And They’re Off!

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:33 pm on Sunday, December 17, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Travel

Argentina and Antarctica

So…our final travel docs have arrived and we’ve finished up the Hannamas cards and letters. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 individual items neatly laid out across every flat surface in two upstairs rooms, ready for packing - everything one would need for travel in a major city and a rain forest, along a river, to a waterfall, across an ocean strait and on a polar ice cap. Camera batteries are charged, prescriptions for anti-nausea medication have been picked up and, for the continued survival of our houseplants, keys have been dropped off with the neighbors.

Oh yeah, and The Debra quit her job on Friday.

Looks like we’re in good shape!

Tomorrow evening we board a United flight to Buenos Aires. January 8th we roll back into town. In between I expect we’ll have some fun, see some penguins, learn some Spanish swear words, maybe do some shopping or learn to tango.

Anyway, no updates here until January, but there should be plenty to write about then! So, from both of us to you and yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Happy New Year!!!

Ciao, my fellow babies.

Photo (well, sort of) of the Day - 12.15.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:58 am on Friday, December 15, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Photo of the Day, Nature

K2 and the Baltoro Glacier

K2 and the Baltoro Glacier - Karakoram Mountain Range, Pakistan
Image captured from Google Earth
35°53′13.74″N 76°30′48.25″E
Google Earth kmz file is here.

Pancakes on K2

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:58 am on Friday, December 15, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Travel, Friends

My buddy Chris Lundeen wants to climb K2. I told him he’s nuts.

“C’mon, dude! It’s a challenge!”
“C’mon, dude! That mountain eats people!”
“Only a few.”
“Only a few try and climb it.”
“I’ll climb Cho Oyu with you, I’ll climb Everest. I’ll climb just about any 8,000 meter peak out there but I’m not going anywhere near K2. Nope. No way.”

The conversation ended when we got to the part about how much it would cost to climb an 8,000 meter peak, and this was a few years ago. Now I’d have to worry about getting not only myself up the mountain but also the extra twenty pounds of IHOP pancakes, butter and Guinness I’m lugging around right now too.

Aconcagua would be doable, though, I think. But I suppose we should get Rainier first. Mr. Watson, when do we quit the suburbs and return to Rainier? And can we just go up Ingraham this time? Summit fever, baby…grab it!

Make Jeff Watson Rich!

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:18 am on Wednesday, December 13, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Friends

I swung by REI last night to pick up some mittens and a book for our upcoming trip to Argentina and Antarctica. While I was there I looked for my friend Jeff Watson’s book, A Virginia Climber’s Guide. Once I found it, I turned it so it was facing frontward on the shelf. I try to remember to do that whenever I go to REI. Hopefully it draws attention to the book and Jeff will make another three bucks off his royalties.

This is my grass roots effort to make Jeff a millionaire so that he can buy his wife all the stuff at Crate and Barrel that she didn’t already buy with her employee discount and so he can pay for happy hour for the rest of my life.

Photo of the Day - 12.11.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:55 pm on Monday, December 11, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Photo of the Day

Michael and Debra - Hannamas 2006

The Hannamas Card Photo That Almost Was - Great Falls, Virginia
Exif: ISO/400; f/3.5; 1/8 sec; 46mm
12.11.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Harrumphing Loudly

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:03 pm on Monday, December 11, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Random, Stupid People

So last night La Raymunda and I are out to dinner with the O’Neil’s from the block. We ate Chinese, and about midway through dinner I excused myself to the men’s room to attend to some business of the sit-down variety.

Author’s note: I promise that this is as graphic as the story gets. Feel free to proceed in a carefree manner, oh intrepid reader.

So I’m in the stall, locked inside and doing what one does when sit-down business announces itself, when the door to the restroom opens and small shuffling feet enter. Suddenly the door to my stall is flung open and there I am face-to-startled-face with a four foot tall red-headed nine year old kid.

I look at him. He looks at me. I look back at him.

“Hi,” I said.

The kid slammed the door shut and I’m left to wonder why the H-E-double toothpicks the lock on the stall did not work. While I’m pondering, I hear the kid go to the urinal just on the other side of the wall from me. Now I’m more or less done by this point, but I figured I’d do the kid a favor and hang out in the stall for a couple of minutes and let him finish up and leave so he doesn’t have to be embarrassed by meeting me again face-to-face. So I wait while the kid pees.

But he doesn’t pee.

At all.

He’s doing something else there at the urinal.

And what, pray tell, could he be doing? Oh, what any nine year old kid would do when standing at a urinal, right? And that would be…?

“Why, burping, guvnah!”

Ah, burping indeed! I couldn’t believe my ears. The kid was standing at the urinal…burping.

burp burp burp BELCH burp brap buuuuurp BURRRP burp belch burp BRAP burp

He burps for what seems like hours and then finally he stops burping, pees and flushes the urinal. But one flush isn’t enough. Not for this kid. He waits for twenty seconds or so to pass and then flushes the urinal again. Then a third time. And then he begins the lengthy process of putting himself back together, fidgeting and shuffling and tucking and zipping and unzipping and zipping again. Altogether it was about a five minute pee.

By now I am really ready to go. My legs are starting to fall asleep the way they do when one sits on the can too long, but I’m holding out for the sake of the kid - still waiting for him to leave. But patience is on thin ice.

