Tulum!

Last year, Mo decided we needed to blow the dust off of our passports, and she booked a vacation package through Apple Vacations to beautiful Tulum, Mexico. Our resort was Dreams Tulum, less than 1-1/2 hour drive south of Cancun. Our early morning flight put us at the resort in time for lunch (but too early to get our room). First impressions were the green everywhere we looked, the warm breeze, and the large iguana chillin’ on the main walk who was there to greet us.

entrance
main resort thoroughfare

We were very pleased with our room, barely 20 steps from the edge of the beach and in the quieter portion of the waterfront. We were also just a short walk from the pools and restaurants. The people we spoke with praised the Dreams resorts above the other Cancun and Riviera Maya locations for their smaller size and nice accommodations. The staff was very friendly; I used my time there to practice and build a little on my limited Spanish vocabulary. We had to keep “Hola!” and “Buenos dias!” on standby at all times.

room
early morning view of our room patio from the beach

We spent plenty of time lying at the beach during our stay. Mo reserved a cabana for a day, and we relaxed on the beach in style. We also became even better acquainted with our amigo Manuel, who kept us well hydrated. While at the resort I used the opportunity to try some new drinks — some were good, some were great.

cabana
morning view from our cabana

Our sole outing was a morning trip to the Mayan ruins along the coast just south of us. It was a very bright day, and we did a lot of walking, but thankfully we had a cool breeze off the water (which we had pretty much our entire stay). And we saw our first coatimundi.

ruins
Ruinas de Tulum

Several of the evenings featured a meal out in the open with any of a variety of entertainment. We used these opportunities to visit with other couples at our table, meeting folks from Ireland, Wales, Colorado, inland Mexico, Ohio, and a host of other places. There were several large screens set up for the Super Bowl broadcast, but we had no interest in it.

evening
moonrise over the water

Tulum was a very relaxing respite. We absolutely enjoyed the friendly people, the perfect weather, and the beautiful location.

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Postlude: One of my personal highlights of this trip was wandering out onto the beach at 4:30 in the morning on our second morning and seeing the Southern Cross for the first time, hanging in plain sight just above the Caribbean. I made good use of Star Tracker on my cellphone to help identify the several southern hemisphere constellations I had never seen before, or only the northern portion of them.

Being unable to take an actual photo of the stars, instead I swiped my cellphone to get a screenshot of the app to capture the moment:

southern-cross
the Southern Cross

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A Brass Reprise

Since I do the majority of my trading The Bench I am not good at checking up on any of the neighborhood gang of card collecting bloggers, but just like over a year ago I rang the doorbell over at Tomahawk Chop. The Trumpet Man had three nice Twins cards that I needed in exchange for some of my Braves trade bait.

redux
clockwise, from top left: 2016 Topps Chrome #RA-JOS Jose Berrios (auto); 2016 Topps Triple Threads Gold #ARC-JBE Jose Berrios [67/99] (auto); 2016 Topps Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Red Ice #BDPP85 Derrick Penilla [03/25]

Interestingly enough, the Derrick Penilla red ice was the only one I already had from that set! :/ It’s nice having go-to people that collect Braves cards that I can strike up a trade with now and then. Thanks again!

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In other baseball collecting news, I found an eBay seller that had several By The Letter cards that I needed (all within my price point), which allowed me to complete my first set — the By The Letters Rookie Signature autographed set of Alexi Casilla, numbered 1-of-50 or 1-of-75:

casilla
2007 Upper Deck SP Authentic By The Letter Rookie Signatures #188 Alexi Casilla (auto)

Joe Cool

Not long ago I was able to snag one of Joe Mauer’s rookie autograph cards; with a little luck I was able to do it again, and this time in a lot that contained eight other rookie autograph and relic cards from 2002 Bowman’s Best.

joe-cool
2002 Topps Bowman’s Best #110 Joe Mauer (auto)

I’ve already turned three of the extra eight cards into five additional Twins relic cards that I needed. That’s the kind of transaction that a card trader likes to have!

Some more acquisitions below the break…
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Merry Christmas!

To those seeing this on Facebook or on my blog, may you and your family have a happy and safe Christmas, and a great 2017!
— “Rhubarb_Runner”

Merry Christmas!
twins-candy-cane-ornament

NCIS: Carlsbad, CA [2003 Upper Deck]

It’s been a while for one of these mystery plays; here’s one from a while back in honor of David Ortiz’s retirement:

csi-ortiz
2003 Upper Deck #114 David Ortiz

Is he out? Safe?? Well, hopefully we can find out by nailing down exactly when this play occurred — what can we tell from the photo?

1) Day game with away uniform — it’s not the Metrodome
2) they’re wearing their long sleeves, so cool weather
3) being it’s a 2003 card, it should be a 2002 ballgame

I originally put this together for the good Citizens at WGOM for pledge week, and (like always) they were very up to the task:
– there was some debate about the visiting team uniform. Initial thoughts were Milwaukee and then Seattle, but with the very short (non-existent?) sleeves, it was suggested it was Cleveland’s pixie vests
– the backdrop (what little is showing, out of focus) is not a bad match for Jacob’s Field
– The first inning of the April 8th game ended with Ortiz trying (and failing) to score from second on a line drive to center of the bat of Dustan Mohr. Einar Diaz applied the tag.

