Tag Archives: Dominican Republic

Life’s a Trip – At the Beach

This is the second in the Life’s A Trip series.

There are many ways to approach the journey of life and we have explored a bunch of them.  This is about the different beaches where we have lived for a time.

One of Kaye’s favorite activities in the whole world is beach walking.  I love sitting and soaking up the sun and synthesizing vitamin D.  So beaches work for both of us.

Tropical Beaches

It seems that the ultimate destination in the Caribbean is the beach and we have had the experience of enjoying many of them, mostly in the Dominican Republic, one of our favorite island winter respites.

Playa Rincón, Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic.

Because of it’s remoteness, this beach is still largely undeveloped.  It is possible to be alone and unbothered.  We first visited this beach in 1990, camping in a tent in the coconut grove.  Our last visit there -via a rented quad runner – was in the winter of 2016 and it was still unspoiled and beautiful.

DR Bob on quad
Our favorite ride to Playa Rincon is the rented four wheeler.

BobnKaye wquad on Rincon

Playa Rincon edit 0261

DR edit 0801

La Playita,  Las Galeras, Dominican Republic.

The Little Beach offers snorkeling on the reef just offshore, and there is a beach restaurant and masseuse on hand.  It was a 15-minute walk from our last vacation rental in the little fishing village.

la playita scene

La Playita at evening

DR 4 Palms vivid

Las Galeras Municipal Beach, Las Galeras, Dominican Republic

A short walk from our vacation rental, the “town beach” offered beach bars and “tipico” restaurants and shuttle boats to other beaches nearby.

Las Galeras bob table beach

The Cove, Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic

This beach is smack in front of the resort by the same name and is shared with the local fishermen who store their boats on shore every night.  The local kids love to get attention from the tourists and will put on a show whenever there is a camera around.  We stayed here for the winter of 2013.

Hammock Bob at the Cove

DR boys on palm tree

Dominican beach boys frolick fix

Dominican boys edit 1006

DR Birdsall edit 0012
At the Cove we could buy the fresh catch of the day directly from the fishermen on the beach.

West Coast Beaches

Santa Barbara Beach, California.

This large beach is nicely maintained by the city of Santa Barbara.  There is a bike path, volleyball courts, an art show every Sunday, and a wharf with restaurants on stilts.  We visited several times when we were doing the work-camping thing at nearby Fillmore, California, in the winter and spring of 2014.

Santa Barbara Beach volleyball

Santa Barb beach at sunset

While in California for the winter, we also explored Mugu Point Beach and had lunch at the famous beach diner, Neptune’s Net pictured in movies and TV shows.

We also enjoyed camping at the beach at the linear park at Seacliff where the beach was walkable for miles.  Boon docking at its best (no hookups).

The campground is linear at Seacliff, California, 2 miles long and 20 feet wide.

The Gulf Coast and East Coast

Dauphin Island Beach, Dauphin Island, Alabama

In the winter of 2015 we set out to spend the entire winter on island beaches.  Dauphin Island was our home for January where the beaches are white sand.  They are walkable for many miles.

Bob on Dauphin Island beach 2511

St. Augustine Beach, St. Augustine, Florida

We spent the month of February in this historical town where driving on the beach is permitted.  Bonus!


Emerald Isle Beach, Emerald Isle, North Carolina

In March, our RV site was a short dune walk from this beautiful white sand beach.

Driving on the beach is permitted at Emerald Isle… for a price.

The Great Lakes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Michigan

Being Michiganders most of our lives, this is probably one of our most frequent beach destinations.  Of course, Lake Michigan is too cold for swimming except in the late summer and early fall.


Empire beach at twilight

Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, Michigan.

The closest beach to our house for over 40 years, this beach and several others along the east shore of Michigan were our favorite sun-and-sand destinations in the summertime.

Port Crescent silhouette 0020

Turnip Rock 0004
Turnip Rock is a kayaking destination reached via a 1-1/2-hour paddle along the shore from the harbor at Port Austin, Michigan.

