Monday, October 5, 2009

Vacation - Vegas & Zion

Jackie and I just got home from a great vacation. A week ago Saturday we flew to Las Vegas, intending to spend a day in Vegas at the beginning and end of our trip, then drive up to Zion National Park for the 5 days in between. We got into Vegas early so we had plenty of time to walk around and check out some of the casinos. Neither of us are too interested in gambling, but we did enjoy checking out all the different places. That night we had tickets to Zumanity, which is billed as the sensual side of Cirque Du Soleil. The show was amazing. Definitely not something to watch with your parents or kids (its actually 18 and over), but a really great show.

Sunday morning, after some breakfast, we jumped into the rental car and head to Zion. After about 2 1/2 hours we pulled into Springdale, the town just outside the park headquarters. Immediately we were amazed at the beauty with these huge red rock cliffs all around us. We spent some time in town scouting out some hiking plans for the upcoming week, grabbed some groceries and headed to the house we rented. That turned out to be a great place, fairly new and in a secluded vacation home community. Peace and quiet with awesome mountain views surrounding it.

The next morning we drove up into the high country in the middle of the park. This was a different area as we climbed to 7000-8000ft, and were surrounded by Ponderosa pines and Aspens. Many of the Aspens were turning yelllow for the fall, which made a great contrast against their white trunks.

On Tuesday we took advantage of the still 90+ degree temperatures and decided to hike the Narrows. This is the far north area of Zion Canyon where the canyon walls narrow to as little as 20feet in some spots with walls up to 2000feet. There's only a trail for the first mile, then you literally get into the river and hike through the water, either along the river bed or along the banks were possible. It was a really amazing experience. We hiked a total of about 3 1/2 miles up stream, then turned around and headed back.

Wednesday was our 4th anniversary. We had hoped to hike Angels Landing, but it was pretty windy so we decided on some less exposed hikes for the day. We ended up doing two hikes, Hidden Canyon and Emerald Pools. Hidden Canyon was 1 mile each way, plus some scrambling up a small slot canyon. The main trail included some exposed ledges along a cliff face that offered chains fixated to the wall for some added security.

Thursday we headed up Angels Landing. It was a little over 2 miles of steep climbs with lots of switchbacks, then we got to the chains. The first section was fairly simple and both of us thought we were almost there, then we came around the corner and saw that we still had about 1/2 mile of intense climbing along an exposed ridge. Either side of this were 1000 foot drops. I was pretty nervous, but Jackie encouraged me to give it a shot. We were moving pretty good and it wasn't too bad. We were about 3/4 of the way up and it was getting really crowded with 2 way traffic. Our nerves started getting the best of us both so we opted to grab some pictures where we were and head back down. The view is supposed to be amazing, but I don't regret the decision to head back down.

On Friday we headed back to Vegas and finished the trip off with dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant, overlooking the strip and the fountains at the Belagio. Great way to finish a great vacation.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A beautiful night in Lexington

Yesterday evening Jackie suggested we take a drive up to Lexington. We picked up her mom and sister Jill, then headed up. It was a beautiful night so I grabbed the camera to take some pictures up there. Here are some of my favorites from the night. After walking out on the pier we grabbed some dinner at Smackwater Jack's. Lexington has done a great job redeveloping their downtown area. All in ll it made for a great evening.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wedding Photography

Jackie's youngest sister Amy got married on August 16th. Since I have my fancy new camera I helped out taking pictures at the ceremony and reception. The ceremony was at Dow Gardens in Midland, very beautiful with plenty of good spots for pictures. I got a little shutter happy, taking 1345 pictures, but it was a lot of fun, using the new camera and getting some really cool shots.

Jackie was one of the bridesmaids and look exceptionally beautiful, as you can see in the picture below. Everything went great, and other than being super hot out (in the 90's with lots of humidity) the weather was good.

One of the cool accessories I got for the camera was an external flash. You can aim it in different directions so during the reception I would bounce the flash off the white cealing which made the pictures turn out nice and bright, but without that glossy look from the flash reflecting off people's faces.

If you're interested, all of the pictures can be seen at

New Toy

A little over a month ago I got a new toy, a Nikon D90 digital SLR camera. Curt has the same camera and ever since being on vacation with him and comparing our pictures I've wanted one. I've always been really interested in photography, but have never had a really good camera. Now I have one, just need to learn how to use it.

Below are some great pictures I took of a fawn in our yard. Ever since Jackie and I put our garden in there has been a doe and two fawns hanging around in the area, eating much of our garden. I caught this one in the garden one Saturday morning. He wandered from the back yard to the apple tree in the front. I was able to get really close so obviously he doesn't know to be afraid yet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Free WiFi

That's what else I like about the Pacific Northwest, free wifi. It was free at the Vancouver airport so since I had lots of time to kill I fired up the laptop, got some e-mails taken care of and posted to the blog. Now I'm in Seattle and my iPhone picked up AT&T wifi, also free. Nothing is free at the Detroit airport.

