At age five, my father took us to NYC. I remember Central Park and seeing and playing with snow for the first time...eating icicles...iceskating (or trying to) and of course the Carrousel.
The subways were so much fun!!
Coney Island and the wicked parachute ride that my insane father put us on...
Note: I went back to Coney Island as a grown-up and the tower for the parachute ride was still standing but it wasn´t running. I asked one of the employees why it wasn´t running anymore and he informed me that they had to close it down because people had died of heart attacks.
I returned to NYC, on my own, several times. NYC is definitely one of the most exciting cities in the world!
In 1959, my father flew us to Madrid, Spain, and from there we drove to Paris, France, and then to Rome and Naples in Italy.
I was nine at the time, so I don´t remember the exact route we followed but I still have some memories:
Spain: the Escorial and the tombs of the Kings and Queens, El Retiro where we rowed a boat and where my brother bent a pin and tied it to a string hoping to catch a fish, the Flamenco dancer at las Cuevas de Luis Candela, the abundance of quartz crystals scattered all over the fields around the caves in Pamplona, the vineyards along the road.
France: I remember the Eiffel Tower, the children playing with boats at Versailles, Champs Elysee and the old-fashioned elevator at the hotel with which we played every time we got the chance (without getting caught). I don´t remember the Mona Lisa at the Louvre nor any of the other master pieces there but I sure remember Venus with no arms.
Italy: I remember the Coliseum. There were no lions but there were a lot of cats. I still bear the scar left on my hand by one of the cute little kitties that I wanted to pet. I didn´t know they were wild.
At the Vatican, I clearly remember Michelangelo´s Pieta and the huge cupola.
I remember the statue of Moses and how worn out its toes were from people touching them (I am one of the culprits, but I was just a child who didn´t know any better and at the time it was allowed).
I also remember they sold to the tourists relics of Jesus' cross. Looking back, that must have been one huge cross!!! They also sold rosaries with beads made of pressed, rose petals. Those were nice and they smelled so good. I wonder if they still sell them.
At the catacombs, I remember the abundant skeletons and skulls in their niches along the walls and specially when the tour guide blew out all the candles just to spook us out (which he did).
And, last but not least, the amusement park in Naples.
In 1968, Joan Bragan, the English teacher at Colegio Americano, Caracas, was going on a road trip with her two sisters during the summer vacation. The trip would be from Pensacola, FL, to San Francisco, CA and back. I was invited. My father gave me permission and I went.
In 1971, I drove with my dear, college friend, Michelle Strohl, from NJ, USA, to Montreal, Canada, and then down to Florida.
I guess, by then, I had acquired a taste for road trips.
In 1974, I quit my job as a tour guide and, along with my two dogs, took a trip around South America which lasted for 2 years. Most of the roads, even along the Pan-american Highway, were dirt roads at the time.
There was only one road through the Amazon Jungle. So, I had to drive to Belem de Pará (at the mouth of the Amazon River) and load the car, myself and the dogs on a barge with a push boat. The barge was used mainly by the trucks heading to Manaus. From Manaus, I continued the trip on what was, at the time, only a dirt road under construction: the Transamazonic Highway.
I chilled out for a while, but in 2002 the bug bit again.
With my two dogs as travel companions, I paddled a canoe across the state of Florida. I started in Ft. Myers (on the Gulf Coast), along the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie canal (known as the Okeechobee waterway) to Stuart (on the Atlantic) and then up to Ft. Pierce and back down to Stuart, where I finally met a retired marine, Jerry Reattoir, who became a very dear friend and who not only built a beautiful leeboard for the canoe (so that I could finally sail ) and replaced all the metal rigging with rope (to help remove some weight) but also followed me along the way from Stuart to Lake Worth until he was sure that I could sail the canoe on my own from Palm Beach to Key Largo, via the Intracoastal waterway.
He encouraged me on my journey (when I was full of doubts) and wrote two notes that I still hold and treasure and in which he said:
"I pray that nothing bad ever happens to you. But a little risk and danger are like seasoning that gives life its good flavor....and try to remember - the real honor is in the effort - whether you reach your goal or not,
you´re already a champion."
**Dear Jerry, wherever you are, you still bring tears to my eyes...you have no idea how much your words encouraged me and gave me strength and hope. I love you.
