The Leon's 2018 Photo Album

Updated: 2019.01.03


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December

Christmas time

Celebrating the Christmas season with friends and family

The family Christmas picture. thumbnail

In front of the fireplace, not even a JC Penny backdrop ;-)

Christmas dinner at our house. thumbnail

We were lucky to have Diane's Dad visiting, Dave and Jill came over, Elizabeth was back from Norway, Scott and Katie made it, and we get to have Sam for Christmas this year. We love to have a full house!

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Took a quick pic since we were all dressed up for the Christmas Eve service

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Jessica was in Germany recently, and brought home some chocolate for Zachary. It was formed into a guitar, microphone, and Marshall amplifier - deliciously cool!

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We Christmas afternoon at Dave and Jill's house, where Jessica made some friends.

Rose garden. thumbnail

Before dinner, we took a walk around a nearby rose garden.

Sorry for the squinty picture, we wanted to stay in the sun, since it was a chilly afternoon.

(for us wimpy California types, that means, anything below 60F!)


November

Rachel's Visit

Rachel had a work-related conference in San Francisco, and was able to make a long weekend out of it.

The timing wasn't perfect, as that was when the most recent fire broke out in the North Bay. Even though the Paradise fire was over 170 miles away, the smoke got very bad in the entire SF Bay area.

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Our first destination was Muir Woods, where you can walk through the redwood trees. Luckily, we did not even notice the smoke as we were down in a valley, with the redwood tree canopy protecting us.

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Most of the trees are 500-800 years old, but the oldest is at least 1200 years old. (at the time of this writing ;-)

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Part of Cathedral Grove

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The tallest tree in the Muir Woods is 258 feet (79 m).

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We got an early start, so got to see the sun coming up through the grove.

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Nice catch!

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The 2 mile round trip walks up and down a calm stream, which is especially low, given the time of year.

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After leaving Muir Woods, and getting only slightly lost, we made our way North along the coast, and had lunch in Stinson Beach. Now that we are out of Muir Woods, the smoke became a factor.

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Finally, we got to Point Reyes National Park. Rachel had been there a long time ago, but this was my first time there. We started by driving through the Cypress Tree Tunnel to see the old marine radio station.

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I wasn't expecting to see Tule Elk on Point Reyes, but sure enough. There is also a working dairy in the park, hence the cows grazing alongside the elk.

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The black-tailed deer is native to the California coastal ecosystem, so seeing these guys was a little less surprising.

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The smoke made for a beautiful sunset effect, even though it was only late afternoon.

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Looking up at South Beach, looks like fog, but that is also the smoke. It was probably not a great idea to be out in that bad air, so we kept the hiking down to a minimum.

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We did take a short hike out to Elephant Seal overlook.

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We couldn't distinguish any Elephant Seals from Sea Lions visually, but were pretty sure we were hearing both of them. We also watched Sea Otters rounding up a school of fish for dinner.

Diane's birthday. thumbnail

Diane wanted new earrings for her birthday.

We had planned on making a day trip to Capitola, but the wildfire smoke just got worse, so we stayed indoors and made it a double feature movie day instead.

Thanksgiving dinner. thumbnail

Indeed, very thankful for this family!


September

Gone flying. thumbnail

A couple friends from church have access to private planes, and were generous enough to take a few of us up in the air in a Cessna 310 twin-engine.

I was even allowed to take the controls for a few minutes heading over San Francisco. I flew us over the city until we got near the airport, and the control tower asked us to make a fairly agressive turn.

In this picture, we are lining up for the final approach into San Jose. That is the intersection of Hwy 101 and Bowers.

If you look closely, you can see the new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, Great America, and of course, the old WebEx tower where I worked back in 2009. :-)

This day was a little hazy due to some earlier fires in the North-bay area.



August


Zach's new-ish car. thumbnail

Zachary saved up from his last few summer jobs, and purchased a 2006 Nissan Sentra for getting back-and-forth to San Diego State University.

He did all the research on what car he wanted to buy, found several good candidates, and learned what to look for when buying a used car. His efforts paid off well.

