Monday, February 23, 2015

A figure skating book: One Wish by Robyn Carr

Recently, a publisher contacted me and asked me if I would review a book for them.  Why me? Because it is a figure skating book.  I'm all about figure skating getting more attention from all angles, so I agreed to post about the book on the blog.  They did send me a copy of the book- and I read most of it, but in the end, I decided I couldn't really review it.  See, I'm not a professional book reviewer, so I don't really know how to post critically about something that isn't really my style.  This book has a figure skater as a main character, but it isn't really a figure skating book- it's a romance novel.

If romance novel's are your style, you might enjoy this one.  The figure skating bits I read rang true enough to the real world of skating that you won't be distracted about them as a skater (The only thing that stood out to me as weird was one point where the skater was warming up doing double axels, figure eights, and spins- and it seemed like an odd mix of skills to just throw out there, but it was a 'fun' warm up, so maybe?), and might enjoy the interplay of your figure skating with your reading.

"One Wish" comes out in March 2015.  It is 7th in a series about the same town, but I think it stood alone having not read any of the others.

From the press release:
     Growing up, all Grace Dillon ever wished for was to be like everyone else. She was still known then as Izzy Banks, the fiercest and most renowned competitor in the world of figure skating—a world that excluded her from any normal life while her overbearing mother’s great wealth and expectations prevented her from fitting in with her athletic peers. So, when Izzy Banks, after winning Olympic gold at age twenty-three, chose to walk away from it all (including her family fortune) to reinvent herself as quiet, unassuming Grace Dillon, owner and operator of a thriving flower shop business in Thunder Point, Oregon—where even her friends have yet to recognize her—she did so without regret. Now, five years later and loving her new life, there’s only one thing keeping Grace from feeling completely normal...having a real romantic relationship for the first time in her life.
     High school teacher and weekend warrior Troy Headley may have a reputation as an easygoing, carefree bachelor who prefers his romantic attachments to be brief and uncomplicated, but his
broken heart tells a different story. Still healing from the wounds of that failed romance, all Troy
wants for now is someone with whom to have some fun, no strings attached...and Grace Dillon
looks to Troy like someone who could use a good fun coach to show her how to enjoy life before it
Grace knows what the score is with Troy—he’s still licking his wounds from his last relationship,
and he’s just reaching out to her as another lonely heart—so she needs to guard her heart because it
would be easy to lose it to him. For his part, Troy knows Grace is a bit of a mystery woman who
likes deflecting attention away from her past, which is a definite warning sign to him not to get
serious, but despite that, Troy finds himself wanting more with Grace than he ever has with anyone
     When Grace’s former life finally catches up to her in Thunder Point, however, she knows things are changing and getting more serious than anything Troy signed up for in this relationship. Grace isn’t prepared to be completely real, though, with a guy who’s known to like his relationships
uncomplicated, but as long as she isn’t ready to open up to him, Troy can’t tell if she’s someone to
whom it’s worth giving his heart. Unless something gives between them, Grace’s wish for real love
will remain just that—a wish.

Note: I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive a free copy of the book.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Skating and dancing update

I started ballroom dancing with Hawkeye Ballroom when the semester started. However, owing to the fact that I've been incredibly busy with work and life, I've only made it to 1 social and 2 lessons.  Still, it is quite fun, and I hope to become more involved with them next semester and maybe compete.  It is a lot more affordable than the studio close to me (same instructors though...) but sadly all the way across town.  It is also mostly college students, though there are enough grad students mixed in, and I look young, that I don't feel out of place.  Anyone can join, so it doesn't matter that I no longer work for the university.

Thus far I've had a cha-cha, tango, foxtrot, and east-coast swing lessons. We do 50 minute lessons, working on 2 dances each lesson.  You rotate partners the entire lesson, so you dance with everyone, and are only partner less (there are a few more girls than guys) every few rotations.  It's a fun system.

Today was Columbus Day, and also the skating rink manager's birthday.  Why do these two things matter? Well the first meant I didn't have to work. The second meant ice skating was free today.

So I went.

Here's my thoughts: thank goodness it was free!  Thousands of dollars of skating lessons have been washed down the drain.  I'm a pretty solid "ready to enter freestyle" level.  I've got very tenative crossovers, decent forward stroking, good in place turns- but not so pretty while I am moving.  I did not try any jumps (still a bit nervous about the neck....) and I have a decent beginner backspin (that foot is no longer crossed, and it is wobbly, but on the outside edge) and an okay first scratch spin (I can cross the foot, but it is slow with only a few revolutions.)

The biggest issue was my feet HURT.  My boots are way too stiff for me now.  I upgraded to the Premier's because I was getting better, but it is way too much boot for me now :(  I still like the blades though- they still make pretty edge noises when I lean on them in crossovers.  I only managed about 30 minutes (a bit less) before I had to leave.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Group dance classes

But, I did take one group class last weekend and was really excited about it.  There is a dance studio in our town, but they had no groups this month, so I was going to their branch in a city about 30 minutes from here. They also didn’t have beginner classes this month but I was told to take the second level class. I’m glad, because this class is really basic that I can’t imagine how slow the beginner class is.

