Thursday, March 6, 2014

The "Knot"Mountain Bike Race

 

Over the weekend I attempted to race in the Knot mountain bike race in Wedgefield, SC. The race was being held at Poinsett State Park which is a hidden gem in the middle of South Carolina. I raced in my first MTB race back in December and did ok finishing third in the beginner division. I have been riding a lot of miles lately so I decided to go from beginner class to sport class thinking I would be competitive. Boy was that a mistake. The weather has been really cold and wet this season so I had hoped that it kept people from training prior to this race. For those that are unfamiliar with cycling there are ways to train without being outside. I raced with 20 people and the race started off good with probably only five people ahead of me. One by one everyone started to pass me so I told myself to race my own race and have fun. The good news is that I finished the race which took me 21 miles through a beautiful forest. The bad news is I came in dead last. I learned a little bit more about racing and chalked this one up to just not training enough. I had a great time trying and it was great to say I competed against some serious non-professional athletes. This time last year I couldn't ride five miles without being worn out, and that was on flat ground. I have come a long ways and I know I will be competitive in the next one.

 
 
I ride a Trek Superfly AL100. Not the lightest of bikes but is a good all around mountain bike.


 
Ready, Set, Gooooo!


 
After two hours I finished the 21 miles. Great feeling to just compete and finish this race.
 









Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Table Rock State Park


Back in October I decided to revisit Table Rock with my daugher and her friend. I hiked this mountain earlier in the year when I was 50 lbs heavier and it nearly killed me. I was anxious to see how I could do with the weight off. This hike would be considered a strenuous hike with about 2400 feet of elevation gain. To be honest, this hike still kicked my butt. The next day my quads were soar as hell. But to my surprise I didn't stop hiking until I reached the top, unlike last time when I must have stopped two dozen times. 



This is not the summit but the farthest point from the trail head. It has the best views. 



My daughter and her boy friend at one of the falls. 



Although not the tallest of mountains this hike will kick your butt due to the steep grades. 



A rain cloud in the distance. 



This is a beautiful forest with some beautiful people in it. 



Steps made out of the land. 



This was a fun day. We ended up going to Greenville SC afterwards and having a cold beer and a meal at Blue Ridge Brewery. I can't wait to do it again. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Where did he go?

It has been sometime since I have been on here to scribble my where-abouts, but I have a good reason.....I had to get healthy! That's right, over the last ten years I have been the poster child for how to be a lazy, fat American. Well that all changed this year! I bought me a new bicycle in March and started to ride and I haven't stopped yet. I am going to try and catch everyone up to speed and hopefully I will be updating this on a more regular basis.
 
This is me when I was a couch potato.
 
 
The new and improved me
This is one of my favorite pictures. It is in front of the water fountain at Water Front Park in Charleston, SC. My son and I ended up riding over 17 miles this day. We crossed "The Bridge" also known as Ravenel Bridge along our way to Isle of Palms, SC for a great day on the beach.
 


Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Short Trip to Charleston, SC


Our family recently was to be in Summerville, SC for a day of soccer games with my son's soccer team. We were about five miles away from the fields when we received a text stating the games were cancelled due to the weather. I told the family we should stay for a few hours, so we proceeded to head downtown. Hurricane Sandy was off to the coast but the rain never was more than a short drizzle. Our first order of business was to go to the water front park.

The houses above were along the way to water front park.
This is St. Philip's Church. It was built in 1680. The road goes around the front entrance. Below is a picture of the cemetary that is across the street.
We wandered thru the old streets made with cobble stones and felt part of the old world. The water front park is a beautiful park that is a top place to spend the day when the weather is better.
    Below is a picture of one of the fountains. This picture was actually taken on a previous soccer trip.







The park has a great view of the harbor and is just a few blocks from the Market.
I have been trying to be more creative with my photography and this place gave me plenty of opportunities to shoot. Below is a picture of the "Pineapple fountain".
This picture is the gate just at the entrance of the park.
 