So this is a sampling of the many beaches where we have spent some time.

Life’s a trip!  What is your favorite beach?

At Home Anywhere (Revisited)

Milepost 1-28-14  Fillmore, CA.  Work-camping in an RV Park

This is a repost of an entry that I posted on the old blog in December, 2012.  We had moved from the big house to the one-room log cabin six months earlier and were set to spend the winter on the beach in the Dominican Republic.

What does it really take to feel at home in a place that is not your home?  This is one of the worrisome questions that presented itself when Kaye and I started to contemplate and then pursue the idea of downsizing and moving out of our house of 40 years.  We were not used to moving, but we were smart enough to know that there would be challenges that could either make or break our success.

  Twenty-five years ago, at the encouragement of our three daughters, I arranged a one-year leave of absence from the small town public school system where I had been teaching since graduating from college.  We had decided to move up our dream of visiting mission fields after retirement and offering our help wherever we could.  The girls had heard us talking and had realized that if we waited until I retired, they would be grown up and moved away.  They didn’t want to miss out, so they said why not do it now while the family is all at home?  And we did.

  We took positions (I taught 6th grade, Kaye was the librarian) at an international school in the middle of the Dominican Republic, and we rented our house to friends who were “in between” houses, and we took off for one school year, and it changed our lives.  Our kids have been spoiled for the ordinary ever since and are all frequent international travelers. 

Home, Home-Home or Home-Home-Home

   A while after settling in to our new habitation in Santiago, we noticed that we needed a new way of designating our location during our conversations with each other.  We were spending the Thanksgiving holiday at a beachfront village (there was no turkey dinner for us that year), and we were confusing each other by referring to the hotel room as Home when returning from the beach – then the house in Santiago as Home, and then also making the same reference to our Home in Michigan.

The Sims family at their tropical "home" in the Dominican Republic, (1989)
The Sims family at “Home” in a foreign country. (1989)

  One of our three daughters finally solved the problem:   “Home” was our hotel room, “Home-Home” was our house in Santiago, and “Home-Home-Home” was our old place in Michigan.  And that really did help clear up the confusion when we talked about “Home”.

 Feeling at Home Somewhere Else

  So, in our current transition, we can look back on the experiences and challenges of moving away from our familiar home 20 years ago and setting up a new place to call home – in a foreign country no less.  But our lives have changed in the meantime, the kids are gone, and it is just the two of us.  And the answers to the original question are becoming clearer to us now that we have been out of our house for more than half a year.  Here are some of the things we have discovered to be part of our sense of home:

  • Being together.  The most familiar thing about our new locations – whether in the RV in a campground or the log cabin or a hotel room – is that we still have each other.  We pursue our adventures together, and that makes every challenge or adjustment more manageable.  When someday one of us is gone, I’m not sure how much spirit of adventure will be left for the other.
  • A decent bed.  When we were tucked into the loft of the little log cabin, we had a king size bed up under the eaves that was comfortable and welcoming every night.  Now that we’ve moved into the larger historical log house, we brought that bed with us, and it’s wonderful.  In hotel rooms we seem to be blessed every time, but in the camper there is not as much room.  We are saving to upgrade the camper, because a good bed is important.
  • Internet.  We both spend a fair amount of time on the web, Kaye for her writing, me for photography and journalism, and both of us for communication.  We may have scant internet access in the beach hideaway we have reserved in the tropics this winter but have decided that we cannot book places for very long that are off the grid.  It may happen in the national park campgrounds that we plan to visit next winter, but we will have to come to town often.  To connect and upload and communicate.  It’s just that important.
  • Family and Friends.
    We FaceTime the grandkids from time to time so we don't miss them so much.
    We FaceTime the grandkids when we are away so we don’t miss them so much.

      Since the kids have left and found husbands and jobs elsewhere, we find ourselves with an innate need to connect with them and with friends quite often.  Again, the internet has helped satisfy this need, and we are in touch with the kids almost daily through Facebook and email.  And we meet up with them in person whenever we have a chance.  We still have friends nearby when we are at home in Michigan, and we are often making new friends in the places we visit.