The class covers East Coast Swing, Cha-Cha, and Salsa.  In our 40 minute class we covered some swing and cha-cha.
For swing, which I’ve done before, we learned a left under arm turn.  Like I said- very basic.  For cha-cha, which I haven’t learned before we learned a step I can’t remember that opens up to the sides, and then a right under arm turn. Since I hadn’t really done cha-cha before, I also learned the basic step. I just pretended I already knew it, and followed along J

The groups were neat.  In this class there were the same number of men as women, so that was nice.  We learn the new steps in two lines facing each other (leads/follows) and then pair off. But rather than stay with your own partner, we would do the step once (sometimes with music) and then rotate to a new partner. I thought this was really nice because you got used to doing the steps with someone else’s style; but also if (for example with the cha-cha basic) I wasn’t real comfortable with the step, but the guy was also not comfortable with it; I rotated to a new partner, where the guy could help me out a bit, so by the time I got back to the first partner (there were only 3 guys) I could help him out; rather than us both fumbling through it.

I’m really looking forward to picking up classes once I’m cleared to have the brace off.  Even more I’m looking forward to sleeping again and for the pain (which isn’t too severe, but still sucks) to go away. But also dancing!

Monday, May 5, 2014

First Waltz

Last Friday I took my first ballroom private lesson. A grad student who dances with Hawkeye Ballroom and who was captain (?) of her college’s ballroom team when she was an undergrad offered me lessons. She isn’t a pro- but that means her lessons are a lot lower in price than the pros at the studio. Much more in line with what I paid for skating.

I had previously done some waltz when I took an 8 week ballroom class at Kirkwood, but other than 1-2-3 and a box step, don’t really know much about it.

So I told her that I was more interested in the route of competition dance, not social dance (even though I doubt I’ll actually compete) and that I wanted to learn the technical side of dancing. I think that made her happy because she (let’s call her E.) only competes, and doesn’t do social dance.

So we learned the basic box step, and I also learned how to use my feet in it.  First- feet always come together, and are in parallel. Despite having horrible turnout for ballet, every time I looked at my feet, I could see them slightly turned out or with a gap between them.  Oops! Need to work on parallel.
I also learned how to lead with my heel on certain steps, or toes on other.  And a bit about the rise-fall, and having a long stretched out floating step on “2”.

We did box steps for awhile, and then in hold, and then adding in more specifics of feet, and then took it to travel across the floor.

At the end of the lesson we started working on what I think she called a “whisk” which is the step needed to turn the corner. Apparently you can’t just step on your partner’s foot, say sorry, and then face the other direction. I don’t know- it’s always worked for me before J. Anyhow, the whisk is a step out of the basic step, where you cross over and shift your weight (I have problems shifting) and then chasse forward (also have isssues here) and then you are facing 90 degrees from where you started, so you can continue down the next side.

So mostly, what I came away from this half-hour with was “waltz is hard.”

We are going to wait until finals are over and set up lessons for the summer. E. has a year left with grad school, so then I will have the same issue I had with Carson- but she is applying to med schools, so hopefully she gets in the one here!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Adventures in ballroom

I miss dancing as much as skating (I do miss skating, but it just isn't working to be doing it anymore), but didn’t want to do the ballet classes again. The adult classes don’t seem to go anywhere, and I’m a bit tired of hanging out with kids (part of the reason I’ve grown slightly less fond of skating- the other is that I was always getting hurt.)

I decided that I would try ballroom.

Um, how did I manage to find an activity that costs more than skating?  The group classes are somewhat reasonable: 50 dollars a month for 45 minute classes. I paid $45 a month for 30 minute skating classes.  But the privates- OMG! It is $85 for a 45 minute lesson.

I’m not sure if my husband will social dance with me (he tells me if I really like it, he’ll give it another try) so competition dancing seems to be where I’m going with this. I would need private lessons.  BUT OH MY GOSH! I thought skating was too expensive. I’m a bit worried this isn’t going to last too long…

Anyhow- my only previous experience with ballroom was through the community college. Kevin’s friend wanted a group of us to sign up for it, so Kevin and I did. It wasn’t a great experience. The class was huge, so there was no personal attention. The music was AWFUL (how many times can you listen to Mack the Knife in a single day? And then again and again every class of the session).  And our dancing wasn’t that great.

This time, I decided to try class at a studio closer to my house. They do a free 45-minute private lesson, so I did that yesterday. I met with the instructor and we did basic steps for Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep, Cha-Cha, Rhumba, East Coast Swing, and Samba.  Samba is out- that bounce is HARD! (He only showed me that because I said Samba and Quickstep are my favorite dances to watch. They don’t teach either of those in their group classes.)

From that little intro, I realized 1) If dancing with someone who is leading me well, I know these basic steps pretty well, but not much else. And 2) Rhumba is totally different than I remember it being in the community college class. There I just remember it being a disaster…  I also had never done tango before and it was fun- I like the little lungey moves.

Also, the closed hold was way easier to do in ballroom than ice dance. Unlike the number of times I stabbed Carson with a toe pick, I never kicked the instructor

So, I had hoped this lesson would let me pick between the Ballroom and Rhythm classes, but I couldn’t decide which I liked best, so I decided to do both for the first month. Here’s the awful part: Group lessons are at 9:00 PM!!! I’m usually in bed by then. Uggh… but I’d really like to try it, and not through Kirkwood, so I figure I’m just going to have to stay up late. It’s like when synchro got their ice time changed to super late. It was worth it though.