Well, almost time for my red eye. The good news is I've been upgraded to first class so hopefully I can get a little sleep on the plane. Any time I start to think my travel schedule is rough I just think about my cousin Dave's. By comparison I've yet to experience anything close to rough.

Vancouver, BC

I'm sitting in the Vancouver airport right now, waiting for a flight to Seattle. From Seattle I have the red eye home to Detroit. I've been here for over two hours and have three more before my flight. My original plan was get here early and maybe jump on an earlier flight. No luck. I wished I had stayed downtown for a while longer. It was a beautiful day out so it would have been nice to just sit and look at the mountains across the harbor. I have to say I've been to some pretty cool places over the past 5 years or so, but Vancouver ranks right up there at the top.

A couple weeks ago my cousins Dave and Allison were in as well as my Aunt Carol and Uncle Andy. On the 4th of July everyone came up to Port Huron for the day for lunch at our house and a cruise on the Huron Lady. It was just one part of a really great weekend that included Greenfield Village and lots of family time. So we're on the Huron Lady talking about boating with my cousin Dave. He and Allison used to live on the water in Annapolis, MD and loved boating. They now live in England temporarily but really look forward to returning to living on or near the water. Dave and my sister Amy were discussing the water and how it is their favorite place to spend time for vacations. I said something along the lines of "I like the water, but I'm more of a mountain guy." Well Vancouver has proven I do love the water, when they are surrounded by a back drop of beautiful green mountains that seem to rise straight out of the ocean.

I've been here since Tuesday and had some time to do some exploring. It was basically a tease that has just made me want to come back with Jackie. Here's some of the pictures I took. They're just camera phone pictures, but I picked the best ones. Check out the guy below. I was at a park with a road that climbed a mountain, about 3000 feet up. There was a whole group of these guys on these extra long skate boards basically surfing down the road. They were going so fast this guy passed me when I was doing about 40 mph. Crazy!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tour de Cure Part II

Yesterday was the Tour de Cure at Island Lake Recreation Area in Brighton. Jackie and I loaded up early and were on the road just after 7am. We had hoped to be there by 8:30, but some construction closures and a wrong turn on my part got us there just after nine. No problem though as registration was pretty efficient and we were able to get ready just in time for the 9:30 start.

Curt, Noelle and Mary were already there, ready to go. Curt got a cool jersey for raising money and being diabetic, so he started the ride in the front with the other "Red Riders", which is what the jersey said. We joined up with them shortly after as we were grabbing a couple last minutes things from the car.

The five of us had signed up for the 25 mile route, which left Island Lake Recreation Area, headed over and around Kensington Metropark, then back into Island Lake. The weather was perfect and it turned out to be a great ride, with around 800 other riders out there. We even ran into another Team Sandbag member, Brian, who was out there riding as well.

At the final rest stop of the day Jackie and I were grabbing some snacks when she says to me "hey, it's Ron." My first thought was "Ron who?". We're big fans of the show Biggest Loser, and one of the contestants from last season was there helping at the aid station. He's from South Lyon, MI which is just a short drive away. We talked with him a bit and got a picture.

All in all it was a great day.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tour de Cure

Jackie and I are going to be riding in the Tour de Cure with our friends Curt and Noelle on June 14th at Island Lake Recreation area. Its a organized charity ride to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Curt has been a type 1 diabetic for a while now so it will be great to come out and ride with him. Jackie did it with them a couple years ago and really enjoyed it.

If you're interested in donating to us you can do so online, Jackie or Jason. Thanks.

Unfortunately it is the same day as the Ruby race, but I'm not exactly in racing shape anyways so no big deal.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

No Lumberjack for me

Well, my Lumberjack disappointment is coming early this year. I've decided to throw in the towel on the race as I'm nowhere close to being ready and simply don't have the time to prepare for a 100 miler right now. That's due to a number of things, but nothing bad. The past few months have been very busy with work, lots of travel and long hours here. Apparently the hard work is paying off though as I recently received a promotion. I basically knew it was coming, just wasn't sure exactly how or when it would. Now I'm fully responsible for all of our marketing activities, report directly to the president of the company. Right now my job won't change a lot, just more accountability, but as we grow I will hopefully be adding some staff which will definitely transform the department.

