More vacation stories to tell..

This vacation has taken almost three weeks to gel into a couple of blog posts. Why?  The trip to Fort Lauderdale, the Keys and Weston back in January had a pretty good running commentary. This vacation was done without a computer. I used my Droid phone to check email and really just stayed off the grid.  This was about connecting with my DW, she has had a tough few months.  As you remember her stepfather passed away a week before Christmas. Two days before Christmas her mom went into the hospital and she passed on January 3.  A rough month following a bumpy fall.

The Tampa trip was scheduled in October as a way to celebrate our 29 th. wedding anniversary . Who knew at the time that the need for a few days to connect would be so pressing as they were (and are) this winter.  The previous blog entry Small Steps covered several topics including the first day in Florida where we spent the afternoon on Clearwater Beach walking in the Gulf of Mexico (the water was cold) and experiencing the sunset.

Today we will go kayaking on the Hillsborough River. We used the same company this year as last year. Why re-invent the wheel if it works?  Canoe Escape rents kayaks and canoes for river trips.  Friday started out foggy on Tampa Bay. Our hotel was right by the bay and the fog shrouded the highway until we got about 3 or 4 miles east closer to the center of Tampa.  The drive to the canoe place took about 20 minutes or so.  When we got to the park, the sky was still overcast, but the temperatures were in the mid 70’s. And yes, a touch of humidity was in the air (more than a touch).  We were the only customers in the park during our rental and orientation.  Last year we kayaked on a sunny Saturday and the park was jam-packed.

The river was quiet. Just my DW and I in our kayaks drifting downstream. If you wanted to paddle, you paddled. If you wanted to drift, your drifted. There is enough current to keep you moving without the danger or excitement of rapids and white water. We did hear a few odd things as we kayaked down the river. Looking to either side we saw alligators, lots of bids and quite a few turtles. No people or building were visible from the water. We heard a dog barking off to one side. And later we hear the backup siren that some trucks make when backing up.  The noises were out-of-place in the dense forest.  We traveled 9 miles on the river. I took quite few pictures and some video as well.

We stopped on the way home at a farm stand where they make fresh milk shakes with local strawberries.  The shake was outstanding.  After we got back to Tampa we went to a fish market looking for dinner. We found stone crab claws, locally made smoked fish salad and Hog Fish. We ate the stone crabs Friday night and the Hog Fish Saturday night.  There is nothing like fresh seafood for dinner!

 

 

Here is a link to all the pictures from the river.

Enjoy!

 

Namaste

 

Blowing off a little steam, Chicago style..

We were in Chicago for the Columbia College of Chicago’s Graduate Open House.  The trip to and the actual open house can be found at http://limeguy50.com  This blog is about DS2 and I being tourists for a few hours before crashing at the hotel and flying home on Sunday.

The first stop after we left the school was the Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. They have restaurants, bars, boats and in the warm weather, they have an amusement park with rides. Saturday was not a warm day. It was windy (Windy City) and chilly. I think we saw some snow flakes even. We parked the car, called my DW and gave her the lowdown on the open house. Then DS2 and I walked the pier and took pictures. I wanted to stop for a beer but it was cold and that beer would have gone in and right back out.  And, we had an early dinner, late lunch stop planned and I wanted to save my appetite for the next stop.

We walked and played tourist. Then we paid 25 dollars for parking at the pier. One price fits all. Park for an hour or a day, all the same price. When you see the pictures from the pier, enjoy them, they were expensive.  I never got to stick my foot in Lake Michigan. That was one of the goals, but the pier was way to high above the water to reach down and stick something into the water. And, I did mention that it was cold.

After the pier we drove through a GPS blind spot in the city. The GPS had us going in circles. Just as we would come to the next turn, the GPS would grey out like we were in a tunnel then the picture would start to spin in random directions. DS2 loaded the address into his phone and between them, we found our way. How silly.

Our destination was Shaw’s Crab House. One side of the business is a very upscale steak and seafood restaurant. The other side is the Oyster Bar. That was our destination. We sat down and enjoyed oysters, sushi and fried calamari. We did appetizers for dinner.  The table next to us ordered the two most expensive appetizers on the menu. She had the Florida Stone Crab claws (64 dollars a pound) and he had the fresh Red King Crab served chilled with a mustard sauce (65 dollars a pound). Add the a martini for each and tip and you are in the 175 dollar neighborhood and you have not yet eaten dinner. Yikes!  Our oysters and sushi were outstanding.  One of the sushi we had was called a Godzilla roll. At Shaw’s that sushi comes with BBQ Smoked Eel.  Just a little slice like an archive. You could pick it off the top but then you miss a unique and delicious flavor.