So starting Monday I have ballroom (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot) and Wednesday Rhythm (Rhumba, Cha-Cha, Swing) classes for the month of May.

I bought a pair of dance shoes, because while they say you can just wear any dress shoes and don’t need specialty ones, well, I have exactly ZERO appropriate shoes in my house. I own a single pair of heels and they have no backs.  They say they take a week to get in, so hopefully I’ll have them for at least half the classes. 

I’m excited to see where I go with this.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A post

I interupt this totally empty blog to say:

I'm going to Skate America!!!!

When they announced it was going to be in the Chicago suburbs, it was a given. I can drive there- and unlike nationals which takes a week, the event takes just a weekend, so only a day of vacation time.

When they release tickets, I hope to get an all event pass.  Guess I will just have to wait until prices come out to see if I get nosebleed seats...

My hotel is booked though. I'm working on finding a roommate, but it was pretty cheap even if I don't.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Scuba Trip Report

Note: This will be very long. This is the report I posted to scubaboard- over multiple posts.

Skittles's Trip Review- December 2013

Okay, so this review is going to be really long... I'll start with the dives and then post about the trip in general, since I'm sure you mostly want to hear about the dives.
For those who don't want to read the whole thing, here is a quick recap: Scuba with Alison was AMAZING, Cozumel diving was AMAZING, I didn't suck nearly as much as I thought I would, I didn't get legionnaires staying at the Sabor and the hotel was actually fairly nice.

Dive Op: Scuba with Alison. This was a FABULOUS choice. I can't imagine anything better. I had a lot of pre-trip contact with Alison (I tried to keep it down, but I think it was like 8 emails...) and she was extremely accommodating, knowing that I was a beginner, and a very nervous beginner. She promised me that the first day we would stay at depths that were my comfort level (and she kept the promise). We used her rental BCs and regs and they were excellent quality. She also provides a computer with all rentals, and we noticed others who used rental fins, masks, and shorties- so she's full service. The use of rental gear was included in our quoted price. We brought our own SMBs (and my husband uses an air transmitter) and we left them attached to the BC (/reg) all week- so we used the same gear everyday. We also left our fins onboard which meant we didn't have to carry stuff around everyday.

We got picked up every morning on the dock at the Sabor (which no longer charges!) by the Maximus. Okay, so in Cozumel, from my observations it appears there are slow boats, fast boats, and then the Maximus. When Carlos put the boat to speed we FLEW by the other boats that were already flying. My commute was short, but if we were coming from the Caleta, I would be happy to be on the Maximus. It was a very comfortable boat as well: nice shaded area, padded seats, plenty of room for 8 divers and Alison and Carlos. You can giant stride or roll off the Maximus, and are assigned to a position and group for your entry. I mostly did giant stride but had to roll one day.
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Alison runs her dives by letting each person dive their own tank/computer. She gives each buddy pair the pre-determined choice of going up together or the better air consumption buddy pairing up with another team and staying down longer. She accompanies each diver on their safety stop, and watches them surface AND get picked up before rejoining the group waiting below her (though she does a good job of watching that group too- quite the multi-tasker. She is very safety concious, going to the extreme of actually checking her new diver's gauges for them! I noticed she did that day 1, asked me a lot about my air on day 2, and by day 3 she left it to me to tell her, knowing that I paid good attention. She stayed with the more shallow divers and let the better divers go deeper with their buddy (or pony).

Carlos was an excellent Captain and I don't think I ever waited more than 2 minutes to get picked up after surfacing. And that "long" wait, Alison actually popped up out of the water to yell at him, to make sure he saw us. The first day we watched two divers float for over half an hour- we could see their boat, but Carlos couldn't get them on the radio. Those divers were in no danger, with like 20 boats around and pretty calm seas, but man, I'm sure that was a long float. That's when I learned it is important to know your boat's radio channel, in addition to its name

Alison also went out of her way to pick up some sea sick meds for my husband, since we were not staying in town. It was a 'going the extra mile' thing we really appreciated.

Dives: Day 1

On the pier the first day I was ready to run away. I seriously had no idea what I was thinking. Why the hell did I want to do this? Once on the boat, I was clearly showing my nervousness, because halfway through the briefing Alison actually stopped and asked me if I was okay. I told her I'd be fine once I was in the water (I was) but I'm sure I didn't instill much confidence in her, or those who would be diving with me.

Before choosing sites, she asked me if I wanted to go to 20 ft, 40 ft, or 60 ft. I told her 60 would be fine, and she said okay, maybe a bit lower, don't go beyond 70, and we headed to Palancar Gardens.

