Michael had talked with us about taking a cruise as kind of a high school graduation present. To be honest I had no desire to take a cruise and I still don’t. However Julie being the voice of reason she usually is promptly stated how inexpensive it would be to feed Michael on a cruise as to a traditional vacation, she now had my attention.
Our trip to Florida began back on November 24th 2017 “Black Friday” as I booked our cruise online with Carnival Cruise Lines. We would fly into Tampa Bay the day before, relax at our resort by the pool with drinks and set sail to Cozumel Mexico the next day.
Fast forward to February 2018 as I received an email from Carnival stating that they had changed our port from Cozumel to Havana Cuba I re-read the email a dozen times to make sure I was reading it properly and each time I became more upset. I approached Julie about it and she was equally annoyed. We stewed on it for a few days and came to the conclusion that it might not be all that bad. So chatted with the boys and they seemed on board as well. Heck if there are palm trees Michael is all set.
Several days later Julie being the researcher she is began diving into the specifics of traveling to Cuba. First our enhanced drivers license would not work and we would need passports. There is an additional $500. Next she discovered due to the relationship with the United States, Cuba would require us to purchase additional visa’s to even get off the boat, another $300. Then once off the ship we would not be permitted to roam freely and would have to be with a tour group. Even with the tour group you couldn’t breakaway. For example if Tourist A wanted to visit a certain shop or restaurant everyone would have to visit the same place, another $600 for the tour.
So on top of the flights, Cruise, hotel cost we would add another $1,400 to our trip. We were not happy to say the least. So we talked about it and decided to cancel the cruise. We had put a $600 deposit down the day of booking and the remaining was due by June. I contacted Carnival and they returned $400 of the $600 and we decided to just visit Florida instead since we already had the flights paid for and at least the first nights hotel.
I’ve never personally used Air BnB, VRBO or Home Away so I jumped online and began to search places near Tampa to stay. Long story short I found a great condo in St. Pete’s Beach only a 5 minute walk to the beach, two bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, living room and a back patio. I contacted the owner and our dates were available since it would be August. Let me just say the the cost of the condo for 4 nights and a car rental was just under a $1,000. I didn’t know what to expected when we arrived at the condo since I only saw pictures of it online. We opened the door and the place was awesome, clean and comfortable. Definitely felt like a home away from home.
The goal for this vacation was to have fun and just relax and and not try to cram 4,000 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag running around here and there. This actually felt like a vacation. We visited the Tampa Aquarium, took a guided kayak tour of Florida’s Shell Key Preserve, enjoyed a lot of food, beer & ice cream, went to a Waterpark with my cousin whom I have not seen in several years and relaxed a bit on the beach. I even read two books. Heck I barely took any photos.
Julie the boys and I had a great time and Michael has expressed possible interest in living in St. Pete’s during next summer.
This past weekend Julie, the boys and I made a quick overnight trip to Long Island to visit family. Every time I visit which isn’t all that much I am quickly reminded as to why I left, the traffic is disgusting. However there is one bright beacon of light we do enjoy, Fire Island Lighthouse and National Seashore.
Cruising the Ocean Parkway is another favorite of ours. It is several miles out of our way but surely makes up for it in beauty and lack of heavy traffic. Pulling into parking field #5 before arriving at my sister’s home we found it surprisingly uncrowded for a Saturday. It was quite windy along the shore making it feel as if we were in a sand blaster. Undeterred we hiked around for about an hour or so taking in the sights, sounds and smell of the ocean, we had a wonderful time. Next visit we hope to alot more time in order to hike to Kismet, Saltaire and Fair Harbor.
I can remember like it was yesterday! The last of our family had just driven away and Julie and I stood there starring at this infant sound asleep. We looked at each other and said “Now what do we do”. I was scared to death because Michael did not come with an owners manual.
Today nineteen years later Michael will graduate high school. He has been in the BOCES program the past two years working in video production and will continue this fall at Broome Community College.
To say I’m proud of him would be an understatement. As parents our goal has always been to raise our children to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful, respectful, hard working and most importantly good human beings. I’ve always said to the boys that mom and dad are guides in life and can take you only so far while you will have to do the rest. I think we are doing a good job.
So congratulations to you Michael, mom and dad are very proud of you!!!