 




Sunday, May 13, 2012

Carnival Fantasy Family Cruise 2012

This is my first attempt at writing a blog. I hope you enjoy it Our family consists of me (41), DW (29 & holding), DD (17), and DS (14). We booked this cruise some time back in October of last year and its hard to believe that it is almost here. This cruise is a celebration of my DD's graduation that I promised her a long time ago "IF" she would graduate. LOL, she did very well (4.0gpa) and will be starting college in the fall. I am very proud of her.

The wife and I sailed on the Fantasy last year in June '11 and enjoyed ourselves very much. The only other cruise that I had been on prior to last year was back in '08 when the DW and I sailed on the Carnival Glory for our 15 yr anniversary. The Glory was a wonderful ship and we had some great POC's but we had to travel about eight hours to Port Canaveral to embark. The Charleston port is less than two hours away from our home so it is convenient for us to sail from there.


First Day of Our Cruise.
Our drive from Columbia to Charleston was under 2 hours and we arrived at 10:10 at the terminal gate.



The wife was all smiles



The kids were pretty excited too....



This was our first look at the ship....
The guard at the entrance said we could drop off our luggage and embarkation would start around 11:15. We dropped off our luggage and proceeded to another point where port security checked all of our passports and boarding pass. They said we could pull forward or exit the parking area if we didn’t want to wait for another hour. I figured we could wait, so we pulled forward to get in line with about four other cars at this point. Our money was collected ($75.00 @ $15.00 a day) and at 11:30 we were moving to the parking garage.



This is the maze you have to go thru...the entrance is to the far right.







This is the place where they collect your money....



This is where they had us enter the warehouse...



Waiting on the buses that take you to the terminal.
The port uses some old warehouses for a parking garage, nothing fancy but could use some paint. I think Charleston is supposed to build a new port in the future but I don’t know when that will be. Maybe they will do it up nice and more ships could port here J. After we parked our truck we walked to a place just outside of the warehouse where a small bus picked us up and drove us to the terminal entrance. This seems unnecessary but if I had a hard time getting around I would be appreciative.



This is us riding the "short bus"....






Going up to the ship....



The time to go thru security was relatively quick and we were having our first Drink of the Day (DOD) at 12:20.



Its "Official"
Around 1pm our room was ready and we dropped off our bags. Now I know that the interior rooms are small but this room was smaller than any of the ones I have ever seen before. You can see from the pictures that it was not much room for four people. It didn’t bother me that much and I didn’t plan on staying in the room for anything else than sleeping, showering, storing our stuff. Kind of reminded me of when I was in the Navy and I had to share a berthing area with 75 other guys.



The beds were seperated when we arrived and I put them together to make our queen. I walked across the hall to see how much bigger the room was and it was probably at least two feet more wide.



Had to watch your head when getting up...The kids said the upper beds were comfortable.

Pictures of the bathroom...








Probably should have taken these pictures when we first arrived but I didn't think about it. At least no dirty undies....LOL



Free Stuff....
The kids forgot to bring their bathing suits in their carryons, so to pass the time we ate lunch, walked around, and explored the ship.

DS was excited about the food on the ship. He said he had to have a cheeseburger first!


The family with "The Bridge" in the background




View of Charleston from the top deck....


DW posing for me

I think our checked bags were in our room by 2:30. I was really surprised to find a note in one of the bags that stated they had confiscated an item that is not allowed on the ship. Come to find out they took my multi strip outlet and would be keeping it until the end of the cruise. Thankfully they missed the other prohibited item in the same bag. LOL
For the sail away I had big plans to do a time lapse video of the ship leaving Charleston, but the rain started just before we left port, So we just hung out on the Lido sipping on cold drinks.

rain rain go away, come again another day


"Fun Ship Specials" make it the rain more tolerable. Luckily the rained stopped not long after we were away from port.
DD with an umbrella ....everyone was in great spirits...




My son after eating some chicken tenders....


We tried sushi on the promenade deck before our evening dinner. I don’t know what I had but it wasn’t too bad. I have never eaten sushi before so I just ate what the server gave me. I can’t remember what they were called but of the three things he gave me one had salmon on it, I think . Now I can say I have had sushi!


The evening dinner was scheduled for anytime dining and we had no wait for our table. The first evening we had great service and had a great meal. I had steak and the wife had some sort of lasagna. Can’t remember what the kids had.

