Dreaming on the Dock of the Bay

6-25-2016 6:15am

Just woke up from a crazy dream. Needed to write it down.

So Andrea and I are in the Fiesta and we are driving around some unknown city. It must have been during a road trip. There is a storm coming in and we are trying to figure out how to get back on the road and on our way home. There is a sense of us needing to get the heck out of the city and fast. As we are driving none of our GPS devices are working so we are just trying to go by instinct. We end up on what feels like a ramp bridge to cross a body of water – but it ends up to turn into a dead end pier to the water. Above us are bridges that seem to go over the body of water – we are just stuck underneath them.

Unfortunately we are not the only ones that went down the dock so there a few cars behind us as well….

Continue reading Dreaming on the Dock of the Bay

Last Day in Costa Rica.

So today started off weird. We got up and were excited to have a fun last day. Don was sitting on the bed and he picked up a pair of his pants that had been hanging on a chair when something black and pretty big scurried out of the pants and under the bed. I did not see it myself but Kelsey did and immediately she decided she was going out to the lobby to have a coffee. They were pretty sure it was giant spider. Don and I were freaking out. We got a flashlight and looked under the bed we believed the mysterious creature went. I didn’t see anything. Don thought it was size of the palm of my hand. We looked every where under the bed and under the mattress. We couldn’t find it. It was seriously creeping us out. We knew we had to switch rooms tonight so I started packing things up and putting them on Kelsey’s bed. Everything on Kelsey’s bed was safe because it had been packed up and checked. We checked under Kelsey’s bed also and nothing. We even checked the bathroom. We could not find any trace of this “spider”.

After about 20 minutes of searching and packing I was ready to go out and talk to the front desk about moving rooms. So I left and Don stayed in the room. We couldn’t stay in our current room tonight because it was already booked by someone else. Kelsey and I had talked that morning and said we should stay at the apartment tonight instead of the room that would share a bathroom. Unfortunately we should have made that decision yesterday because the apartment was booked yesterday. The guy told me I could see the other room that had a shared bathroom and decide so I went back to the room to tell Don. When I got back he said he had found the culprit.

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It was a crab! A freaken crab! How in the world did a crab come in the hotel room and hide in Don’s pants hanging on a chair? We will never know. What we do know is a scared crab falling out of clothing looks insanely close to a giant spider. We also found out that crabs are very good hiders in hotel rooms. I don’t know how this guy got to the other side of the room and behind the night stand without us seeing him but he did. I wanted to take him outside but he would not let us near him so who knows if he is still living in our hotel room at Rancho De La Playa.

I told Don the news about our only option for tonight at Rancho De La Playa was the room with the shared bathroom. He was upset because he thought I told the front desk yesterday that we wanted the apartment. We had a miscommunication and he really didn’t want to stay in the room they were offering. I didn’t really want to either but I also just wanted to relax and enjoy our last day.  We went outside to show Kelsey it wasn’t a spider, it was just a crab. We had a laugh and packed our things into the car. The guy at the front desk said we could see the room now so we did. It was a fine room and the bathroom looked okay but we really didn’t want it, especially since it wasn’t much cheaper than a room with a private bathroom. So we told the guy we were gonna do a walk and see if we could find anything else and we would come back and let him know.

We first stopped at Laconda Hotel, the place we had breakfast at the day before. The woman showed us the only room available. It was very nice but no AC…the windows were the same as the ones at Casa Papaya and Kelsey was not ok with this. I couldn’t imagine sleeping without AC so we declined. The next place we went was Villas Kalimba but they had no vacancies. Next was a place called Samara Tree House Inn and it looked very cool, but we would be staying in a tree house basically. It wasn’t really in a tree, it was just an elevated room that overlooked the beach. The problem was it had a giant window with no screen, so this was a no go. We were about to give up but we tried one more place, Casa Del Mar Hotel. It looked very cute and the woman at the front desk was very nice. She had one room available with AC for only one night. We took a look and we were very happy with it. It was definitely an upgrade and it wasn’t expensive, $80 a night. The stay came with free breakfast and Casa Del Mar has their own beach chairs on the beach. The place was great. We went back to Rancho De La Playa and told the guy we would not be staying and we checked out and moved to our new place.

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Our room at Casa Del Mar Hotel.
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Common area at Casa Del Mar Hotel. There was a small pool that isn’t in view here.

