Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On the Groovy Road: Headed for the Orlando Comic Con

Wow...what a weekend! I hardly know where to begin so I will simply give you a play by play and hope that you don't get too bored along the way. ;)

No, did not mean to rhyme. Left at around noon on Friday, headed to Orlando, for the Orlando Comic Con at the Caribe Royale Resort. Car packed, snacks for along the way and we were set.

Stopped in Clermont for lunch at the Cracker Barrel. My hubby loves that place so we went in there. Picture this...going into country Cracker Barrel wearing a black velvet dress with red lace sleeves with black fringe. My new pocket watch was pinned to the front of me with a black ribbon. In my hair was a cute little red bow with a bat on it from Natey at FreekyFallz which I thought rather nifty.

So, we sit down at Cracker Barrel and the waitress asked me if I was going to a Ren Fest. I told her "no" and explained who I was. She asked for card and then this other waitress came running up to the table and said "Who is she? I want a card!"
So about that time, everyone is looking at me and asking who I was. It was rather funny. I needed a sense of humor because when we left, we got halfway down the road and just my luck, the clutch cable on my car snapped. I managed to get the car off onto the shoulder but here is yet another mental picture for you...

State Road 50, busy, busy, busy, the type of road that is non-stop day and night. We were in the middle of nowhere between downtown Clermont (which is getting built up but is still out in the middle of nowhere in parts. Nope couldn't break down in town...had to break down in the middle of nowhere...) and Winter Garden, which was the next biggest town.

I called Triple A and they said it would be a 45 minute to an hour wait. I asked them hurry because standing on the side of the road in a long, black velvet dress in 90 degree heat was not fun. The tow truck driver made it in about a half hour and we were on our way to my parent's house.

We got to use our Sun Pass too. Yes, I am easily amused, that I get such joy out of a Sun Pass. We have a Sun Pass to use on Florida toll roads and it was so cool! A little beep and your toll is automatically deducted as you pass under the toll ramp. No fishing for money, no nothing...yes, I know...I am strange.

So we made it to my parents, and my brother was on his way home from work with a clutch cable for my car, thanks to my dad calling him.

Once my brother got home, hubby got into the car (and under it) and had it fixed in about 15 minutes and then after freshening up, we headed to the convention to unload my books. It was around 8 PM by this time and so after unloading my books, I spent the rest of the night wandering around Downtown Disney with my pal, actor Darryl Baldwin of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Adventure at MGM Studios and hubby, watched Resident Evil Extinction (please don’t ask me what I thought of it) and ate a late dinner at Planet Hollywood.

The weekend did improve with me almost selling out by Sunday morning and I was thrilled. As luck would have it, the “adventure” home was nil and we arrived in good time with no trouble along the way.

But the getting there, I have to tell you…started off rough! ;)

Road Trip by
Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc

Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc
Best Seller-Two Time Award Winner
VOA Haunted Voices Radio Network Corp.
SE Regional Rep - The IOHP

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Sun Festival, Cusco, Peru - Footage by Thirsty Traveler!

The "Thirsty Traveler" learns the Incan-style BBQ and savors his first guinea pig, on his way to the Festival of the Sun. The festival re-enacts the ancient Incan ceremonies, and attracts thousands of visitors each winter solstice.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Road to Fort Lauderdale: Andrea's Adventure!!

I left my house on a Thursday in a rented car, my husband and son in tow, headed for the Florida Super Con, one of the biggest comic book, anime and character driven cons in Florida the weekend of June 22-24. I marveled at how simple it seemed to get to the roads that would take us to Fort Lauderdale--we cut through Brandon and Plant City. I am a native Floridian yet have never been to Fort Lauderdale until I attended the Super Con. We traveled and traveled and found the sidewalks rolling up along S.R. 60, as we ventured into towns that obviously closed at sundown. I even saw gas stations that were closed by 8 PM! Don't laugh, I honestly haven't seen gas stations that aren't open for 24 hours (except mom and pop stations, but one of these was a CITGO!) since I was a little girl and I'm approaching 40!

Once back on the Interstate we were almost to Pompano Beach when we hit a snag. The DOT had decided (at midnight) to work on the Interstate. Here it was, wall to wall cars and one lane was open, down from three.

