Home » Famous Places

Category Archives: Famous Places

Altitude is Real

You already know that I am not a runner. Happy Thanksgiving and let’s run a 5K race in Colorado Springs almost a mile higher in elevation than where I live. I can see why the Olympic athletes train here, once they are acclimated.CS Mountains from Condo

This was not our first family visit to Colorado Springs, just the first time visiting when it snowed in the city. We were fortunate to have a day without snow and had a nice time in Acacia Park and walking downtown Colorado Springs.

Here are a few before and after views from our condo (Airbnb) before and after the snow:

 

I have stayed at my home for many years now, avoiding traveling at Thanksgiving. When my kids were younger, I sometimes took the family to the in-laws or my parents. They have also come to join the six of us at our home. More often, we stayed at home for Thanksgiving. We have several years of Thanksgiving memories where we hosted local “orphans” or were hosted by other “orphans” who did not have other family in the area.

CS Thanksgiving shot

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we traveled to Colorado Springs to visit and celebrate Thanksgiving. As I am older, so are the kids. They are now in the position that I was when I stayed at home. Thanksgiving happens over a few short days. My excuse for not traveling at Thanksgiving the limited time and because of the limited time frame many travel during the few days of this holiday.  We stepped up as mature adults and enjoyed the travels to the kids, including bringing one with us.

The retirement benefit is leaving the weekend prior and leaving after the holiday rush. Even on Sunday traveling by airplane was already busy. We were prepared for the lines and the hassle of Thanksgiving holiday fun. It was an easy experience traveling and the airlines and airports were well staffed and handled the crowds with ease. We also made it into Colorado before a big snowstorm and left after the next high wind and snow could hit. We had an enjoyable week of travel to and from Colorado.

 

We were happy that our kids invited one of their friends to join our holiday meal. It is good to welcome the “orphans” to the Thanksgiving dinner and keep the tradition and we hope someone did the same for our one kid who couldn’t make it to Colorado.

We had the pleasure of taking one of our kids who flew in for Thanksgiving to the Garden of the Gods. It was beautiful all covered in snow.

If you have not been to the Garden of the Gods, you are really missing out.

This was my first time seeing it in the snow; I appreciated the snow and the red rock combination.

GG G K

One of my kids suggested, in August, that we all sign up for a family 5k run. I believe her words were “No one listens to me, so why now?” So, we all signed up as (much to their dismay) a team for the Colorado Springs 5k Turkey Trot.

 

We received a message the night prior to the run advising us that the road conditions were less than ideal and we should be prepared for cold weather and ice on the road.

CS Walk to the starting line

Our two oldest walking to the starting line

We did have cold weather (about 21 degrees Fahrenheit when we began) and ice, slush and snow was on the ground. It was also a little foggy when we began.

 

The crowd was just about half of the runners who signed up for the event, or about 2400. I am happy to say that I did finish and stayed upright on the ice and snow the whole time.

My time to finish was less than 36 minutes, about 10 minutes slower than the two oldest kids who ran.

 

Lessons learned:

Altitude is real and takes your breath away when you are participating in the family 5k. Okay, I only managed to “run” a quarter mile before walking, much sooner than my normal 1 mile before I have to walk. I did manage to finish 1077 of 2409. The training I did was okay, but I was unable to train for altitude. The reward is the same; I was not going to win, even my own age group, so finishing the event was the key. No matter what place, I completed the race.

 

Traveling is good to do when you visit with family. We did sit and enjoy the company of our kids. Spending the holiday with family was all it was supposed to be, including snowball fights on a walk around the neighborhood and a wishbone pull after Thanksgiving dinner. I am so happy to have spent the time with the kids.

Other fun

Our day trip to Denver was cancelled when they received over a foot of snow. We had planned a fun adventure but were able to spend the day preparing for Thanksgiving and playing games. I learned how to play Catan. We also managed to get in a Euchre tournament and play some bridge.

Bring Kentucky holiday cheer; it is great for an unexpected snow day.

CS Kentucky Fun

 

Looking at the Garden on the Gods through the eyes of a first time visitor enhanced the hike in the snow. A first time visitor brings wonder and a lot of appreciation when this magnificent garden is first viewed.

 

Everyone thinks of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. We enjoyed a tour of Ft. Carson Army Base. We were surprised how large the base actually is. It does make sense for tank training. We heard the bugle call reveille each morning from the fort at 6:30 AM from our place; it was a good reminder of some other things that are going on in the world.

