Lesson #84: Corporate Reaction May Be Deadlier Than the Spider Itself

Black Widow AldiGiving grapes to your two year old shouldn’t be a potentially deadly undertaking. But this week, when my sister went to prepare her daughter’s snack, she was greeted with a startling surprise.

“I opened the top of the bag and almost immediately noticed movement in the bag towards the opening. I shrieked and dropped the bag in the sink, finding a large spider perched at the top of my grapes.”

Due to the size and shape of the spider, my sister knew it was like nothing she’d ever seen before. With a 4-month old baby and a two year old in the home, she wanted to take safe precaution to not allow the spider to run or jump from the bag, and ended up boiling the arachnid, bag and all.

After a full hour of boiling, she removed the bag from the burner and took the package to her husband at work. Both were alarmed to find that when they found and removed the now dead spider from the bag, it had a red hourglass on its belly. Sure enough, this spider was a black widow: a potentially deadly spider who had ridden home just behind the seats of her 4-month old baby and two year old daughter — had nearly been handed over to her toddler with her snack.

Black Widow Hourglass Aldi

While this incident happened four days ago, the list of Aldi recalls still does not indicate that these grapes can be a hazard, and Aldi has not publicly commented or given notice to customers that caution should be taken when washing and serving their grapes. In fact, when asked about the incident by local media, both the management of the Sugar Grove, IL store where the grapes were purchased and Aldi Corporate denied knowledge of the incident, despite multiple instances of contact with my sister.

The store has given her a $25 gift card and worked with the distributor to send a large boxes of Halo California mandarin oranges to her home. But she doesn’t want compensation — she just wants Aldi to do the right thing to ensure others aren’t put at risk. Black widow bites are potentially deadly to small children, elderly and pets. This was a close call.

While these grapes were purchased from Aldi in Sugar Grove, IL — it has come to our attention that this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Just this year black widows have been reported in grapes from BJ’s in Pennsylvania, Shaw’s in Massachusetts, a Walmart in Michigan and yet another Aldi in Lemington Spa — just to name a few instances. A former produce clerk reports that it’s common knowledge in his line of work to be aware when stocking, moving or washing fruit, as a variety of dangerous insects, spiders and even snakes can be brought in from other locations. Yet overall, the general public is unaware that this can be an issue. We feel this needs to change.

Please… make sure you closely examine, open and wash all of your produce, especially if you have small children, elderly, anyone infirmed or pets living with you. While black widow bites are wickedly unpleasant for all involved, they are potentially deadly in these situations.

We hope that Aldi Corporate decides to stop attempting to hide this incident and opts to do the right thing: informing their customers of the potential danger, here. Many people could be made to suffer or could die — but this doesn’t have to be the case. Awareness is key, and people need to know this happens so that they can take the appropriate steps towards safety.

Lesson #83: Speak for the Masses

An Open Letter to Volkswagen Regarding my 2013 Beetle TDI:

Two years ago, I was in the market for a new car that was an “efficient treat”. I test drove several, researched a lot, and found that finding this car was no simple task.

When I came across pictures of the Beetle Fender Edition I instantly fell in love. The affection only grew during the test drive — the sunburst wood dashboard, the all-encompassing sound system, the cool breeze from the sunroof. I was sold… until I found out this tiny vehicle could potentially get only 22 mpg. No matter what the appeals of this car were, I couldn’t justify burning this much fuel.

That’s when your sales guy told me about the Beetle TDI — a car, he said, that “burns so clean, you could breathe from the exhaust pipe,”. I have no reason to think that he didn’t genuinely believe what he was telling me — this is what he was fed in the TDI corporate literature and advertising.  This “clean” messaging was everywhere — with a similar concept is seen in your “Diesels are Dirty: Old Wives Tale” commercial currently on YouTube.

On a large “eco-friendly” themed wall graphic, all the details of the excellent “up to 39 miles per gallon” gas mileage were detailed, along with claims of lower emissions and the wonderful things this car did for the planet. During the test drive, the sales guy explained that these were the official MPG ratings, but if you let the car run a bit before driving, you can beat even these standards. My TDI has been consistently over 42 mpg (according to its onboard computer…). I thought I was doing a world of good: just as the advertising still found on your Raleigh dealer’s site, would lead you to believe.