Palancar Gardens
Max depth: 67 ft, Average Depth: 47 ft
Temperature 82 degrees (it was this everywhere all week, so I'm not going to include it anymore)
Dive time: 42 minutes

This was a great first dive. There was basically no current, so it was easy. I was one of two people who got to giant stride off the boat, and the giant stride from the boat is a million times easier than giant striding from a dock at the quarry (I usually freak out after jumping in, I didn't) I mostly held onto Kevin's hand (Alison had actually offered on the boat to hold onto mine...but I told her I'd let my buddy deal with me.) I had trouble descending and got a reminder to exhale. I think I was having trouble exhaling, because I didn't put ANY air in my BC the entire dive.

The coral here was absolutely beautiful as were the large variety of fish. We saw a nurse shark, a green moray eel, and a jawfish. I had no problems at all during the dive, so it was a good start! We agreed ahead of time my husband would come up when I ran out of air, and he told me today after looking at the graphs he did his safety stop with 1000 psi. Sorry honey! However, as nervous as I was, going up on my own would not have been acceptable!

Columbia Shallows
Max depth: 30 ft, Average Depth: 23 ft
Dive time: 76 minutes
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I wasn't at all surprised to go to this dive site as research here showed it was an easy one I'd be at for sure. I was surprised how long my dive was! (I think the longest dive in our group was 2 hours!) I noted that the coral here was less colorful than at Palancar gardens but there was a lot of life. We saw schools of fish, a spotted eel, sting rays, nurse shark, a scorpion fish.
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Because I hadn't used any air in my BC the previous dive, Alison added 2 pounds of weight to my belt (putting me at 16 pounds), but she took it out when I was having trouble holding the safety stop. Turns out 14 pounds was right (at the end of the week, I think I could have gone to 12), and I was just holding a lot of air in my lungs.
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This was one of two dives shallow enough to take our camera on (husband manned the camera, not me- though I have dove with a camera before. It's a little point and shoot, so it doesn't really take much from the dive.)

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Dives: Day 2

Day 2 I felt a lot better on the pier, and was raring to go after such a great day the day before. Well, it was Friday the 13th and I didn't get off to a good start. Instead of stepping into the boat, I decided to belly flop into it... Alison was holding my arm to help me step in when it happened, and she pulled up, which probably cushioned my fall quite a bit, but I have a bad shoulder, so I started off the day in a bit of shoulder pain, and later found that my hip was bruised fairly well, to the point I had to start sleeping on the other side for a few days. What an entrance!

Palancar Caves
Max depth: 68 ft, Average Depth: 47 ft
Dive time: 44 minutes

Palancar Caves also had beautiful coral and I saw my first turtle. We mostly saw small fish. It was here that I decided I did not like swim throughs. We obviously only did very small ones, with lots of light- but I still did not like the single file line. I didn't like to worry about getting kicked, and I didn't like that it was hard to determine if my buddy behind me was okay. Thankfully, we only did very few of these during the week.

Cedral Wall
Max depth: 62 ft, Average Depth: 44 ft
Dive time: 50 minutes

This was the first dive I did that was a real drift dive (and while there were a few others with current, this might have been the only real drift of the whole week.) I thought it felt like being on a moving walkway at the airport, but set to a slightly higher speed. In general, I liked the drift, but I was really frustrated when we'd stop to look at something, because it was very hard to kick against the current.

However, this was the dive where there were really things to stop to look at- saw 3 GIANT eagle rays. It was just the most amazing thing (I think people who stayed down longer than me saw even more). We also saw tons (more than 5) big turtles (including one that had a whole bunch of fish on his back- beautiful) and lots of large fish. There was also a nurse shark that was out swimming.

Seeing all the awesome stuff made the difficulty of drifting worth it.

Paradise Reef
Max depth: 38 ft, Average Depth: 31 ft
Dive time: 66 minutes

During the day, we planned a night dive- I think almost everyone on the boat came. For night dive, instead of going up individually at 700 psi, we would go up as a group at 500 psi. We had one major air hog on the boat, so I think the plan was to get him a 100 tank instead of an 80. IIRC, that happened, and he still used his air up so quickly that Alison changed the plan and she brought him up and the rest of the group stayed together, and then we went up together about 25 minutes later! I'm also happy to note, I was not the catalyst to going to the safety stop (not sure who was, actually- I think it was the girl who was the buddy of the guy who went up first.)

For this dive, Alison provided everyone with rental flashlights and CVChief gave us all glow bands he had left over from Carnivale. We put them in pairs by color so you could tell who buddy pairs were. Alison had briefed me that this dive might be a little harder for me, maybe a bit more claustrophobic, but it turns out training in a mudhole was a good way to get ready for this, because it was my best dive to date and the first time I had more air than my husband at the end of the dive (I had 750 back on the boat, he had about 550). I actually thought one of the cooler things about the night dive was seeing the flashlights of the other groups. It was like being in an alien movie with dim lights everywhere.

The dive itself was very beautiful. The coral that is dull orange during the day was a brilliant red, but wasn't "coming to life" as much as I expected. However, we saw a ton of huge crabs and lobsters and a ton of octopodes (see other thread for discussion on how to properly pluralize octopus). I loved seeing them change color as they would situate themselves on the coral.

This dive did make me wonder what the "night dive" cert class is- because it seemed like the only difference for night diving was waiting until the sun went down to do it. Of course, our dive was very shallow.