 

No bike riding; too much snow, and we did not have easy access to bikes.

 

Bike End No Ride

Before leaving for our Thanksgiving feast, we walked a few miles in our local Arboretum. The trees even after the leaves have fallen present themselves with a beauty and wonder. We liked the Larch and did not recall seeing the yellow needles on our prior visit.

Smoky Mountain Retreat

Now that the long bike rides and triathlon are over, relaxing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sounded like a good time.GSMNP Sign

When we booked our cabin and planned the trip we were unaware that October is one of the busiest times for the park. We also did not know that this was the busiest National Park. One of the benefits of retirement travel is going during the week. We were surprised at all of the people gathered in the park and Gatlinburg. I guess Columbus Day is a popular time for schools to take a break; we visiting the week prior to the break. We thought traffic and the number of tourist picked up as we got closer to the holiday weekend.

View of Gatlenburg

One of the downsides was that parking to hike was at a premium. However, like a good restaurant that is always full, we found that the experience and scenery were worth the hassle.  Traffic in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge was also heavy as we went through town. We have been to the park before. This time we were happy not to see any bears as we were hiking

We had a cabin away from town and up a hill so we could enjoy breakfast and linger a little out the front porch. The cabin had large windows and offered a great view of the mountains. We did see the “smoke” in the mountains in the morning that looked inviting.

View of the smokeSM View from Cabin 3

Our afternoon hikes were good. We had spent most of our previous time in the southern part of the park (Cades Cove), so we hiked in the middle of the park this time.

Hiking in the SM Alumn Cave trail

We noticed that the signage on the hiking trails in the park was lacking or had been removed though too much use, but it was easy to find our way as several other hikers were on the trails with us.Hiking in the SM--view from the trail Kim

We enjoyed the hikes and the views. It was great to have some hand holds as we went up and down near the edge on the hikes.

The National Park Service has done a good job keeping the trails in good condition given all of the traffic on them we encountered except for the signs while on the trail. Hiking in the SM--view from the trail-4

There are plenty of hikes we have not yet taken in the park. We will have to come back and enjoy some of them on our next visit. Now we know to schedule the visit outside of October.

The colors had not yet come out to the park. We did see some of the trees turning early here and there. The week after our visit was probably a peak time for fall colors. We enjoyed the lush green views and left the pretty colors for the visitors for the following week.

We purposely went back home on the back roads from the Smoky Mountains National Park (which is in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina) so we could stop at the three state Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

CG Sign Glen

The weather on the Saturday when we arrived in Kentucky was cooler than it was in Tennessee as we were leaving. Our first stop in Cumberland Gap was at the only visitor center. This is a large park and it was important to know that there is only one visitor center.

We were happy talk with a couple making apple butter over an open fire and dressed in period costumes. It looked like hard work. They assured us that the taste was worth the work on the open fire. We liked the warmth of the open fire.

Making apple butter

We were immediately stuck by how few visitors were at this park, just a few miles (85 or so) up the road from the Smoky Mountains. The ranger we spoke to at Cumberland Gap indicated that over 11 million visitors go to the Smoky Mountains and about 1 million visit Cumberland Gap. We really enjoyed hiking in Cumberland Gap with well-marked trails and easy parking.

We took the tri-state trail and hiked up and stood in the three separate states at the same time (Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia). It was interesting to see the contour of the land and to know that many western settlers had journeyed across the mountains where we were hiking.

When looking at the road into the gap we wondered how much harder the mountain pass must be, as this was not an easy climb. We do not have wagons with all of our possessions and have no real idea of the hardship.

CG Tri state trail 2--all 3 states

The Civil War had a lot going on in Cumberland; we enjoyed the side spots where we could see evidence of the forts and the places where some of the troops moved through. It did make sense that the troops came by and through the gap in the struggle to move across the country.

CG Tri state trail 4 Civil war cave

Spot where union troops blew up ammunition

I recommend driving up the road to the pinnacle overlook, although it twists a whole lot. At one point you can see the road next to you as the road almost doubles back on itself.

CG NP MapThe paved paths along the viewing area made the walk out to the view easily assessable. Unfortunately, the view was one where we could see the clouds as the weather was not in our favor. We caught glimpses of the surrounding area and will look forward to coming back for a better view in the future.

Lessons learned:

We can get to the Smoky Mountain National park in about 5 hours. We should plan to go before or after the peak times for the park, staying away from October (Columbus Day for example) and school vacation week in the spring.