Once we moved we saw we were right across the street from Gusto Beach, the place we had drinks last night. We decided to have breakfast there and we could have those amazing iced coffees with ice cream! The breakfast here was good. I loaded up on iced coffee. During breakfast we discussed the plan for the day. Did we want to attempt the snorkeling? Kelsey and I were okay with it or just staying here and relaxing, so we told Don to decide and we would be okay with whatever. He loves to snorkel so if he really wanted to I didn’t want him to miss out. He said that he really didn’t feel like it though and thought it might be better just to have a relaxing day here. We found out we could come back  in sit in their beach chairs at Gusto Beach if we wanted.

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The amazing iced coffee with ice cream at Gusto Beach.

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After breakfast we went back to our new room. I really liked it. We got ready to go to the beach. Don said he wanted to relax a bit in the room so Kelsey and I went ahead. We decided to just hang out at Gusto Beach.

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After about an hour Don showed up. We all swam and had drinks. It was awesome.

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Around 2 or 3 pm we were getting hungry and nachos sounded good. We knew the place next to us had tacos so we decided to move over there. The place was called Lo Que Hay Bar Taqueria. We got some beers and steak nachos. The bartender brought us over free shots. I think they were just extra pina colada but they were delicious! We really liked the bartender and waiters here, they were much more attentive than those at Gusto Beach.

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We hung out here for awhile and debated if we should just have dinner here and stay all night. Ultimately we decided to go to the place Don saw last night so we went back to the room to get ready. The place was called El Lagarto and it looked pretty cool. The food was great. Kelsey had steak with lobster tail.

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Don had steak with shrimp I believe.

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I had the churrasco, of course.

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The food was amazing. We were very glad that we stopped being lazy and came out for our last night. After dinner we wanted to go out for our last night so we went back to Lo Que Hay. We really liked the atmosphere and service here. We did have a spider incident here but it turned out okay. Kelsey didn’t even scream, must have been the drinks.

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Next we went to a small bar that had caught my eye the night before.

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The place was called Microbar Samara. It was much different from anywhere we had been so far in Costa Rica. They had many different Costa Rican craft beers, so that was cool. It also had a hipster feel to it. Kelsey and I enjoyed it, Don was done though so after one drink he went back to the hotel. We were determined to stay up past 10 pm and have fun on our last night in Costa Rica. I think we accomplished that.

 

Playa Samara is Amazing.

Last night was crazy. Kelsey and I didn’t fall asleep until about 3 am and I woke up around 7 because it was so sunny. I didn’t feel tired. We all got out and about around 930 or 10. I had to do a full luggage check on Kelsey’s stuff because she was concerned spiders might have gotten in it last night. This entailed me taking out each piece of clothing and whatever out of her luggage and inspecting it and shaking it out haha. Luckily, I found nothing.

I talked to the woman at the front desk about if we could stay here for the remainder of our trip. She told me that we could stay in our room tonight again but tomorrow it is rented out and we could either move to a room that shares a bathroom with other guests or an apartment that was upstairs with 2 bedrooms. I told her we wanted to think about it and see the rooms later. In the meantime I worked on an email to Sharon the owner of Casa Papaya to explain why we left and what happened. I am hoping we can get some sort of refund but who knows. Before leaving for breakfast we were able to see the apartment we could have for tomorrow night but we made no decision yet.

We decided to have breakfast at a hotel by the beach called Locanda Hotel. The view was amazing and the food was pretty good too.

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We had the traditional Costa Rican breakfast; it came with fruit, rice, beans, and eggs. Sitting here was so relaxing compared to what we went through last night with the spiders. I was surprised to see that during breakfast Sharon had emailed me back about Casa Papaya and it sounds like she is going to be okay with giving us some sort of refund. Her reply sounded very sympathetic as to what we went through and I really didn’t expect that.

The beach was beautiful and we couldn’t wait to relax there. After eating we went to get some water and Kelsey wanted to look for some water shoes. We walked around a bit looking for some when she found some crocs. It was so hot! I was pouring sweat and couldn’t wait to get in the water.

We went back to the beach and found some chairs to relax in. We saw some horses walk by the water, one of them even laid down in the water. It was so cool. Then we all got in the water.

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We enjoyed drinks by the beach and discussed what we were going to do tomorrow, our last day.