Dinner in the Celebration MDR


My favorite dessert, Chocolate Melting Cake!


Two thumbs up for the cheesecake


We had a great view of the ocean from our table
The rest of my evening was spent listening to live music. First up was Cat’s lounge to listen to a band called Music Boardwalk. The band was recommended by the cruise critic member PinkFloydFan. They did a great cover of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” that lasted for over 15 minutes. They were very good.









Our kids said "THEY" wanted to Karaoke so we went to the aft lounge called "The Forum". The wife and I had enough liquid courage at this point so we started off the show with our one and ONLY song that we sing, "Picture" by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.
After our song the kids got cold feet so we decided to leave for more good times elsewhere. I decided to go to the piano lounge and listen to the piano player “Angela” while the wife and kids went to the welcome aboard show. After the show the wife came and found me and we finished the night out looking at the stars at the front of the ship. This was a very long day for all of us and it was great to finally be on our vacation.





Angela was a great piano player and played just about anything


Made some new friends, just can't remember their names....LOL


The feathers were courtesy of Angela.....
This was the last picture of the night and I could barely keep my eyes open. Must have been about 1am and I had been up since about 5am. The night sky was full of stars and I love to be at the front of the ship when it is all quiet. The wind was blowing like crazy, that's why the sail and sign card is wrapped around my neck.

Thumbs up!
Day 2 fun day at sea

We started off this day by going up to the Lido deck (Level 10) for a day of fun at sea. I believe it was around 9 am and we had no problem getting chairs. I remember waking up around 8:30 am and jumping up and telling the family "We have to go NOW or there wont't be any left". Last year the wife and I waited till around 11:00 am and couldn't get a seat.




The DD and I on our way to the Lido



Not many chairs left on the starboard side at this point



Luckily for us the port side was still in the shade at this point and not as popular



We ate breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck this day and stayed by the pool most of the afternoon.


Pizza on the ship is not as good as I hoped but if I don't have to make it, it is still good!
The ship had all sorts of happenings on the Lido deck this day; hairy man contest, ice carvings, dance lessons, master mixology contest, and live music. I had hoped to be in the master mixology contest but my name was not drawn. I boycotted the drink that won the contest....just kidding!


The one and only pool is a very popular place on a day at sea. Met some nice folks from all over.





The wife loves to read while sunning it.





Comfort food

The indian head ice carving. I am amazed how fast this can be carved.






The kiddos enjoyed a sweet treat by the pool
After about 6 hours of sunning it we went back to our room and got ready for another great evening.

Here was the recipe for the DOD...I'm not a big liquor drinker but this was tasty!





The wife and I were having the Caribbean Breeze waiting on the kiddos to get ready for the evening dinner in the atrium. She said we watched them put this up the night before after shutting down the piano lounge....I asked "We did?" Then I looked back at the pictures and indeed we did!


Yes we did....



The evening began with our family taking pictures in our cruise elegant attire. Carnival has to make a ton of money on pictures. They had no less than 10 places set up to snap a photo. We posed for a few of the photographers but did not purchase any of them. I brought my tripod and took a few ourselves.








When we arrived back our room we were greeted by this towel critter

Tonight was going to be the only cruise elegant night in the Main Dining Room (MDR). We ate dinner with a family from Lexington, KY. They were very nice and we enjoyed their company. The wait staff was soso this night. They tried to entertain the crowd with a sing-a-long “That’s Amore” but I wasn’t feeling it. I had lobster and shrimp for dinner and for dessert I had THE chocolate melting cake. After dinner we watched Music Boulevard for a couple of songs and then on to the show in the universe lounge. The show was entertaining with a lot of energy from the singers and dancers. Before the show started the cruise director “Risa Barnes” warned the front seats that there were pyrotechnics used during the show. I didn’t really think much of it, but when the show starts it begins with a video of a talking couch flying around and at one point he begins to fall. To make it appear that he lands hard on the stage they let off some VERY LOUD explosives right at the front, no more than 15 feet where we are sitting. I just about had an accident in my pants if you know what I mean. We saw this show last year but I forgot about the boom. I was wondering though, whose idea was it to have a talking couch emcee the show? I like that carnival uses musicians to play all of the music in these shows. Overall I give Carnival an “A” for live music. After the show we headed back to the forum lounge to watch a comedian “John Knight”. He was pretty funny but not as good as the other comedian we caught later in the week. I don't have pictures of the shows because they don't allow it "due to international copyright laws". I heard that at every show. I do have some pics of the lounges though.