Both Cumberland Gap and Smoky Mountain National Parks do not require admission fees.

Cumberland Gap has hundreds of miles of hikes available. We are thinking about spending more time visiting this park in the future.

Other fun

We enjoyed two dinner shows and would have liked to have gone for another. We were amazed at the horse handling skills demonstrated during the show at the Dolly Parton’s stampede  and the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. The dinners out were fun and since it gets dark in October so early we had to leave the trails earlier than we would have during the summer. DP Stampeed

Our preference was the Dinner Feud. It was a little smaller theater and we had a lively and interactive server. We found that we liked the food better at the Hatfield’s than the Stampede. The musicians for the Stampede put on a great show prior to the dinner and gave an amazing performance. Of course, the horse-riding feats were exciting to watch and they were well executed. We appreciated the good clean family entertainment at both shows.

We did not come for the town, so Gatlinburg was lost on us. A sea of people walking up and down the main street near the Park was interesting to see. I believe we would have enjoyed the walking in town had we been staying in Gatlinburg.

No bike riding in the mountains where the roads are narrow and winding. From the Cades Cove camp grounds areas you can go biking a few times per week. As we have seen bears in this area, we did not think we should tempt fate by riding bikes near the bears. It might be fun…with a group.

bike in garage

Bikes left in the garage

On the Road to Perryville

I was able to convince a few friends into visiting the well preserved Civil War battlefield in Perryville, Kentucky. This is a Kentucky state historical site. The battle was a dramatic and short (less than 6 hours) fight for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As a border state between the North and South, Kentucky declared neutrality. So of course both the North and South invaded with the desire to use Kentucky as a base to defeat the other side.

Perryville and the cemetary

Perryville battlefield at the cemetery–Ready for a hike

The North and South forces met in Perryville with the resulting battle costly for both sides. The information provided by the state park was that more soldiers died in the short hours of this battle than at Gettysburg. They are speaking of the death rate per hour of battle and not of the overall number who died in the battle.

Perryville Battlefield Museum and visitor center

The Perryville site does a good job of presenting how the Confederate Army pushed the Union Army and, if they had stayed, would have been able to claim a victory. At the end of the day, the Confederates left the field and moved out of the state to Tennessee. So, this was a technical Union victory. When you are on site and see the movement of troops, you can better understand the results.

We appreciated the site and how we were able to visualize the battle during our almost 2-mile hike around the battle grounds. It was hard to put ourselves in the place of the soldiers on either side going up and down hills. This is the type of place that a map and knowledge of the battle is a good idea. A healthy imagination is also a good benefit.

Perryville line of battle

Line of battle in Perryville KY Civil War site

 

Before we made it to Perryville, the group of guys I was traveling with decided we could go to Buffalo Trace Distillery. This is a 200 year old continually operating distillery; of course continually operating for 200 years takes some talent as most distilleries were shut down for prohibition. Buffalo Trace was open as it was able to supply medicinal bourbon during prohibition. This is a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and on the way to the battlefield (kind of).

BT Visitors Center

We arrived early in the morning and were able to take one of the free tours. You need to plan a few months in advance for the scheduled longer tours and, being guys, we planned a few days in advance to go and did not have the longer tour. The free tour was a very good tour. The tour had us walking the beautiful grounds. We were able to see a short film, ask questions and go into a rick house complete with a secret entrance. We were able to see the bottle filling and labeling as well. At the end of the free tour, we were able to taste test the product. As a result, or it could have been planned, our group purchased a few bottles of Buffalo Trace products at the gift shop.

After a lunch in Frankfort, near the Old State Capital, we went on a tour of the State Capital. This is a wonderful building with interesting statues in the rotunda of both Abraham Lincoln (dominating the center) and Jefferson Davis (much smaller and off to one side). Both were born in Kentucky, about 100 miles away from each other. If you know history, we were heading to a Civil War battlefield, and these two were in charge during the battle.

Lessons learned.

Everything is better with bourbon here in Kentucky. We visited the Kentucky Knows Coffee Shop in Frankfort. We had a good time talking with Tony, the owner of the store. And yes, we also purchased coffee beans.

Burbon Coffee

You can read about history and then walk the fields to see the hills and sweeping fields of fire. Even reading the markers and then walking the grounds sharpened how we took in the scope of that effort by both sides. I am a proponent of being on site. Thank you for the preservation of this historical battlefield.

 

Travel with friends and explore what they want to explore. One in our group had heard of the bourbon coffee shop. It was a fun place to explore.