Thanks to CVChief for breaking me out of the Sabor and driving me around the island

Dives: Day 3

Palancar Bricks
Max depth: 73 ft, Average Depth: 43ft
Dive time: 52 minutes

Our tour of Palancar continued (I found out when we got home we missed Horseshoe- guess I'll have to go back to Cozumel). This dive was another beautiful one- saw a giant nurse shark hiding under a rock, saw a few turtles (turtles are the best, except eagle rays). This dive kept my "I hate swim throughs" mantra- but for other reasons. See, my fear of swim throughs is because of other people who aren't watching what they are doing and screwing me over. This was a problem TWICE during the swim through- first was the embarassing one- I saw a guy who was above, and behind me, was descending to get into the swim through. He didn't see me at all. I reached my hand up, to so that he wouldn't just fall right on top of me, and rather than hit his chest, or his leg, or you know, any other part of him, I basically grabbed his junk. That was a fun one. And my husband flooded his mask laughing because he saw it happen. Right after that happened (he was a good sport about it on the boat- basically saying it was his fault since he had no idea I was there and wasn't watching where he was going), he kicked to go ahead of me and so his buddy- who was quite a bit behind me, then starts kicking to try to pass me- kicking me in the face in the process. Don't pass people in swim throughs! I was not amused.

This dive was also the one where Alison went into a head first torpedo ascent to grab a guy from about 95 feet. Turns out his computer was dead, and he didn't think to mention it to her- so he had no depth gauge at all! About 10 minute of this dive was also spent hanging out around 35 feet waiting for a girl who was having trouble equalizing. She spent so much time at 5 ft, we all thought she had thrown in the towel and was waiting for the boat to come get her! There is a thread in the basic scuba discussions about how to piss off a DM, and I wanted to contribute something someone else did on this dive: dive through caves at 60 feet while the rest of your group waits at 30-40 while the dive master is at 5-10 feet and can't see you! (The guy was a decent diver, but terrible at being in a group.)

During the surface interval this dive was described as a "circus down there". It made me feel slightly better about my diving that she'd tell me that...
You will all be shocked to hear that these were all cruise divers.

French Reef
Max depth: 59ft, Average Depth: 44 ft
Dive time: 45 minutes
This was the first time we saw lionfish. I feel so bad they have to die, because they are so pretty. My husband spotted the first one, but Alison missed it (she got the second one). It was funny watching him try to signal what it was- we have no idea what the signal for lionfish is. First he tried to show a mane around his head to me, then he punched at it, and we have this inside joke about how he wants to punch a dolphin, so I got really excited thinking there was a dolphin there! Finally, he went with a machine gun like signal, and Alison figured out what he was saying. It was a nice display of what real skill looks like the way she whipped her BC off to get her spear and then put it back on. I basically go through a cirque-du-soleil routine when I doff and don my gear underwater.

On this dive we were promised to see a pipe horse, and of course, I'm up at my safety stop when Alison writes on her slate "pipehorse below" and after I went up the group saw a giant loggerhead turtle, so this was more about could have beens than actually saw for me We did see a number of giant lobster, and again the coral was really pretty.

I went up early because my tank started 200 psi short (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and I think I was a little stressed because this was the first dive where my NDLs were getting low at all. We were in a swim through (do not like! And this one was long) when it got down to like 8 minutes... I swam up a bit, but I still don't like it in the single digits!

CVChief had called us on the boat (it is really hard to hear a phone conversation on a boat) and told us to invite everyone on the boat for dinner. Alison and Carlos had plans, 4 of the divers were cruisers, but the other pair and Kevin and I all went to dinner with them- more about that after the dive part of the review.  

Dives Day 4

So the night before (day 3) it was looking like the port would be closed on Monday (day 5), so day 4 was our last day. I had asked Alison if we could go somewhere shallow enough that we could take our camera and Carlos suggested Paradise Reef. Alison was NOT interested until I told her we would take a taxi home (knowing that the reason was likely because Paradise was way North, and she'd have to take the boat all the way down south to drop us off again.) Thankfully, my taxi ended up being CVChief, so it's really affordable (for me...)

The night before she also told me we would be going to Santa Rosa Wall or Columbia deep. This set my nerves off big time again, as I know both of these are not 'easy, beginner' type dives. (Maybe some of the others I did aren't either- but I didn't know their reputation by name.) I know Santa Rosa is a dive that TONS of people do, but I also recognize it as the dive that a fair number of divers are lost at each year... So I was kind of freaking out again.

We get on the boat, and we are going to Santa Rosa. Additionally because of the mix of divers on the boat, of the two of us who giant strided the day before, one of us has to give up our spot to a veteran who always has claim to it. I had been doing so much better, so I gave up my spot and did a roll. I asked to roll in group 2, knowing that Kevin (and Alison) would already be in the water- for some reason, that made me feel a little more comfortable. Except that I was told I did a backflip, my first roll went really well, except I didn't go right when I was supposed to, when Carlos said go, I said "I can't yet!" but then I went and it was no problem. My second, not so much on the okay- I actually screamed a bit from the pain, but wasn't seriously hurt. However when I got back to the hotel I found out that my upper calf has a huge, 3-inch bruise from hitting the boat. Apparently I straightened my legs out when rolling. Don't do that. Luckily, the Maximus was okay. (The bruise is currently like 10 vivid shades of purple, yellow, and red.)