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It was sad to think this trip was coming to an end. It has been awesome and I am going to miss my sister since she will be going back to Vegas and us back to Chicago. We discussed going snorkeling tomorrow. I had a detailed description of where the best snorkeling in Playa Samara was. You can see in the picture that the beach wraps around to this point and then there is a small channel and then a small island, called Isla Chora. You can walk to the point and swim in the channel and snorkel there and around the island. There is also a beach at Isla Chora. I had read the snorkeling isn’t the greatest, but it is the best you can find at Playa Samara. All of the snorkeling tours go here, but many people say if you have own snorkel stuff  (which we did) you can do it on your own. We thought maybe we could drive down as far as we could and then park and walk. So far this seems like the plan for tomorrow.

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We went back to the hotel in the afternoon and got cleaned up. Kelsey said her ear was hurting and she thinks she has an ear infection. We knew we could buy antibiotic ear drops at a pharmacy so we asked the front desk where one was. It was around about 5:30 so we had to hurry. We drove to the pharmacy that was a few blocks away and luckily we were able to get ear drops. Then we walked around to look for a place for dinner.  I cannot remember the name of the place we ate but it was very good. After dinner Don wanted to drive around a bit. We drove around and saw a restaurant on the other side of town that Don thinks will be a good place for our last night. On our way back to the hotel Don saw a place that was lit up very nicely and thought we should go.

We parked the car at the hotel and walked over to the place Don saw. It was called Gusto Beach. The atmosphere was very cool. There were little gazebos that had couches in them that people could lounge in. There was even a ladder that went up to your own little elevated table. It was very cool looking. I had a pina colada. Kelsey had sangria, which was ginormous. Don had an iced coffee with ice cream in it and it was so delicious  I was jealous I hadn’t ordered it. We chilled out here for awhile and decided we really liked it and we should probably come back tomorrow at some point. Today was really awesome despite how everything began here at Playa Samara.

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The decor was really pretty here at Gusto Beach.
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Don’s amazing iced coffee with ice cream.
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Kelsey with her ginormous sangria.
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Pina Colada at Gusto Beach.

La Noche de Las Arañas

Don and I have been working on our Spanish and it paid off a bit last night. So let me start from the beginning of The Night of The Spiders.

Last night was going ok in Casa Papaya; we stayed up hanging out until about 11. We turned off all the lights in the house and kept only the kitchen light on in order to try to lure all the bugs there. It seemed to be working because there was a quite a collection of various flying bugs there. We were ok if they stayed there but I think we were all a little afraid to go to bed. Don had an idea of making a bug trap we saw on YouTube. Basically you cut a plastic bottle in half and put the top of the bottle upside down into the bottom half. In the bottom half of the bottle you put water or something sweet to attract bugs. We put a mixture of water, juice, and beer. Then we put the bottle on top of a flashlight pointing up. Then we turned off the kitchen light so the only light was the flashlight. We all got on the couch and got under the mosquito net to watch if the bug trap would work.

Basically this trap works by the light attracting the bugs down to the bottom of the bottle. Once the bugs are in there they get stuck in the water; if they don’t get stuck they have a hard time find their way out because the only way out is the small opening of the bottle.

We were having fun and laughing at how ridiculous this was. We were also laughing at the fact this was the latest we had been up all vacation and it was due to making a bug trap. Don would get up and make adjustments to the trap while Kelsey and I stayed in the safety of the net. No bugs were coming near us but we just felt safer in the net.

After about probably 30 minutes to an hour of talking and watching more bugs get trapped we were becoming more tired. Don turned on the kitchen light and we were about ready to call it night when Kelsey pointed to the window at the bottom of the stairs and said “What is that?” I looked over and saw a trail of what looked like ants coming out from the window. Don went over to investigate and confirmed they were not ants, but spiders. This freaked us all out. Don started spraying the spiders with bug spray and they were falling but not dying. He started stepping on them and hitting the ones on the wall with a flip flop. Kelsey and I were hiding under the bug net on the couch. It seemed that a spider hatchery was occurring in our house. The spiders were about the size of a dime so how big was the mother?!

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I could see that there were spiders on the floor moving towards our stuff so I got out of the net and Kelsey curled up inside the net. She would yell when one got close to one of us or our stuff.  I was stomping on spiders now too. I don’t know how many we killed. Maybe 50, maybe 100, but they kept coming. I noticed that spiders were on the opposite wall now. How long had this been occurring? We had been sitting in the dark focused on a bug trap we made while spiders infiltrated our living space. They were not stopping and Kelsey and I made the call that we could not stay here. I felt extremely disappointed and blamed myself for picking out this place. How could I have known though. If you know Kelsey, you know she is extremely afraid of spiders. She pretty much screams if she sees one. She handled it pretty well though, but I knew even if we were able to kill them all it wouldn’t be good to stay here. What if more came throughout the night when we went to bed?