 

Support the local businesses, helping them and yourself. I am so happy we made a stop at the distillery and visited the capital building. We are not alone and need to continue to explore.

 

No biking was done on this trip.

bike in garage

Bikes left in the garage

 

Ride to Rabbit Hash

I have found out that when I do not have a goal, I am not motivated to ride or walk or do any other activity. I was encouraged to spend more time locally this summer to participate in a few local bike rides. Training to participate in organized rides takes practice on the local roads. Where I live we have a lot of hills, and since I was going to participate in Kentucky rides, I needed to practice on our local roads. As a result, I have enjoyed rediscovering some of the local rides that I ignored for the last few years.

The local challenge:

This year, a buddy of mine, David, who retired when I did, purchased a bike; together we went on several rides. It was great fun riding with him on the local roads.

Another friend of mine was looking for a riding partner for a few century rides. Mike took the Kentucky Century challenge and wanted a riding buddy. I looked at joining the Kentucky Challenge and decided against four century rides. Much to my surprise, I ended up riding three of the four century rides with Mike as well as training on some of the local roads. I also managed a few 50 mile rides on my own and with friends. I think I should have signed up for all four.

Additional encouragement to stay local was received when one of my sons challenged me to compete in a local triathlon.

As a result of my goals for riding this summer, I spent more time around the area than I did outside of our local area.

Favorite local rides:

Have you ever been to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky? I used to go about once a week in the summer a few years ago. It makes for a great stop when you are on a local bike ride. We have seen the original general store, the burned down general store, and now the re-built general store.

Local Rides--G-K Rabbit Hash General Store

Rabbit Hash Kentucky

Big Bone Lick State Park to Rabbit Hash. This is a favorite ride for me and my wife. Many of the Boone County rides end up or begin at or ride by Big Bone Lick State Park.

We often  ride from Big Bone to Rabbit Hash (about 10 miles out) with the variations open to go up the evil twins (both category 4 climbs) or a single category 4 climb or just to ride along the river without climbing to get to Rabbit Hash. We like to go early in the morning as motorcycles come to Rabbit Hash as a destination in the afternoon and evening.

 

As a side note, Strava recognizes the size of the climb in the results. A category 4 is a big climb (okay—it is hard on a bike!) with category 1 being a harder, steeper climb. This categorization of hill climbs started with the Tour De France; the category 4 climb is the lowest level they count. I am not sure I have been on a category 3 climb. Probably just as well.

The “no brainer.” This is a sponsored ride on Monday evenings along the Ohio River on KY Route 8. It is a no brainer in that as you leave the parking lot, turn right. When the road ends, you turn around and head back. This is a great beginning ride, and David and I did a few “short” 10 out and back rides to get a feel for road riding. The ride is fairly flat and does not have too much traffic. The views of the Ohio River are wonderful.

Harrison’s Tomb. William Henry Harrison’s tomb is in Cincinnati. He migrated to Ohio and became a senator prior to being elected president.  He has an impressive tomb and has a regular procession of visitors to the tomb. The ride is a great route along the Ohio River, heading west toward the power plant and ending (if you ride the hill!) with a great view from the bluffs overlooking Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio. I appreciated learning about the ride from my bike mentor Chuck.

My triathlon-challenging son and I rode this ride—had a great day and enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately, he rode just as fast as I did, so I was determined to train a little harder on the bike ride for the triathlon.

Ride from the Boone County Arboretum.  Our ride from the Arboretum avoids the big climbs and starts with a big downhill.  The first time I went in 2019 with Mike and David it poured rain on us the entire second half of the ride, all the way up the hill on Big Bone Road (a category 4 climb). Even in the pouring rain, we had a good time.  My bike riding mentors took me on the easier ride several times. I returned the favor for David and took the path away from the evil twins (two back to back category 4 climbs), riding on Riddles Run Road, taking a left on 338 or Beaver Road and then up Big Bone Road where we can climb just one category 4 hill before heading back to the Arboretum. This 17-mile loop is a great challenge for any rider. I know that to see if I am ready for the upcoming challenges, once a year I need to ride over the evil twins.  I managed to get in a solo ride and accomplished riding up all three of the category 4 hills in one ride. Fun but exhausting.

Rev war grave on 338

Revolutionary war marker on 338, Union KY “John Hawkins Craig, VA-TRP, Revolutionary War, March 14, 1763-April 8, 1852.”

On 338--property for sale

House for sale on the way to Big Bone—farm on the Ohio River.

