Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall Trip to Chicago

Erin and I had a really nice weekend with her brother Andrew and his wife Sara in Chicago. We flew in on Friday afternoon and after some Korean fusion for lunch went to walk around Oz park. This was close to Ba-ba-reeba, a Spanish tapas restaurant where we had dinner. We then went to a bar nearby where we met Erin's college friend, Kristen. The drinks and the conversation were great.

The next morning we went out to Northwestern University for some tailgating before the homecoming football game. It was fun to share some drinks and sausage with Andrew's friends. Unfortunately our team did not play well, but the weather was nice and it brought back memories for Erin to walk around campus.

After lunch we stopped at a whiskey distellery we like then went back to the apartment. The walking and game had made us tired, so we spent the rest of the day playing board games.

On Sunday we had time to get some brunch and then head to the zoo. I was impressed with the zoo especially since it was free. We're now getting ready to get on our plane. It was a short time, but the weather was nice and it's always fun seeing Andrew and Sara.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Iceland, Part 3

Our last few days in Iceland were busy as we had a lot planned.  Our first stop was Jökulsárlón, a lagoon filled with icebergs broken off from the nearby glacier.  Right away we saw seals swimming in the water and laying on the icebergs.  As we continued through the lagoon we got to see many different icebergs and learned that it had been the setting for some James Bond movies.  Unfortunately I was a bit distracted as we were scheduled to be at our next adventure within a brief period of time and our guides at the lagoon had started late.  As soon as the tour of the lagoon was done we quickly drove to our next destination.

As we pulled up to the visitors center for the Vatnajökull National Park the bus for our tour to the glacier was just loading up and we still hadn't gotten our gear.  Fortunately, we had reserved the glacier climbing experience rather than just the hike and it turned out that we were the only ones doing that for the day.  Our guide was a nice English guy that helped us with our gear while the bus took the other people to their hike and then returned to get us.  After a short bus ride and a hike to the glacier we strapped on our crampons, grabbed our ice axes, and headed onto the glacier.  The ice was crunchy underfoot as we hiked up to the crevices.

Once we got to a nice wide crevice our guide screwed in some ice bolts for anchors and lowered each of us down in turn.  The climbing was pretty straight-forward and started easily.  Since we were the only ones on the trip I got to climb several more times in the crevice moving to some harder ice.  Finally, we moved on to a deep hole in the glacier (called a moulin) where the ice melt flowed into.  The sides of the hole hadn't gotten as much sun and were much harder, so I was glad that I was able to climb out of it.  We soon left the glacier and drove on to a place for dinner and finally our hotel for the night.

We started the next day down at a beautiful beach near where we had stayed.  The views and the rock formations were amazing.  After the beach we drove to some of the more tourist-visited areas of the island.  After spending so much time off the beaten track it was hard to get used to having to share the views and the road with so many other people.  We stopped at Gulfoss, an awesome waterfall, then Geysir, the namesake for geysers, and Thingvellir, where the North American and European tectonic plates are pulling apart.  These were all beautiful, but we rushed through them a little as we had dinner reservations at our last activity.

Near the airport is the Blue Lagoon Thermal Spa which is a hot springs complex that sits on a lava field.  After dinner there we got into the warm waters and enjoyed a drink from the swim-up bar.  The water was very relaxing and we didn't want to leave, but as they were closing down we had to go and get to the guesthouse we were staying at.  It was a nice end to our trip in Iceland.

The next morning we got up, got to the airport and made the long way back home.  We had an eight hour layover in New York City, so we contacted one of our friends there and spent time with her and her friend walking along the Highline, a raised train platform converted into a walking trail.  It was nice to spend time with them and see the city.  By the time we got back to the airport and had flown home we were exhausted.  It had been an amazing trip and I would recommend Iceland to anyone considering going or even stopping on their way to/from Europe.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Iceland, Part 2

After a few days in Iceland, Erin and I were starting to get used to the cold, wind, and rain.  We had accepted the idea that we wouldn't let a little thing like weather stop us from experiencing the adventures we had planned.  On Wednesday we had that thinking put to the test.

We drove to Husavik Wednesday morning and started at the Whale Museum.  It was very informative about different whales and the whaling industry in Iceland.  We especially found it amusing to learn where and how they got their different whale skeletons.

After the Whale Museum we got some soup for lunch and took some Dramamine.  We were soon on a trawler heading out to see to find some whales.  Unfortunately the sea was not calm and had to contend with some large waves and swells.  Many people on the boat got sick including me.  I regretted my choice of shellfish soup for lunch.  Erin didn't vomit, but she felt terrible for the whole trip.  After about two and a half hours she didn't care when we spotted the dorsal fin of a humpback whale rising out of the water.  Next time we will be more weary of the weather before heading out on a boat.  Fortunately we had a nice cabin just outside of town on the edge of a nature reserve to recuperate.

The next day, having spent far too little time in our cozy, little cabin, we drove down to Lake Myvatn.  The area provided a number of hikes up cinder cones and around lava formations of various sizes.  There were also swarms of flies we tried to avoid and grazing sheep.  After a long day of hiking we had dinner at one of our favorite places, Vogafjós, The Cowshed Cafe.  More than a metaphor they actually had cows that you could pet.

After dinner we continued East away from the lake.  Not far away is a field of bubbling mud and steaming vents caused by the volcanic nature of the area.  After a drive by the local geothermal power station we were on our way to our next stop, the town of Seyðisfjörður in a fjord on the East coast of the island.  While the drive over the pass into the fjord was foggy and it was getting late, it was still light out when we safely made it into town owning to the long summer days.