As Don kept killing we started looking for a new hotel. By this time it is after midnight. Thank God we had WiFi. I found three places that looked good. They were all down in the town of Playa Samara. It’s only about a 5 minute drive. Don called the first one and no answer. Next we called a place called Rancho De La Playa and a man picked up. He did not speak very much English. Don used his Spanish to ask if there was a room for 3. He explained our situation with the arañas. The man understood and told us to come.

We packed up our stuff so fast, while still making sure no spiders were on our stuff. I cleaned up dishes that we used and we made sure the house was back in order except for the excessive amount of bugs and spiders dead everywhere.

When we went outside it was raining and extremely dark. This was like a scary movie. We got to Rancho De La Playa and the man helped us park in the secure gated parking. Then he allowed me to check out the room before agreeing. The room was good, not the best but good. I talked to the man in my minimal Spanish about being able to stay for 2 additional nights. He showed me that we could definitely have it for one more but we will have to talk to the day staff for Friday night.

We got settled in it was about 1:30 am. We were all pretty amped up still. Kelsey and I decided we might as well have some beer. Don went to bed. I stayed up with Kelsey. We talked about the crazy night, passed the bottle back and forth, and then eventually we fell asleep together. The lights remained on through the night.

I know you’re probably wondering about all the crazy pictures we took of the spiders…well sorry no pictures.  It was so creepy and crazy we didn’t even think about documenting it until later. Kelsey, however, did try to take some pictures of dead bugs before we left.

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A few dead bugs can be seen here on the counter. They are mostly ants. This is the flashlight we used for the bug trap.
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More dead bugs and probably spiders on the floor. 
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Kelsey having a much needed drink after the spider incident in our new hotel room.

Chocolate Tour and Making Our Way to Playa Samara

Sadly when we woke up this morning we had our last breakfast at Volcano Lodge and Springs. This place has been awesome. The rooms are great. We have spent so much time at the pool and hot springs. It was actually sad to leave but there was excitement to travel to another part of Costa Rica.

This morning was relaxing because we didn’t have anything planned until 10am and we went to bed fairly early last night. I woke up and packed. Then I sat on our patio for a bit. We went to breakfast. The breakfast here has been great. We are definitely going to miss that since we are going to a house and will have to fend for ourselves now. After breakfast we decided to check out the little trail behind our room. There wasn’t much there, but we were happy to see that the ants are back in front of our place. It’s just cool to see them working and carrying these flowers to wherever they are going.

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The ants travel this same route so often they have made a path.

We checked out of Volcano Lodge around 9am and headed to a chocolate tour. Chocolate and coffee tours seem like a popular thing to do here and we found this place last night that looked cool so we decided to check it out before we leave the area. It was called Don Olivo Chocolate Tour. When we got there it just looked like someone’s small house. The property turned out to be very large as it expanded far behind the house into several orchards of fruit trees and a plethora of Costa Rican crops and plants. Our tour guide was named Minor and he was great. This is a small family owned farm started by Minor’s grandfather, who we learned had passed away not too long ago. Minor’s father was also there. The first thing we did was make sugar cane water. It was sweet and very tasty. We placed stalks of sugar cane into a grinder which then poured out into a pitcher. What was interesting was that the cane was extremely heavy at first but after squeezing out all the water it became paper light. The property had all sorts of plant life: papaya, mango, bananas, pineapple, medicinal plants, and of course cocoa. We were able to try lots of different fruits. The tour was really informative. Minor spoke about the history of the farm and some of the struggles they go through. He also pointed out many birds and wildlife.

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Making the sugar cane water. This grinder had a crank that squeezed the cane through a grinding press and drained into the pitcher.
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Papaya. This was a huge papaya grove on the property. Interesting fact, is that the papaya fruit has a defense mechanism  that causes it to bleed when the skin is injured. The liquid that it bleeds will irritate and burn human skin. Harvesting is done with gloves and carefully. Even throwing the fruit around will cause the liquid to spray around.
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Pineapple. Minor’s father cut a fresh Pineapple for us and we ate it. It was delicious.

Probably the coolest part of the tour was actually seeing how chocolate is made. He explained that the chocolate we taste from the stores is nothing like theirs. Most mass produced chocolates are made with a lot of additives and chocolate substitutes. Once we tried it we understood what he meant. Real chocolate is only made with two ingredients – cocoa powder and sugar.