  • Food.  It’s interesting that this becomes an issue more at holiday times, because there are certain foods that are essential to the spirit of a holiday, for some psychological reasons, I guess.  Rather like snow is essential to a Christmasy feeling for all northerners.  And it’s hard to make Christmas cookies in an RV, because the counter space is non-existent.  So adaptation is necessary.  Fortunately, we have been able to visit one of our daughters and make cookies there if we want to.  In foreign countries, familiar foods are harder to find and their absence can contribute to homesickness.  I don’t know why every country doesn’t have Kraft American cheese slices, but they don’t.  Go figure.
  • Favorite Tools.  Even some of the expert travelers we have read on the web have admitted that they have favorite cooking utensils that they carry in their luggage wherever they go.  Some kitchens and hotel rooms don’t provide the stuff that is the most familiar to you, so you have to carry your own.  With me it’s a small flashlight that I like to put on the night table wherever I sleep.  It somehow provides a sense of security and preparedness that offsets the unfamiliar air of a new environment.
  • Comfy Jeans.    Everybody has their favorite items of clothing that they can’t be without no matter where they are in the world.   I am not comfortable without my favorite cap.  After posting this article a year ago and asking, “what makes you feel at home away from home?”  a piece of clothing was the first thing my daughter thought of:
    Stacy enjoyed a pina colada right from a pineapple mug in the tropics last winter.
    Stacy enjoyed a pina colada while contemplating here favorite jeans.

    Stacy commented, “I have a lightweight bathrobe that I take with me wherever I go. I wear it constantly at home and it is light enough that I could probably just fit it in my purse. Actually, it’s a swimsuit cover-up that I bought 10 years ago on sale for like $10 and it is now covered in snags and stains….feels like home. I could fit that, my passport, some cash, my debit card, some flip flops, and my phone in my purse and be ready to go anywhere.”  “Okay, now after reading that article about the caves in Samana, I have to add one more thing that I like to take with me that makes me feel at home…..my Saloman water shoes!!!! Never know when you are going to need that type of adventure!”   Yep, clothing can be really important when it comes to feeling at home.

  These are some of the essentials that we have found to be contributing factors to the sense of home that everybody needs.  I think we are doing a pretty good job of mixing our away-from-home adventures with our times of staying at home in the cabin and enjoying the security of the familiar.  And the cabin really does feel like home to us now.

Here I am feeling at home in my office in a corner of the historical log cabin.
Here I am feeling at home in my corner study in the historical one-room log cabin.

  What is it that makes you feel at home when you are away from home?

Kaye's favorite reading spot in the DR was either the veranda or the poolside.
Kaye’s favorite reading spot in the DR was either the veranda or the poolside.

Postscript 1-28-14:   Well, we did spend last winter at a seaside resort in the Dominican Republic and had to re-adjust to a foreign setting and a new sense of home.

This winter we are feeling at home in the newer RV and trying the work-camp experience at a small park in southern California for the winter and spring.  We don’t plan to return to the log cabin in Michigan until after our epic trek to Alaska this summer.

The RV has a roomy kitchen, living, dining area that has allowed us to bring along some of our familiar cookware, and the refrigerator and cupboards are large enough for some of our favorite provisions.  We’ve been watching rented Red Box movies on the Mac since there is no TV reception here – just like back in Michigan.  It’s all making us feel quite at home here.

The Coachmen fifth-wheel has a slide-out that expands our sense of home.
The Coachmen fifth-wheel has a slide-out that expands our sense of home.

So, whoever you are, wherever you are…   welcome home!

Neighborly Natives

Milepost 2-2-13   Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt like they were an old friend?  Did you visit a new place and immediately feel that you were home?  That’s what happened when Kaye and I arrived at The Cove in the Dominican Republic last winter.  We were renting a VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) apartment on the beach on the Samana Peninsula at the east end of the island of Hispanola, and as soon as we started to meet the locals, we knew we had come home – at least for the winter.

