Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: classes, friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

We woke up early somewhere in the middle of Ohio.
Broke into the second Amish pie… showered and got ready to go.
Repack the car… gear, bike, bags. It’s amazing how much stuff the two of us had
with us for just a week’s trip! And some pie…

In the morning light, we could see that the Day’s Inn was pretty old & tired. But it didn’t matter all that much. I slept well in the bed and that’s really all that mattered. But you could see that the town it was in was kind of closing down, and parts of the hotel obviously were too. Like the pool that looks like it’s been closed for quite awhile… and I’m guessing will never open again!

But the shining morning bright spot was the complimentary breakfast…
and let me just say, I think Aunt Jemima and I are dating now!!!

I mean really, who doesn’t LOVE freshly homemade waffles?!
And after race day you feel like you can eat ANYTHING!!! So I did… twice…
hot fluffy waffles with peanut butter & syrup! Yum!

As we were leaving the little town, Chris decided that this shot might “compensate” for her lack of “Welcome” signs in Pennsylvania & Ohio. Sure, this is a welcome sign, but it’s more fun to keep saying she just missed the other ones!!!

And then the storm clouds moved in again… again, so glad this weather didn’t hit us in Lake Placid. We totally lucked out with AMAZING weather in Lake Placid!!!

At some point, the drive is just that… a drive. And you just drive, and drive, and drive…
Chris is a trooper. And lucky for me, she would rather drive than be the passenger!
And I was more than welcome to oblige!

We did find it funny in Ohio that they are so big into their directional highway arrows!
Like they REALLY want to make sure you’re staying on the right path!!!

And then finally we made it to Cleveland… the “Mistake On The Lake.”

Oh look… the sun was coming back out… and so did the Amish pies!!!

Beautiful blue skies and plenty of farm fields as we were smack dab in the Midwest!
Gotta love good cornfields, soy fields, orchards & vineyards!!!

“Holy Toledo Batman!”

And then more farms… more fields… more clouds & blue skies!

Soon enough we were running out of gas… and we didn’t quite notice it until it was getting REALLY close. Chris has been so good the whole trip to try and refuel whenever we got close to a 1/4 tank. But somehow this time… the “range” of how far you can still go on the gas you have left in the tank went to NOTHING!!! Uh oh…

Luckily, the Service Center was pretty close… pretty sure we could roll in on fumes if we had to! But we didn’t – all good. Made it in easily, re-fueled… and re-filled with more food for lunch!!!

And then more farms… more fun.

Soon enough I had to rub it in… and “prove to Chris” and rub it in a bit more…
that you can indeed get a photo of the Welcome Sign!!!

We were group texting with our friends and one of them pointed out that we were going to cross the time change soon… giving us an “extra” hour… thanks Nancy! We were kind of on a mission to get home as I needed to teach my Tuesday night class at 7:00pm. But the “extra” hour gave us a few options… like searching for Amish pies in Goshen, Indiana. Huge thanks to Rose for dropping that hint… AMISH… PIE!!!

We searched through Goshen, but didn’t find much in the way of Amish. No horse. No buggy. No pie. So we followed some signs and ended up in Shipshewana. Much better right away as the horse & buggies were all around!

And even better… Amish bakery… with LOTS of homemade PIES!!!
If all goes well, this big cherry pie will make it’s way to share with my pottery class tonight!

But it wasn’t just about PIE… as Chris couldn’t resist a package of sugar cookies!
This feeding frenzy has GOT TO STOP!!! But when we get home… not now…

Soon enough… we started seeing signs for Chicago!!! YIPPEE!!!

And in true Chicago fashion.. Welcome to Illinois…. Welcome to Construction!
Even worse, all of these pylon cones and NO construction anywhere to be seen!!!

Then we made it to Gary, Indiana… “The Armpit of the Midwest.”
All too soon the beauty of the rural farms was gone!!!

Back over the Skyway Toll Bridge… and back towards Chicago!!!