We had hopes of paddling in Old Forge this weekend under a palette of fall color. I was frantically checking the weather everyday only to have our hopes dashed by rain and wind. However that did not stop us from packing up the family truckster and head north to the Adirondacks. Saturday morning, literally as we got on the highway the rain began to fall. It poured the entire 3 hour trip to Old Forge.
Our first stop was Old Forge Hardware, as we would spend the better part of an hour wandering the vast aisles of stuff. Max is obsessed with bears and rightfully so, that is his nickname. He convinced his mother to purchase a bear cookie cutter for making Christmas cookies this year. I myself could not resist the canoe cookie cutter either. With our tummies rumbling like a bear we drove 10 miles further north to Inlet, NY and the Screaming Eagle for lunch. For all you beer lovers out there they have at least 30 beers on tap. I tried the Bell’s Inspired Brewing “Octoberfest” and have to say I enjoyed it very much. As we were eating lunch the rain had stopped and the sun was teasing us from behind the thick cloud cover.
With such uncertainty in the weather we decided to do two short hikes. The first would be Rocky Mountain in Eagle Bay. This half mile, steep hike to the summit of Rocky Mountain has some stunning views of Fourth Lake. Our elevation gain according to my GPS was 489 feet.. Actually Michael and I hiked this back in 2013 the day before the Utica Boilermaker 15K. Staying right in Eagle Bay our next stop would be the Moss Lake loop which includes the Sis & Bubb lake trail as well. Sis & Bubb lakes are two lakes only reachable on foot. We began our adventure at the Moss Lake trailhead located off Big Moose road. We followed part of the Moss lake loop trail until reaching the Sis & Bubb lake trail. Here we turned and hiked to both lakes and were rewarded with some amazing color and sunshine. Our round trip hike would be 4.32 miles with only 269 feet of gain. Now if you know me I’m already planning to return with my canoe and paddle both lakes.
Back at the trailhead parking lot we tossed our gear into the car and headed back into Old Forge so we could check into our hotel for the evening. The boys were exhausted and Julie and I were thirsty. We left the boys like zombies in the hotel room and ventured to the Fulton Chain Craft Brewery for some refreshments. The place was packed, but I was still able to secure two seats at the bar with some quick thinking. Returning to the hotel to grab Michael and Max it was late but time for dinner.
With dinner in the books I wanted take a walk down along Old Forge pond. It was quiet and gazing up at the night sky you could see some stars. Julie, myself and the boys found the playground with complete with swings and a wooded pirate ship. Can you believe the Fratelli’s made me walk the plank! I know all you Goonies fans will appreciate that.
I woke Sunday morning around 0600 as I had planned to do my morning run before everyone was awake. I quietly snuck out the door to a light rain falling and off I went. Crossing the Moose river that light rain became a steadier rain and the wind was fierce. By mile two it was pouring and the wind and rain was pelting me in the back but I continued. Weaving my way through downtown Old Forge along the waterfront and onto the Tobie trail towards Thendera. In the middle of my last mile the rain had let up and I returned completely soaked. Thankfully it was almost 70 degrees at 6AM so it wasn’t all that bad.
Starving and craving pancakes I riled the troops and we headed for breakfast at Keyes Pancake House. A full stack of blueberry pancakes and some hot coffee made the world better. The rain and wind continued so I wanted to drive out towards Raquette Lake and see how the colors were there. I was not disappointed! The white caps on the bigger lakes made them seem like the ocean. As we were driving I noticed a lot of the leaves had been knocked down due to the heavy rain and wind. Oddly enough as we returned back to Old Forge to gas up for the trip home the rain stopped and the sun again was teasing us. Julie, Max and I ran into a few of the shops while Michael decided to stay in the car. A little while later we were all gassed and on our way home.
Saturday September 23rd 2017: Zipping up my wetsuit into a new adventure, open water swimming. Several years ago I had purchased a wetsuit with the intent on using it, things never panned out that way. Our swim was to take place on Quaker lake in Silver Lake Township Pennsylvania not too far south of the New York border.
