Tag Archive | Bucket list

Travel Bucket List

COVID has given me a far amount of time to fantasize about retirement and the things I want to do once I get there. And mind you, I’m not planning to wait until I’m 65! I’ve been coming up with my bucket list… Some of these might not have to wait until I’m retired, but some are harder to do in a standard two week vacation slot, especially if you want to take the time.  Here are some of mine (in no particular order)!

  1. Drive US Highway 20 from coast to coast
  2. Drive Route 66 from start to end
  3. Take a river cruise through the wine country of Europe
  4. Visit the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island
  5. Take an Antarctic cruise
  6. See the Grizzly bears at Katmai National Park
  7. See the Northern lights in Europe (or maybe Alaska)
  8. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru
  9. See the Great Wall of China
  10. Visit Petra in Jordan
  11. See the Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia
  12. See the Egyptian Pyramids
  13. Visit Cappadocia in Turkey and take a balloon ride
  14. Visit Auschwitz in Poland
  15. Go backpacking
  16. Do a multi-day trip on the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park
  17. See the night skies at Chaco Culture National Historic Park
  18. Do an African photo safari
  19. Hike in New Zealand
  20. Camp and snorkel at Dry Tortugas National Park
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The Treasury Building at Petra (photo from Wikipedia)

What’s on your bucket list?  Have you been fantasizing about travel during COVID-times?

 

 

Atlanta 2018: Georgia Aquarium

Day 2, Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday afternoon I went to the Georgia Aquarium, where I was going to swim with Whale Sharks!  To say I was excited was an understatement!  I have wanted to do this for several years, and I decided this would be my Christmas gift to myself.  The Georgia Aquarium has the largest aquarium tank in the world, and is home to four whale sharks and four manta rays.  They purchased their whale sharks from the Taiwanese fishing trade, where they would have ended up in the fish market – Taiwan at the time had quotas on whale shark fishing, so they wouldn’t have been able to just catch more after selling their sharks to the aquarium.  But I digress.

Before my swim in the late afternoon, I had a chance to see all of the exhibits.  They had a really cool tropical reef exhibit, complete with wave action. I enjoyed watching that one for awhile.  They also have a bunch of penguins and puffins, doing penguin and puffin stuff, seahorses, sea dragons, and otters.  The otters moved constantly, so it was impossible to get a non-blurry photo of them.  The dolphin exhibit was closed when I was there, but I wasn’t too disappointed since I had the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in Hawaii last year!  As a complete aside, did you know there is a Chocolate Chip Sea Star!??

The aquarium has a couple beluga whales, and two albino alligators!  Pirahnas, longcomb sawfish, Black Reeftip sharks, sea turtles, green sea turtles, cownose rays, and all sorts of other fish. The Ocean Voyager exhibit alone has an astonishing number of fish; the tank contains 6 million gallons of seawater!  You can see all the different animals in the Ocean Voyager tank.   It is a nice aquarium.

I checked in for my swim at about 4 pm; we were going behind the scenes at 4:30.  I was so excited!  There were 8 of us total, and we were paired up into buddy pairs.  We were led back into the back area to check out the tank – it was interesting to see the tank from above!  Did you know they have machines that agitate the water and spotlights at the surface so you can’t see what’s going on up there when you are looking at the fish from below?

We were fitted with our wet suits, gloves, booties and snorkels, and then headed into the dressing room to get changed.  Those suckers are really hard to wiggle into, just so you know.  Once we were dressed, we went back out to the surface of the tank, and they explained all the details.  We were to swim very slowly, mostly just occasionally paddling with our hands, to move in a lazy figure 8 around the tank.  The whale sharks stay near the surface, and they tend to swim close to the walls of the tank, so that’s where we would be.  We were told that we shouldn’t touch them, but we didn’t have to move away if they brushed up against us!

We got into the water and headed out, being wrangled by a lead diver and another bringing up the rear, in case we went astray.  A third diver was in the water getting video of the fish, and all of us.  The water is 76 degrees, which gets cold after a bit!

This was an amazing experience.  The whale sharks are so big and so gentle!  Being in the water with them was like one big, long WOW!  I literally said “WOW!” over and over again through my mouthpiece.  The manta rays move more quickly and come right up underneath you!  During the swim, one whale shark swam right underneath me and brushed my abdomen with her back and dorsal fin (I think they are all females).  None of the manta rays touched me, but they did brush against a few of the others in the group.

 

The water is really clear, so you can see all the way to the bottom, and can see the other fish swimming.  The Cow Nose rays, the Longcomb Sawfish, the Blacktip Reef Sharks, and countless other types of sharks and fish were all just moving below you constantly.  It was so cool to see from this vantage point!  The aquarium has a tunnel through the tank where the other swimmers’ family and friends could watch – it was interesting to see them standing down there under the water!

It is absolutely one of my favorite experiences so far in my life – I had so much fun doing this!

