Getting to Puerto Rico

This is going to be the worst blog post ever. Because who really wants to know the mechanics of our flights?

You are still reading. Wow. Our airline, United, strongly suggested that we postpone our travel for a day because of the bad weather in Chicago. We did and I added a day to our itinerary. The next day our flight was cancelled because of the bad weather in Chicago. We re-booked our flights again. The United website and app were equally unhelpful in these changes. For example, I re-booked part of our trip through Madison without realizing the process was complete because the app just stopped working. While I was on hold for one-half of eternity, speaking directly with an airline representative was the most useful.

There were lots of phone calls because I had scheduled parking at the airport, a rental car, places to stay, and volunteer work. Each change required a call to each vendor, in part because we were so close to our planned travels.

We traveled from Milwaukee to Houston to San Juan. We arrived at the Milwaukee airport very early because of the weather and federal government shutdown. The shutdown required that TSA employees were required to work, but would not be paid until an unknown date. We didn’t know if this would result in long lines or not. In this case it did not. I very much appreciated TSA employees that came to work. The news was noting that passengers were more patient and kinder, knowing the struggles of the security staff. I think this is awesome. I also think that we can be more patient and kind every day.

I used credit card “points” to pay for the car rental. This was great! Extending the car rental for a day (even though I was giving up a day at the time of the change) required actual money. It still was a good value.

Our volunteer site was in the center of Puerto Rico, about 50 miles and 1.5 hours from San Juan. Because of our early arrival in Milwaukee and long layover in Houston, it took us 24 hours to go from home to the worksite.

Our trip home was more compact, but longer than planned because of several delays in the flight from Chicago to Milwaukee, again attributed to the weather. (Our route was San Juan to Chicago to Milwaukee). We arrived in Milwaukee late at night and thankfully spent the night with family before driving home.

Oh, are you still here? My goodness. Find something good to read now.

Planning for Puerto Rico

I love to travel. George loves his dog, his farm animals, the farm and the garden. We’ve taken road trips together and try to get to southwestern North Dakota once a year for about a week. The North Dakota trips are great and take 14 hours of travel time one way. We’ve taken other road trips too. George likes to drive and doesn’t think twice about driving from Wisconsin to Atlanta, Georgia straight through, staying for a night, and turning around and coming home. Unfortunately this has left me feeling like our vacations were mostly driving with only a little exploring or visiting. George seems antsy too, with his mind on the farm.

Day 1 “I wonder how the dog is.”
Day 2 Perhaps arrive at destination late in the day. “I hope the cattle and sheep are liking the hay I left for them.”
Day 3 Explore and/or visit. Start to head home. “I hope the [whatever] is working for [the super kind neighbor who is taking care of the farm].”
Day 4 [more specific concern about home/animals/farm] continued until home.

Old farm buildings on a winter day with snow and geese
Farm scene December 29, 2018

I heavily encouraged George to get a passport when one was required to enter Canada. I want to be prepared for travel when the opportunity knocks, not when the process of getting a passport is complete. George eventually decided it was in his best interest to get a passport rather than listen to my pleas.

The next step was to decide on a destination. George had an answer, “the jungle.” No further details were provided. Anywhere with a jungle would work.

We decided that we needed a vacation with some sort of project. George needs to keep busy. I’ve traveled to work with Habitat for Humanity and volunteered for Caretta Research Project and loved the experiences.

Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge August 12, 2015

The trip had to be fairly short. At least short enough that we would still be married even if our plans flopped.

About a month before Hurricane Maria in September 2017, I tried to contact a farmer about working on his farm in exchange for housing. Hurricane Maria then decimated Puerto Rico. Wanting to be a help rather than a hindrance, we set the plans aside.

This winter I we were ready to go! With help from Rotary connections, we were able to plan to volunteer with HEART 9/11 in their Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico Response Project.

In summary, our travel plans included 1) the jungle 2) a short time span and 3) a project. Look out word!

What to pack when visiting a turtle

I’m excited to return to Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge with Caretta Reseach Project in July 2015!

The first step has been interviewing people about their recommendations about keeping cool on a Georgia coastal island in July. Maybe I should tell you WHY ON EARTH anyone would visit in July! If nature follows her pattern, loggerhead sea turtles should be both laying nests (the huge mature females) and hatching (the cute-beyond-belief emerging turtles, judging by photographs). Based on my interviews, staying cool will not be possible. Since we will be working at night based on the turtle’s preferences, I’ll be trying to sleep during the day in a cabin without electricity and away from any breeze that can be found on the beach. The cold shower does sound very appealing! I do like Mom’s recommendation to stay cool best: take a canoe, canopy, and anchor and sleep out on the water. If you know something about staying cool that my interviewees thus far have overlooked, please let me know!

All gear should fit in one large duffel bag and one small backpack. If duffel and backpack are not water resistant, put all items inside a large plastic bag inside the duffel and backpack for transfer to the island.


1 set twin sheets with pillowcase
earplugs (all volunteers sleep in a small cabin together and I snore)


2 shorts
2 long pants
long-sleeve shirt
swimsuit and swim shirt
windbreaker/rain jacket (poncho not recommended)
hat with visor or brim
hat with mosquito net?
lots of socks
walking shoes for beach (may encounter cactus and spines)
flip flops for cabin time


2 towels
sunscreen lotion
lip balm
small first aid kit (band aids and mole skin)
mosquito dope
anti-itch cream
powder (back on the hot and humid theme)


wristwatch for night use
water bottles (one to use and one to chill)
small flashlight/headlamp (one with a red light/filter is great)
spare batteries
battery operated fan
A Georgia Native Plant Guide
paperback books
camera, charger, and waterproof bag
cell phone and charger

Also pack clothes for return to civilization in a small bag to be left in the rental car. You will be happy to have them!

Dreaming of Finland

I’ve been dreaming of Finland for a long time and not long from now I plan to be there! As per usual, I am nowhere as detailed in planning as I had once thought I would be. There are some wishes that would be fun to fulfill. Here they are (in no particular order):

  • Drinking sima in Finland. I brewed some of this as a teenager. Perhaps I can test the “real thing.”
  • Having a sauna in Finland. Is this too obvious?
  • Seeing an inland Saimaa ring seal in the Savonlinaa area.
  • Traveling north of the Arctic Circle!
  • Visiting reindeer on their own turf.
  • Exploring libraries!
  • Meeting relatives and new friends.
  • Paddling.
  • Visiting a farm.

All good wish lists should include some stretch wishes that are unlikely to be fulfilled so that a return trip can be planned. I will need to work on my list further so that it can be well rounded. Right now I need to revisit my packing list and prepare to go!