Okay, Gary, Indiana might not be too nice, but some of the industrial pieces, parts & architecture are pretty darn cool.

We finally made it back to my place. We unpacked my stuff out of Chris’ car…
and put her stuff back in . Still a LOT of gear. Especially when you need to shlep it all
up THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS… just two days after running a full IRONMAN!!!

I got everything upstairs… ran through the shower…
and then I was off to teach my 7:000pm Pottery Class!!! No rest for the weary!
And yes, of course I had to wear my Finisher’s shirt to class. Who wouldn’t?!

So I made it to my Pottery Class in time… with the cherry pie from Amishland Indiana!
Such a great way to finish off the Lake Placid Adventure!!! Sharing my stories & my accomplishments with my pottery class… most of who didn’t know I was even going for it again!

And here’s my other Lake Placid t-shirt…
and the one where they print everybody’s name on the back! Pretty cool…
almost 3,000 athletes listed alphabetically!!!

And yes, there I am in the top left corner of the M… see it?… there I am…

 

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Categories: friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

What a difference a day makes…
We set the alarm for 10:00am… as we needed to pick-up our bikes and gear bags from TriBike Transport by 11:00am. We went to bed expecting to be sore in the mornig, but I was feeling surprisingly well… okay, except for that blister the size of Guatemala!!! Oh yeah, and did I mention that toenail on my right foot that was falling off too?! My feet were hurting… but everything else was surprisingly good.

So good that I actually woke up about and hour and half BEFORE the alarm went off. What?!!!… crazy talk. Chris was still sleeping soundly so I took my shower, packed my clothes, did the dishes and started cleaning up the place. Chris finally got up and we headed own to collect our bikes & gear bags from TriBike Transport. Such a wonderful service… well worth the extra cash!

We came back to the room, finished packing up all of our stuff… and then started to pack the car one more time! It was a LOT tougher getting all of our bags, gear and bikes back down to the car… as we had to take them down a set of stairs that didn’t seem to be such a big deal before the race?! We met a few of our neighbors doing the same thing packing up their cars as well. Some of them had some “horror stories” to share as some didn’t finish the race but instead ended up in the hospital. Sad stories, but it made me appreciate my race so much more!

Chris and I finished packing and we were on the road!!! Homeward bound…
and hopefully NOT through Canada this time!

The drive was nice… seeing the beautiful sights again and NOT needing to bike or run to see them. Like the ski slope towers from the Winter Olympics!

It was kind of fun driving on the same route that we had just raced on the day before – like returning to the scene of the crime. You definitely had a new admiration and appreciation after spending the day out there up-close & personal.

As Chris was driving, and I once again “assumed” the pivotal role as trip photographer…
I just had to document the foot injuries… CAUTION : GRAPHIC PHOTOS AHEAD!!!

So here’s the toe that was losing the toenail…
no band-aids, so a bit of toilet paper and duct tape worked well to keep it protected.

And then here’s my left foot… and the blister the size of Guatemala!!!
Yep, she’s a beaut. About as wide as three toes, and covering a good portion of my foot.
Just imagine running on that baby!!!… for a full MARATHON!!!

Such beautiful scenery… as seen from the front seat of the car. Like this AMAZING downhill that we pedaled down yesterday!!! This huge downhill section was literally about six miles long… smooth roads… good viewpoint… so good that you could “safely” let it rip and go for speed! I was speeding down around 50 miles per hour at times! So much fun… just a bit scary!

Zooming down the hill with one lane closed for us… while the other lane was being used cautiously by cars timed & spaced out by the cops at each end. Flying down the road with such amazing beauty on the right side… with just a small barricade separating us!

We didn’t get all that far… down the big downhill section and into the town of Keene. Not surprisingly, Chris and I were both hungry… and at this point, you totally feel like you DESERVE to eat whatever you want! So we did!!! We pulled over at a cute little roadside cafe’… half expecting to have breakfast. But of course we had missed that and we were onto lunch.