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Real Chocolate comes from the cocoa tree. This is a picture of the Cocoa fruit. In Costa Rica, there is a fungal disease currently affecting Cocoa Trees, killing approximately 30% of the yield through “black rot”.
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Flowers from a cocoa plant.
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Once the cocoa fruit is hand picked from the tree the seeds are removed and put into a bucket to ferment. You can smell the fermentation process at work. I believe the seeds only ferment for 4 days. No more, no less.
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Next the seeds are dried in a greenhouse. Once dried, the seeds are ready to be sold to manufacturing companies. Most Cocoa farms only take the process to this state. Minor’s farm however goes a step further as their cocoa only goes to local restaurants and only 1 or 2 big customers.
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Next the cocoa seeds are roasted
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Then the cocoa seeds are put in this grinder that cracks the shells.
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When the seeds are ground up the shells are left behind. The best way to separate the seed from the shell is by picking them up in a bowl and letting the wind carry the shell away as you pour the seed back into the container.
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Next the cocoa seed is put into another grinder in order to ground it up into a fine powder. This is done twice in order to produce a very fine powder.
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This is ground up 100% pure chocolate. It smelled great but the taste was very bitter.
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By adding brown sugar, a substance more like the chocolate we all know can be made. This is 90% cocoa, 10% sugar. It tasted much different than the mass produced chocolate we normally eat which is usually made with many other ingredients and most of the time with zero real cocoa.

After we tried the chocolate Minor and his father made us hot chocolate. It was good; a little hard to drink because it was an extremely hot day. We finished the tour around 11:30 and we were ready to get on the road for Playa Samara.

About an hour into the ride we stopped at the German Bakery for lunch. We had seen a ton of signs for this place on the way to Arenal so we decided on the way out we should check it out. It was called Tom’s Pan German Bakery.  The lunch here was great. I had the bratwurst sandwich. Kelsey had a sandwich also. Don had a meatloaf that came with an egg. The food was really good, and the German beers were huge. . We didn’t try any of the bakery items although they also looked good. Just take a look here. We really enjoyed this place and it was definitely worth the stop

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After lunch we drove about 3 more hours to Playa Samara. The changes in landscape were pretty cool. It definitely looked a lot dryer. Once we got close to Samara we started looking for Casa Papaya, our beach house for the next 3 nights.

It was pretty easy to find but it was up in the hills a bit. I kept thinking I did not want to drive up here at night. When we finally got to the house we tried the code for the gate to get in and it didn’t work. We tried it so many times. The owner, Sharon, was out of the country for our stay so we had a contact named Melissa that we could call in case of any problems. So we called her and she didn’t pick up. We had directions to her office in town so we got in the car and left. It was already close to 5:30 so I was nervous we would not see her. We made it to the office and me and Kelsey went inside. We looked lost and this woman asked us if we needed help. I said “yeah we are looking for Melissa.” She told us she was Melissa, so we explained our situation. We went into our office and after about 20 minutes of making phone calls we got the codes we needed. We went back to the house and got in. We found out the old owner, which I had been in contact with earlier, lived up on the hill further. She came down to assist us and she did not seem happy Melissa bothered her to get in the house. But oh well, we were finally here.

The house looked ok. There were a lot of ants and flying ants and Melissa explained it had just rained for the first time in over 100 days so there might be more bugs. It was a little concerning but I hadn’t seen any spiders so maybe it was ok. I didn’t really see any mosquitoes either. We heard a noise outside and Melissa told us those were howler monkeys. I couldn’t wait to possibly see them in the morning. The place had a nice looking pool and patio area with a grill so we planned on maybe grilling out the next evening. Casa Papaya also has another house on the property that can be rented called Casa Mango. It’s a bit smaller and no one was there right now, but we were told someone would be there later in the week. After Melissa left we got settled in and decided we should go to town to eat because we had no food, only beer.

We went out to eat at a Mexican place in Playa Samara called Coco’s Mexican Restaurant. It was pretty good, just average Mexican food. We walked around a bit then we stopped at a sports bar for a drink. We went back to the house and decided to all hang out in the living room. There were more ants and flying bugs. There were a couple of geckos that were making crazy noises. We never knew they made noises! They chirped. We had some beer and played War. We tried not to focus on the bugs. So far though no spiders. Now it was getting late though and we wanted to try to sleep….but things were going to get much crazier…and that will be in the next update.

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