“It won’t be long,” I think. “He’s just got to wash his hands and then we’re all set.”

I hear the kid turn on the water faucet. I hear him wash his hands. I hear the kid turn off the water faucet.

Then he turns it back on.

Then he turns it off again.

Then back on. “What the…?” I think.

Then I hear BRUCE LEE KUNG-FU SOUNDS. The kid is doing karate in front of the sink! He’s turning the faucet on and off and going hiyeeeeeYAH! woooocheeeeeNWAH! NOOOjeeeeeYAH!

And that does it for me. Screw the little bastard, I’m leaving. I get up, harrumphing loudly and flushing, and no sooner do I make a move for the stall door than I hear the kid race across the bathroom, fling the restroom door open and sprint down the hall, the door slamming shut behind him.

I washed up, laughed all the way back to my table and finished my spicy da cheng chicken.

Photo of the Day - 12.10.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:39 pm on Sunday, December 10, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Photo of the Day

El Raymundo at the Treehaus

El Raymundo el Diablo - Nokesville, Virginia
Exif: ISO/1250; f/3.5; 1/6 sec; 15mm
12.09.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Lock ‘n’ Load - We’re Going to Antarctica!

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:04 pm on Sunday, December 10, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel

After staying out past our bedtimes at Scott and the Uroccan’s Very Brady Hawaiian Christmas party last night, La Raymunda and I decided this morning to stay in bed until noon and go through some last minute planning madness prior to our upcoming trip to Argentina and Antarctica. She’s built a to-do list of things we need to get done before we leave, a list that is, in the most recent version, 35 items long.

We sat in bed this morning poring over maps and surfing the sites of the hotels we will stay in and so on and so forth; I tried to ignore the looming horror of La Raymunda’s list.

“I’m really excited about this trip,” I told The Debra. “It’s got everything: cities, rain forests, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, deserts, ice caps, boats, trains, planes, toucans, penguins, killer whales…it’s the perfect birthday present.”

So with that in mind I thought I’d post the itinerary of our upcoming trip and explain each section in greater detail - one post per day until we leave. Hopefully that will calm the savages among my once-dedicated readership who have recently called for my non-blogging head.

Ready? Charge!

12/18 - Depart for Buenos Aires, Argentina. First class tix. Garçon, my mimosa, please.
12/19 - Arrive Buenos Aires. Hang out. Learn to tango. Eat steak.
12/20 - Hang out in Buenos Aires. Perhaps a day trip to Uruguay. You know, for the passport stamp. (”No,” corrects The Debra, jabbing her short little index finger at a map of Uruguay in the atlas. “It’s not for a passport stamp. It’s to visit the historic quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO World Heritage site.” Oh, comma, I see.)
12/21 - More hangin’ out in Buenos Aires. More steak, too.
12/22 - Flight to Iguazu National Park and Iguazu Falls. Sail downriver to lodge.
12/23 - Boat trip up San Francisco River and rain forest nature hike with a naturalist. Capture Toucan Sam and make him tell me where he keeps the Froot Loops recipe.
12/24 - Iguazu Falls. Devil’s Throat Canyon. Ritual sacrifice of Toucan Sam. Vikings play Packers this night.
12/25 - Merry Christmas! Christmas at Iguazu Falls. This is also the championship weekend for my fantasy football leagues. Hopefully I finish this day $1200 richer.
12/26 - Return to Buenos Aires.
12/27 - Depart for and arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina. Ushuaia sits on Tierra del Fuego, the farthest southernmost tip of South America. From here we sail the Sarpik Ittuk to Antarctica.
12/28 - Depart Ushuaia aboard the Sarpik Ittuk. Sail through the Beagle Channel (named for the ship that carried Charles Darwin) and out into the Atlantic Ocean.
12/29 - Turn south and begin crossing the Drake Passage, known for its rough weather and tossing about of ships and men. Much vomiting anticipated.
12/30 - Land on the South Shetland Islands. Nosh with penguins and seals. Continue across the Drake Passage. More rough sailing and vomiting anticipated.
12/31 - Splash around in the geothermally-warmed waters of Pendulum Cove on Deception Island. (In this case, “geothermally-warmed” is shorthand for “water heated by a live, but momentarily dormant, volcano”.) Conclude transit of the Drake Passage. Conclude vomiting (just in time for New Year’s Eve!).
1/1 - Welcome, 2007. First landings on Antarctica.
1/2 - El Raymundo turns 40. More landings on Antarctica. Sudden attack of old-age-induced dementia causes urge to strip naked and run amok among the penguins.
1/3 - Dementia passes. Wisdom gained. Life after 40 begins. More landings. More penguins. Clothes remain on.
1/4 - Last day of landings and sailing among the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula. Time to say good bye to Antarctica and all the little tuxedo dudes.
1/5 - Drake Passage (Slight Return). You know the drill: barf-o-rama.
1/6 - Continue across the Drake Passage.
1/7 - Arrive in Ushuaia one year older and forty pounds lighter from heaving into the Drake Passage. Consider writing a diet book: “The Drake Shake Diet”.
1/8 - Fly home. Sleep. Look at pictures. Sigh with contentment.