We started with these amazing bread rolls & handmade potato chips. The rolls were made with duck-fat… but it was the blue-cheese butter spread that really took it over the top!!! SO YUMMY… so good that we actually asked if they package up the butter for sale. Sadly no.

Then the real food arrive… pulled pork for me, and a chicken salad for Chris.
Kind of healthy, right?! I’m sure we’ll compensate for that somewhere
along the long road trip home!

Chris continued driving for most of the way… as I was the photographer.
When we first started the trip, we sent a few photos to her training teammates at home.
Little did I know that I would get so into it… and continued this group-text photo journalism project for the ENTIRE trip!!! So much fun for all of us! But there I was capturing every sight along the way… bridge after bridge… field after field… clouds… trees… whatever… PIE!!!… everything!

At one of the rest stops in New York, we stopped for gas and found a little Amish tent at the entrance… and look, they were selling handmade pies! We couldn’t decide which flavor… so we GOT BOTH!!!

More bridges, more sights… like this shot of the historic Erie Canal…

And then the rain clouds came back. We had such amazing weather all weekend long for the IRONMAN race… so glad that the stronger storm clouds stayed away from Lake Placid. I’m okay with rain on the expressway… so much better than on the race course!

Soon enough, the storm dissipated and the clouds cleared up… back to blue skies!

We kept driving on out of New York, through Pennsylvania and into Ohio. It was during that time that I was taking a turn driving… and Chris had to take on the challenge of photographer! Needless to say, she missed the “Welcome” signs for both Pennsylvania AND Ohio!!! She had a simple task.. and she missed the opportunity!

Okay, in full transparency… there was no Welcome sign in Ohio….
but my story is still that she missed both states!!!    HA!!!

It started getting dark, and we were getting tired. We need to get gas…
and it all added up to the same thing. Time to stop for the night, find a hotel and sleep it off. We found this Days Inn in the middle of nowhere… we had hoped to make it to Cleveland, but we didn’t quite make it. Just a little more mileage tomorrow, but a good place to stop for tonight.

We unpacked all of our gear, our bikes and our bags into the hotel room…
and crashed.                           Okay, maybe after a few bites of Amish pie!!!

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Categories: friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

Much of getting ready for race day is organizing all of your gear. Deciding what you’re going to need & what you’re going to want. IRONMAN does a great job of organizing & planning the event. They need to keep everything organized to keep the race running smoothly – especially with all of the gear and special needs of the two thousand athletes!

When you check-in, they give you a set of color-coded bags. Each bag will get packed ahead of time with all of the gear you’re going to need for each stage of the race. You start the day with your Swim gear in hand. All of the clothing you’ll need for the Bike portion is stored in the BLUE bag. Everything for the Run is in the RED bag. The ORANGE bag is your “special needs” bag that will be waiting for you at the halfway point of the bike ride. And the BLACK bag is the “special needs” bag that is waiting for you at the halfway point of the marathon. And just as an added twist… you’ll get back all of the gear in the red & blue bags… but anything left over in the orange or black bags will not be returned. So you want to pack enough food & extras so you have some options… but not too much that you’re throwing away good things you’ll miss after the race!

Once we had our color-coded bags packed, we took our bikes and gear bags to the Transition Area. These are placed there the day before and will be waiting there for you on race day. We also stayed there to do the Athlete Briefing Meeting where they cover course specifics, rules & regulations and a lot more!

Here’s my trusty steed… racked in the center grassy area of the Olympic Speed Skating Rink!!! We were there pretty early…. so it was easy to find my rack & parking space as they are all pre-numbered. Keep in mind, these entire field will eventually be completely PACKED with BIKES!!!

And here’s Chris’ teeny-tiny racing Tri bike. So cute, right?!

After racking your bike, you then drop off your bags at the bag racks off to the side of the bike area. They will both hang on racks right next to the huge changing tents.