An added bonus was the fact that my swim coincided with an evening where they were switching over the computer software for the cash registers.  Since the registers were shut down for this, they gave each of us a video of our swim for free!  Normally you have to pay – it was an unexpected treat!

 

After the swim, I walked back to the hotel (in the only pouring rain of the trip), and brushed out my wet hair.  I was hungry, so I headed right back down the block to Ted’s Montana Grill.  Ted’s is a chain, founded by Ted Turner (of CNN fame) and specializes in bison with a Western Saloon theme.  I had a delicious mushroom Swiss bison burger, with pickled cucumbers, and tomatoes drizzled with bleu cheese and balsamic.  It was sooooo gooooood…  I also had some Bison Ridge Merlot wine, which I believe is another Turner project – it was a great wine!  The meal wrapped up a fantastic day!

Cost: $45.95 for general admission during peak hours (there are significant discounts for online pre-purchase, early or late arrival, groups, etc, and it is included on the CityPass).  Swimming with the Whale Sharks (called the Journey with Gentle Giants) was $233.95 and included aquarium admission, the swim, a t-shirt, and a sticker.  There is also a dive option for certified SCUBA divers.

2016 White Water Rafting

White water rafting has been on my bucket list for several years. And thanks to an invitation from my aunt and uncle, I got to go on my first trip!

My uncle’s niece runs a white water rafting business on the White Salmon Wild and Scenic River in White Salmon, WA. Although she is my cousin’s cousin, she is technically not my cousin. But having such a large family, these family distinctions get pretty blurry in my world, so we have just declared each other cousins! That’s often way easier than trying to explain that someone is your second cousin, or your first cousin once removed, or your who-knows-how-someone-is-actually-related-to you…

The trip took place in July, when I went down to spent a long weekend with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Before we drove out to the rafting site, we had lunch at a little café in White Salmon, WA, a cute yet tiny town along the Columbia River in the Gorge. My lunch was a delicious scramble with a cup of gourmet coffee.

We headed north from White Salmon to find BZ Corner and All Adventures Rafting, our guides and our gear! The first order of business was safety. Learning what would be expected for a safe and fun adventure. How to paddle, when to paddle, how and when to paddle backwards and most importantly, what happens if someone falls out of the raft!

Next, we were each fitted with a wetsuit, booties, and a splash jacket.  The water in the White Salmon River is only about 40 degrees even in the summer, because its headwaters are on Mount Adams.  Staying warm is a major consideration.  We had swimsuits on underneath.  And we got helmets too – you know, for that aforementioned falling out of the raft thing…

We rode up to where the rafts were ready to be launched, and went on our way!

My cousin and I were in the two front seats of the rafts.  The wettest seats.  We had a blast!

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I’m on the far left – in the front right seat

Parts of the river were very calm, and we had an opportunity to hear about the history of the river, its flora and fauna of the area.  The White Salmon River was dammed in 1913 by the Condit Dam, and the dam was removed in 2011.  It is one of two dams in Washington State that have been removed in order to restore critical salmon and steelhead habitat.

The story of the Condit Dam removal was an interesting one. The dam was built with fish ladders, but they were wiped out twice by floods shortly after the dam was built. Ultimately, they decided to not build new ladders, effectively wiping out the spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead on the river. In the 1990s, when the dam’s owners applied to renew their permits, a determination was made to require remediation for the habitat that was lost. The cost was prohibitive, operating the dam no longer made sense and the company ultimately decided to work toward removing the dam.

The removal was not without controversy. Property owners upriver from the dam had enjoyed a man-made lake for many years – removal of the dam lowered the level of the river in that area significantly and eliminated the lake. You could still see docks and stairs going down to what was the former water level, high up the cliffs. Other than the few homes that were right upstream from where the dam once was, I was fascinated by how wild the river still is – there were very few homes along the river and very little evidence of development.

Other areas of the river are white water rapids.  They were so much fun!  My cousin, who was steering the raft, did such a good job of keeping us rowing together and adjusting to get us positioned for the rapids.  The front seats really were wet – several times I was completely covered by water!

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I’m in there somewhere!

The entire trip took us a 8.5 miles down the river, and was about 3 hours.  I had a blast – I haven’t laughed that much in a long time.  Which was kind of a drawback for pictures, since there were many where my mouth was wide open, laughing (or gasping for breath)!

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After our rafting trip, my family and some of the staff from All Adventures Rafting hung out and had a picnic dinner together, with hotdogs, fresh salad greens from the garden, cowboy caviar, and beer and soda.  It was a great evening.

If you have the chance to go; I highly recommend All Adventures Rafting.  I would even say that if they were not my family.  It is a small, family owned business that is committed to sustainable, green practices.  They only put two rafts on each trip, so the groups are small and personal.  This is one of the best experiences I have had, and certainly a highlight of my year!