Manager Coco – and his son Alexandro – keep everything running smoothly at The Cove.

  Coco was the first to welcome us as our taxi driver dropped us at the front door of our home.  He was the manager of the complex and immediately started taking care of us, first with a tour of the house and a how-to-start-the-air-conditioner demonstration.   The next morning came more info as he delivered a 5-gallon water bottle and told us how to hire the local women to come in and cook a full meal of chicken or fish and rice and salad.  And a whole lot more.  Coco smiled a lot and his default reply to every question was, “No problema!”  He told us where we could buy provisions and cold Coke at the nearby colmado (general store) only a five-minute walk from the house.

Grandma and her kids and grandkids run the local colmado.

  When we arrived at the colmado we were welcomed with quick smiles as we brushed the cobwebs off our Spanish and dove into the indigenous mode, ordering flour and sugar and milk and eggs… and banana chips.  Processed foods simply weren’t available.  Behind the counter grandma reached for this and that as we pointed at the stuff we wanted, and the grandkids scrambled to help.  We discovered later that the tourists who stayed at The Cove rarely shopped at the local store and in fact, didn’t cook for themselves much, choosing to eat out more often than not.  So, seeing our willingness to engage the local culture and support the neighborhood economy, we made ourselves popular very quickly.

The guaguas shuttle passengers and cargo on a fixed route all day long.

  We saw even more surprise and pleasure on the faces of the neighbors when we showed up at the bus stop to board the guagua for a trip to the nearest town.  The guaguas are beat-up vans and small pickups with benches built in the back for passengers.  They come by every half hour and charge about 70 cents for a ride to town.  They were often crowded, but people would quickly scoot over to make room for the Americanos every time.  It seems that the foreigners rarely  ever ride the guaguas because they all have rental cars.  Except for us.  We like to get as close to the culture as we can.  Believe me, in a guagua, the culture is very close!

A Dominican visits the local colmado.
A Dominican girl visits the local market.

  The camera was the next thing that promoted our welcome with the neighbors.  The Dominicans love to have their pictures taken.  I rarely shoot a photo of a stranger without first making some introductory small talk, but these folks were eager to smile and pose for the camera.  Sometimes, when I was standing near someone, they would get my attention, point at the camera and then at themselves, and smile real big.  Man, this is easy!  Even teenage guys would pose when they saw the camera without the slightest hint that there was anything uncool about it.

These guys asked me to snap their picture while enjoying the seaside.
These guys asked me to snap their picture while waiting for friends at the seaside.
DR edit 0469
These guys invited me in to share their fried fish with me.

  One day I grabbed the camera and headed out for a walk through the neighborhood of El Frances near our house.  The first guy I met on the street motioned me toward the path around behind the colmado where we took a shortcut through the baseball field and ended up standing in front of his house.  Next he took me to the school which was in session, disappeared inside and came back out with the principal so I could take her picture.  From there I continued on down the street where kids were running around naked while their moms hung up laundry in the yard.  Some guys invited me into their kitchen to share some freshly fried fish – right out of the pan.  I love these people!

DR culture edit 0457
A local family on the front porch of their home in El Frances.

  I tell you, at the end of our stay as we said farewell to these great neighbors, it was like parting with family members.

  I love the Dominican Republic.  It’s a beautiful land with splendid beaches and forests of coconut palms.  But the biggest draw to this gorgeous tropical paradise is its beautiful people with their unpretentious grace and easy smiles.

This roadside vendor claimed his Mama Juana makes you strong and sexy.
This roadside vendor claimed his Mama Juana makes you strong and sexy.

  On my next visit to The Cove at El Frances I’m hoping to stay longer if I can possibly do it.  It’s like home after all.

  See my gallery of 250 photos of the land and the people of the Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic, at my online gallery and photo store here.

Dominican teenager on the seashore.
Dominican teenager on the seashore.
These girls were prepared for an afternoon rain shower.
These girls were prepared for an afternoon rain shower with an improvised rain poncho.