And again, we were pretty early… so here’s the bag racks as they start to get filled up. Keep in mind, these racks will be PACKED with bags!!! And when you come running in after the swim… or after the bike… you’ll need to navigate your way through these bags & racks to find your pre-numbered bags!!!

We had brought all four of our gear bags with us… only to find out that the Special Needs bags don’t get placed until Race Morning… oh well, back to the room!

Once we had taken care of our bikes, bags & athlete briefing… we figured we were still at IRONMAN Village… so we decided to “try out” the compression legs again! Why not, right?!!! We were there… they were still giving free demos… and they feel AMAZING!!!

And then there were also cold water bath legs! Kinda like sitting in a cold ice bath after an intense workout. But totally dry?! It’s an odd feeling to feel the cold water coursing through the legs “freezing” your legs to relieve the muscle aches, pains & tensions. Not a big fan… I preferred the compression pants!

And if compression pant-legs are AMAZING… why not try another version!
They were there… Rapid Reboot… and we wouldn’t want them to feel left-out, right?!

Of the three recovery pants… I think I preferred the Rapid Reboot brand!!!

After the Expo, we went for a little drive… to buy a few last-minute things and some lunch. Chris was sporting her new copper bracelet from her training friend Rose! Inside the cuff it is inscribed.. “YOU FUCKING GOT THIS!”… which is SO Rose!!!

We stopped at a nice local deli for lunch…
and loved seeing them all prepared for race weekend in the bakery area!

We behaved ourselves… as we have been eating FAR TOO MUCH over the past couple days. And we had “promised” ourselves that we would stay focused and eat much better today. The day before the big race. Eyes on the prize…. and not the decorated cookies & fruit tarts!

Also loved the cleverness of this license plate we found in the parking lot of the deli.

We finally made it to an early dinner… and I was looking for some good protein. My steak was amazing! And Chris went for a nice burger and homemade chips. It was early as we wanted to digest the food and get to bed early… as the alarm was going to go off EARLY tomorrow for Race Morning!!!

After dinner, we still had an hour or so to hang out… as it was still a bit too early to go to bed yet. So we walked back down to IRONMAN Village and the transition area… both of which are right next to the Olympic Training Center.

And by now, the racks for the gear bags were starting to fill up. Gotta try to remember where your bags are… keeping in mind that you will have just finished one leg of the race, running in along with a lot of other athletes… and you’re all looking for your bags. It gets a bit confusing & congested.

And the bike racks were filling in nicely too. I would LOVE to know how much “money” is sitting her in the Transition Area. As a LOT of these bikes are VERY expensive… and very impressive!!!

When we got back to the room…. a bit nervous knowing that when we wake up next it will be RACE DAY!!! And doesn’t everyone know that a good piece of apple pie will calm your nerves?!!!

And then it was time for bed… so we settled in, set a couple alarms for VERY early!!!
Going to be very early because tomorrow was going to be a VERY long & arduous day!

 

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Categories: friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

We woke up in Lake Placid and knew we had to get started. A lot to do today.
It has felt just like a fun vacation so far… but now all of a sudden reality was setting in.

And then it got REAL!!!
Strapped on our official IRONMAN race wristbands… no turning back now…

After checking-in at Registration… we got our wristbands, bags, tags and all of that other important stuff. Then we went over to IRONMAN Village… the Expo area for all of the athletes and the vendors trying to sell more stuff. Always fun to see all of the goodies that we “want” but really don’t “need”… and a few fun photo-ops along the way! Here’s me & Chris at the official step & repeat photo-op!!!

Lots of people milling about in IRONMAN Village… enjoying the beautiful weather again!

And when in Rome… one of our favorite vendors sells these amazing air inflating, compression recovery pants. Even better, they let you try them for free! Sure, we haven’t done anything yet to have “earned” this… but it was FREE!!! So of course we did it!!!

