Sunday, October 20, 2019

Blustery Day

This past Thursday morning I went out on an errand.  It was an extremely blustery day,  probably an effect of the nor'easter blasting New England. Driving up a nearby street, I saw an older gentleman setting out on a walk, with two walking sticks. He was dressed in a kilt.  You just don't expect to see something like that in our neighborhood, at least so early on a weekday morning. I wonder how he and his kilt fared in the high winds. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Butterfly Days

I have been flitting around like a butterfly this summer.  I am sorry I have not been posting. I've had lots of things to say and now they will mostly go unsaid because of my flitting about. At least I've made progress on several decluttering projects:  we have two dozen cans half full of paint. I don't want them ending up in the landfill, so I am trying to empty the by painting closets. The other project is reviewing our 50-year-old collection of slides and filing them in tidy little boxes.  They've already been transferred to DVDs. We have one more tray of slides to review and then we'll give away our slide projector and the empty trays. I hope we'll have takers.

Meanwhile, we've begun to suspect that we will not see the large crop of monarch caterpillars like the one we had last year. We have plenty of milkweed, but now it looks tattered, wilted, spent. We've seen monarchs laying eggs on the milkweed, but we've seen only one caterpillar. One lovely fat one appeared  out back at the beginning of August. He looked as if he was ready to spin a chrysalis, but we never saw one. Meanwhile, on the front porch, we found a chrysalis that something had bitten into. Not good.

We've seen other kinds of butterflies--fritillaries, swallowtails, and this magnificent Common Buckeye. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Istanbul, not Constantinople

We were out walking Dilly early on this hot and humid day.  We passed a car parked across the street. It had an odd sticker in the rear window. It said, "Make Istanbul Constantinople Again."

Right away a fragment from an old song from the 40's began playing in my head. I asked my husband about it. He remembered it, too.  Here's all I remember from that song:

It's Istanbul, not Constantinople,
Istanbul, not Constantinople,
It's Istanbul, not Constantinople,
Why did "Constantinople" get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks.

A little later, more lines surfaced from the old memory fishing bank:

Even Old New York
Was once New Amsterdam.
Why they changed it
I can't say,
Maybe they just liked it better that way.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

This Week in Babylon

Sometimes I feel like as ancient as an ancient Babylonian. Now is one of those times. For the past month or so, I've been busy getting some craft projects ready for our church's vacation Bible school. 

It starts tomorrow and ends Friday evening. Unlike many other vacation Bible schools, it's an all-day affair. Parents can drop their kids off as early as 8 AM and pick them up at 5 PM. 

Usually we have nearly 45 "campers." (The name of our vacation Bible school is "Camp Saint Philip's.") This year, we have only 33 registrations. In January and February, a thief began raiding our church's outdoor mailbox. He or she or they stole not only checks made out to the church, but also early registrations for Camp Saint Philip's. Our "summer camp" is popular even with people who don't belong to the church, because it's a well-run all-day camp. Unfortunately, we just don't know who might have tried to register and never got a reply. Needless to say, the church now has a post office box.

I help with crafts. Other years, the crafts were handled by at least three adults and a half-dozen high-school-age counselors. This year, there are just two adults.  I spent way too many hours planning, cutting, pasting, and priming. Not doing this next year unless we have another adult. 

So it's been both fun and drudgery.  Tomorrow the youngest group (the "LIONS" --10 kids going into Kindergarten, first and second grades) will make lion faces out of paper plates. I got all my ideas from the internet, mostly from other women who dream up craft projects that keep the kids busy and can be made on a shoestring budget.  Sisters, you rock!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Deer on the Beltway

I've read somewhere that there are now more deer in this country than there were when the first Europeans landed. Our modern emphasis on the production of corn is partly to blame. The deer themselves have evolved to survive almost anywhere, feasting on corn and garden crops in the country and plants and flowers in the suburbs.

Over the years, we've seen an occasional deer lying dead at the side of the Washington Beltway, a busy highway that sometimes widens to six lanes. I'd always assumed these run-over animals had somehow strayed from some large, wooded suburban tract.

