The Gibraltar Apes Got Lazy…

A Short Story

Not paying much attention.

My first encounter with the apes of Gibraltar was in the mid 1960’s when our ship made a liberty call (Navy term for a non-working visit) at the port. Several of us joined a tour of The Rock and while out at an overlook we were visited by a family of apes. Suddenly they started running around and several grabbed things from us. I lost my hat and a woman with the group lost her camera and in a second the apes ran off. At the time I joked that the apes were trained by someone that gave them food in exchange for their haul. At that time nobody running the tours seemed to advertise seeing the apes.

The Apes Den

The population of apes in Gibraltar are actually Barbary Macaques and they are monkeys not apes. They are the only wild population of monkeys in Europe. Presently the population on Gibraltar numbers about 300 in five families.

Caverns inside the Rock of Gibraltar

Jumping forward fifty years, my wife and I visited Gibraltar just recently. We took a tour of “The Rock” and our guide seemed focused on finding a family of monkeys for us. He referred to them simply as monos (Spanish for monkey) and we located a troop at an overlook next to Prince Ferdinand’s Battery which the locals now call The Apes Den. There were more than a dozen monkeys walking around the area and they seemed to have little interest in us tourists. Actually they seemed almost lethargic and perhaps a bit over-weight but I found that preferable to my last encounter.

We were told that years ago it was common for a troop to make it into town on occasion and cause all sorts of mayhem but that it rarely happens any more. Perhaps they are victims of the good life just like us…

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A Tale of a Whale

A Short Story

Sunset at Icy Straight Point

Whale Watching In Alaska

Kayakers searching for whales

A few years ago while on an early season Alaska cruise our ship stopped at Icy Straight Point. For a number of reasons we had decided to take it easy that day. The ship was anchored out and we had gone ashore early in the morning and took a nice hike thru the forest. We were back on the ship well before noon and had gone out on our balcony to read.

Some of our friends had taken the opportunity to go on excursions in the port and whale watching seemed to be the choice of the day. Of the whale watching options one was a kayak trip and as we sat on our balcony we could see the kayaks move along the shore and head out toward open water.

Whale at Icy Straight Point

A little over thirty minutes into our reading we were startled by a load noise coming directly below us. It was a large Humpback whale that had crossed under the ship and was blowing as it surfaced directly below our stateroom.

We had been whale watching before and had seen whales off of Hawaii, Vancouver Island and in Alaska. On one cruse up the Inner Passage we had a pod of Orcas pace the ship for over a half hour. With them I never got a picture because we never knew where they would surface next and before you could react – they were gone.

Whale pod encounter off Vancouver Island

This time at Icy Straight Point our Humpback stayed near us for twenty minutes, circling and diving and putting on a real show. Most of our fellow passengers were off exploring and it didn’t seem this whale was drawing much attention at all.

That evening talking to our shipmates it seemed that the whale watch tours were mostly a dud. The kayakers had seen whales but none had come anywhere near the group and one whale watching boat had not seen any whales at all.

Sometimes lady luck just smile in our direction…

A T-Shirt in Tahiti

A Short Story
Papeete open air market

While on a short visit to Tahiti we went on a shopping adventure. Our brother-in-law is a Harley Davidson fan and has asked us if we could pick him up Harley Davidson t-shirts as we travel. Over the years we have picked him up some shirts from a number of exotic places so when we hit Tahiti we went searching.

In Papeete we started with the tourist/t-shirt shops but nobody carried any Harley Davidson shirts. We inquired at a number of other shops and stands and the people were very friendly and wanted to do anything they could to help. Several people even recognizing the name Harley Davidson. The hunt than became a quest when someone suggested we go to a place on the other side of town where they could probably help.

Papeete, Tahiti, French Society Islands
Locally printed fabrics

When we got there the owner of the notions store didn’t know any place to get a Harley Davidson shirt but would make some calls. After a number of calls she had good news, she found someone who had what we were looking for.

We eventually found the location to discover that yes the man had a Harley Davidson and was willing to sell it. I’m beginning to think that that was the only Harley Davidson motorcycle on Tahiti. But no shirts.

While everywhere we went most of the people spoke English and were friendly and helpful it seemed that at times their English and our French may have left some communication deficits.

TSA and the Little Sequined Top

My wife has a sequined top that she has worn while traveling a few times. I don’t believe there is anything seriously metallic in the sequins and it has made its way thru a number of metal detectors but recently all hell seemed to break out over this top.

While we have never paid for pre-clearance we usually get pre-cleared on our boarding passes (not really sure why). Last October while passing thru the TSA Pre check my wife was directed to go thru the scanner. Feet on the marks, hands above your head and wait, something has gone wrong. It seemed the agent scanned her several times and now she is pulled aside for a thorough search. What went wrong? She was wearing that top!