As the legs inflate and gain air pressure, you can feel the muscles in your legs pulsating and the blood flowing & being pushed back up. Sometimes it gets a little “uncomfortable”… just like a good massage! Yes, please!!!

But then when you take the legs off, you can see where all of the seams & air pockets were pressing against your legs. A few indentations as souvenirs… as now my legs felt AMAZING!!!

And look…
pretty sure this will be placed in the right spot to become the actual Finish Line later!!!

Here’s the area of grass that will be filled with thousands of bikes very soon. This is the Transition Area where we will come back between each section of the triathlon. And since we’re in Lake Placid… home to two Winter Olympics… this grassy area is actually in interior of the ice speed skating rink!!!

And while you’re playing in Lake Placid, it only seemed right that we both got to “light” the Olympic Flame!!! In fact, this is the official cauldron from the 1932 Winter Olympics!!!

While we were there being silly and taking photos, Chris set her purse down on the steps. We got all carried away and continued off into the Expo. It wasn’t until we were headed back to our room that she realized she didn’t have her bag. So we rushed back to the Expo and found it right there sitting on the steps… under the watchful eye of the nice lady that was helping with the photo-op in the expo tent across the walkway. So nice of her to keep an eye on it for us!

Soon enough it was time for more food!!! Gotta gear-up and carbo-load for the big race, right?! Or is that just a wonderful excuse to eat more?!!! So we opted for yummy pizzas… both of them on a cauliflower crust. My first time trying it… and not all that much different, really.

We walked through town doing a little window shopping. And found more than souvenirs… maybe it was time to eat again?! So we did… Chris got this HUGE ice cream cone that she polished off in no time… and I got a slice of cheesecake dipped in chocolate and frozen on a stick. Huge and YUMMY!!!

And we figured since we were supposed to be “relaxing”…
why not take some time off for an afternoon matinee?
And such a cute little, family-owned movie theater!!!

When we got back to our AirB&B room, we ran into some of our new neighbors. A cute couple Jackie & Joe from Long Island… he was racing, she was cheering. Another couple where she was from Brazil and a well-seasoned IRONMAN racer and what we now believe to be her Sugar-Daddy! We also ran into a cute family with two kids… but the strange part was that the Mom of that family was the same nice lady we met earlier that had been keeping an eye on Chris’ lost purse at the Expo!!! Small world, huh?!!!

After the movie, Chris and I hopped back in the car to drive the IRONMAN bike route. We figured it would be a great chance to familiarize ourselves with the course a bit. We knew it was going to be hilly, but we didn’t really know how bad. We had also heard “rumor” of a very steep downhill at the beginning, and then an 11-mile uphill at the end getting us back into Lake Placid!!! YIKES!!! So much easier in a car… and it gave me a chance to take some pictures!!! The scenery was SO AMAZING… that if I didn’t get pictures now, I knew I would never be able to finish the ride in time if I could stop for photos (which you can’t, but you get the point.)

So here we go… pedaling up the first big hill… err, well driving for now, but pedaling later.

Did I mention recently that the weather here in Lake Placid has been SPECTACULAR?!
Well it was…. and the scenery was too!!! Like this…

And here we go… this is the road that will be part of that BIG downhill…
right along side of the river and cliffs!

I mean, c’mon… could this get any prettier???
Truth be told, we stopped the car so I could take pictures of the waterfalls that I had seen on the other side of the road. I hopped out and ran across the road to take pictures. Chris was back by the car yelling at me… and yelling for me to come back… but why?…

Turns out THIS amazing waterfall was right next to the parking lot…
and I had completely run right past it to take pictures across the street. HA!!!

SO BEAUTIFUL!!!
And to think… if we didn’t come out tonight to drive the bike course… we would have only seen this scenic beauty while looking over our handlebars and pushing the pedals. It’s gonna be a race!!! No time for sightseeing. No time for my camera! So glad we got to see some of the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains ahead of time… and with my camera!!!