Michigan Trip

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Zachary is in his final year of Mechanical Engr at San Diego State University, so while we were there, Grandpa Leon set him up with a tour of Gallagher Kaiser - they are all about cutting edge industrial process, and have done everything there from designing and maintaining complex auto paint finishing systems to conceptualizing and designing entire auto factories for General Motors. Tracy Roberts (President, formerly COO) personally gave us the tour, and took very good care of us despite his busy schedule.

A visit to The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

If you are ever in the Detroit area, this place will be a day (or two!) well spent. Henry Ford had a vision for preserving American history, and by the late 20's,

he became the primary collector of Americana until his death in 1947.

He built the indoor museum to demonstrate America's progress, and the outdoor village to show how these things were made and used.

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Not surprised to find a Model-T at The Henry Ford museum, but I was not expecting this 'exploded' view!

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This is the actual chair in which President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. Pretty eerie.

More details here.

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Similarly, this is the actual bus from Montgomery, AL where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat back in 1955.

Interesting back-story on how they tracked down this bus here.

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The actual Ford GT 40 Mk IV which won France's 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967. This is the first (and only as of now) time the race was won by an American manufacturer, with a fully-American-built car driven by American drivers Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt. Also cool, because it was part of Caroll Shelby's racing team. The GT40 actually won from 1966-1969, but the 1966 car was driven by British drivers and built on a British chasis.

More details here.

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As one of the most respected transportation museums in the world, showcasing the greatest accomplishments of the railroad industry is just what they do at the Henry Ford museum. I remember looking up at some of these huge locomotives when I visited this museum as a young kid.

Here is a back-story on what it takes to restore one of these beasts.

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The Kennedy Presidential Limo, a 1961 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible, heavily modified of course.

a.k.a. The X-100.

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This is the car that Ronald Reagan was about to enter when he was shot in 1981. It proceeded to take him to the hospital.

More details here.

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Delicious BBQ dinner after a long day exploring at The Henry Ford.

Nora in the front looks as tired as we all feel.

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Hanging out at Mark & Mary Beth's amazingly cool house, also in Dearborn. This "1914 Arts & Crafts bungalow" was a gift from Henry Ford to his wife's sister.

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My sister Beth is a Foster Mom for "Naked K9 and small dog Rescue".

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Visiting Silvery Lane Baptist Church where Mark and Beth attend.

It was a pretty warm day, so we were all seeking shade.

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Beth prepared an amazing lunch for us after church.

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My sister Rachel brought a delicious cake (is that redundant?) to celebrate Mom and Dad's 80th birthday.

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It was a great week having so much of the family together.



July


Zachary's 22nd birthday

Diane was out of town, so asked for a few pics

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Delicious chocolate cake

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Wasn't enough room on the cake for 22 candles, so went with 2 and 2

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Chillin with some friends


June

Dad's day. thumbnail

For Father's Day, Diane and Jessica took me to the Hiller Aviation Museum.

I had been wanting to go there for years, and it was very cool.


May

Mom's day. thumbnail

We had the gang together for Mother's Day this year. This was after a nice lunch together.

Drones thumbnail

Some friends got me back into flying Remote Control aircraft this year.

Instead of planes and helicopters, now it is quad-copters. (a.k.a. Drones)

The technology has advanced so far since I stopped flying just a few years ago.

Big Sur

Our annual Memorial Day camping trip to Big Sur.

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We spent one day driving down the coast for a bit. We parked here and walked to McKay Falls. Notice the house nestled in the Cypress Trees - nice.

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Overlooking McWay Beach, McWay Cove, and McWay Falls at the end of McWay Creek in McWay Canyon from the McWay Trail. Seriously, I'm not making that up!

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with Sam and Jessica, nice enough for the Christmas letter!

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and most of our crew, except for Dave, who was taking the picture.

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After that, we drove South until we came to the spot where Hwy 1 was closed due to previous mud-slides. We turned around and came back up to Kirk Creek Campground to check out the facilities.

Pretty cool camping spot, albeit a bit windy.

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Would not be a visit to the ocean without spotting some Sea Lions - looks like the spotted us also!

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Our main hike for the day, Limekiln Trail. But why is it called that?

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Beautiful hike, through redwoods and across the creek several times.