The Universe Lounge all lit up


The Universe Lounge unoccupied


The upper deck seating in the Universe Lounge


Another shot of Music Boardwalk. The keyboardist is the star of the band.


The wife and I showed up a little early but not early enough. We ended up getting seats next to the door that takes you to the Serenity deck and sat on the window seal. The comedy shows are very popular and you should plan on getting there early if you want a good seat.
I forgot to mention earlier that we were dining in the Celebration dining room and that it is mid ship. The aft dining room is called the Jubilee but the one time I wanted to go in and take some pictures they were closed due to a function.










This was our waitstaff for cruise elegant night. The Matri D for the Celebration MDR was "Stan the Man" as he called himself.



I love this pic of the DD
Day 3 Nassau, Bahamas
The day started out earlier than I anticipated. I was awake at 4:00 am and couldn’t sleep so I decided to get up and take some pictures. I managed to capture a beautiful sunrise and our ship entering the port of Nassau. Stay tuned for my time lapse video that I will post later.



I brought two cameras with me to take pictures. One is a sony point and shoot and the other is a Canon T3. I had a problem with the dslr fogging up after being inside for a while. My fix was to go to a restroom and use the high speed hand dryers to get rid of the condensation.

Once the family got up and going we decided to go to the Sheraton Resort on the west side of the Nassau. They offer a day pass for $25.00 a head that included use of their entire facility, snorkel gear, kayaking, and bouncy trampoline thing in the ocean. It did not include lunch though and lunch at the resort set us back $70 with tips. The food was very good. We traveled to the Sheraton on the #10 Jitney which is a public bus. The bus was not air conditioned and the driver would leave the entrance door open after a passenger boarded. If he would stop suddenly the door would slam close on its own. Some might call it “sketchy”. I didn't care though, I like to consider it part of the adventure and it helped with the air flow.



A good shot of the fantasy at port in Nassau. There would end up being 4 carnival ships in port this day.



A shot of the family courtesy of another passenger.



I have another picture of us all smiling that I took after this one, but the "all smiles" really didn't tell the story of this bus ride. I overheard the DW say ewww while boarding but on the bright side it only costs $1.25 pp for a one way ride. This is not the case for all of the buses which you will see for the ride back.





A view of Junkanoo Beach from the bus



A shot of the resorts from the bus




Our first view of the Sheraton from the bus.





A shot of the beach area with the resort in the distance.



The swim up bar pool next to the beach



The grotto pool. There will be more pictures of this area when we get our water proof camera pictures back.



The other end of the grotto area with another water fall on the brick wall in the background. This resort was well maintained.


This is where you can get the snorkel gear and kayaks. It is included in the price of admission but make sure you have some cash on hand because they required a $25 per item refundable deposit.



A view of a distant island and swim area. The life guard on duty said the island was a sandals resort but i cannot confirm or deny this. Snokeling was not great but we did see fish once we swam out to the rocks. I don't know what kind, they were very colorful. The water was not that deep at any location.



The kiddos playing in the ocean.



The kayaks were alot of fun. Wish they let you go a little further to explore.



The kiddos on the trampoline.



The family having a great time in the clear blue ocean.
After spending about 5 hours at the resort we decided we had had enough of the sand and sun. We caught the #10 Jitney back to the downtown area.






The family was all smiles to get a bus that was newer and had air conditioning. There was another passenger on the bus that made this ride entertaining. She would tell everyone boarding "welcome to the fun bus" very enthusiastically!

Once back to downtown we stopped by Senor Frogs to get a few pictures out front. I have been in this place a couple of other times and didn't see a need to go back inside. We left there and walked around Bay street to shop for t-shirts and other souvenirs.



A view of the ocean from the bus.







High FOUR!