So good to see the route ahead of time. To have some idea of where the ride would take us… and where the hills were going to be. The route is the same loop twice! To see the steep downhill… and to see how bad that 11-mile uphill climb was going to be towards the end… TWICE!!!

After our drive, Chris and I went over to see some of her training friends at the house they were renting. Chris trains with “ET : Experience Triathlon”… and her coach Chilly was going to be racing Lake Placid with us! So we stopped by to see her and a few other teammates. And were so pleasantly surprised to see that some of Chris’s training team mates had sent us some treats!!! And you know how I LOVE treats… and apparently THEY do to! I mean, they’ve all “experienced” my form of training… riding hard & ending with pie!!!

Some of the largest and best cookies ever!!!

And oh, but wait there’s more… not just cookies… but PIE too!!!
We have some of the BEST FRIENDS EVER!!!… definitely the “sweetest”!!!

And then it was time to sleep… another day closer to the big day!!!
Just one more day of “rest” before we tackle our next IRONMAN race!!!

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Categories: friends, special events, travel, vacation

So we woke up early in Niagara Falls… ready to get started on Day Two of our adventure!
We knew we had a long ways to go… and yet we had to walk down to see the falls in daylight first!!! So cool to see it in natural light… to fully see the power & force of the water. But where does it all come from? Where does it all go?… and more importantly… Why doesn’t it ever stop???

We stopped to get gas before we head out…
and I loved seeing how they had even “Canada-ized” the McDonald’s logo!!!

And then the moment of truth… going through Customs in the opposite direction!
The Customs Agent going into Canada told us that Canada pretty much lets anyone into their country… but it’s getting back into the USA that is a bit tougher. And here we are without any passports!… “PASSPORTS PLEASE!!!”

So here go again… but this time we know what’s going on… and we’re hoping for the best. Needless to say, the US Customs Agent was not nearly as chatty & cute. He was a bit more gruff & obstinate. He found no humor in our situation. But eventually he let us through.. and BACK INTO THE USA!!!

And so we were off… back on the road. I finally got a chance to drive…
and found out that Chris is a brilliant conversationalist!!!

Needless to say, upstate New York is beautiful! So many trees and hills…
and they only increased as we headed towards Lake Placid and into the Adirondack Mountains! As the mountains & trees increased, so did my anticipation, excitement & anxiety about the race!

And then with Chris back at the wheel… the rain clouds moved in!
Okay, maybe full-on STORM CLOUDS!!! It was crazy. Tough to see the road at times! Good thing was that the locals all turn their flashing hazard lights on when the rain comes. Brilliant idea!

The rain stopped as we carried on… but there were more clouds to come.

The sky eventually cleared up as we entered Adirondacks State Park.

As we continued on, the trees & mountains increased. So pretty… and yet somewhere back in the deep recesses of my head I started worrying about the IRONMAN race ahead of us. This are not little hills for bike riding… they’re downright MOUNTAINS!!!

At the High Peaks North rest area, we read some signs about how HUGE the Adirondacks State Park is… it’s the largest contiguous state park in the country, over six million acres… approximately the same size as Vermont… and three times the size of Yellowstone!

Somewhere along the road… I had forgotten how big Adirondacks State Park was… I knew it was huge, but I was wrong when I kept referring to it as “six hundred million acres!!!” By erroneously adding the “hundred” into the equation, I made the park a LOT bigger in my head… and my stories!!!

Soon enough we started seeing signs… exciting & somewhat terrifying… LAKE PLACID!!! Reality started setting in about the endurance race before us! Chris may have been training for real… legit training with a professional trainer!!! Me?… not so much. I was a bit concerned about my lack of training. And quite honestly, a bit unfocused knowing that my Mom was still in the hospital and not getting better… and knowing that some tough decisions were being made while I was gone. In fact TODAY was the day that my Dad, brother & sister were having a very serious meeting with my Mom’s doctors to determine if there was truly any hope of her improving. I wish I could have been there… as it was in my mind a lot of the day… but we all knew that my Mom would have wanted me to go through with this trip to compete in my THIRD full IRONMAN race!