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It was a pretty good hike with a bit of elevation gain, but less than a mile each way.

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Some of it was tricky terrain, over boulders, under fallen trees, and balance-beam skills on fallen trees across the creek multiple times.

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Rewarded with a very nice 100 foot (30m) waterfall, if you head up the East Fork of Limekiln Creek just a bit.

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Spotted Sam and Jessica through the redwoods heading back to the West Fork of Limekiln Creek.

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And we finally made it to the end of the trail, to discover actual Lime Kilns, made from iron and stone.

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These were built from 1897-1890 by the Rockland Lime and Lumber Company. They only operated for about 3 years, when the limestone and redwoods (used for firing the kilns) were all but depleted.

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Long exposure to very hot fires extracted the lime, which was then packed into barrels and hauled down to Rockland Cove, where they were loaded onto ships.

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The Lime was sent primarily to the San Francisco and Monterey areas, where it was used for building. (e.g. cement or mortar used in brick construction)

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These kilns were designed to run continuously, in order to avoid the excessive time and expensive of bringing it up to temperature.

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We had at least three deer sightings around the campground this year, mostly down by the river, but this guy was between the highway and the camp store.

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Our annual tradition of taking a picture by Fred The Tree, before we head for home on Monday morning.


April - Zimbabwe

10 people from Valley Church, Cupertino went to Harare, Zimbabwe to volunteer at Habitation Of Hope (a summer camp for orphans run by Hands Of Hope) for just over two weeks.

Last year, Zachary was able to join us, but this year, Jessica was able to borrow enough vacation time to participate.

Prep / Travel / Dubai

We left SFO on Wed evening, and arrived in Dubai on their Thur evening, slept there over-night and flew out the next morning, followed by arriving in Harare on their Fri evening. The flights were pretty full, so not much sleep, but we had a large group from Bethel College in our section, and they were a fun group!

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Here is the whole gang getting ready to leave for the airport. We each had our own suitcase and one other full of crafts, puppets, supplies, etc. Carolyn was not here for this picture, so Jessica brought up a FaceBook pic.

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The puppets getting ready to go. This year's theme was "Mega Sports Camp", so the puppet show theme for the week was about a goalie who gets selected for a major league soccer club.

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Most of the gang just before heading to the airport. Vach & Jacintha left a day earlier in order to visit a new school that they helped get going.

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I'm not an Arabic expert, but I think that means, "It's gonna' be a long flight!"

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Sunsets @ 30,000 feet are usually awesome.

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And we made it to Dubai for their Thur eve. As proof, here is this year's Family photo in front of the Burj Khalifa.

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Their fountain show rivals the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

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You really do have to tilt the camera to get the whole building in the frame.

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We spent the day Fri flying from Dubai to Harare. Sat morning, we stopped by the HoH office to let everybody know we arrived safely.

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We brought Pizza for the girls at the Otter House, one of 18 orphan homes run by HoH.

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The girls each have a little photo album and enjoyed showing us their pictures.

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Finally, and entire group photo! There are six girls at this home, but one of them wasn't feeling well that day. Here we see Panashe, Kendra, Judith, Lucia, and Sarah with leaders Eba, Patricia, Nosia, and Vanessa (who helped at camp in 2017)

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All dressed up for church on Sunday morning.

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Caught a nice sunset at Habitation of Hope camp while hiking around the property one evening.

Camp - Week 1

On Sunday afternoon, the first group of kids arrived for camp. They were from Alaska, about 100K NW of Harare. A few of them had been here before, in 2016.

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We had a skit about David fighting off a lion, so Joe brought a very scary lion mask. She put on the mask and started heading right for the kids, and they scattered like rabbits! The sheep in the background looks relieved.

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Jessica was leading the story time this day, with a little Shona help from Uncle Stewart.

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Carolyn leading the songs.

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Pop the balloon game by sitting on it - the kids burst out laughing every time a balloon broke!

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Diane showing the kids how they were going to paint the T-Shirts

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Jessica helping a group of kids with their T-Shirts

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Diane working with some kids to decorate their rubber-band harps

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Jessica working with some kids to decorate their rubber-band harps

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Meanwhile, over at game time, a fierce dodgeball game was just beginning.