DD posing in the junkanoo outfit they have set up in the port shop area.
The family was taking a little longer shopping than I could take so I went back to the ship a little earlier than the rest of the family. Once back on ship I got me a few beers on the Lido and watched the men vs. women synchronized swim competition that was taking place. The women went first and they were pretty good, but then it was the men’s turn and they had me rolling with their routine. It is one of those you had to be there. At 5 o’clock the wife and I went to the past guest party. I could write a long complaint about this party but I am not the complaining type so I’ll just leave it alone. They had this party in the universe lounge and probably a couple hundred people showed up. The drinks were free but watered down and the snacks were pretty good. We had a chance to meet Risa, the cruise director, before the show began and come to find out she graduated high school with my wife grew up about a mile from me. Small world.

After the past guest party we went to dinner in the MDR again. I had steak again and for dessert I had, drum roll please, THE chocolate melting cake! Surprised you, didn't I? The servers provided entertainment with a sing-a-along again. Not sure of the name of the song but it’s a popular rap song (Low, Low, Low or something like that). Most guests liked it and this time the crew seemed to be feeling it also. We left Nassau while we were eating so no pics of our port departure. Tonight’s entertainment was either the casino or piano playing by Angela. No show in the universe lounge that I am aware of. I think they did a karaoke in the universe lounge with the band playing the music. We decided to listen to Angela for a couple of hours and then we retired for the evening.

During the sing a long song everyone in the dining room (or maybe it was just us ) pulled out there napkins and started to do the lasso. Very funny



After dinner I noticed this water spout in the far distance. I'm glad we avoided this storm.


DD with Angela's feathers. The kiddos joined the wife and I in the piano lounge this night. This was a family friendly place.


A shot of the Lido after hours









Day 4 Freeport, Bahamas
Freeport started off with about a twenty minute bus ride ($10 pp round trip) from the port to Lucaya Marketplace. Our bus driver “Warren G” as he called himself was great and informative. His van thankfully had air conditioning and was comfortable. I was co-captain which meant nothing other than I got to ride shotgun. This was great because I recorded the entire ride on my video camera.

Today’s agenda was to just hang out on the beach, so we decided to try the free beach that is just across from the Lucaya marketplace. Not sure if this beach has a name but if you follow along with the pictures you can see where it is. We had the beach to mostly ourselves when we first arrived (9ish). The sand was much finer than at the Sheraton in Nassau and the locals were very friendly. We brought our snorkel and mask and played in the water for a little while before going up to Billy Joes for some beers and Conch fritters. They had music playing and it became quite busy later in the afternoon.



The sunrise was quite beautiful entering Freeport. For those that has never been to Freeport, don't expect to see paradise at the port. This is an industrial port. The comedian joked about this later in the evening.



The beach is not far from Lucaya market place. Go across the street and walk until you get to the police station.



Police station



Take a left right beside the police station and go towards the gates.



At the gates follow the dirt path just to the right.



Once past the fenced part of the path it opens up and your next to a resort.





Billy Joe's Conch Shack



The other side of Billy Joes



There was a sign posted that said no swimming in front of Billy Joes. This is for safety because they had boats and jetski's for rent and they were coming and going all afternoon. If you tried to go past the rocks on the beach in the far distance there was a guard who stopped you unless you paid for a day pass at the resort. The area to my rear when I took this photo was public and this is where everyone was at.



When we arrived we had the beach pretty much to ourselves minus a few others. Later in the day it became quite busy at this location.



This is "our spot" looking back towards Billy Joes. There was a outgoing tide when we arrived but the amount of beach didn't change much at low tide around noon.


The water was clear and cool and the beers were cold and tasty!










This is the bar area of Billy Joes



The area to order food is along the side






I have never had conch fritters before but these were tasty.








This is how crowded the beach was when we left.

Around 2pm we decided to walk back to the Lucaya marketplace and shop for souvenirs. I had a conversation with one of the locals that told me if the cruise ships were not coming business would be very bad. I strolled around but didn’t find anything that I needed.







We rode another bus from the market to the ship and arrived around 3ish. The family wanted to shop more at the pier so I made my way back to the ship by myself. I showered and wandered up to the lido bar for some beers and to watch the golf tournament they were showing on the tv. We were scheduled to leave port at 5pm but it was announced that we wouldn’t be leaving until 8pm due to divers needing extra time to work on the ship. That was fine with me because I wanted to get some photos of us leaving port with the sun setting.