After a little research we have discovered that TSA screening devices have a lot of issues with some types of women’s clothes. That splash of gold print on a T-Shirt can contain enough metal to set off the metal detector. The same with attached beads. Sequins can literally blind a scanner. Since often these things are part of the fabric, passing a wand over you cannot determine if it is the top you’re wearing or something concealed under it. Time for the pat-down.

A comment Submitted by Cindy M found on the TSA blog from Jan 2018 – When the scanners were introduced I believed they were an improvement. Now however, I see that the machines don’t spot real problems. Instead they seem to be confused by a variety of normal things such as sequins, metal, or other sorts of embellishments on clothing.

Why is it I\we have to dress for the TSA?! Actually you don’t but you can expect to be delayed and/or inconvenienced.  Especially if you ignore some simple tips that help TSA do their job efficiently. They do post a lot of information online that can help avoid these sort of issues. Unfortunately as of now sequins aren’t one of those tips.

 

 

Room With A Bath In London

A Short Story
Stow-On-The-Wald

Some time ago we were visiting England and had rented a car for a few days driving around the Cotswalds. The countryside and the villages were spectacular and we had a great time. Our two favorite locations were Broadway and Stow-On-The-Wald. Who wouldn’t want to stay in Stow-On-The-Wald just to be able to say the name. While The Lygon Arms in Broadway was recommended to us it was not to our budgets liking but we’ve been told it is extraordinary.

We spent our time in the Cotswalds staying in B&Bs and the people we met and the meals we shared were delightful. But after a number of days of stumbling around in the middle of the night looking for the bathrooms we were looking forward to getting back to London

Lygon Arms Hotel, Broadway

We had been staying in Kensington and when we returned we went searching for a hotel in the same area. At that point my wife was really looking to have a room with a private bath. I parked in one of those cul-de-sacs that was completely circled by small hotels and headed off in search of a room. The forth hotel said “yes” they did have a room with a bath. We dropped our bags off in the lobby and went off to return the rental car and get something to eat.

Hotel Row, Kensington

When we returned the hotel said the room was ready and we went upstairs. Opening the door we were confronted with a small room with a bed, a dresser and in one corner a clawfoot tub. That night my wife got her room with a bath but I wouldn’t refer to it as “private”.

 

A Road Like No Other – Rt 12 Utah

A Short Story
The Hogsback on Route 12 in Utah

Last summer we spent a couple of weeks checking off items on our bucket list in the National Parks of Utah. We rented a car in Salt Lake City, toured the parks and dropped off the car in Los Vegas.

After leaving Capital Reef National Park one afternoon we were headed for our next hotel in the town of Panguitch near Bryce Canyon National Park to the southwest. We came out of Capital Reef on Route 24 and soon hit an intersection with Route 12. At the intersection Rt. 24 headed to the north, which is the way we had been told to go but Rt. 12 went south. Just looking at the map it seemed like 12 was a much shorter route to take.

At this point I need to confess that the older I get the more nervous I am about heights. Already on this trip I had driven a couple of roads that had given me reason to pause. I’m not sure where this fear of heights has come from but when I was much younger I was fearless. lately I find it hard to believe that decades ago that young man that hung one handed off high catwalks and jumped out of helicopters was actually me. At this point I am much more nervous than my wife.

Anyway at that junction we made a snap decision and headed south on Utah Route 12. Some distance along this two lane road, near Boulder Mountain we came across the Anasazi State Park and archaeological site. This was a lucky find and well worth the stop. It was built around the excavation of an ancient Anasazi village and included a nice museum.

Back on the road we headed southwest again and soon came up on one of the scariest bit of road I can remember. Its called the Hogsback (or Hog Back) and it’s a narrow two lane road with, at times, barley any shoulder on either side. It rides along a ridge for about four miles with often sheer drops of over a hundred feet on one side or the other and sometimes both sides at once. Few guard rails and almost no room to pull off. The speed limit was between 25 and 35 mph and with my fear kicking in that seemed way too fast.

The good news was there was almost no traffic and the one car ahead of us seemed really terrified. He crept along at 15 to 20 mph and that was just fine with me. Not only did I feel safer but he gave me an excuse when eventually another car caught up to us.

Watch this YouTube video of a drive along the Hogsback.

 

Changing of the Guard in Copenhagen

A Short Story

During a short visit to Copenhagen a group of our friends went off to see the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace. We had plans to find the little mermaid and stroll the canal district.

Somewhere a little after eleven we were window shopping along Dronningens Tvaergade when flashing police lights caught our attention. Walking down to the corner we were surprised to see the Danish Royal Guard marching down the center of the street led by a police car. Traffic was backed up behind them and crowds followed down the sidewalk. They came to our position just as the traffic light turned red and they halted. Once the light turned green their commander gave the order to march and they moved off.

It seems the Danish Royal Guard march from Rosenborg Castle to Amalienborg Palace where the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place daily with the guard leaving Rosenborg Castle at 11:30 to arrive at Amalienborg Palace for the ceremony at 12:00. When the Queen is in residence the guard is accompanied by the Royal Guards music band.