The scenery was AMAZING!!!
So beautiful… we had to stop a couple times along the way to take in the sights & smells….
and dip our toes in the water!!!

We finally made it to the small town of Lake Placid. A quaint little town known for hosting TWO Winter Olympics!!!… as well as hosting the Lake Placid IRONMAN!!! So much so that they have a large placard on a boulder in front of Mirror Lake. See the buoys?… already set out in the lake for the race. A little concerning as I am NOT a strong swimmer! And can you see where the buoys go?… ALL THE WAY down to the other end of the lake!!! I was a little freaked seeing the distance… and knowing that we had to swim all the way down & back… hop out of the water… get back in… and do it all again for a second loop!!! YIKES!!!

A full 2.4 miles of YIKES!!!

And here you can see the buoys a bit better… ALL THE WAY DOWN!!!
For this race, the buoys would always be on our right… swimming the yellow side first, then returning back on the orange side!

After a bit of an internal meltdown… I calmed down a bit as we walked around town and finally had dinner at a sweet little restaurant overlooking Mirror Lake… and the ever-present Swim course! Just as a constant reminder! A reminder that I don’t know how to swim well… and might NOT be prepared enough to do this!!! 2.4 miles is a LONG way to swim!!!

Loved the low-flying fog & clouds moving in & floating through the hills opposite the lake!

A healthy dinner after all of the junk & coffee cake pizza I had eaten all day in the car. A little clean protein and something green actually tasted great! And another great ending to Day Two of our adventure!… and Welcome to Lake Placid!!!

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Categories: friends, special events, travel, vacation

Well, the big day was finally here. After much soul-searching, and rationalizing the trip, Chris and I finally packed up the car… bikes, gear, luggage, and road trip snacks!!! With all of the things that were going on with my Mom in the hospital after her latest stroke, it had been hard to focus. Hard to keep on task… and hard to rationalize going on “vacation” while she was laying in a hospital bed. But I taught my Tuesday night pottery class, got home late and finished packing, and over-packing, and got a couple hours of sleep. But as of this morning … we’re on VACATION!!!

After packing Chris’s car with all of our stuff…
we set the GPS course for Lake Placid and headed off!!!

Lucky for us, we have some of the greatest friends ever!!!
Including our friend Nancy who knew we would need some road trip snacks… and had stopped by earlier in the morning at Chris’s house to drop off this huge coffee cake “pizza” with lots of fruit & icing! Nancy knows it’s one of my favorites from my favorite bakery in Elk Grove Village… Jarosch Bakery! She knew this because two years ago when Nancy & I went up to Madison to cheer on Chris in her first full IRONMAN, we stopped and got one of these for our road trip together… and polished it off with ease!!!

Needless to say, we hadn’t even made it to the Skyway Tollway Bridge before we cut into it… basically still in Chicago!!!

So there we are blindly following the GPS… talking… chatting… singing.. and eating.
Basically all of the fun of a road trip as we finally crossed into Indiana across the Skyway Toll Bridge!

And then soon enough… hello Michigan!!!

Soon enough there were “signs” along the road that we must be nearing Detroit.
Kind of exciting… as I have never been to Detroit. Still just following the GPS in the car.
Still having a fun time chatting & sightseeing along the way!

And then we started seeing highway signs that caused a bit of concern…
we didn’t want to go to either Lansing or Canada??? Uh oh… Which way to go?!

We knew we wanted to keep going EAST towards Lake Placid. So we continued on…

But then all of a sudden…

All of a sudden we came upon this really cool looking bridge. The Ambassador Bridge. I was so busy admiring the bridge & taking pictures… I wasn’t really paying too much attention to where we were headed. I guess in hindsight I should have known better?…

The bridge was cool. The bridge was long… with no options to exit. Before we knew it, we were stopped at this weird Toll Booth looking area that was moving very slowly. It was only then that the reality of the situation began to sink in. Why was it taking so long? Why weren’t the cars moving through faster with their iPass? Something must be going on?!!!