View up 338 toward Big Bone

View from the road from an early morning ride along 338, on the way to Big Bone Lick

 

Loveland Bike tail—Ohio & Erie. This is the rail bike trail in Cincinnati with a paved rail trail all the way to Cleveland. My wife and I have spent many fun rides on this trail with a stop in Loveland to enjoy a meal or ice cream. David and I spent our retirement anniversary (2 years) doing a 50-mile ride on this trail to celebrate.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Enjoy the local rides
  • Go out and exercise and have some fun with friends while you are out
  • Join others or use their knowledge to explore some good routes.

Activity statistics:

Century Rides

I did participate in three century rides with my friends this season. I previously wrote about the Horsey Hundred ride over Memorial weekend.

My friend Mike signed up for the Kentucky Century Challenge and I joined him for three of the four required rides. I could have signed up and received a jersey for completing the challenge as well. Maybe next year. I enjoyed our time outside on the century rides.

The best one of the seasons was the last; likely I was in the best shape for that ride. The Limestone Challenge was a beautiful ride and very well supported. It made a difference that it was cool and overcast all day. One of my favorite segments was a switchback climb where we could see the riders ahead of us climbing up as we were climbing into the valley preparing to climb.

This was a big climbing ride and featured two category 4 climbs. This is why I practice on our local category 4 climbs, including the evil twins. The distance rode was 100.27 miles (had to get to the start) and elevation of over 6,100.

Limestone finish line

Mike, David and Glen after the ride.

The other century ride we did was two weeks before the Limestone Challenge out of West Lafayette, IN , the Wabash River Ride.

Wabash River--Glen and Mike

Mike at the Wabash River–Cool 68 degrees to begin

We had another perfect day for a century ride in the summer. It was great weather for a long day on the bike. This ride was well supported and much smaller than the other two century rides we participated with.  We rode 101.3 miles and climbed over 3,650 feet.

At the end of the ride we were looking for the hills that the organizers said were coming up. The day was cool to start, which is always great. We did cross a covered bridge and enjoyed the views of the river from the banks.

Wabash and Glen 2

Glen at the Wabash River

I am not a fan of pickles, and Mike and I both thought it was funny that at the Wabash and Limestone rides they offered riders pickle juice.  Maybe I will try it some other time.

Local Rides--Rabbit Hash General Store--End

Looking forward to our next ride to Rabbit Hash

Bike Ride to Key West

Time to get away from winter. IMG_6569

What better than a group bike ride from Miami to Key West to avoid the snow and cold? Last January, we went to Florida after the New Year to get away, and it was cold! This year, farther south, we found the weather not just sunny, but also warm.  Our ride was expertly organized by Charleston Bicycle Tours. It was fun for both of us, and it was like summer all day and night on the Keys.

Bonnie, a fellow traveler, put a video together of the ride. It summarized well our travels, with the exception of our not seeing the park at Dry Tortugas on the last day. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/iNhEnM1tvBw

Our first ride was about 24 miles and went from Coral Gables to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the end of Key Biscayne. We were happy to walk up the 112 steps to the top of the light house at the park. The ranger was good to only allow a few people to go up and down at a time as it was narrow on the circular steps.

Our first key was Key Biscayne. In order to bike the Keys, our tour centered three rides from Marathon Key. So, after our lunch in Miami we were driven with the bikes to Marathon Key for our first of three rides from the middle of the Keys. We did enjoy the Florida tradition of viewing the sunset each night as we stayed in the area.

Ride to Keys 2019 first day sunset

 

Our stay on Marathon Key was well done. We were driven out and rode 40 miles back to our hotel.

Ride to Keys 2019 Second day stone crab group

Start of the 40 mile ride

We started near the big stone crab and enjoyed the views along the way.  Despite me and another rider having two flat tires on the ride, we still had a great time. It helped that instead of changing the tire, I was given a different bike. I rode three that day.

 

The pictures do not do justice to color of the water.

It was great to ride the bike path and not just along the side of the road. We were pleased that several miles were on the path along the road between the Keys. It was enjoyable when we had some shade on the bike path. As you know, trees create shade along path but also sometimes break up the path making it harder to ride. We also rode along the road.

ride to the keys--bikes on the road-2

 

My favorite bridges were the ones with a separate bridge for the bikers. I believe they are locally called fishing bridges, and we saw plenty of people fishing from the bridges, including a lot of pelicans perched on the bridges hoping to get to the catch before the fishing line did.