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As if that wasn't intense enough, this is the start of the water balloon battle, and the kids are running for the tub full of water balloons.

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One morning, the kids got to decorate their own frisbee.

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Jessica's table hard at work.

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Tadiwa was a crack-up, and had a great smile

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Ndine shamwari inonzi Rince. (I have a friend named Rince)

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Out last evening together, handing out all of their crafts from the week.

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The camp is beautiful - this is sunrise above the pond in front of our bungalow.

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The group photo of the camp before leaving on Fri morning.

The Weekend between the two camps

On Thursday morning, we headed for the airport - on our way to Victoria Falls.

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It is not very practical to drive from Harare to Vic Falls, and the plane ride is pretty inexpensive.

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It wasn't long before we were flying above the clouds.

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This is just before we landing - you can see the mist rising from the falls in the top left.

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Safe on the ground, and heading for our shuttle bus

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which took us to our home-away-from-home-away-from-home for a few evenings.

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A nice lunch on Thur afternoon @ The 3 Monkeys before we walked down to see the falls.

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A Leon and a Lion spotted in the wild.

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Glen and Patty leading the way to see the falls.

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Lots of monkeys running around, but here is a cute little one snuggling up to Mom.

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Nice overview of Victoria Falls. The indigenous Tonga name, Mosi-oa-Tunya ("The Smoke That Thunders") seems much more descriptive. Vic Falls is classified as the world's largest, when height and width are taken into account. i.e. the world's largest sheet of falling water. The Zambezi river is about a mile wide at this point just before the falls, and forms part of the broder between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is the 4th longest river in Africa.

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I believe this was taken around Spot #7 on the previous map, looking across at Cataract Island.

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Looking further down at part of the Main Falls.

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The Family photo. (washed out, 'cuz I had to bring out the faces a bit more)

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This was on the way out, and everybody/ everything is soaked. I think we made it view #12, and after that, the mist was so intense, you could not even see the falls. The mist was so heavy coming down on the trail - it was like standing in the shower fully clothed.

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We decided not to take this shortcut back.

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The local vegetation enjoys all of the moisture in the air!

Safari

Botswana

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That evening, we had an amazing game dinner at The Boma (Dinner and Drum show). If we ever make it back to Vic Falls, this place will also be at the top of my list! We had Impala, Crocodile, Warthog steak, Eland meatballs, Impala stew, and some of the braver ones tried eating a Mobani Worm, aka Macimbi.

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We had quite a few monkeys running around our rest camp, and not all of them were friendly.

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On Fri morning, we drove to Botswana, to visit Chobe National Park. Here we are at the Chobe Marina Lodge in Kasane, getting ready for a safari game drive.

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Entering the National Park

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The first giraffe we saw. He is a bit older, and so his spots are starting to change from brown to black.

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A couple of red-billed hornbill birds - remember Zazu in The Lion King?!

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We saw quite a few eagles while we were there.

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In fact, there are at least 3 eagles in this tree, if you enjoy playing "Where's Waldo?"

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The guineafowl are quite common in Zimbabwe.

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These two are fighting over a female. They took turns winding up and swinging their heads into each other's necks. The guy on the left was better at dodging incoming attacks. This went on for 10-15 minutes while we were sitting there. I think we counted over 25 giraffes while we were sitting in this spot.

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Leaving this area, we got to see a baby elephant walking with the herd - oh great, now I have that song stuck in my head! The background for this page came from a section of savannah grass from this picture.

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Everybody in for the group photo!

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A herd of female impala antelope is a very common sight, although this is the largest harem we saw. A single territorial male will force all of the other males out of the herd, who will then band together and form a bachelor herd.

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Cape Buffalo, aka "Black death". One of the "Big Five" in Zimbabwe - don't get too close to these guys!

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After an excellent lunch back at the Marina Lodge, we headed out on the Chobe River for a new perspective of the National Park.

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Our boat pulled up pretty close to an Alligator, and had a little help from my 5x zoom lens.

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We saw quite a few elephants coming down to the river for a cool drink.

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This is called an African Darter (aka Snake Bird), or in Shona, "Anhinga". It was stunningly beautiful, no matter what you call it.