Santa Rosa Wall
Max depth: 72 ft, Average Depth: 52ft
Dive time: 48 minutes
Despite being terrified of this dive, it turned out to be one of my favorites. The coral life was absolutely beautiful. And seeing the drop off was really incredible. I'm sure you can tell by my depths that I didn't go over the side of the wall at all, staying on top of it instead. Thankfully because of the way Alison runs her groups, my insistence on not going deep didn't really effect others, who were still able to do their dives over the side. I don't have any note about seeing fish or anything else here, I just remember it was beautiful and I can really see how it is one of the signature dives of Cozumel. We were really lucky that there was just a light current and a beautiful day. I don't know if I would have liked it as much if the currents were strong.

Paradise Reef
Max depth: 42 ft, Average Depth: 33 ft
Dive time: 62 minutes

Compare this to the picture of me at Columbia Shallows- I got so much better! I never had terrible buoyancy issues, but my trim got so much better as the week went on.
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Lots to see- and totally different from the night dive. I would have never known it was the same place. Spotted eels, jawfish (that I found myself!), black durgens, rays, queen angelfish, splendid toadfish (I found one myself too!), and a drum fish. When we came up it was pouring rain, brrr. But you'd never know underwater. I also was really amused this dive by all the snorkelers that were overhead.
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Dives Day 5
So unfortunately for Alison, who was doing a happy dance the day before about a potential day off, the port did not close on Monday. She sent us an email saying we had to have a late start for cruisers, the port was open "with caution", the water would be really rough and potentially tough on Kevin's stomach- are we sure we still wanted to go? I felt really badly, but since this was our last chance to dive for probably a couple of years, we said we really did want to go as long as the cruisers didn't cancel (we didn't think she would run the boat with just 2 people).

The cruisers did end up coming out, so we attempted to stay on the dock and not get blown over by the wind until the boat got to us. Thankfully, despite the rough water I was able to get on the boat without issue (I think everyone was waiting for another belly flop). They weren't kidding that the water would be rough. This was the first day I wore my fleece at all, and the poor cruiser was a teeny tiny girl who wore a 1 mm skin and TWO shorty wetsuits and was shivering the whole time. This ended up being one of our best days, so I am so glad we went.

Columbia Deep
Max depth: 74 ft, Average Depth: 54 ft
Dive time: 46 minutes

So, was this the shallowest dive at Columbia deep ever? Today was a nice relaxing day because these cruisers were not crazy. Columbia deep had beautiful coral, but only a few fish. I was pointing out a large lobster to Kevin and noticed a beautiful lionfish right next to it. I machine gun signaled to Alison and she came over and got it, and fed it to a large fish right away. We hadn't talked about the lionfish on the boat, so I think the cruisers were a bit mystified by what was going on- but really amused by the great video they were able to get. I did my safety stop at 800 psi because Kevin was at 700, the last few days I started either being equal to him or out breathing him just a bit. While we had gotten comfortable sending me up and leaving him below, I wasn't comfortable staying down without him. The waves on the surface were absolutely insane and getting onto the boat was a huge challenge. I'm really glad I went up with him, because I would not have wanted to deal with that on my own! The cruisers joined us on the boat about 5 minutes later, so we were a pretty even group.

Max depth: 63 ft, Average Depth: 46 ft
Dive time: 57 minutes
Our last dive of the trip was a real show stopper. At first, it was just a few fish, and nothing too exciting. I floated quite a bit above Alison because again my NDLs were ticking down and I kept thinking "I want time left if she sees something cool and I need to dive down to go see it." I am SO glad I went with this plan, because when she signaled for shark I was able to dive down and keep my NDL at 6 minutes (we were taught to never let it get below 5...). Well, that nurse shark didn't stay in its hole, and went swimming across the reef. THEN it was immediately followed by a turtle who was doing circles between the reef and the surface. And THEN, we heard Alison screaming through her regulator (not her typical noise maker...): a green moray eel (which apparently she was looking for in the cave she found the nurse shark) was our swimming on the reef. It was HUGE! We all did our safety stop together as a group, and then getting back on the boat was even harder than the first time- the waves were just crazy.

So that sums up my week of diving. I'll be back later with some above water activities and hotel reviews, but this novel should suffice for now. 
Top side: Eating Out
This is going to be a pretty short section because we didn't go out much. In general, when not diving, I was sleeping- an afternoon nap and then early to bed. I'm just really exciting like that. But we did make it out twice.