I felt really good about my TDI purchase. Enough to ignore the extra cash I spent on all these “green” benefits. In my mind, this hippie-at-heart had just surpassed all the ultra-green perks of my husband’s hybrid. I offered to drive everywhere, believing my car was the “better-for-the-planet” option. I told everyone about my car. I spoke often of my new brand-loyalty to VW, and how I’d drive my TDI Beetle into the ground.

I had no idea.

My career currently revolves around the promotion of green building technologies. I just took time out of my recent vacation to clean up plastics from the beaches. Caring for the planet, cleaning it up, is something that is important to me — which is why I bought this car, and why I parted with the extra cash to “do good”.

Now, every mile I am driving this car is… let’s just say… “unpleasant”. Shameful.

I spent the money I had for a “green” car, and now I can’t sell it for any sort of real value, because it’s an atrocity. I can’t buy a new car, because my funds are tied up in the TDI. I hear of potential “fixes” coming my way: all hypothesized to reduce fuel economy and, at best, “get the car to pass emissions standards” — but certainly not be “blue” or “green”, as it was advertised. This just isn’t fair. It’s not at all the car I bought or wanted — In fact, I just plain don’t want anything to do with this car.

I also don’t want to be dragged through a court process. I understand you’ve hired the same lawyers that defended BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — yet another dark, hard fact to swallow. Really? Us TDI owners all just want VW to do the right thing. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill example…?

Anyways, I thought long and hard about this. Obviously, simply fixing the car to pass emissions standards doesn’t resolve our issue. The car’s not “clean” or “blue” or “green” or any of the things it was promised to be — it’s simply legal.

I’ve heard guesses that there may be a rebate program to buy another VW vehicle. This, to me, feels like being forced to stay in an abusive marriage. You cheated me, and I shouldn’t be required to stay loyal.

If you were to buy back the car for what I paid for it, so that I could purchase the “green” vehicle I wanted, we’re getting close. I still wouldn’t buy another Volkswagen. I understand your deception has led to my polluting at up to 35 times past the legal rate, and your lack of consideration for the environment — also the trust and relationship with your consumer — is left undealt with in this scenario. Here we’re simply trying to pretend this never happened — but for two years it did.

It is clear we come from different tracks of thought. I value the world we live in over money. You’ve valued money over the world we live in. We’re not going to change each other’s thinking — no amount of data I could send your way would make your corporation really care about its impact on the environment. However, as we agree to disagree on priorities, one fact remains: you had no right to make a mockery of what I believe in. You have tricked me and hundreds of thousands of people like me who care deeply about the environment into driving around emitting worse than all other consumer vehicles on the road. And you got us to pay extra for this. It makes me sick.

I’ve come up with a remedy that could start the healing of Volkswagen’s relationship with it’s customers and the world. If it’s done right.

  1. Buy back our cars for what we paid for them.
  2. Donate a substantial amount of money per vehicle towards Clean Air initiatives. Buy a substantial chunk of rainforest to replant. LEED certify all your buildings. Do something that will amaze us, and better the environment in a BIG way. Clean up your mess.

Anything less is just… less. I know I would never purchase a VW again with any less effort made to win me back, and I’m sure there are thousands right along with me. This is a travesty, and it needs to be made right.


A VERY Concerned TDI Customer

Lesson #83: Sleep in a Cave

♫ “In the jungle, the mighty jungle…” ♫

As we prepared to leave for our honeymoon, we faced one common reaction amongst our friends.

“You’re doing what!?”.

And I understood. While many prefer romantic days on the beach: massages by the ocean, dinner in the sand, my husband and I agreed that weeks of this on end would get a little tedious. We planned for a bit of this along the way but, after throughly scouring the internet, beach-time took second place to a most exciting excursion.

Zip-lining, cave tubing, horseback riding: the list of activities available while staying in a luxury treehouse at Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Lodge was alluring enough (and… WOW. If I could live in that treehouse tomorrow, I’d up and move everything — so serene and fantastic).

But when I reached their offering of an overnight adventure which included repelling into a black hole and sleeping in an ancient, crystal, Mayan burial cave, the tickets nearly booked themselves. I wanted something “cool and unusual” — sleeping in a mystical cave fit the bill.