Yesterday my husband and I travelled westward along the northern arc of the Beltway, between U.S. Route One and I-270, which links Washington, DC to  I-70 at Frederick, MD. Very busy roads, all of them. To my surprise, I counted no fewer than 5 deer foraging in a narrow wooded strip between the Beltway and a high cement barrier running parallel to the Beltway, about 100 feet from the edge of the road. This strip, less than 5 miles long, lies between Maryland Route 29 (Colesville)  and Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. How can so many deer survive in such a tiny space?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Costa Rica Part 8

The morning after the Big Bang we headed for Nosara, a little beach town on the western coast. We had a 3-hour ride over mostly bumpy, dusty roads. The roads through the larger towns were mostly paved and so were occasional patches out in the country, mostly, it seemed, in front of impressive-looking houses. On the way, we passed this man herding  cattle.

We had a wonderfully relaxing time in Nosara.  We rented a house owned by an American--probably an aging surfer--who had bought the house years ago as an investment. He was now ready to move on to something else, so the house was for sale.

The house came with a pool.  Although David and Simone braved the ocean,  the older folks waded in the ocean but swam in the pool that came with the house.

Barbara made breakfast every morning,

but we had lunch and dinner at local restaurants, all of them very good.

We were charmed by what we took to be "our" resident cat. He darted into the house whenever he had the chance.  Simone and David bought food for him, which he chowed down voraciously. The landlord later informed us that he actually belonged to a neighbor.

On our next-to-the-last evening, we celebrated Ron's birthday by having dinner in the festive outdoor garden of a hotel.  It was a warm, starlit night within sight of the Pacific. A slender crescent moon appeared in the sky, but it did not look like the upright crescent moon seen back home on outhouse doors. This crescent moon looked more like a bowl. We called it the "smiley-face" moon.

On our last full day in Nosara, we went to a nearby hotel for a self-guided nature walk. After descending a newly-built stairway of over 100 steps, we walked along a trail for awhile and soon decided we must have missed a turnoff. The signs were confusing. The older folks decided to return to the hotel. David and Simone opted to continue.

After ascending the 100+ steps, we  found a table on a breezy 0cean-view patio and ordered drinks.  After awhile, we began to be a little concerned about David and Simone. Why weren't they back? We waited some more, chatted some more, drank some more, quietly fretted and still they didn't appear.  Just as Barbara was about to inform the woman at the reception desk that they were lost, David and Simone came crawling up the stairs, sweaty and muddy. The trail was poorly marked. They'd gotten lost.  After wandering forlornly in the wilderness, they found a log stretched across a river and shinnied across that on their butts, trying not to think of crocodiles.

Simone explains how they found their way out of the jungle.

We took little 3-wheel taxis back to the house. Ours got a flat tire. Fortunately, we were fairly close to the house when the tire gave out.

The next morning, our van took us back to San Jose, a ride of about 5 hours. We spent our final night at the Hotel Buena Vista. The hotel van took us to the airport early Monday morning. We said good bye to each other there,  as each couple had a different departure time. Barbara and Ron were headed for Chicago; David and Simone, to Los Angeles, and Phil and I to Baltimore.

Houston was a nightmare. Only three officials were available to check the passports of at least 500 returning, travel-worn, tax-paying citizens. Some people, pleading the need to make a connecting flight in 20 minutes, jumped ahead in line. Others just weaseled under the cordon because they felt entitled.  Tempers flared. Babies cried. Bored officials yawned. 

We reached Baltimore after midnight, watched hopefully for our suitcase to arrive on the carousel, filed a missing suitcase report, found our car without too much trouble in the jam-packed parking lot, went home, fell into our welcoming bed. What a wonderful trip!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Costa Rica Part 7

A "night walk" in the cloud forest was the final scheduled event of our time in Monteverde.  The six of us had our own guide. Oscar was passionate about the cloud forest. His mission in life was impress on visitors  the importance of cherishing and preserving this sanctuary for native plants and animals. He couldn't wait to show as many of the wonderful birds and animals as he could, so he zipped around all over the place. 

Unfortunately, my sense of balance disappears almost completely when it gets dark. I wobble. I list to the side. I zig-zag uncontrollably. In order to show us all the critters, Oscar had us ascending slippery stone staircases, descending slippery stone staircases, moving along dark and winding trails, dodging branches and stumbling over the occasional rock. Soon, I was struggling to keep up with the others. It was misty and I was cold.  Fortunately, Simone offered to let me hold onto her arm, and she guided me along. Kind, dear Simone. I called her my sherpa.