The sun setting in Freeport

For our evening dinner we ate in the MDR but I don't really remember anything about this night other than we were there. The staff didn't do any entertaining like past evenings.

The wife and I attended one of the comedy shows by “Azeem”after dinner. He was quite funny and he gave the front row folks hell. After the show we went to the late Mexican buffet for an evening snack. With our bellies full we went back to our cabin and went fast asleep.

Day 5 Fun Day At Sea
Today’s chair hogs were out in numbers today. We didn’t mind so much because we were able to find a great place in the shade and still could people watch. Having spent the last four days in the sun it was taking a toll on all of us. The day was so relaxing with my time spent reading and napping. I remember sitting in my chair thinking that I wish this was not the last day L.



The morning sunrise for the last day



Our shady spot overlooking the Lido.



My souvenire cup...



The Family



We had a surprise waiting for us in our cabin courtesy of Risa Barnes our cruise director.



They were yummy!
Our last dinner in the MDR was entertaining with a farewell song by the wait staff. I had the Mahi Mahi which I thoroughly enjoyed and chocolate melting cake one more time. Towards the end of dinner the staff played a quick hip hop song which had everyone lassoing with their napkins again. After dinner we took some family pictures out and about the ship and I caught a great sunset on camera. The last show for the cruise (Ticket to Ride) was a Beatles tribute and the same one we saw last year. I think I enjoyed it even more this time. After the show we put our luggage out by the door and then we proceeded to Cat’s lounge for some more music by Music Boardwalk. We closed the Cats lounge down and hung out by the 21st Century bar with some fellow South Carolinians. Some time that evening we made it back to our room and fell fast asleep.

My DS and I in the MDR...

Mahi Mahi....very good.

Let the Lassoing begin...

I thought about taking my shirt off and swinging it but I didn't think it would be appropriate...LOL


Towel critter and baby towel critter...I think its supposed to be a seal


The kiddos goofing around




What a beautiful sunset for the last day at sea
Disembarkation
The day everyone hates to see come, but what memories we will have of the last five days. I was up around 6:30am and we were already at the port and docked. I went up to the Lido and started checking emails and voice messages. I grabbed something to eat and went back to the room. The rest of the family was up and about to leave for breakfast when I returned to the cabin. I watched Risa on the tv go over disembarkation and around 8:30 we were heading off the ship. On the way out we grabbed Risa for a quick photo. We grabbed our luggage in the security area and then proceeded to the buses. I talked to the bus driver taking us back to the warehouse, who happened to be the owner of the company, about plans for the new terminal. He said that it would maybe be next year and that the plans are to do away with the buses. We were on the road around 9:30.


Overall this cruise was a great vacation. I was glad that we had the opportunity to take this cruise with our kiddos. They enjoyed the cruise very much. I was grateful for great weather for the most part of our cruise. I had worried a lot prior to going that there was going to be some kind of tropical storm or worse a full blown hurricane. I am looking forward to our next cruise and can’t wait till I have a countdown clock to display in my signature.
Here are some random pictures of the ship

Starboard side Lido bar and smoking area. For some reason the port side bar was never open.

I ate here a couple of times during the week. The food is cooked up right in front of you. Very good if you like Chinese

One of the chefs at the Mogolian Wok

The serenity area...never did make it here


These tables are just outside the aft dining area aka Windows of the Sea



This small eating area was a nice quiet place just behind the aft dining area. Good place for smokers too



The pizzaria and deli at the aft of the ship



The Windows of the sea dining area



The corridor between the pool area and the windows of the sea dining area


The Lido deck grill near the pool area




The "other" side of the stage



The liquor and cigarette shop



The library. This is also where they had the Chef's table at. Not sure what all they did but I remember seeing them in there



The other side of the Galleria shops or as I call them the junk you don't need shops.
Some more random photos



There was a table tournament contest at some point in the cruise..



21st Century Bar



Expresso offerings on the Promenade



The Majestic Bar is on the Promenade just outside the Forum Lounge and Camp Carnival



Guest services



Shore Excursion desk