Recognizing the challenge and physical exertion a cave overnight would take, we saved it for our final night in the jungle, planning nothing but relaxation on San Pedro afterwards. When the day came, we were presented packs to carry with all of our repelling gear, camping gear, water, food, etc., and off we went in a genuine, open-air safari bus. Feeling the weight of the bag, the heat of day and hearing of the three hour hike ahead of us, I felt just a bit of trepidation…

Caves Branch Overnight

But we were off. The hiking was invigorating, filling us with the sense that every fat cell must have officially melted off our bodies as we became personified puddles, but it was also gorgeous and exotic, listening to the monkeys in the trees and chasing armadillo deep within the palms. Before we knew it, our first hike was over, and we’d reached the “Black Hole Drop”.

The Black Hole Drop falls into the category of “something I’m glad I did, but need not ever do again”. An over 200 foot repel from a cliff down into the cave area, SONY DSCwe spent the first part of the drop trying to support ourselves on the cliff wall — usually a much more challenging and fearsome task than simply dangling the rest of the way… however, my rope was a bit loose, and I kept going during the dangle whether I wanted to or not. This terrified me, as well; the pain and pressure in my hand from trying to stop myself from free-falling nearly made it give out.

Between each and every picture our guide captured of me looking up and smiling there were periods of whining, near tears and sheer terror. It was actually quite comical, in a way. “I don’t want to… I don’t think I… whimper whimper whine whine…”

“Hey, Elizabeth. Look up for the camera!”

There’d be a *GRIN*, then I’d go right back to begging for my life. Were my husband not waiting at the bottom, brave enough to go first, I would have definitely backed out.

SONY DSCAt the top, brilliantly, I slipped and fell — ended up sitting Indian-style on the cliff edge, the strength completely seeped from my legs and unable to get back up. This was the highest scale of fear I’ve felt in quite awhile.

But after this drowning of adrenaline and some spectacular views, we made it to the bottom feeling like complete bad-asses. And off we went, again.

DSC00780Our cave and home for the night was magnificent. Above us there were crystal formations, completely awe-inspiring, and the ground below us echoed our footsteps in a hollow, pumpkin-thumping kind of way, indicating yet another cave below, now closed off to the world. The guides told that tens of thousands of years ago this cave, already massive in size, was much larger, and collapsed in on itself, creating this hollow rock ground and separation. The whole thing just fascinated me.

We set up camp for the night, enclosed hammocks tied from the cave wall to supporting trees outside, and our guide began to share stories. He spoke of giving a tour of the caves to Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper, who had helicoptered in together to explore the area and were highly appreciative of him for not wanting to talk about their movies the whole time. Carlos was amused, because he hadn’t even known who Bradley Cooper was.

He also explained a sight we’d seen that Sunday: cars and crowds of people lining the road into town, many of them rushing into the brush with machetes, clearing the land with these as they went. Carlos explained that the government was actually giving away the land, and people had been out there marking territory and staking their claims. Belize, in general, seemed have much more of a communal attitude than the individualistic, “striving to get ahead of the next guy” United States — I can only guess that a land giveaway such as this would have resulted in bloodshed and litigation, here.


There was only a bit more time to explore the caves, the jungle getting dark at about 7pm. Carlos waited until we were scoping our way out in the pitch dark with head lanterns to tell us the area’s ghost stories.

Months prior, Carlos and one of his fellow guides were camping in the exact same area and had made plans with their friend, Maurice, to potentially meet up for dinner. It grew dark and, as the pair went to extinguish their fire for the night, they heard someone begin to come down the tall, aluminum ladder we’d use the next day to climb out of the cavern. Carlos and his friend decided to be mischievous, running and crouching behind a rock in the cave to scare Maurice when he arrived.

They listened as the man cleared the ladder and began to run across the hollow ground I described earlier. He slowed as he came to the entrance of the cave, and the friends believed that Maurice shared their same idea, trying to sneak up on and scare them. They counted down from five and jumped out at the approaching figure.

Yet no one was there. No one at all. Whoever had scaled the ladder and crossed the rocks had completely disappeared.

Devil spider BelizeHe spoke also of guides tying up their hammocks with Navy-style knots, just to go falling to the ground in the middle of the night, the ropes on each end absolutely untied. This thought didn’t sit well with me at all, since there was a sharp rock under my head, and we were sharing the cave with poisonous devil spiders. I have to admit to being a bit uneasy falling asleep that night — not because of the insects and creatures rustling about the jungle, outside our hammocks, but because of the strange, creepy energy emitting from the cave. I swear there was even a ghoulish face staring at me for awhile, statue like from the rocks.