There were cones as far as the eye could see, trucks with shovels and all manner of official looking street fixing stuff and lots of cops. Well, as luck would have it, the turn off we needed? Closed off by cones...lot of them. Hubby saw a cop and we drove past the cones and over to him to ask for his help.

MISTAKE! The cop was rude, making snide remarks about how long we had been driving a motor vehicle (my husband is nearly 54) that we didn't know the significance of cones--we knew the significance of them, we were mistaken in thinking that the cop would help us when we saw no other way to get to where we needed to go and were unfamiliar with the area! Let's just say that he was no help...far too much enjoying himself with being snotty and sarcastic.

Finally we made it back to civilization around 1 AM. We found a McDonald's open in Pompano Beach (where we were staying with a friend--the convention was right down the street from her home) and got a late snack and then headed to her house to get some rest.

I won't say that was the worst trip I have ever been on, but with a rude cop, Interstate shut down and long stretches of nothing to see but the lines of the highway (which is why I hate to makes me sleepy!) it was one of the more interesting ones!

Written by:
Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc
Best Selling Horror Author and
Two Time Award Winner
SE Regional Rep - The IOHP

Visit andrea's homepage

Peacock Bass and a Teenaged Son

There is one thing every parent learns. Their children disappear a little bit, every day.

Babies turn into children. Children turn into teenagers. Teenagers go off to college and come back adults. You realize it all after it’s happened and it happens so quickly you want to grab hold whenever you can.

My son, Maxx, was suddenly thirteen and I realized it was a good time to pull a week out of our lives that would stand still forever. A week without all the noise and interference we come to accept in our lives. A week doing something we both love with no distractions.

I figured fishing in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest was perfect.

We’ve always fished together. Maxx has always been the only kid in the neighborhood that truly loved to fish and had the patience to do so. We’ve fished for redfish on the Texas coast, bass and catfish on Austin lakes, billfish off Maui and whatever we could find off whatever beach we were on. And as I researched fishing around the world, the powerful Peacock Bass of the Amazon came to the top of our list.

The fish are amazing, but the Amazon was what captured our imaginations. The perfect place for a great adventure. A chance to step off the planet and out of civilization. But embarking on such a trip takes experience and a lot of knowledge.

It turns out that the guy who got the whole peacock bass fishing experience on the map was right here in Texas. JW Smith at Rod & Gun Resources in Kerrville was one of the first to scout the region, found the best locations and helped to set up the process and logistics it would take to bring sportsmen there to test the waters.

He even helped to develop the unique floating camp we would be staying in. It’s a series of barges with full bedrooms, dining areas, cooking and laundry. A self-contained village that would move to new waters every other day.

I’d known JW for several years and he told me this trip would be the best thing I’d ever done with my son. I had a suspicion he was right.

It was quite a sell at home. Maxx was thrilled with the idea. Any danger only made the thought all the sweeter. The rest of the family and my friends presented another story. They all thought it was nuts. Totally unacceptable. Death, disease and destruction could be around every bush in a place like the Amazon… Or maybe not.

Getting There and Being There

We flew out of Miami for a late night arrival in Manaus, Brazil. Customs was smooth and we were greeted by a friendly driver who assembled our group for a short ride to a beautiful hotel (probably the nicest in Manaus). After an amazing Brazilian breakfast buffet, we were off to the airport and the floatplane we’d fly upriver the 200 or so miles to the camp. As we looked out the windows of the small plane, we saw Manaus fade away in only a few minutes and suddenly all we saw was jungle. In every direction as far as you could see. Jungle, water and more jungle. Nothing in the distance showed any kind of human involvement. The noisy flight lasted around two hours, ending with a silky smooth river landing.

Once at the camp, our luggage was quickly set up in our floating cabins. We had a quick snack, changed clothes and we were on the river fishing. It was that quick!

And that is where my preconceived notions of the Amazon came to an end. When you talk about the Amazon, everyone gets images of instant danger around every bend. Bugs, snakes, piranha and more are all out to get you and you are at the bottom of the food chain.