Saturday morning the fog quickly burned off, the air temperature perfect and the lake like glass. I’m guessing the water was somewhere between 66-68 degrees. The three of us (Chris, Bob & Myself) plunged into the lake at 0840, beginning our swim. I’ll admit I had been nervous all week leading up to this. I purchased a 15 liter New Wave Swim Buoy as a safety precaution. I was extremely happy with it and you wouldn’t even know it was there. Chris would swim 2 miles skirting the perimeter of the lake. Myself and Bob would swim 1.5 miles down and back the length of the lake. I stopped a few times briefly to adjust my goggles and take a quick break. On our way back up the lake I began to feel a little more confident with some endurance, my nerves had finally settled. Exiting the lake and sitting on the dock I glanced down the lake taking notice of my accomplishment, turning to my watch I covered the distance in 1:27:00. I really enjoyed the experience of open water swimming and look forward to more of it in the future. Recently I have been using swimming as a cross training tool, a low impact workout to supplement my running.
Later that day Julie and I would head back down to Pennsylvania to our families lake house to visit my cousin, his wife Dawn and friends who were staying the weekend. Some great food, company, kayaking, campfire and a game of Cards Against Humanity and all was right with the world.
Sunday September 24th 2017: Lacing up my running shoes I would run my first race in five months, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Greater Binghamton Marathon. Myself, Chris, Chuck and Ken would run the marathon relay as team “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. It was another beautiful day in the Southern Tier but extremely warm. Chuck would be our first runner, followed by Chris, Ken and lastly I would be runner #4. I do feel the need to pick on Ken for his little snafu during the race, just because it adds to the memories of a really fun day. Prior to Ken’s turn running he was getting in a few extra miles. Chris arrived to the exchange earlier than anticipated and Ken wasn’t around. I panicked and quickly jumped in and began to run. A few minutes later Ken exchanged with Chris and the guys came and pulled me off the course just over a mile in. Even though we lost some time Ken ran strong showing up to exchange with me pretty much as predicted. My leg of the course would be 4.2 miles mostly along the rail trail. It was HOT and I struggled a bit. I almost never hit the water stops on a race course but today I did twice. I ran an average of 7:26 pace for the race and honestly I could not be happier finishing my run in 30:58. This was huge for me because I had no pain in my hip flexors at all. I’ve finally have gotten my bigger muscles to start doing the work and I have really been enjoying the rebuilding process. Approaching the finish I was very excited to see my wife cheering me on as it its always brightens my day to see her smile. Our official finishing time was 3:15:25.
Post race refreshments and entertainment were provided by Ommegang Brewing of Cooperstown, NY and Local band Wreckless Marci. Later in the afternoon the week had finally caught up with me and I found myself unexpectedly napping on the couch.
Cheers to a super fun weekend!
It’s September 22nd 2017 4:02PM and I am teaming with excitement as the Autumn Equinox has officially begun. Fall is by far my favorite time of the year. There is so much to be excited about. Crisp temperatures, changing and falling leaves and the fall harvest of fruits and vegetables. I personally love the apples and squash that come into season this time of year.
For me Autumn also enhances my love of running and canoeing. There is just something peaceful and magical about the crunching of leaves underfoot, our hillsides burning with reds, yellows and oranges or a placid lake at sunrise or sunset. No matter what you enjoy doing Autumn is a perfect time of year to be outside!
While summer slips into Autumn I am reminded at how much I enjoy fall paddling in the Northeast. I try to take every advantage I can get to be out on the water whether by myself or with my family. Sadly this summer I/we have not been on the water much and Max and I have not even taken the Cownoe out together.
The boys and I had plans to camp and canoe in the Fish Creek Ponds area of the Adirondacks this summer but we had to cancel. However not all was lost. Julie, Max & I took advantage of the nice weather this past weekend and made the short drive to Nanticoke lake in Lisle, NY. Nanticoke is a small and quiet lake. This is partly due to the quarter mile hike in from the parking area.
I also learned a very valuable lesson for the future as well. An 18 foot 47lb canoe with gear and a 30 lb kayak strapped on top make for a heavy portage. The lesson I learned is two canoe carts instead of one and your shoulders will thank you.
To our surprise we discovered two other people kayaking, a sight I have not seen here before. Then again I’m mostly here at sunrise.
No matter what you enjoy doing Autumn is one of the best times to get out and do what you love, so enjoy!