The first time out we went to Parrilla Mission This was the night El Jefe and his group had caught some great fish, and invited all of us to go out to eat. (Thanks CVChief! It was a highlight.) There was a group of 8 of us, including 2 divers CVChief hadn't actually met yet (but would be diving the next day). We met up at the restaurant, they gave them the fish and asked them to cook it. They made us a feast. I don't eat fish- so this will be my general view based on what I saw on others: everyone was really happy with how it was prepared. The tuna was prepared as sashimi and the wahoo 3 ways. There was also a chicken soup, a rice and vegetable plate, chips and salsa and guacamole, and flan for dessert. I had chicken tacos, and everyone had 2 drinks (beer or soda mostly it seemed) and it was one of the most affordable meals ever. I'm sure part of that was providing the main fish, but it seems like they could still really mark up the 'cooking' part of it- so I thought it was a great value.
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The second time we went out was to Money Bar
Money Bar actually gets credit for us wanting to return to Cozumel. We stopped there on a cruise and it was just wonderful. I was glad we went back. After a dive at Paradise Reef, Taxi CVChief offered to take us back to Sabor. We stopped to eat on the way. Their Chicken Nacho plate is huge and was enough that the four of us shared it for a decent snack. We like Money Bar because it has a great view, great snorkeling (though we didn't take advantage of it that day), and fairly affordable: we had the huge plate of nachos, 3 margaritas, 1 smoothie drink, 2 cappuccinos and with tip it came out to just over $50. This was also the stop where I got in my scubaboard "buy CVChief a drink obligation" Since he was my taxi for the week, the margaritas were well earned. If you don't drink alcohol, this is also a great stop because there are so many good non-alcoholic smoothies available- YUM.

That's it for eating out... we might need to stay in town next time. I just worry that I'll be too asleep to ever go seek out food.  

Top Side: Chankanaab Park

For our no fly day of the trip we decided to spend the day at Chankanaab Park. We ended up only spending about 3 hours there because this was the day it rained the hardest (or maybe the day we noticed it rained the hardest because we weren't underwater- but we never noticed it stop raining, whereas all the other days were relatively dry on the boat and just drizzly in the afternoon).

A taxi from Sabor to Chankanaab is $13, and at this point we were out of pesos so we paid the dollar surcharge Entrance to Chankanaab is $21 per person or included with the encounters. Despite being a good person who doesn't pet the wild turtles (still kind of in shock some of the people diving did that), I'm a bad person who participated in the manatee encounter. According to the guide though, 2 of the manatees were born in the park and the third was a medical rescue, so I feel kind of less bad about it. And while I know manatees are intelligent, they are also pretty slow moving, lmore localized in their movement, and mostly just like to eat. I have to imagine they don't mind it as much as the dolphins who are underwater geniuses that travel great distances and are made to perform for the humans. You don't ride on the manatees! Okay, that's my defense. I'm conflicted but it has been a lifelong dream to be in the water with a manatee, so I took it.

So we started the day with a quick walk to the snorkel area of Chankanaab. It was lightly raining and it was histerical watching people in swimsuits dash around with towels and bags over their heads trying to stay dry. We just decided to get wet. Chankanaab has lots of seating covered with umbrellas so there were plenty of dry areas.

There are signs that say life jackets (not snorkel vests) are required, and they will provide one free with an ID as deposit. When we went begrudginly to get one, they said they weren't required, just recommended, so we did not wear them. However, I'm always a little nervous swimming in the ocean with nothing (we weren't wearing fins either) so I compromised and took my SMB and whistle in (For those that don't know part of taking up scuba diving was I hoped it would help me with my snorkeling. Last year I was so bad at snorkeling I couldn't go 5 minutes with my mask on without freaking out. I couldn't even sit on my COUCH for 5 minutes. Scuba diving definitely helped, though I prefer it to snorkeling, where I still find it hard to breathe.)
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The snorkeling was excellent and rivaled the fish life on some of the reefs we visited. There were no rays, eels, turtles or sharks though so I give the edge to diving. There was only one really pretty coral feature.
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We snorkeled for about an hour, the rain water was really cold on my back and legs- which I can't get to stay underwater even if I try (I need ankle weights or something, just a pound or two to make me slightly less positive), and then we went and wandered the park. They have an alligator exhibit and some beautiful gardens. By this time it was absolutely pouring so we skipped the 'archeological area' though I was curious what that was. After watching the dolphins for a bit, it was time to check in for my manatee encounter.

The encounter was $59, including the admission fee, so a fairly decent deal I thought. Turns out manatees are not very popular, as I was the only one to do the encounter. I got 30 minutes with the 3 manatees, all by myself (Plus the trainer.) The encounter consisted of standing on a platform taking requisite "kiss", "hug", and "handshake" photos and then I got to jump off the platform and free swim while feeding the manatees. They apparently eat all day long, and I was given like 5 heads of lettuce and quite a few handfuls of papaya and pineapple to feed them. The manatees LOVE the papaya and will fight you for it- all three ganged up on me, and they would grab your legs and pull on you. It was really cool, but quite honestly, I was glad for the life jacket!
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Everyone get a nice long look at those photos because the photo services at Chankanaab are more of a rip-off than a cab paying in USD. It is $37 for one photo, or $72 (900 pesos, at least they exchange fairly) for a CD with all of them. I wanted 4 photos printed, so I bought the CD. I got 138 images, but since manatees are generally underwater they are mostly picture of me looking goofy petting a gray blob. But still, I'm glad I bought them. Apparently they charge for photos by person in the group, so it's a good thing Kevin decided he didn't want to do the manatee swim

I think the only thing that would have made this better was if I could have put on a scuba tank and just sat below them and watched them. The interaction was great, but getting to dip my head underwater was the best part- really seeing them clearly. Of course, if it was scuba, I couldn't do it on my off day
After the manatee swim we thought about snorkeling more, but it was still a constant pour, not a light drizzle, so we called it a day and headed back to the resort. 
Topside: Hotel

We stayed at the Sunscape Sabor which was selected predominantly by price. We got a package, but if we assumed $600 per person for our flights (which is low, as I think they were more in the $700 range), the hotel came out to $100 per day- for two people at all All Inclusive, that seemed like a darn good bargain. I will say I in the AI sense, I did not "get my money's worth". I had a sip of a margarita that I deemed to strong and gave away...