Once you get there and start to relax and appreciate the environment, you see that’s just not the case. We were camped on the most beautiful sand beaches you’ve ever walked on. Perfect white sand that you’d expect in Tahiti. It was so clean, it squeaked when you walked on it. The weather was very pleasant, the bugs were minimal and it was all in all, very comfortable and relaxing. If you expect hoards of mosquitoes, you’ll be disappointed. The high tannin levels in the water (the rivers look like coffee) keep the biting bugs to a minimum. When we were fishing, we would get a couple of what I nicknamed “Wazzat Flies”. These were big, loud bee’s of some sort that would just hang around, looking at us as if to say “Wassat?” They never once landed on anyone or bit anyone. They were just curious. I even saw two collide in midair as they were trying to figure me out. They were more amusing than irritating. If you did decide to swat at them with your hat, they got the hint and took off.

And the Fishing.

It’s like nothing on earth. I do believe we’re both spoiled for life. Up to this point, I’d always thought sight casting for redfish by walking or drifting the shallow flats, looking for fish and casting a topwater lure was the best fishing there was. It’s active and takes a lot of patience and skill to find the fish.

In the Amazon however, the rules of engagement change, as do the fish… Dramatically. Our guide would take us down the glassy waters of the Unini River and turn off the main channel onto a tributary. He didn’t talk much, so we’d turn around wait to see where he’d point. He’d been on these rivers for over 6 years and knew every bend and lagoon. His knowledge was truly amazing. He had a GPS built into his head and never got lost.

Many times, our guide would suddenly turn towards a small opening in the jungle. Some of these creeks were no wider than the boat and we’d machete our way into the bush, power over logs and squeeze between trees. Suddenly, you’d emerge from the darkened jungle undergrowth into a beautiful and timeless lagoon (I kept thinking Gilligan’s Island). There was never any sign of human habitation, so it’s not hard to imagine you’re the first person to ever enter the place. Some lagoons were an acre or two, some were huge and connected to many more through small waterways. We explored dozens of these over the week, each time pulling up impressive numbers of fish.

We fished a variety of lures from big woodchoppers to small sub surface baits. The small baits brought in higher numbers and varieties of fish, but the big woodchoppers were the real excitement. You would be in a pristine, prehistoric lagoon, ripping that loud woodchopper across the glassy surface and suddenly the water would explode. I likened it to a fat man doing a cannonball from the trees. The big peacock would explode on the topwater and leap into the air three or four times. One hit so hard that another fisherman couldn’t hold on and the pole was ripped right from his hands (and the guide actually JUMPED IN to get it!)

There is nothing like it. Once you figure out what kinds of structure they like, you were certain to hook up MANY times a day. We found our best fishing at the mouth of inlets where there was a lot of foliage growing out of the point (we nicknamed it Peacock Weeds). The fish hang around waiting for dinner to swim by. We also haunted the backs of lagoons, along banks and in submerged woods. Even in low water, there are stands of exotic trees growing through four or five feet of water. You might be casting on one side of a lagoon and hear a huge splash in the trees as a big peacock chased its prey around the tree trunks.

And even if you decided to just relax and watch the surroundings, you’d never know what was around each bend. We saw monkeys in trees, bizarre birds, hundreds of macaws and parrots, caiman, a huge variety of strange fish and even a jaguar playfully splashing around on a river bank. A five-pound toad hopped through our camp one night, brightly colored butterflies were everywhere. There was always something to see and capture your imagination. Even the numbers of plants that could be growing in a single tree could make you start. We’d see roots dropping 100 feet into the water from the top of a tree, supporting an exotic houseplant living in the canopy.

The “Garden of Eden” images are true, but it was really quite benign and relaxing. My son quickly turned into a Huck Finn of the Amazon… barefooted, relaxed and happy with everything that came our way.

And yes, I have to admit, it was all made so comfortable with the amazing system put into place by Rod and Gun Resources and the folks at River Plate Anglers. The floating cabins are quite comfortable. Good beds, private bathroom and shower and even AC (even though we never used it). Every morning we’d wake up to a full breakfast buffet with exotic local juices and hot Brazilian coffee all served in a separate floating “dining room”. After breakfast, we’d pack up whatever we wanted for lunch and get on the boat, usually by 8:00 AM. Lunch was usually a quick snack tucked under the jungle canopy, then right back on the rods.