But we slept, and slept well in our hammock tents, scaled the gigantic ladder out of the canyon the next morning, chased aardvarks on the way back and felt one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment we’d ever felt. Absolutely invigorating and unlike anything you can experience anywhere, I can’t recommend the “overnight in the cave” at Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch enough. For those with an adventurous spirit (even those with Celiac — the Chef Jay was OUTSTANDING), this has to be among the best places to honeymoon.



Lesson #82: Velella Velella

We conquered over 1200 miles of Oregon over the past 11 days, and of all the beauty we took in, one little critter kept me a bit photography obsessed.

Cannon BeachKnown as velella velella, these small jelly-fish-like creatures are have been washing up on the Oregon coast (and actually all up and down the entire west coast of the US), for at least the past week, due to some fierce, overly-active west winds.

Usually content to float at the whim of an ocean breeze (using their tiny sails to navigate in the wind), these poor little guys have been washing up by the millions and dying off on winds far too heavy for them. As much as I wanted to help, there was nothing to be done for them: putting them back in the ocean merely leads them to float in again.

velella velellaA ranger at Yaquina Head shared an interesting tidbit with us. The sail on velella velella reverses direction based on the side of the equator they are on. An interesting little evolutionary trait…

blue oregon jellyfishA beautiful blue jellyfish, catching the sun in rainbow patterns, I was able to capture these guys in their last moments on Cannon Beach: they floated in just at sunset. Sad and captivating, I just love these pictures.

Cannon Beach

Lesson #81: Don’t Ever Stop Letting in New Information (a.k.a. “The Other Side is Just As Sure of Themselves As You Are)

My friend Sarah is the type who just thrives on being a mother. She struggled to get pregnant and suffered because of it: the thought of not having children just devastated her.

She was rewarded with a beautiful, healthy daughter — then a bouncing baby boy: carrot-top hair, sparkling eyes and the sweetest disposition. Everything was right on track, and she was happy.

Photo credit: piyaphantawong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo credit: piyaphantawong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The most fastidious of mothers — concerned with nutrition, safe cleaning products, good doctors, good schools and every other positive step she could take for her children, Sarah took her son in for his fifth round of vaccinations, during which he was administered a vaccine against pneumococcal disease. That day will live forever in her mind — the last day her son was really able to see, experience and interact with the world.

The early hours of the next morning are described as if the plot to a horror movie. Sarah’s son woke up in the night “screaming like she’d never heard before or again, like he was being tortured”. The incessant, agonizing sound tortured her as she struggled to do anything she could to help him. But it wouldn’t stop. For hours as they dealt with doctor calls and the ER, it just wouldn’t stop.

Sarah’s little boy lost his hearing. Due to a violent reaction to the vaccine, (one that she later learned had been reported previously), his brain swelled, his fever got out of hand, he suffered permanent brain and digestive tract damage, and is now on the Autistic spectrum.

And they suffer. The many ways that they suffer.

We are engaged in a dangerous, polarizing debate in this country. Both sides of the argument, whether it’s “pro-vaccinations” or “against vaccinations” are so sure of their side and absolutely dumbfounded by the other.

With the potential for major illnesses to return to the forefront of threat and concern… at the same time the potential for severe vaccine side effects like my poor friend and her son will forever be impacted by — is anybody really going to win? Can’t we all just stop, put down our swords and think for a second?

In order to really understand where I’m coming from and where I’m headed, I need to digress for a second. Let’s delve a bit into some U.S. history…

During the early development of this country, farmers moved West to the prairies of the Great Plains, turned over the land, and (to make a long story short) ended up creating the infamous phenomenon called “The Great American Dustbowl” in the process. A devastating time for our country, the air was so filled with dust and mess from the uneducated and financially-driven actions of the farmers that many people died, entire herds of livestock were killed off and many families experienced complete financial devastation – a true depression.

To learn more about this, I recommend the book “The Worst Hard Time”.

Because of the huge surge in wheat farming all at the same time, there was an epic surplus of the grain that was eventually rotting away in silos — too much supply for not enough demand in the entire country. To aid the farmers and economy, the government began inundating its citizens with a “Grains! 4x a day!” campaign, telling U.S. citizens that eating wheat 4x’s per day was the key to all sorts of crazy, made-up health benefits. This, of course, wasn’t true or based on health facts at all — it was to help the economy. And it worked.

The 80’s “Milk It Does a Body Good,” campaign? Doesn’t take much research to uncover that was exactly the same predicament. Too many dairy farmers. Too much supply. A slumping economy. Let’s make a glowing health recommendation for milk — that has little to do with actual medical science.

