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Barbados

Anyhow, after a long day at sea (which wasn't super exciting - while there *is* a lot to do on cruise ships - they're essentially floating cities, after all - most of it is really canned - think D-list family movies and mediocre comedy and musical theater), we reached Barbados.
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Caribbean Part 1 - El Yunque

I've been terrible remiss with posting, mostly because it takes a bit to curate photos that are fun, etc. My apologies. (Not that anyone cares, but hey!)

Anyway, almost as soon as we started dating, KP invited me on a Caribbean cruise that he had tickets for. It would be easy to get me on the docket, it just involved a flight to Puerto Rico, hey, it was the Caribbean! What's not to like?

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Interesting Things Learned from Necklace Gate

Following the necklace problems, I contacted Paypal and Etsy, mostly just to see what could be done. (To be honest, I expected nothing, but it never hurts to check.) Incidentally, I found this pretty handy re: how to arrange contracts in the future to maximize the chances of being able to recoup costs should I commission something that fails miserably (aka breaks in under 5 minutes of intended wear) in the future.

1. ALWAYS order through Etsy (or eBay or another established market). Always. Shady dealers may argue that it costs them money (and it does, but....such is the cost of doing business), but since Etsy will help deal with the dispute/refund money/etc. which makes it MUCH easier to recoup money if the deal goes poorly. (Also, hey, review system!) I'd also recommend using their communication system for details since, again, it's a record that the site has easy access to. (That assumedly would be hard to counterfeit.)

2. Send all Paypal stuff as "good and services" so, again, they can refund. (I believe the period is a scant 90 days, which isn't great, but is a lot better than nothing. Paypal can't refund for anything not marked this way, so...if you're paying for a good or service, mark it as such.

3. Even more interesting, Paypal won't refund for goods and services that are picked up in person. So even if the seller lives right next door, make them ship it. Does it suck? Yes. Is it necessary for your protection? Yes. (Interestingly enough, this waas the part that surprised me. It also makes the necklace seller look all the more shady for insisting that she needed the necklace picked up vs. packing it and putting it in the mail. Did she know this clause? I'm going to guess yes.)

4. Both Paypal and Etsy do keep notes about sellers who get complaints, so even if all fails, it's probably worth it to make note of the complaint with them to (mildly) reduce the risks of other people being cheated.
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Yellowstone - Day Two

We stayed in Mammoth. This is good in some ways (like that it's in the park and near Mammoth), bad in others (like that it's a LONG way from the geyser basin). To make up for this - and my suspicion that even off-season, Yellowstone would be packed, I recommended waking up at 5 am. That way, we'd be at Old Faithful around dawn and could backtrack up the rest of the geyser basin over the course of the day, hopefully seeing most of the main attractions.

JT whined a bit (she is not a morning person), but decided that it was for the best, so long as she didn't have to drive. Anyway, I went to sleep just to be awakened at 5 am by JT and KW...who were both awake, perky, and fully dressed. Apparently they'd woken themselves up at 4:30 am. CRAZY!

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Yellowstone - Day One

Next up on my amazingly fun and extraordinary travels - Yellowstone!

Yellowstone started with a touch of drama. Originally JT and E were supposed to go. But then E couldn't, but B could. But then B dropped out (rather rudely really last minute - like, less than a month before hand, which is less than the cancellation period for the Yellowstone hotels). But then KW joined in, which is awesome, as KW is super athletic, perky, bright, and an all around amazing person, so I think it worked out for the best. (KP was also considering going super last minute, but couldn't make it.)

Anyway, the plan was that we'd drive over, spend three days there, then drive back. It's all rather condensed, especially as its a 12 hour drive from Seattle! Still, most amazing park In The World vs. a long drive? Yeah. I'll take it. ^_^

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Day Five - Valley of Fire

Before I left Zion, I checked out the "neary by attractions" board since, why not? Maybe there was something cool we could stop at. One, Valley of fire, was near Vegas (and on our way), and looked pretty cool. I mentioned it to E, who also liked the idea. But then, we made it by so late that it was closed.

The next morning, though, we woke up early. We had two choices for the morning. Explore Vegas or explore Valley of  Fire. Guess which we chose? ^_^

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Day Four - Zion!

After several days of hiking, E was quite worn down. I wasn't and really wanted to check out the signature hike of Zion - Angel's Landing! (Well, that or the Narrows, but the Narrows weren't exactly doable since snow melt off had massive flash flood warnings. So there.)

I had this fantasy of checking out Angel's Landing at dawn, so decided I'd wake up early, head out there, catch the morning light, then head back and have breakfast with E. We can all guess how well this went...


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