects of the candidate who I think can win in the general election that I do not like, but I am sure they are minor when compared to issues I'll have with his opponent in the general election. I won't be voting until after work, so I still have a few hours to ponder my decision.


Donating Blood

I stopped by the Red Cross to donate a pint of blood today. It had been January since I had last donated blood. I had an appoint for a couple of months ago, but I didn't make it back from a business trip in time to keep my appointment. I used to give blood fairly regularly and I fully intend to resume doing so. I have already made another appointment to give blood as soon as I can. I really don't like giving blood as I do not like pain and having that needle stuck in my arm hurts a little. However, I feel that giving blood is something I can do to help others, and as my blood type is O-, it is always in need. It does a lot of good, and it really doesn't hurt all that much.
I'm Charles the Mad. Sclooop.
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

(As seen at Side Notes and Detours)

High School Reunion

This weekend I got an invitation in the mail for the Waterloo West High School 15-year reunion. I will not be attending the reunion. First of all, I'll be on the other side of Iowa, the night before RAGBRAI begins, when the reunion is taking place. I could get together with people the night before at a bar, but I don't really have much desire to go. I only went to West High for my senior year of high school. The prior three years, I went to Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids. My dad had only been teaching part time for the Cedar Rapids School District, so when he got a full-time position with the Waterloo Schools, he took that, and in September 1990, my family moved to Waterloo. I really didn't get to know many of my classmates at West High, and one of them is a friend of my sister still. I occasionally see her when I am in the Twin Cities for work, so there's really no reason for me to go to my high school reunion. Now if my class from Jefferson has a 15-year reunion, I'd like to go to that. I was invited to the 10-year reunion, but for some reason I didn't go. I kind of wish I had.


To the Beach Again

Last weekend Mel and I went to Sandy Beach near Shueyville for some sun and fun in the water. Today, we went to the Coralville Lake instead. I have to say that the beach at the Coralville Lake is much better than Sandy Beach. The beach is bigger and much cleaner. The water was also better. It was less dirty, and the bottom of the lake has sand within the entire swimming area. We didn't have to contend with a muddy bottom. The swimming area also gets deeper than the lake at Sandy Beach. I was unable to touch the bottom of the lake about three-quarters of the way to the end of the swimming area. It's nice to be able to swim without worrying about hitting the bottom. Besides, the deeper area isn't as crowded as shallower parts of the lakes. I don't know if we will make it out to the beach again for a third weekend in a row, but it would be nice. We'd like to get a start on our tans before we head to Jamaica for our week-long delayed honeymoon later this month (oh Homercles, I'm going to be asking you for a favor :).

X-Men: The Last Stand

Mel and I went to see X-Men late yesterday afternoon, and I want to thank Captain Creative for telling me that there was more to the movie at the end of the credits. It was only a few seconds, but it was very important, although I had a suspicion that what was revealed at the end had happened. It was a good action movie. I don't want to say much else because I wouldn't want to spoil the movie for anyone, but I can say that I recommend this movie for people who enjoy this genre, and I have to say STAY FOR THE CREDITS!


Bloody Marys

With RAGBRAI just seven weeks away, I think I will turn the focus of the photos of the week to RAGBRAI photos. This photo was taken at Racers bar in Titonka, Iowa, on day four of last year's ride. Last year's RAGBRAI was typically a bit cold in the morning, so Wednesday morning around 8:00 we stopped in the first pass-through town for bloody marys. I had never had one before, and I have to say, I really didn't find them all that great. Anyway, it was one of only a couple of times in my six years of riding on RAGBRAI that I had an alcoholic beverage during the day's riding. Now drinking at night is a whole other story.


You Are Cyclops

Dedicated and responsible, you will always remain loyal to your cause.
You are a commanding leader - after all, you can kill someone just by looking at them.

Power: force beams from your eyes

New Windows

Last night we had a salesperson at our house selling us replacement windows for our home. A few months ago, Mel had seen a TV commercial advertising a company that was giving away free windows or siding, so she filled out the form on their website. Shortly after that, we received a phone call from someone with the Acri Company asking us if we would like to have someone come to our home to give us an estimate. Last night was the night he came. We have known since buying our house that we would need to replace the windows, and this winter we learned just how drafty some of them were. The price we were quoted was very reasonable, and the windows seem to be very high quality, so we are going for it. Much of the cost of the windows should be offset by savings in our heating and cooling bills. I guess we'll see if that happens.