I had couple of local brewed beers, DS2 drank water. I think he was pretty beat at that point in the day.  When you ask where the bathroom was, the standard answer was make a right, walk past “death row” and you will see the doors on the right. “Death row” was the four tanks of live lobsters that were waiting for the chance to grace some bodies plate.  The bathrooms were upscale, everything was upscale.  Dinner, eat here is you can afford it. If not, try the Oyster Bar. Not cheap by any means, but less expensive than the main restaurant.

After we ate we followed that same GPS back to our hotel.  At that point we were both beat. DS2 had some reading to do for school, so I went down to the bar for a drink and to watch some college football. 

Here is a link to all the picture from our trip. I will include a few below. Thanks for reading!

Namaste

 

Columbia College of Chicago, open house..

We traveled Saturday morning from Newark, NJ to Chicago for the Columbia College of Chicago Graduate Open House.  The trip to Chicago is detailed in this blog and in this blog.  With a slight stage whisper, I might ask how the trip out could merit two blogs?  If you write, then you know that you write when the spirit moves you.  Enough said.

The open house was held in several of the buildings. The campus in set in the City of Chicago and as such, when they need to expand the school, they can’t just cut down some trees and build another building.  The school has to get creative and buy building as they become available then repurpose them for classes. The school has 10,000 undergraduate students and 500 graduate students.   After an opening coffee and informal meet and greet with the “Student Ambassadors” we went off to a room to meet with the instructors for the Music Composition for the Screen masters program.  The other students went with their guides to wherever their “breakout session” was being held.

We walked into a small lecture hall and the guide asked up to sit in the field of view of the web cam that was sitting on his desk. Hmm, unusual for sure. There were about ten people in the room for the presentation. The student ambassador had each person introduce themself to the group then the video conference started. The main instructor was in Los Angels tending to some family health issues (not his) and the second in command instructor was at a wedding in West Virgina.  Both were phoning it in. I understand that things come up,  especially when it comes to family and health, but we (DS2 and I) made quite the effort and expense to be there.  Maybe we could have done the meet and greet via a webcam here in NJ and at his school in Scranton.

The meet and greet went well. The program looks interesting. I think that DS2 would benefit from the education and the skills that they will be teaching the students are marketable post university.  Like that phrase?  After the meet and greet we went for a tour to see the game lab where they work on music for video games. Then we went to the classroom where most of the teaching is done. Each year they admit 12 students into the program out of 55 applicants (2013).  In the last two graduating classes, they started with 12 and graduated 10. Not bad numbers.

Part of the program is a 6 month internship in Los Angeles doing what you have studied for the past two years.  The lead instructor is based in Los Angeles and has 30 plus years of experience in the music for the screen business in Los Angeles. He has the contacts that helps the students land the internship jobs.

After the tour we had lunch and then additional opportunities to meet with the student ambassadors and the heads of various department at the college.

 

Here are a few more pictures from the open house.  The next blog will cover the late afternoon and evening.  Thanks for reading!

Namaste

 

 

Change of plans..

Planus interuptus: An interruption in your plans. Tonight’s plan was dinner then hot yoga. After hot yoga some fluids, a shower (maybe) and off to bed.  When we arrived at Hot or Not Yoga we found out that the schedule had changed and our class had started an hour earlier.  Hmm, I guess we could have checked the website, but the time of the class seemed a constant,  now we have discovered that the time is variable.  We were a little miffed by the time changing and us (my DW and I) not having a clue. So, tonight’s blog or blogs are bought to you by Hot or Not Yoga, where you are reminded, to check the schedule on the web.

Let’s chat about the weekend. How was your weekend? Probably not like mine, if I were to guess. The weekend started at 5 pm Friday. I worked from home so the commute was easy. From the kitchen table to the chair in the living room. My DW and I went out of an early and light dinner and were back home by 7 pm. I kissed her goodbye and took my suitcase and camera bag and headed north to spend the night at the Weatherman’s house.  After I got there, my bother and DS2 talked me into going out for sushi.  It was not a difficult choice, I just needed to use the bathroom and I was ready to go.

At 3:50 am, DS2’s alarm clock went off. I had talked him out of the 3:36 am alarm to try to get an extra 20 minutes of sleep. We took turns using the shower and my brother was up and ready to drive us to the airport at 4:30 am.  We had a 6 am flight scheduled from Newark, NJ to Chicago.  We had no problems in the airport and soon were on the plane heading to Chicago. I blogged while traveling to Chicago. That blog can be found here.  

We traveled to Chicago on Saturday for the Graduate Open House at Columbia College of Chicago.  DS2 is interested in studying Music Composition for the Screen.  We had an excellent breakfast at  Brasserie by LM.  If you find yourself near Grant Park, the South Loop, South Wabash area of Chicago and need an excellent meal, this is the place.  The food was interesting and good. The coffee was fresh ground for my latte.  The waiter was attentive and the bathrooms were clean. What more could you want?