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These guys were rolling in the mud to help cool down.

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Another harem of impala antelope, but I mostly just liked this Monster Tree!

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We came across a hippo family - they really were as big as they look in this pic. Earlier, some were swimming towards our boat, and the captain zipped out of there as soon as we got some photos.

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The Chobe flows between Botswana and Namibia, and dumps into the Zambezi just above Vic Falls. This little patch of marshy reeds in the middle of the river was a point of contention between those two countries. Finally, an international court awarded the 'land' to Botswana, so they planted a flag there as a reminder to Namibia.

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Made it back safe and dry, for a photo under the banana tree.

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Diane shining on the bananas!

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The group heading out of the Marina Lodge to our shuttle back to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

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Back at rest camp - a view of our nice little cottages.

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The restaurant there was called "in-da-belly" which is a punny reference to ndebele, the 2nd most common language in Zimbabwe. That language is most popular in Northern Zimbabwe, where Vic Falls is located. Ndebele is one of the fascinating 'clicking' languages, an example here.

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From our lodging area, you can hear the thunder of the falls, and see the mist rising.

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On Sat morning, we walked through The Victoria Falls Hotel to enjoy this awesome view of Vic Falls.

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Then we walked a little further to have breakfast at the aptly named Lookout Cafe, for this gorgeous view! (pun intended) Vic Falls is just to the left at the top of the pic, and the mist is blending into the clouds.

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At the top/left of this pic, you can see some of the zip lines traversing the gorge.

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More gorgeous views.

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Jessica sharing her life story on Sunday morning

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and meeting some of the local kids afterwards

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and making new friends.

Camp - Week 2

On Sunday afternoon, the next group of kids arrived from Chitungwiza, which is just South of Harare. Diane remembered a few of these kids from her first visit in 2015.

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Another round of crafts, Jessica helping with T-Shirts.

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The kids made "stained glass" hearts with crepe paper squares.

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Uncle Stewart helping with crafts also.

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The kids all enjoyed "Duck, Duck, Goose!"

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The "Red Tomatoes" Team had a funny nanme, but was serious when it came to dodgeball!

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Even the leaders got into the dodgeball game.

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Ndine shamwari inonzi Simba. (I have a friend named Simba)

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Getting lined up for the water balloon toss

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Take one step back, toss, repeat

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Anotidaishe had a great time with this game!

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Even Nate and Oscar got into the action.

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Of course, the water balloon toss usually progresses the water tub toss.

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Uncle Terrance leading a game of Simon Says

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With my friends, Leonora, Rutendo, and Oscar

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Uncle Terrance playing "Follow the leader" to have the kids wash their hands before lunch. Rufaro is first in line - such a cutie.

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Takes a team to serve 50 hungry kids

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Chicken and sudza and usually a veggie for the main course

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Taking a break from the trek out to the afternoon game field

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The Red Tomatoes strategizing for their attempt to solve The Tires of Hanoi game. (similar to the Tower of Hanoi game, but played with car tires instead :)

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Andres entertaining the leaders while the campers worked on their strategy.

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Jessica playing patty-cake with some of the kids who were waiting for their turn.

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On the final afternoon, it was time for the ropes course.

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Very few made it across without getting wet

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Definitely fun to watch!

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As an added bonus, mud pole wrestling.

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The Read Team cheer ended with everybody on the ground

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The goal here was to lower the bucket of water to the ground as a team. Typically a little water would slosh out, somebody would panic and push it away, dousing the other side of the circle as seen here.

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Everybody survived the water games, got cleaned up and dried off, and headed back for a much more relaxing game of sports-themed Bingo.

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Diane even got a turn.

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Stick bug - one of the many creatures found at camp.

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Our fearless leader, Glen, took us on a hike up to the top of some rocks with a great view of much of the camp facility. You can even spot the airport and downtown Harare from up there.

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Some of my best buddies for the week L to R: Tawanda, Sasha, ONeill

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Jessica practicing some Volleyball skills, or at they all it, "netball"

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It was rare for Diane to play ball with the kids, as she was constantly busy morning and afternoon in the Craft Shack

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Seriously, these kids are going non-stop from dawn to dusk. They will keep throwing balls and frisbees until it is too dark to see them.