Anyways, back to the discussion at hand. The U.S. government has come out recommending that parents vaccinate their children saying, in no uncertain terms, that “vaccines are safe”. And I’ve just gotta’ ask a couple questions that, to me, are blatantly obvious:

Which Vaccines? And in What Conditions?
The most obvious “um… what?” in this debate for me is this blanket statement: “vaccines are safe and parents should vaccinate”. There are many different kinds of vaccines administered for many different reasons. These have different ingredients, different procedures for making them all by different manufacturers. While simple testing can be done to ensure a vaccines efficacy, there is no possible way to test the effects of these vaccines in real-world situations: administered with other medications, administered with all other potential vaccinations, administered in immune-compromised children and infants, administered in children prone to allergic reactions. There’s absolutely no way to test for long term effects. So… why would the government make such a declaration, when there is no doubt that, in some situations, some, of many different types of vaccines are not safe?

Let’s, please, ignore the fact that the pharmaceutical companies making the vaccines are represented everywhere in politics and pay big money to politicians to have their backs. No one can know exactly what’s going on there, or if there’s any real influence, and it just leads to circular, pointless political debate.

I like to think that the U.S. government is making this blanket-statement declaration not because its truth is ironclad, but because they believe it’s for the greater good. Simply, if some of the serious, preventable-through-vaccine illnesses rise again the results could be dangerous, expensive and out of the bounds of control.

Secondly, there’s an uphill battle. It’s a really difficult (if not impossible task), to separate out the vaccines that aren’t as necessary (or the vaccines that have more known and severe potential side effects) in any sort of simple education campaign. This is not a simple issue: there’s just so darn many of them, so many different reactions and so many different situations in which they’re administered.

And, all in all, children and adults with vaccine reactions are much more rare than the routine, successful vaccines. The chances anything will go wrong are there, but slim. So it comes down to a decision: 100% protection of my child from the vaccinated illness vs. not knowing if my child will get or transmit the illness (but knowing they will not be vaccine- damaged).

The decision to vaccinate can seem very cut and dry. I can respect all of these arguments and understand why many decide to just get all vaccinations that are recommended by the CDC and their doctors. We want to trust the CDC. Trust our doctors. I have no bad feelings towards people who take this approach for their own families. I’ve taken the time to consider this line of thinking, and it makes sense.

My Decision
Having watched my friend and her son suffer, having researched this debate at no end, I will take a slightly different approach with my kids. I don’t think a parent has to choose an “all vaccines” or “no vaccines” side — I want to make educated decisions about which vaccines my children are administered.

I know I’ve probably already raised the pulses of a few who feel passionately about all vaccinations being administered. But there’s more to this thinking, so give it a shot. (I swear no pun was intended, but this did just bring a smile to my face). 

Take the example of the vaccine that damaged my friend’s son. This vaccine is administered to infants to prevent invasive pneumococcal disease and otitis media. The CDC reports that the incidence of invasive pneumococcal diseases in infants up to one year of age is 31.4 children out of 100,000 per year, with death occurring in 0.22% of these children (so one child out of 100,000 children dies per year from this).

Given the reactions my friend’s child and other children have had to this vaccine, when compared to the .0003% chance of my child getting this illness by the age he was vaccinated, I would likely choose not to get this one. I understand that puts my child at a higher risk for pneumococcal diseases. I also take into consideration that we have excellent advancements in medications that can help prevent and treat these rare diseases if they were to occur. I understand the chances my child will have the same reaction are rare; I am someone who doesn’t want to take those chances. In both camps, pro-or against vaccines, aren’t we really just making different versions of the same decision in this particular case: protecting our child from the rare instance of getting the disease, or protecting our child from the rare side-effects?

Another to consider: The Varicella Vaccine (a.k.a. The Chicken Pox vaccine).
Get Chicken Pox as a child, and you’re forever immune. The vaccine can wear off in 5-8 years. 5% of all children vaccinated develop a fever and rash. Since an attenuated live virus is actually administered, this vaccine states openly that it’s more dangerous to immunocompromised patients, and side effects have included pneumonia, meningitis, fever and, well, chicken pox.

No one used to fear and condemn chicken pox like we do now — in fact, parents would have pox parties to GIVE their children the Chicken Pox to make them immune later in life. Personally, I don’t want my children to be vaccinated for this, I want them to let it take its natural course, so they never have to worry about it again. This decision is further compounded by the fact I have some diagnosed autoimmune concerns to add to the mix.