We saw a monkey, sound asleep high in a tree. Catching up with another group and their guide, we saw a toucan, also asleep.  "He wasn't here when I came by last night." Oscar told us. Someone asked, "But doesn't he always sleep in the same place?"  "Of course not," Oscar replied. "He moves around to fool predators." My favorite bird was the beautiful mot mot. Oscar said that if you saw one, you could be sure of spotting its mate nearby. I had already noticed this from our balcony at the lodge, where one on a nearby branch was soon joined by another.

It was a strenuous walk for me and I was very happy to get back to Cala Lodge.  All I wanted to do was to drift off to sleep under a warm, soft quilt in a dark,  quiet room.  Just as I was approaching Dreamland, I was rudely jerked awake by a horrendous sound,  one  tremendous, sharp boom followed by a long-lasting a rumble. What was it? Some kind of thunder heard only in the mountains? A runaway locomotive colliding with a nearby building?  The gas stove exploding in the kitchen?

Almost immediately,  a young man and woman from the staff were hammering on the door, calling out, "Are you all right?" My husband was still up. He let them in.  "We're fine," he replied.

"A tree came down on the building!" they said.

"Yes," said Phil, "I can show you where it fell."

He opened the door to our balcony.  The tree had fallen very close to our room, splintering part of the roof.

"We can move you to another room," the woman offered.

"No thanks," we said. I wanted to stay put. Our room was fine.  The noise and the sudden awakening were by far the worst part of Horror # 4. 

The next morning, before leaving for Nosara, we saw the damage caused by the wild avocado tree. The owner and his assistant were already busy with a chain saw.

On the balcony, the morning after. Damage to roof visible just to the right. 

The view from below. Balcony seen through branches above roof on lower level.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Costa Rica Part 6

I think my favorite excursion was to the coffee farm. Phil and I went by ourselves, as the other four had taken the tour the previous day while Phil was at the dentist.

The farm as very small. The family's modest house was surrounded by a yard full of lovely flowers, which had a purpose, as we were soon to learn.

We were the first to arrive for a tour that day.  Gabriella, the farmer's young interpreter, asked if we would mind waiting for an hour until another group arrived. (The group comprised two dozen dentists from Seattle and their traveling companions.) "No problem," we said. We spent an hour that balmy spring morning enjoying the flowers and hanging out with the family's cat, who was sunning on the patio.

As soon as the dentists arrived in their posh Toyota tour bus, the farmer invited us to inspect some coffee plant seedlings in pots.  My brother-in-law, Ron, wrote the following paragraph, which nicely summarizes what the farmer told us: 

On Monday, we (Ron, Barbara, David and Simone) visited a small organic coffee farm. It was nothing like what I expected. The coffee trees, only four to eight feet high, are not arranged in rows, as in larger commercial farms, but helter-skelter on the small hills on the side of the mountain. Interspersed among them are fruit trees of every description: lemon, lime, grapefruit, mango, avocado, orange, and more. The fruit is never picked! Rather, it drops to the ground, to provide nutrients for the coffee trees, which receive no commercial fertilizer. 

There are also orchids and other flowers everywhere, in order to attract the bees that pollinate the coffee flowers. When one breaks the shell off one of these coffee beans, one can taste the honey on the bean. Large coffee producers wash off this honey through their vigorous washing system, but here, the washing is more gentle, and the honey remains on the bean, making coffee taste sweeter and more chocolate. The mix of coffee trees, fruit trees, and flowers made this yet another beautiful vista.

Ron added:
The cloud forests are changing, because of global warming, and are very fragile. Plants that are rooted in the earth can tolerate periods of little rain, but epiphytes (such as orchids) cannot survive three days without moisture. For now, this is a very, very, special place, and I am enormously grateful to have been able to be in it.


After we had seen the coffee plants at various stages of growth, the farmer told us about the production of coffee. He took us into a small one-room cabin where his wife had lived as a child with her parents, brothers and sisters. He showed us how the beans were laboriously ground and  roasted in his grandparents' day.

Gabriella, our guide, explains how beans were roasted years ago.