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Dance party on the last evening

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Sharon and Tawanda

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Everybody wanted to get in the pictures

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Makanaka with Jessica

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Handing out all of the crafts on the final evening.

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Group photo with all the kids and leaders

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Group photo with just the kids

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You can just see Gracious is a sweetheart.

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Rumbidzai timed this photo bomb perfectly. I was disappointed to miss this shot, but it is still hilarious.

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Rince, Diane, and Simba getting some last minute photos.

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L-R: Diane, Arbby, Oscar, Garikai, and Jessica

Travel Home / Dubai

We left Zimbabwe Friday evening, and arrived in Dubai on Saturday morning. We had scheduled a 24+ hour layover, so we were able to get some sleep, and then tour a bit of the area via taxi hops.

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Window shopping at the Gold Souk ("market"), "I like the ones on the top row"

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Gonna' have to work on some upper arm strength first.

The "Star or Taiba" has a total weight of 63.856 kg (over 140 pounds)

and a diameter of 27.5 inches, the same as a hula-hoop!

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You can imagine how good it smelled walking through here.

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The official city logo for Dubai has the Arabic version of Dubai City overlaid with the English.

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Crossing "Dubai Creek" on a small boat. Lots of old vs. new juxtaposition to be seen here.

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Catching the sunset at Jumeirah Beach, with the Burj Al Arab in the distance, designed after a sailboat.

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Same picture, with a different face.

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In the Dubai Mall, there is an aquarium. We had not seen this ginormous tank before.

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We had seen this fountain before, but my pictures were blurry last time.

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Before going up in the Burj Khalifa

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The 2nd elevator ride, to floor 148, the highest observation deck in the world at 1,821 ft (555 m)

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We also went out on the Floor 124 observation deck, looking back up to the top.

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Looking out, NorthEast over some of the downtown area. You can tell those are very tall buildings, but they look really small from up here!

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Looking down at the fountain / light show in progress.


March

Nothing to see here, folks, move it along.


February

Cancun

Celebrating our 30th anniversary. (not 35th, like I put in the Christmas letter!)
Our anniversary is actually in July, but we got away early to celebrate in Cancun.

Travel Day

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An afternoon flight allowed us to enjoy sunset from 30,000 feet.

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Is there a specific spot where planes have to cross the border?!

We had a stop in Mexico City and Cancun is just above the "M" in "MEX".

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Speaking of our stop in Mexico City . . .

Q. What do you call a line this long?

A. Missed connection

Luckily, there was another flight to Cancun a few hours later.

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Looks like Windows did not load correctly. Doh!

Day 1 - Relaxing

A good day to relax on the beach and by the pool to recover from our late-night journey

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Diane had wisely suggested that we relax the first 2 days, cram our excursions into the middle, and then relax the last 2 days. That worked really well.

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View of the beach from our room at dusk.

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We mustered up the energy to venture out for dinner, and did a little exploring at the Kukulcan Plaza.

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Impressive stained glass dome in the middle.

Day 2 - More Relaxing

Did some hiking / exploring along the beach

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We took a bus up to the North shore, where the waters are calm, and did some hotel beach hopping until we found a nice place to spend most of the day.

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We caught the sunset over the Nichupte Lagoon.

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and then ate at Plaza La Isla near these fountains. We even got to see a croc swim by while we were eating!

Day 3 - Cozumel

We rented a car on Day 3 for the 1-hour drive to Playa Del Carmen.

From there, we took a Ferry to Cozumel, and caught a taxi down to the docks.

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We joined a snorkeling tour and visited Palancar, Columbia, and Cielo Reefs. (pictured here) We saw an Eagle Ray, Sea Turtle up close enough to touch, and bunches of other tropical fish. The turquoise water was unreal - looked like it was backlit with neon.

Day 4 - Tulum

The next day, we made the 2 hour drive to Tulum

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It had a nice downtown area, with a lot of renovation happening.

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After we checked out downtown, we had a great "arroz con pollo" lunch at a local sidewalk cafe.