Interesting to note about Varicella: the vaccine is developed with the use of embryonic cell lines from aborted fetuses. Depending on your political views, that’s a fact that, of course, is not widely publicized (though it’s on Wikipedia) and may spark some thought.

Anyways, this is just a little more information on two out of the multiple vaccinations our children get. Isn’t it worth taking the time to get and consider the information on what we’re vaccinating against and what we’re risking in doing so? Then making our own decisions from there? I think so. I just so desperately want the name-calling, anger and insults to stop around this issue: it’s complicated, and both schools of thought have true merit. Parents are all just trying to care for their children the best way they know how, and they should have the right to do that.

There are several wonderful, “thank goodness we have them!” vaccinations that I will surely be administering to my children. There are others I will choose not to.

But, as a moral to all this, can we agree that parents like Sarah… can we at least agree to respect them? Talk about strength: not only does she have to raise her little boy struggling everyday, but to have to be mocked, shunned and nearly bullied by those who want to insist to her that what happened to her son “can’t happen”. That “vaccines can’t damage children”. Some have even called parents like her names, “idiots” for choosing not to get certain other vaccines. I certainly think she has that right. It’s heartbreaking.

Some vaccines can do damage. And one certainly did.

Lesson #80: The Origin of “So A Horse Walks Into a Bar…” Jokes

DSC00468Deep within the jungles of Belize, there is a most unusual place. Whether one would refer to it as an “adventure lodge”, horse stable, a resort or a zoo is all a matter of focus, I guess. But when we arrived and could only access it via boat-on-a-rope, we knew we were in for a treat.

We came upon Banana Bank Lodge as a near afterthought. Staying at the nearby Caves Branch Adventure Lodge, we were offered daily activities as part of our accommodations, and horseback riding was given a casual, “cookie-cutter” description that left us imagining a lazy, laid-back trail ride.

Instead, we were greeted by John Carr — a man who imported himself to Belize from Montana decades ago following his “dream of being a cowboy”. Tall in stature, sauntering around in a peach colored shirt and a white, ten-gallon hat, John introduced himself by first and last name, even when he answered his cell phone. What made him even more enduring, outside of the pride just pouring from him around his lodge, was that he was affectionately followed by a tiny, scraggly dog wherever he went; it even darted its way in and out of the legs of the herds of horses to keep up.

We embarked on our trail ride after spending time with a group of baby horses. Our horses wove in and out of tea trees, wild jungle — up and down steep, muddy, slippery hills, sliding much of the way. We galloped through orange groves, squealing the whole time believing we might go flying at any moment. The ride itself was an absolute blast.

DSC00555We then returned to the main grounds, where we were given a tour of the property’s animal sanctuary. Housed here are all sorts of animals: birds, monkeys and even a jaguar, who have been injured or abandoned as babies by their parents. There’s a toucan on the property who was born with an overbite, rendering him unable to break fruit open on his own and eat. You can see in the picture that the top and bottom of his beak don’t meet.

Nemura Banana BankBy the time all these things were accomplished on what was the typical melting-hot day, we believed our adventure to be over and were very ready to eat. Lunch was planned for the restaurant on the property, and we gathered around at the table with friends we’d made to eat and chat about all we’ve seen.

That’s when our guide and his very tall horse appeared at the doorway. Then in the center of the restaurant, the rider needing to lay down backwards on the horse’s back to scale the doorframe. John Carr reappeared, and invited Blake to sit in the saddle there in the restaurant. Everyone believed that was photo-opportunity enough, people who didn’t even know us jumping to their feet to snap pictures. But then he invited me to ride along with. And next thing I know my new husband was standing behind me on the horse’s rump. I half thought he might be beheaded by a ceiling fan, but the horse was so still, so well behaved, that we were able to stay like this for at least a full minute. We can now return home and take up a circus side-show act. ;)

You’ll hear it again — the old joke “So a horse walks into a bar, and the bartender asks him, ‘Why the long face?’ “. I’ve now learned that there’s a place in the world where this actually happens. I highly recommend a visit to Banana Bank Lodge: you’ll walk away with more stories and experiences in a half-day of time than you’ve been able to tell all year.

Lesson #79: There’s No Better Time of Day Than “Music Time!”

Beware. This video’s incredibly addictive.