We were then shown modern production methods, from harvesting, drying, roasting, and bagging.  The tour ended in in a little coffee house (which was being enlarged in compliance with government regulations). Our hosts served everyone cake and their own home-grown coffee. It was a delightful day.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Costa Rica Part 5

This morning after breakfast we walked to the nearby butterfly garden, where we had a guided tour.  Our enthusiastic guide was a young American woman who’d gone to college to study design, lost interest in her chosen field, dropped out, come to Costa Rica, fallen in love with the country and found her life’s work in environmental studies.  She escorted us through several large netted enclosures where the butterflies lived, mated and died.  In the first enclosure, the butterflies lived entirely on sugar water.  As the day progressed, the sun’s heat fermented the sugar water. As evening approached, the butterflies became slightly drunk. After three weeks of daily happy hours, they passed away. 

In another, larger enclosure, they lived on cut-up fruit, such as papaya.  Because of the vitamins and minerals in the fruit, these butterflies lived a few weeks longer than the sugar-water group. 

We also learned about the regimented work lives of the resident ants, saw specimens of hundreds of local insects, were amazed at the size and intricacy of several spider webs,  and heard a few hair-raising tales about scorpions hiding in boots.

I liked this sign outside the rest room in the reception area.

In the afternoon, we headed for Selvatura Park.  Our van soon caught up with a dozen riderless horses, all wearing saddles, which were trotting along in an orderly line. A helmeted cowperson on a moped was herding them. The van driver had to poke along behind them until they abruptly turned left and went down another road. 

At the park, we walked through a series of bridges suspended high near the top of the canopy, marveling at the profusion of trees and ferns.  A narrow steam of water meandered far, far below.  The air was filled with bird song. 

Phil, my sister, Barbara, and brother-in-law, Ron

Eventually, we noticed a peculiar zinging noise. Before long, we realized the zinging noise, sometimes accompanied by a scream, was coming from a couple of  ziplines, which could be seen from several of the bridges.

The zipline is a Costa Rican invention. It has escaped from its homeland and is seen in recreational areas world wide, including one at Savage Mill, not far from our home in Laurel, MD. Phil offered Ron a zipline ride for his 82nd birthday, which fell on Wednesday, midway through our vacation.  Ron said he’d think about it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Costa Rica Part 4

Costa Rica, Part 4

On Monday morning, Phil talked to the young woman at the desk at Cala Lodge about making a dental appointment.  She got him an 11:00 AM appointment, arranged for a cab, and even negotiated the fare with the cab driver. The “cab” turned out to be a battered pick-up truck driven by a young man in his twenties.  He spoke some English.

The dentist’s office was in a strip mall, less than a mile from the lodge.  The driver dropped us off,  handed us his business card and drove away.  We tried the door of the office. It was locked.  Oh, no! Now what? Then we realized we were early.  It was only 10:45. Before long, a young, a very young man, appeared and unlocked the door. This was our dentist.

His English was excellent. He told Phil that the tooth was infected. He said he would prescribe a week’s worth of antibiotics, plus 3 packets of medicine for the pain. Phil was to use one packet per day for the next three days.  Most importantly, he was to call his dentist as soon as he returned to the United States.  Phil had worried all night that the dentist might pull the tooth. “You don’t pull an infected tooth,” the dentist replied, in answer to his question. “That would only spread the infection. You have to clear up the infection first.”  The visit cost $50.

We walked to a nearby "pharmacia" to fill the prescriptions. Then we stopped at a “soda” (housed in a kiosk) for a traditional Costa Rican lunch of chicken, salad, rice and beans. After returning to the hotel, we took naps. In retrospect, Phil thought he probably should have waited until bedtime to take the pain medicine, but the prospect of immediate relief was just too tempting. He later said it was the best nap he ever had.