After a full day of fishing, we’d head back to camp around 5:00 and there would be a table set up on the beach with drinks and a different snack each day. We’d all talk about our fishing and at 7:00, dinner was served. And it was always a great dinner. Every night was a different buffet of courses that always included fresh fish, caught an hour earlier. There was a full open bar, soft drinks, ice-cold beer and bottles of wine.

After dinner, we’d usually retire back out onto the beach to a canopy of bright stars. There was never a late night though. After such a full day of fishing and a big dinner, it seems everyone was ready for bed by 9:00.

I never thought Maxx and I would be fishing the whole time. I thought, who could fish 8 or 9 hours a day for a full week without a break… But I was wrong. He was rousting me out of bed by 6:30 every morning to get breakfast out of the way and get on the boat. We’d had plans to do some serious jungle hikes but we never took a day off, the fishing was just too amazing to miss, even for a minute.

What is it About Fishing?

I can draw parallels between fishing and golf. Both take a lot of patience, skill and money. And both are really, when you look at it critically, utterly useless and best enjoyed in beautiful places. Spending a week on a small boat with my son and a guide that didn’t speak a word of English gave us the time to just enjoy what we were doing. No pressure from our old world. No homework, no practice, no work, no appointments. Just a big, fat chunk of what overstressed people call “quality time.”

We get so worked up in our lives that we forget to get away from them sometimes. And it’s especially important to do with the people who mean most to us. I wanted an experience that we could keep the rest of our lives. An experience based on a simple precept and enjoyed in full. And an experience that we would both equally be in awe of.

Being two hundred miles away from the nearest city has an affect on you. Never seeing a piece of trash or sign of human habitation changes your perspective. Getting completely “off the grid” leaves you focused and relaxed and happy. And being in, what I consider, the most beautiful place on the planet, leaves you feeling the way you were meant to feel. And doing it all with a singular focus of catching another one more fish keeps it all in a unique context.

Once, years earlier Maxx and I were skiing together. As we rode up the first lift of the morning, I looked down at the perfect, untouched fresh snow. I told him to take a mental picture of that exact scene. Note every tree, how the snow fell, the sounds, sights and smells. Take that picture into your mind and keep it there.

He did that, and so did I. And now, five years later we can both pull that exact image.

We did this many times in the Amazon, and I suspect that many years from we’ll still have those perfect pictures in our minds.

We’ve already decided that flying halfway across the world to spend seven full days chasing strange looking fish through a jungle is something we want to do every year, as I put it “till I’m too old to walk.”

What we didn’t do is have hours of deep father/son talks. There wasn’t a litany of serious lectures on how to live a life. There was no painful, yet fulfilling clearing of the air, leftover from years of bad communication. There was no need. We’ve always gotten along pretty well. We see many things the same way and we understand each other already. This trip wasn’t about fixing something. This trip was just about enjoying our lives, and sharing a piece of a year doing something above and beyond our daily lives. This was something every parent should do with every child, as often as possible. Enjoying each other and life, without an agenda.

Eventually, we hope to have a lot more of those mental pictures, and I’m happy to let them get mixed up from year to year.

Written by Chris Greta
Visit Chris Greta's home page

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cheap Bites in New York City

A Video Produced by Emma Wilson. "If you're hungry in Manhattan", this might help. Emma finds $5 bites on the streets.

Video Courtesy: Travelistic
Visit Emma Wilson's home page

Coral Reefs in the US Virgin Islands

This video has been shot in Lamisher Bay, St John Island, USVI. This is a chunk from Dr. John Turner's (PhD) on-going study on the impact of human-kind on the coral reef habitat and marine life. The research spans for 15 years. Next time when you go snorkeling, remember this video!

Video Produced by: S. Sloan
Video Courtesy: Youtube

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Insider: La Basilica di Saccargia, Sardegna, Italy

This one of finest Romanesque style churches in Italy, completed in AD 1116.

Video Courtesy: Youtube