We also have a lot of projects going on at home right now. Last year we finally finished the deck (thanks mostly to Lee and Sergio) and some landscaping around it. This year Jackie really wants to start a vegetable garden. The past couple years she has had a couple tomato plants and some basil planted along the house, but we decided to due something bigger this year. Since I need to cut all the sod out for the garden I figured I might as well rent a sod cutter and finish up the landscape beds around the yard too. Jackie and Jill picked it up yesterday after work, hoping to get everything done last night since the weather forecast wasn't looking the best. Well, before I could even finish cutting the lawn it poured rain, harder and harder. The yard was actually flooded in spots, but once it stopped for a while I decided to give it a shot to see if it would be too muddy. It cut really well and the wetness didn't seem to be a factor. The sod cutter was amazing. I ended up cutting out the garden and areas for a bunch of landscape beds in about 15-20 minutes. It would have easily taken me a full day with a shovel, if not longer. Today it's rainy, but hopefully I can still get some work done. Still lots to do, finish the garden, put in the plants in the landscape beds, put in some type of edging around the beds, groundcover. Then, when that's all done we're planning to put in a shed. So, like I mentioned above, not a lot of time for riding now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

More Hiking

Thursday we wanted to get some more hiking in. After our experience the other day we wanted to make sure we chose something a little easier. We ended up heading to the Alum Bluffs Cave trail. This was the second time Jackie and I had done this together and my third time. Like the horseback riding, my dad and I hiked this trail about 20 years ago. Its amazing how I remembered stuff from it. We didn't mind hiking it again, its a beautiful trail, challenging but not overly difficult. The trail eventually goes all the way to the top of Mount LeConte, one of the higher points in the park, but we only hiked about half way, to the Alum Cave bluffs. Once we got to the half way point I really wanted to go all the way to the top. Nobody else wanted to go with me though. They did offer to wait for me, and I think I could have moved pretty good on my own, but it was a little late in the afternoon so I decided to head back with everyone. Hopefully next time we're down here. At the top there are some cabins that you can hike to and stay overnight. I think that would be a great way to introduce Jackie to overnight backpacking without having to carry so much.

Here are some pictures from the day.

Today is our last day here. Curt and I were planning to head over to North Carolina to ride Tsali, but we woke up to some dark clouds. A quick check of the weather revealed a large weather front moving through with rain expected all morning. Shortly after it started pouring. So looks like no riding. Hopefully the weather clears up a little and we can maybe get out for a short hike or something before heading home tomorrow.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mansions and Trail Riding (sort of)

So we're still enjoying our vacation in Tennessee. On Tuesday we got up early and drove over to Asheville, NC to visit the Biltmore Estate. I had a couple meetings to attend to for work so Jackie, Noelle and Curt went in without me initially, then Curt headed back out and picked me up. The home is amazing and over the top. It reminded me of some of the castles we visited in England with Dave and Allison. The house was really cool, but the gardens were even cooler. Plus there's a bridge on the property that was in the Last of the Mohicans, which is my favorite movie so it was cool to see that in person.

The next day we did some trail riding, not the type I thought I would be doing down here though. We did a one hour horseback ride through the Smokey Mountains. It was Jackie's first time on a horse and only my third. Actually I think the last time I rode a horse was at the same stables in Gatlinburg with my dad and sister about 20 years ago.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ramsay Cascades Trail, take two

So we wanted to get a nice hike in on Sunday, our first full day down here. Curt had a couple books and we got a big map of all the trails so we spent the morning looking at our options. We wanted to start out with something relatively easy to get the girls used to being out there and not wear them out on the first day. After looking at lots of options we decided to just go back to the Ramsey Cascades trail we had hiked part of the day before. It was a four mile one way hike, so pretty far, but it was listed as moderate and the part we had hiked was relatively easy. Well, we were wrong and we did wear the girls out on the first day. The first mile and a half was relatively easy, following an old jeep trail. Then the trail turned narrow, rocky and extremely rooted. It was a great trail, though a really strenuous hike, and the waterfall at the top was absolutely worth it. At 100 feet high its the highest falls in the park that can be accessed via trail. We had looked at some pictures of it online, but they really didn't do it justice.

After hanging out at the top for a while we made the trek back down. It was tough descending through the rocks and roots, but still a lot easier than the hike up. Once we got off the trail we all wanted nothing more than a big dinner so we drove straight to a restaurant in our hiking gear and had a big meal.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Jackie and I are on vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Curt and Noelle right now. We left on Thursday evening, drove down to Cincinnati, OH where I worked for part of the day Friday. Then we drove down to Knoxville last night. Today we headed down to Gatlinburg, had some lunch, and drove the Roaring Fork Motor trail. Its a five mile narrow road that winds up and down the mountains, with a bunch of turn offs for trails and scenic views. While on it we saw the black bear below, about 10 feet off the road. He didn't seem to mind the cars, just went about his business.

We finished the loop pretty quickly, since we wanted to go get checking into our cabin. The cabin is great, very new, three bedrooms. After hanging out there for a bit we decided to get a short hike in. We drove up the road to the Greenbriar area of Smokey Mountain national park and headed up to the Ramsey Cascades trail. It was a little late and there were a few thunder clouds moving through so we didn't go too far, but it seemed like a cool trail, following a rocky river uphill.

Tomorrow we're going to do some more hiking and maybe some riding. Later in the week Curt and I plan to head over to Tsali in North Carolina for some riding. I'm very excited about that, those trails look awesome.