Besides Jerry, I met and was helped by other wonderful and amazing people in Stuart...but that will have to wait until I continue writing about this trip. Otherwise, this post will never end.
I had started a diary on geocities but, since I was travelling during hurricane season, my notes got damaged with so much rain. By the time I had access to a computer again, yahoo had discontinued geocities. But, believe it or not, the first pages of that trip are still online.
If you would like to see it, go to: The Adventure Begins...
It took me a year on the canoe to make it from Ft. Myers to Miami.
I did finish the trip, even though there were many who thought I´d never make it and once I reached the Florida keys there were many who rolled their eyes and didn´t believe I had done it...until they saw the evidence.
When I started the canoe trip and sailboat adventure, I was disillusioned with the human race. However that all changed during this trip. I met the most generous and amazing persons (from all walks of life, social status, race, religion). People who generously took of their time and effort to help me accomplish my dream, expecting nothing in return. I hope God blessed you abundantly for everything you did for me.
SPECIAL NOTICE: I want to take this opportunity to thank you all once again and to tell you that I vividly remember each one of you and what you did for me. I hold you not only in my mind but specially in my heart. Without each one of you...it would not have been possible. This wasn´t my trip. This was OUR trip. THANK YOU!! And if perchance you land on this blog and read this, please drop me a line at BeatrizSocorroCastillo@yahoo.com, I would love to hear from you again!!
|My friend, Cherie Anderson, and her son, Sean, helped me rig up the canoe in Ft. Myers.|
I definitely could not have done it without them
nor without the help of those who lent a hand along the way
|After crossing the State.|
Photo taken in Stuart, FL
|The blue line shows the route traveled by canoe.|
|The Catalina with the mast down after needed repairs due to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina|
When I reached the keys, my original plan was to continue on a sailboat to Venezuela. I bought a used sailboat and fixed it, but just as I was getting ready to go I noticed a crack across the hull. The previous owner had had an accident with it and had not repaired it properly.
Bill and Jeannie Stroemel, who owned the marina at the time and who had sold me the Hunter (also unaware of the previous damage), felt bad and gave a me 25 ft. Catalina that needed some work. So, I had to start again from the beginning.
As a result, I lived in a tent for a year on a 46-acre island while I worked on the boats.
The island had been donated to the Presbyterian church. The pastors wanted to build a rehab center on the island but the government wouldn´t give them the permits. Rev. Rubens and Rev. Williams allowed me to camp there for a year, besides providing me with food and most important of all: their love and friendship.
To tell you about everyone that helped and all the adventures lived will require that I continue the diary. I will probably continue to write the story little by little, if I can find time between painting and working on this blog.
When the second sailboat (the Catalina) was ready, I sailed it from Key Largo to Big Pine Key. Even though Captain Kenny taught me how to read charts and navigate, I really didn´t have much sailing experience. My friends were concerned that I would not make it. But I was going to go ahead with it anyways. To tell you the truth, I was terrified during this leg of the trip. If you´re wondering about my sanity, you´re not the only one. I wonder too...
But I did make it, sand bars, storms and all.
While at Big Pine Key, Katrina hit. I met and was helped again by so many kind and generous people. I love them all and what is most important, they restored my faith in the human race. Some day, I will tell you their amazing stories.
My now best friend and sponsor, Maureen Seewald, who sheltered me after Katrina, offered to drive me to Panama. While on the sailboat I always said I was going to put a sticker on it that said: "I rather be driving".
She and the other friends I made in Big Pine Key were convinced I would not make it across the Gulf Stream to Cuba. And they were probably right. Like I said, I am not much of a sailor.
But a ride from Florida to Panama is not like a ride to the supermarket. I told Maureen that if she was serious, first it had to be something she really wanted to do for herself and not just for me. I told her that I didn´t want to travel with someone who would be whining along the way. I warned her that a road trip to Panama would entail some wonderful moments and experiences but some hard ones too.
So, in 2005 after some back-and-forth, Maureen and I got on her CVR and hit the road. We traveled for a year through central america.
Some day I´ll tell you all about that. That too was an awesome and unforgettable adventure!
|Maureen, Bitsy, Alice and me|
So, all in all, this is a rough sketch of the road trips I have taken. Looking at the map now, there´s still a lot for me to see. Only God knows if I will have another opportunity in this lifetime.
The truth is right now I am pooped and I just want to chill out and paint.