The next morning we got up and hiked up to a waterfall overlooking the town and the fjord.  We also checked the waves out on the water as we prepared to go out in a kayak in the afternoon.  We met our guide who gave us a brief instruction on steering and paddling our two-person kayak.  Then we were off paddling into the fjord on our way to another waterfall.  The trip was much more peaceful than our outing the previous day though by the time we were through our arms were much more sore.  Before long we were back on the road and heading to the South of the island where we had some of our most memorable experiences...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Iceland, Part 1

Erin and I had wanted to go to Iceland for about two years now; Ever since some colleagues of her's went and came back with beautiful pictures and experiences.  We tried to go last year, but the plane tickets were too expensive.  This year we got them early and had plenty of planning for what we would see.

We took an overnight flight directly from Denver to Reykjavik that left us feeling a bit tired early Sunday morning (May 31).  Fortunately the place we were staying let us leave our luggage while we explored the city.  After a hearty breakfast and lots of coffee we made our way up to Hallgrímskirkja, a large church overlooking much of Reykjavik.  As we were there early, we enjoyed the choir rehearsing along with the massive church organ being played.  The acoustics were amazing.  The view from the bell tower also provided plenty of great views of the surrounding city.

We continued on through the streets of the city looking in various shops and museums.  One of our favorite museums was the 871 +/-2 Early Settlement Exhibit.  It had a lot of interactive features that really helped us understand what life was like for the early settlers of Iceland.  Finally, after lunch we were able to head back to our guesthouse for a nap before going out for dinner and drinks.

The next morning we were woken up early as our rental car was dropped off at our guesthouse.  We were soon on the road to Fljótstunga to see a lava cave.  Unfortunately we got turned around and showed up late to the meetup point.  We pressed on even though the tour had already left.  We were able to go partly into the cave, but there was a gate blocking the rest of it.  We were bummed that we couldn't stay longer for the next tour, but we had to move on to our next stop.

Later that day we arrived at a horse-back riding stable in Varmahlíð.  Again we were a little late, but fortunately they had waited for us this time and we were soon out on the horses.  It was nice to be out in the fields on the horses.  They had a smooth ambling gait different from other horses we've ridden previously which was faster than a walk, but smoother than a typical trot.  We did a two hour ride which worked out well.  By the end of the ride we were a bit cold and a bit sore, but I'm glad we went.

Fortunately on our third day we didn't have to be anywhere at a particular time.  Our day had us driving around the Trollaskagi Peninsula to see and experience a different slice of Icelandic life.  We started with the Glaumbaer Museum which recreated life in 1800's Iceland with a variety of pancakes and cakes from the period.  Our next stop was at a thermal infinity pool where we could swim and relax in warm water overlooking the ocean even though it was cold and raining out.  While we had hoped to do some hiking the weather did not improve so we drove on, stopping for a delicious lunch at a house in the middle of nowhere.

In the afternoon we stopped at a herring museum showing the herring industry in Iceland and how people lived in the early 1900's when the industry was in full swing.  It reminded me of my dad's parents house as the era-accurate items in the living quarters looked similar to the kinds of things they had in their house.  We finished the day in Akureyri which had a nice botanical garden and a beautiful view of the fjord.  That reminded me of my mom's parents who I remember traveling in Scandinavia with fjords and botanical gardens.

Our trip was off to a good start and we were looking forward to whale watching the following day.  More on that in the next post...

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Erin and I took a nice weekend away down to Salida last week. We started by driving down to Colorado Springs where we got some brunch. We then went on down South of Florence to Bishop's Castle.

This is a castle that has been built by a guy on his own land which is free to the public. It was a work in progress with exposed parapets and iron framework. The guy had a deep libertarian streak with several screeds written around the castle. It was a trippy experience.

We then drove back up and West to Salida. It was beautiful country around Westcliff, but very remote. There looked to be some cool places to climb and kayak around Cotopaxi.

Once we got to Salida we went to the town's whiskey distillery for some old fashions. It was a cool space and good drinks. We ended up staying a while playing "In a Pickle". We then took a walk up the hill south of town to enjoy the sunset. After walking back down we had some dinner and went to our hotel.

On Sunday we found a nice place for breakfast down by the river. We then went for a hike up to Brown's Creek Waterfall. It was a beautiful hike with great views of the valley. The waterfall was spectacular and a great place to have lunch. We hiked back down and headed back home. It was a short, but satisfying weekend getaway.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Erin's Birthday

Erin and I celebrated her birthday last weekend by taking the train downtown. We started at the Peaks Lounge at the top of the Hyatt. Then it was over to the newly renovated Union train station for a late dinner at Stoic & Genuine.
They had great seafood with oysters being their specialty.
We finished the night back at our hotel. It was a nice little getaway.

This weekend we're celebrating with Erin's family for dinner. It's fun being able to celebrate my wonderful wife.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Year 2015

For New Year's Eve this week Erin and I had dinner with her parents at Lou's Food Bar for some spicy fried chicken and games of shuffleboard and foosball. We went back home pretty early though and had a quiet rest of the evening.

On Saturday we had Erin's parents and her sister's family over for dinner. It was nice that they were able to come over even with it snowing out. After dinner everyone was playing in the living room either with baby Jack, the dogs, or a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

As Erin and I tried to remember what we had done for previous New Years' Eve she noted that I have posted to my blog for a while making it difficult to remember these things. I've got an app to post from my phone so hope that will make it easier to post more often.