More adventures were to come the next few days—a visit to a butterfly garden, a tour of a small coffee farm, a “Sky Walk,” and a night walk.  I have to postpone writing about them because of “Horror # 3,” which reared its ugly head just before we left for Costa Rica and was waiting for us when we got back.  We could no longer log on to “online banking” at our credit union, and worse, no one at the credit union seemed to know how to fix it.  As a certified control freak who likes to monitor her online accounts every day, I felt anxious, agitated and annoyed. We hoped, by the time we got back, that the problem would have quietly resolved itself, but no.  We still couldn’t log on! Turns out, the operating systems on both our big ol’ creaking Mac and our cute li’l Mac laptop were ancient, so we took the laptop to the Apple Store, had an updated operating system installed, and voila!   We were soon back on line with the credit union, However, a myriad of teensy-weensy new problems cropped up.  AOL didn't know me. FaceBook didn't know me. Even the credit union insisted it had to verify my identity before letting me see my account. AND I could no longer access my photos. Apparently “iPhoto” died some years ago without saying good-bye and there was a new kid on the block:  “Photos.”  Please bear with me. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Costa Rica Part 3

Very bright and very early on Sunday morning Victor arrived to guide us on a bird-and-plant tour of the world-renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.  But first we enjoyed Cala Lodge’s complimentary breakfast. Each guest was given a small plate of cut-up tropical fruits and a glass of orange juice. You could then choose from a menu offering granola with milk or yogurt, an omelet or the lodge’s special breakfast of eggs with rice and beans.  The delicious coffee came from a small, local farm and the home-made marmalade came from the owner’s old family recipe.

Off we went to Monte Verde. The parking lot was already crowded with “Turismo” vans and buses when we arrived. Crowds of tourists were waiting at the gate. Victor led us in, carrying his tripod. He told us how Monteverde was settled in the early 50’s by a group of Friends (Quakers) from the United States. They came as dairy farmers, but soon realized that the cloud forest had to be preserved, so they set much of their land aside as a refuge for plants and animals. The forest is a great profusion of trees, plants, ferns, bushes, shrubs, orchids and bromeliads.  Birds call from the tree tops, but it takes a trained eye to spot them and bring them to your attention. Victor pointed his telescope on this large black bird, which he said was a kind of turkey.  (He took the picture for us by placing the camera against the lens of the telescope.)

Here is a photo of the quetzal, which everyone hopes to see during a visit to the forest. (Picture also taken by Victor, who was sorry it didn't turn out "better." I was really pleased with it.)

Phil was intrigued by this “strangler fig,” a parasite that encloses and eventually kills its host tree.

During the ride back to the lodge, Victor told Phil he wouldn’t mind going to hell because he liked heat. He had visited Minnesota in the winter as a teen, arriving without a warm coat, and had been shocked at how bone-chillingly cold it was. In later years, he experienced extreme coldness again when he travelled to Amherst, MA to learn about biodiversity and conservation. Phil joked that the devil would probably see to it that there was a special cold place in hell just for Victor.

Back at the lodge, we had a problem. Two years ago Phil began feeling—not pain, he assured me—but what I guess he would have called “twinges” in his upper right bicuspid. The left bicuspid had long ago been replaced by an implant, after he’d cracked it by chewing ice. This is a man who has wonderful teeth, except for this couple of rogue outliers.  When a filling recently fell out of the right bicuspid,  he assured me that the dentist said it would be “fine” to leave things alone as long as the tooth didn’t bother him. Well, on Saturday night it began to bother him just a little. He said, “Be sure to remind me to have this tooth looked at when we get home.” Now, on Sunday night,  he said the words that opened the door to Horror # 2. “My tooth really hurts and we’re not going home for a week. I don’t know what to do.”  He talked to Barbara and Ron and we all agreed he’d have to see a dentist as soon as possible. The pain kept him awake all night.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Costa Rica Part 2

The sign said Hotel Buena Vista: a Chic Hotel. It was a small hotel, in Alajuela, a suburb of San Jose.  A row of lawn chairs in the little patio garden looked out over a distant San Jose spread out below, its lights twinkling as darkness fell. Sunset was around 10 minutes to six, so darkness was not long in falling.

Our room was on the second floor, with a tiny balcony. We heard a birdsong that sounded like a ringing cellphone. Downstairs, in the dining room, the van driver turned out to be our waiter.  We ordered dinner—a conventional menu with Costa Rican touches—and while we were eating, Barbara appeared.  She and Ron had started their day in Chicago and arrived later then we did. David and Simone, flying Alaska Airlines (!) from Los Angeles, were still en route. We didn’t talk long with Barbara and were soon asleep in our comfy queen-sized bed. Gotta say, the hotel had advanced plumbing. Everywhere else we went, we had to put used toilet paper in a strategically-placed lidded waste basket. It took me nearly a week to learn to do this consistently, which necessitated some icky fishing expeditions.