After breakfast we killed an hour in the car listening to music waiting for the open house to start. I shot some pictures of the area while we were killing time.

The next blog will cover the open house. 

Here are some pictures from the early part of the day (and Friday night)..  All the pictures can be found here.

Namaste

Oh Brother, Where art thou?

This was the title of a movie released in 2000 set in the 1930’s Deep South.   That is according to the IMDb website. I have never seen the movie. The title is also appropriate to the bike ride my brother the weatherman and I did on Sunday, July 28, 2013.  We rode in the Harlem Valley Rail Ride 2013. The ride started and ended in Millerton, NY. Millerton is about 200 miles from where I live down the Jersey Shore.  Sunday morning, at 5 am, I drove to North Jersey and put my bike on the weatherman’s car and threw my gear in the backseat. He drove the other half of the ride to Millerton.

The ride had several choices for bike riders. 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles. Each of these rides had increasing difficulty due to elevation changes on the routes. I looked at the description of each of the rides and decided that I was not in good enough shape for any of the rides. Then listed on the bottom of the webpage, as an almost after thought note, that a 40 mile ride would be available with “no significant elevation changes”  I figured, I should be able to push myself to 40 miles. My longest ride for the summer was 36 miles. What is another 5 or so miles?

We found out what elevation changes are considered “insignificant” over a 41 mile ride. Notice the extra mile that crept in there?  The ride had many insignificant elevation changes that added up to 1040 feet of elevation gain. I was pretty beat by the end of the ride. Between miles 27 and 31 we rode through a torrential downpour. When it rains like that and you are on your bike, you just put your head down and ride. Set a pace and try to avoid the bigger puddles. After the ride they had a festival where you could eat all you want from the county BBQ that was set up. The local VFW had a beer truck set up selling beer to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.  The food was good and the beer was cold. Just what was needed after chasing my brother though the “valley” around Millerton.

I walked a few of the hills, it was all I could do. He rode them all. I got to the top of a few of the hills and he had ridden on ahead. I eventually caught up to him each time. I think he would have finished the ride 30 minutes sooner if he had not peddled slowly waiting for me. Thanks for waiting for me!

He shot some pictures on his cell as we rode. I will add them to the bottom and caption them as necessary.  Thanks for reading!

Namaste

 

 

Common sense?..

Gone out the window for sure.  In my best Rod Serling voice..

Consider this, you are in a restaurant. Your meal is late coming to the table and you have had a few adult beverages (maybe more than a few). You are laughing and having fun with your table companions. Suddenly, your dinner shows up! Starving , you grab your fork and start to shovel the food into your mouth without even tasting or cutting your food.

You start to choke, the food that you would not cut has gone down your wind pipe. Suddenly you are seeing stars and your face gets red and then starts to turn blue. You bang you fist on the table and try to cough, no luck. You turn to the person closest to you and you grab your neck with both hands, the international symbol for “I’m choking to death”.

Quickly your companion gets behind you, makes a fist and does the Heimlich Maneuver on you. The food becomes dislodged and your life has been saved. You immediately attempt to swallow the same piece of food without cutting it up. Results? Now the food is stuck in your esophagus and you are going to the hospital in the middle of the night to have a doctor remove (for the last time) this piece of dinner.

The moral of the story?

If you choke on your dinner and someone has to save your life, do them a favor and spit the piece of food out and try another piece. That piece of food won the battle.

Common sense?

Namaste

 PS. A true story (did not happen to me, thankfully!)

Cold front..

We have finally arrived at the Memorial Day weekend here in the US. This is a three-day weekend for many of us. My DW and I are off from work until Tuesday. DS1 has to work tomorrow and then he has two days off. DS2 has to work tomorrow and yes, DS3 starts his summer job tomorrow at 7 am. Bright and early, as it were. By 7 am tomorrow everyone except for us old people should be at work. I think I like that.

This morning the temperatures were in the mid 60’s and humid. Around noon time today a cold front brought rain and wind to the Jersey shore. The temperature right now 8:45 pm is 46 degrees. I am concerned about some of our plant and the cold weather.

Dinner was pizza and shrimp cocktail. We stayed home this Friday night. We did sign up for a free month of Netflix today. We got a new smart tv last weekend.  We never had Netflix before so we will see if the service is worth the 7.99 a month.

Short and sweet tonight. A picture seals the deal. Enjoy!

Namaste

A turtle on the Hillsbrough River - Feburary 22, 2013

A turtle on the Hillsbrough River – Feburary 22, 2013

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