So, we went into it thinking if the food was as good as Applebees and the rooms about the same as a Holiday Inn Express, all was good. In the end, that was about right.\

The most important thing was the pier. It was just a few minutes walk down the beach from our room and no charge for use. That was a major plus.
Our room was basic but looked surprisingly like the photo on the website.
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We were asked multiple times if we were on our honeymoon. I really hope whomever assigned our room didn't think we were- as the double beds weren't that romantic. We thought about asking for a king, but liked the location of the room (right by the snack bar and main pool- about as close a walk to the pier as you can get at the Sabor.) We've seen people describe this place as "small" but walking to the back of the property seemed pretty long to us, so we didn't want to chance a long walk to get a king bed. We were on the first floor but our patio was railed off, which I preferred as it made me feel a bit more secure leaving my stuff out to dry on it. (The ones without rails people did the same...)

The rooms floor was tile and concrete and I found it to be sticky at times. We usually put towels on the floor to act as area rugs. The pool towels were much more comfortable/soft than the bath towels, so we kind of hoarded those. The room had a fan and A/C that worked really well. Still, the A/C could not combat the humidity, so we chose damp over freezing, and as the rainy week went on, things in the room just were really wet feeling. There was a mini bar that was replenished daily: 4 sodas, 2 beers, 2 waters- they had no issue giving us more water on request. We got 4 waters daily, plus the other stuff. The beds were hard but comfortable enough. Bedding was not super soft, but it was serviceable. There were too pillow choices: too hard and too soft. Goldilocks was not pleased, but I slept.

The bathroom was not overly large but the tub had a ledge on the back and around the side that made sitting and shaving nice. It also was fairly flat which made standing to shower in a tub easier. There was no plug though so you couldn't bathe, and the tub was kind of sketchy looking, so I'm not sure I'd want to. The bathroom had no fan, just a window you could open, so it got really really humid and gross. The sink area was separate from the tub/toilet and had a hair dryer though I never used it. The lighting in that area was poor, but there was a second mirror so you could get closer to it than the one behind the sink. Our sink leaked if you stopped it up and then released all the water at once- upon inspection, it was held together by electrical tape.

The facilities of the resort were basic but nice. There were multiple restaurants, I'll go into when I talk about food.

We only ever went to 1 bar, but I think there were 4 of them. The drinks were poured heavy. I got drinks for my husband and one was literally half a glass of vodka. He didn't drink much due to the diving, but had no complaints. I had pineapple juice most of the week. If you asked, they'd make blended smoothies, but they weren't really anything more than juice and ice. The bar had swings, which seemed like they'd be fun, but in the end I decided it was over-rated.

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There were 3 pools: the main pool, a smaller pool in the back of the resort and the scuba pool. The scuba pool can only be used if you are under instruction. I'm in the picture for scale. It was tiny. 1/3 of the pool has a ledge at 5 feet and the other 2/3 were about 15 feet I think.
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The main pool wasn't huge, but it was never crowded. There were lots of chairs around it, and occasionally they would string a volleyball net. There was also a basketball hoop- which Kevin hurt himself dunking while jumping into the pool. His heel is still bothering him and he's using a cane. He said he was worried about catching his fingers and didn't think about landing. At least he made the shot.
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The final pool seemed to always be filled with kids. We didn't go there much.
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The lobby has free wi-fi. It wasn't super reliable but we were able to post to facebook, scubaboard, check email, basic websurf (how much do you really want to do on vacation) and most importantly communicate with our dive op. It's free, which is way more important to me than being in room. Plus, since we had to go to the lobby, it made me not want to spend TOO much time on the internet. The lobby was often crowded with people on devices but there was usually somewhere to sit.

My biggest complaint about the resort comes because I'm an old fuddy-duddy. It was INCREDIBLY loud at night. The 7:00 movie in the lobby (usually when we were checking email) had volume so loud we would seek out how far we could go before we were out of range. It hurt my ears. And at about 9:30 each night there was a show, and that was usually when I was trying to go to bed. The room by the pool was nice during the day to get to things, but right by the 'action' at night and I just wanted them to be quiet! It was generally quiet by 11. There is a club to dance at at night (never went there) and we could not hear that.

I can't rate the entertainment, because I have no idea what was available. I saw about 30 seconds of the fire show while trying to see what the noise was, and just ignored the other shows. Most of the scheduled activities during the day took place before 2:00, and we were diving then. I did see the tail end of a dance lesson, and it was just sad: 3 staff members teaching one lady to do the dance. Participation, for that one at least, was not high.

The overall feel of the resort was "kind of run down, but pretty". We didn't really use the beach, but we snorkeled one day and it was decent enough.