It was only when we finally made it to the Toll Booth window that it hit us.
As the guard in the booth asked us for our PASSPORTS… “Passports please!”
Of course we didn’t have them. Who knew you would go through Canada to get to Lake Placid? The GPS route never said anything about needing a passport? So we sheepishly offered up our Driver’s Licenses… and again “Passports please!” The Customs Agent was surprisingly nice as we bumbled our way through the “interrogation”… Where are you going? Why are you coming to Canada? How long are you staying? Where were you born? All we had was Lake Placid… IRONMAN… triathlon… here are our bikes… here’s our gear… just following GPS… we had no idea… we’re idiots from Chicago!

We asked her if we had any other option… to maybe turn around and stay in the USA. She said we could, but then we would need to backtrack all the way and go back around UNDER the lake… thus adding about 3-1/2 to 4 hours onto our trip. We said NOPE… we’ll try our chances in Canada! So after she scanned our Driver’s Licenses and chatted it up with us… she finally let us through.

And then, and only then… as we were now driving through the Canadian countryside, Chris decides to tell me she printed out a traditional map from Mapquest. Showing the route we “thought” we would be taking. Apparently Chris didn’t realize that there might be different GPS routes… she assumed the printed out online map would be the same as the GPS directions in the car. Apparently she was wrong… and apparently it was too late to use this printed map!!! Oh well, scenic route here we come!!! Hello Canada!!!

Luckily… we were now headed towards Niagara Falls for the evening! It had been a long time since I had been there… and we both knew that it is much prettier from the Canadian side. And since we were in Canada already… all good, right?!!!

We found a hotel room just a few blocks from the falls. We settled in quickly and then walked to find dinner. After dinner, we walked down to see the waterfalls. Another wonderful surprise was that the falls were all lit-up in wonderful colors!!!

And if that weren’t enough, they also decided to show off and welcome us with an amazing fireworks display over the falls. AMAZING!!! And such wonderful timing for us… and our surprise “adventure” into Canada!!!

After the fireworks, it went back to just the beautiful light-painted waterfalls.

And then it was back to the hotel for a well-deserved night’s sleep. Chris had done most of the driving, while I did most of the photo-taking… and eating. It was only Day One.. and we’ve already had a wonderful adventure. So much more fun to come!!! And THIS is how Chris and I travel… one adventure after another!!!

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Categories: nature, sunset, travel

Okay, so I always hate to post too much while I’m out-of-town away from my place. So I wait until I get back to post… but sometimes life gets in the way, and those posts just get put-off & put-off… and soon enough, it’s almost a week later?!!! Or in this case, a FULL MONTH later!!! Oh well… still had fun, still have photos & still have stories to share!

So I drove up to Minneapolis on Wednesday 3/27 after a full day of work.
It was a long drive by myself, but a lot of “pretty” along the way! Always nice to be treated
to a nice sunset as you’re driving… and taking a few photos along the way!

And then the sun went down, and I still had a couple hours to go…
with nothing fun or beautiful to watch along the way.
Luckily I found a little sumthin’-sumthin’ that helped pass the time!

Categories: Chicago, travel

Traveling is great, but it always feels good to get home again too. Fun to see Chicago through the airplane window… the lakefront, the neighborhoods, the SNOW!!! Colder than Frankfurt… with the promise of a Polar Vortex to welcome me home!

Categories: travel

 

Blue skies flying high over the Atlantic Ocean… or maybe Iceland?… as I saw on the “flight video TV” that our route took a slight curve up & around to fly over Iceland instead of straight cross the Atlantic. Not sure why… but it sure was pretty above the clouds!

Categories: travel

Leaving Germany… leaving the clouds, the gray, the weather.
Thank You Frankfurt. I had a great time!