David and Simone showed up the next morning at breakfast.  At 9 AM, we six piled into a van for a 3-hour ride to Monteverde.  It was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride all over again. Costa Rica is a small country.  It’s about the size of West Virginia, covering a little less than 20,000 square miles.  That’s why we were surprised to see a large body of water to the west as we climbed toward Monteverde.  We guessed it was a lake until the driver set us straight:  we were looking at the Gulf of Nicoya, which is part of the Pacific Ocean.  

After many miles on a rough and winding road, we arrived at Cala Lodge in Santa Elena, the gateway town to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. 

The lodge was owned and operated by a family. Vases and paintings of cala lilies brightened the reception/dining area. Each couple had a “junior suite,” a room with a balcony, a private bath and two beds with forest-green quilts, a queen and a twin. We were too tired to do much else than have pizza at a nearby restaurant and fall into bed. Costa Rica prides itself on encouraging an earth-friendly lifestyle. Signs in the bathroom urged guests not to waste water, to re-use their towels, and to use the same sheets throughout their stay.  Costa Rica has also banned the use of Styrofoam for take-out. I was delighted to see that the box in which I brought my leftover pizza back to the room was made of sturdy paper, unlike anything I have seen before. So there is a life after Styrofoam after all!

Overnight, a roaring wind made Ron dream he was back in Chicago. It woke my husband, Phil,  at 3 AM.  He went out on the balcony. Millions of stars in a cloud-free sky twinkled down on him.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Costa Rica Part 1

Flower placed at entrance to shower stall at Hotel Buena Vista

March 14, 2019

Dear friends and family,

We are back from our trip to Costa Rica.  The trip was thoughtfully planned by my sister, Barbara, who is more seasoned a traveler than I am, which made it all the more delightful.  We traveled with her and her husband, Ron, who celebrated his 82nd birthday in a foreign cloud forest, as well as their son, David, and his wife, Simone.  We enjoyed getting to know David and Simone better. Simone turned out to be my Sherpa on some of the more perilous hikes.

On March 1 it snowed in Laurel. Bundled up in winter coats, we parked our car at the Baltimore airport at 4:45 AM and were on the plane to Houston by departure time at 6:00 AM.  In Houston, we walked as fast as our elderly feet would take us to make connections with the plane to San Jose.  No time between flights to grab anything to eat, and American carriers no longer provide meals. You have to purchase them. The pretzels were good and so were the cookie, the coke and the juice.  Horror # 1: on the HoustonàSan Jose flight, while fumbling with the ear buds to watch an in-flight movie, I dropped my hearing aid down the space between the seats. All I could see down there was a jumble of unforgiving metal mechanisms which would surely crush the hearing aid or put it forever out of reach if I tried to move the seat. Fortunately, the man beside me in the aisle seat located it.  I gave up on the ear buds and watched Can You Ever Forgive Me? without sound at least 3 times before eventually returning to Baltimore. It’s about a writer who did something bad.

Arrived in San Jose late in the afternoon.  Going through customs took forever, but soon we were outside looking for the promised van from Hotel Buena Vista.  At least 300 greeters/drivers were waiting, some holding signs that said things like “Welcome, Bill and Melanie”.  Total confusion. The hotel had advised us to e-mail them in advance to arrange transportation and we all had tried. All we received from them was a message, in Spanish, that said, “Thank you for your e-mail. We will reply as soon as possible.”  Repeated e-mails elicited the same response, so we gave up and hoped for the best.  After all, we had reservations and they knew we were coming.  Still, there we were, tired and hungry and stranded.  A lively little lady of about 70 seemed to be there to guide and direct the lost.  She had us sit on a certain bench and told us to just wait.  She stressed that above all, we were not to take any taxi.  Eventually a van from Hotel Buena Vista showed up. We had the first of our “Mr.-Toad’s-Wild-Ride”-type trips during our stay in Costa Rica. Up the mountain the little van roared, heedless of the abrupt no-guard-rail drop-offs  and the many rocks in the road.