Despite the Twins scoring two in the first, the Indians respond with three in the bottom of the inning, and went on to win 9-5 putting the Twins a game back in the AL Central race. The game was played in front of a full stadium in less than three hours, which was good as the 55° temperature at game time was no doubt falling.

The best part? We even found an image of the play from a different angle. You can see part of Cristian Guzman in the background, who scored just ahead of Ortiz.

Case solved!

(Above) Average Joe

Whenever I see your smiling face
I have to smile myself
Because I love you

Your Smiling Face” – James Taylor

joe
2002 Bowman Heritage #BHA-JM Joe Mauer (auto)

I luckily managed to find one of Joe’s rookie year autograph cards on The Bay at a price well below the normal going price there. Even though it was poorly categorized and hidden among all the other cards listed on eBay, when I stumbled upon it I recognized it for the card that it is. Welcome home, Rookie Joe!

Some more acquisitions below the break…
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Estes Park, Colorado

My hip surgery put off this post, so to get a long-overdue writeup out of the way…

Mo and I gave some thought to where we wanted to vacation this fall, and after hearing good reports decided we wanted to give Colorado some quality time, neither of us having been there except in passing. Even better, we invited our long-time friends Dave & Sue from Los Angeles to join us, and were pleased when they said, “Yes!”

We rented a house in Estes Park and met up there on a Saturday, us flying into Denver and they driving up with their dogs Kona & Callie. The house was wonderful, and made for a terrific home base for our excursions. Although we were soon to learn that elk were to be found everywhere, we saw three in the backyard the first morning, and 36 the next morning!

morning-elk
morning elk outside our window

It didn’t take us long to adapt to our different time zones: being morning people and hour ahead of the Mountain Time, we found we could work in a trip to town to wander the streets while our late morning friends an hour behind got their beauty rest and exercised the dogs.

Estes Park is a quaint town with a scenic riverwalk behind the various shops and restaurants on the main street, overlooked by the stately Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining”. There were festivals on each of the weekends we were there, so we avoided the traffic and bustle then, opting for a later evening meal and stroll instead.

The house we were renting was just minutes from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and we made a few trips there during our stay. On our first visit, we watched some drama as a bull elk defended his herd of a dozen cows from two other bull elk. We also stopped at the alluvial fan at Horseshoe Park and tested our balance on the various boulders and rocks along and across the water there.

On another trip we drove a good section of the Trail Ridge Road, again watching elk interactions and photographing the peaks, valleys, and mountain lakes in the distance above and below the alpine tundra. The picturesque yellow aspens made for a nice splash of color among the pines all throughout our drives around the area. Long’s Peak was often in the background of our photos, the tallest mountain in the park at 12,400’+

mt-meeker-longs-peak-mt-lady-washington
left to right: Mt. Meeker, Long’s Peak, and Mt. Lady Washington

When we did finally get around to some serious hiking, we decided to head back into the park to the trail starting at Bear Lake. After stopping to take in Nymph Lake, we continued on up to elevation 9900′ to Dream Lake, where we discovered just why it was so highly recommended.

dream-lake
beautiful Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park (click to embiggen)

We had some nice exchanges with other hikers on the trail, and overall (like so many sites on our vacation) we gave it 4-out-of-5 stars: not enough oxygen! 🙂

bear-lake
Bear Lake, in Rocky Mountain National Park

The next day we drove over a good portion of the Peak to Peak highway, taking in the mountains and beautiful aspens, stopping at Barker Reservoir at Nederland, and being blown away by the casino-to-anything-else ratio of Blackhawk — what’s up with that? On our way back, we paid a visit to Chapel on the Rock, and then stopped at Lily Lake to watch the ducks and muskrats before sunset.

chapel-on-the-rock
Chapel on the Rock

We ate a several fine restaurants, from Strong Mountain Restaurant, YOU NEED PIE!, Poppy’s Pizza & Grill, the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, The Egg & I, Mountain Home Cafe, Claire’s on the Park…well, you can tell we sampled quite a few places during our stay 🙂

On our last night in town for supper, we parked in the library parking lot…and were confronted by a bull elk. He was attending three cows eating tall grass near the stream just north of the lot.

downtown-elk
bull elk in downtown Estes Park library parking lot

It was incredibly relaxing to visit with our good friends and play with the dogs in the fresh mountain environment. So — would we go back again? In a heartbeat! We’d rank it 4-out-of-5 stars: needs more oxygen 😉

Epilogue: On our way to the Denver airport, we stopped in Boulder to enjoy a meal at a restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and as we were finishing up our meal a gentleman at a neighboring table had seizure. We helped out where we could (and stayed out of the way the rest of the time) and thankfully he began recovering as we were leaving. It was gratifying to see that those tables around him at the time did not panic, offered a helping hand where needed, and kept their cool.