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After lunch, we arrived at the nearby Gran Cenote, our main destination for the day. A Cenote is basically a pool of water below ground level formed by the collapse of surface limestone that exposes ground water underneath, and are thought to have been used by the ancient Mayans.

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We rented fins, snorkels, and masks, and had a great time looking at all the fish and even turtles. As an added bonus, there were bats hanging from the cave above Diane's head here!

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Above ground, I came across this Iguana who had recently dropped his tail. This is a self-defense mechanism they have to evade their attackers. The loose tail will continue to move briefly to attract attention.

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After a refreshing swim, we headed back North towards Cancun. But we stopped to enjoy Playa Del Carmen, since we had just rushed through it on the way to Cozumel yesterday. (notice the yellow ferry near the top right)

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There were a group of native musicians playing, and we enjoyed sunset over the beach.

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I don't normally post food pics, but Yelp took us to Kaxapa Factory, a Venezuelan restaurant. It was an incredible new experience. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever anywhere near PDC!

Day 5 - Isla Mujeres

This was one of our favorite spots last time we visited, so had to come here again.

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We had a morning snorkeling trip booked on Isla Mujeres, so had to get up early, as it was a bit of a trek to get there. At least we were rewarded with an awesome sunrise. Cancun is 3 hours ahead of our Pacific time zone, so 6 AM there felt a lot like 3 AM for us.

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We drove to Punta Sam, which is the ferry used by the locals. (shorter and faster) After the Ferry ride out to the island, we rented a golf cart, and headed for our snorkeling excursion with Casa del Buceo. Turns out we did get up early enough, 'cuz we beat them to their shop.

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It was pretty windy at the moment, so the Harbor Master was preventing us from leaving. So we hopped in our golf cart, and found this little secluded beach. Jessica informed us that Playa Tiburon means Shark Beach which might explain why we were the only ones there!

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Our tour captain called and we were cleared for departure, so we headed back to the harbor and had an incredible snorkeling tour - even spotted a pink cell phone. :-o Our snorkeling guide lives on the island, so we asked him for his favorite lunch spot, and he sent us to La Lomita, which was delicious.

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After lunch, we jumped in our golf cart for a little more exploring. We took a fairly random right-turn, because we had not gone that way before, and came across this photo-op. I believe we are on the Eastern most part of Mexico, hence the sub-title there, "The Sunrise (or dawn) of Mexico"

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We found Playa de la Media Luna adjacent to that spot, and since we just had a big lunch (and woke up early) . . . siesta time!

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After a solid nap, we explored a bit more, found some refreshing ice cream, cooled off further at Playa Norte, and then caught the ferry back to the mainland. We had a guitarist/singer to entertain us on the ride back. Hasta la vista, Isla Mujeres!

Day 6 - Pool Day

After three busy days of fun activities, time to switch focus back to relaxing.

Didn't take a lot of pictures this day - too busy relaxing!

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The resort had this nice fountain, koi fish pond, and about a dozen turtles.

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Another chance to enjoy the view over the Nichupte Lagoon during dinner.

Day 7 - Beach Day

A final day of relaxing before heading home.

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This time, we stayed at the beach in front of our own resort.

Just looking at this picture relaxes me even now.

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There was a guy hand painting tiles and stuff to raise money for an orphanage. Diane did her part for the kids.

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Yet another gorgeous view.

Yeah, the sunset is pretty good too.

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We wanted to bring back some maracas for our Sunday School class, so we took the local bus up to the street market area, and made quick work of that challenge.

Day 8 - Travel Day

Time to head home - sad face.

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A morning flight - at least that means we got to enjoy one last ocean sunrise.

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And we got to see how they get the entire beach area in front of the resort raked so nicely - pretty ingenious!

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Flying out, we got a nice view looking down on Punta Nizuc and the Cancun hotel strip.

Just South of there, you can see the Mesoamerican Reef (aka Grand Mayan Reef) the 2nd largest reef area in the world. (after the Great Barrier Reef) It stretches over 620 miles (1,000k) from the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula down to Belize.

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With the 3 hour time change, we landed at SFO just after sunset.

Beautiful finish to a beautiful trip with my beautiful wife of 30 years.


January

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