 

We enjoyed riding on both sides of the road as the path changed sides periodically.

As the journey got close to Key West (the end of the road for our travels) we occasionally were riding against traffic. For me, this was the first time since I was a young child that I was riding opposite the traffic and it was really a different experience for me. I guess I am used to riding along the same side as traffic.  The best part of our direction, regardless of the side of the road we were riding on, was that the wind, which was strong for most of the ride, was generally at our back. The few times we rode into the wind it was a different experience.

 

A ride on Big Pine Key and to No Name Key was fun. We liked the dollar bills all over the No Name Pub. We learned that the pub is on Big Pine Key and not on the key called No Name. We also had the opportunity to visit the Florida Keys Wildlife Society. We saw one Key deer on our ride and learned a whole lot more about them and other wildlife at the visitors’ center. One of the things we noticed is that the Key deer are smaller than other deer. As a group, we came up with the saying, “In Texas everything is bigger and on the Keys it is smaller.” I just watched the deer and did not get a picture of the deer.

Ride to Keys 2019 fourth day view from the road GK

A few lessons learned.

  • The sun will find anyplace you did not properly apply sunscreen prior to the ride.
  • Stop and re-apply sunscreen during the ride.
  • Snacks and water make for great combinations on a long ride. The ocean breeze is great at your back.

Highlights:

The Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. We really thought this was a good museum to visit and was a good representation of Key West.  The museum was a recommendation from our guide. The building alone was fun and interesting. The many exhibits were well done and we thought Guy Harvey Sketches of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” that went up the main staircase and was great to read and see come to life. The museum has a Civil War exhibit about the Keys, the railway and the impact of the railway on the Keys. Outside of the museum they had several life-like works of art that we at first took for people.

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was a great end to the day of biking around Key West. The trees in the conservatory were alive with all the butterflies. It was amazing to see so many in one place at one time. When we walked in, we could only say wow at the beauty. Well worth the admissions price to visit. We were surprised by the two pink flamingos walking around oblivious to us and the butterflies.  They were a good addition to the butterflies.

The Key West Hemingway house and Museum was good to see, although we just passed by to look and did not stop in. Hemingway apparently put Key West back on the map and was the number one tourist attraction for many years.

Mile Marker Zero on US  1 and Southernmost Point were highlights of the journey.  We had told others of our pending trip and the Southernmost Point was mentioned by them frequently. It was fun to have our picture taken here. Everyone in line for the point was polite, and several people waiting took pictures for others who were ahead of them. It was great to see people getting along. The Mile Marker Zero on US 1 was not as popular, judging by the lack of a crowd at the marker compared to the line we waited in at 8:30 in the morning at the Southernmost Point marker.

 

We also saw roosters everywhere in Key West. They are apparently a thing in Key West and protected as well by local law and custom. Some of our fellow travelers could hear the rooster call early in the morning; we were glad they were not outside of our room.Ride to Keys 2019 fifth day--ride around Key West rooster

We took a side trip on our non-bike afternoon to kayak in the Atlantic and through several mangroves. The Blue Planet Kayak company rented us a couple of kayaks and gave us a map to explore. We are sorry we could not make the timing on their tours. We really enjoyed paddling through the mangrove and we even saw what we knew were crabs that looked like spiders climbing the trees. While we were out on the water we heard before we saw fighter planes from the near by Naval base.

 

Riding across the 7 mile bridge, twice, was fun. The first time was going across to Big Pine Key, and the next day we rode across again on our 50 mile ride to Key West. The side for bikes was wide and I was able to get up to a pretty good speed on the bridge with the wind at my back. I did miss my bike clips and the dropped handle bars when a big truck passed. Seeing trees grow out of the railroad bridge that is no longer in use and the color of the water was surprising. This is the longest bridge I have ridden on, although not the tallest. Ride to Keys 2019 third day at 7 mile bridge--bike

Ride to Keys 2019 fourth day group riding off of the 7 mile bridge for the second time

Group completing the second ride over the 7 mile bridge

Sunset cruise was the right introduction to Key West on our first night at the end of the longest day of riding (50miles).

We had our end of the week sunset dinner on Sunset Key at the Latitudes restaurant. It was a wonderful sunset and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner with our friends from the week of bike riding.

The paintings on the waterfront brewery were really interesting to look at.  We thought we were at an aquarium and were surprised that a brewery would undertake such a great art project. Next time we are in town we will have to take a brewery tour.

Key Lime Pie contest –after dinner on our last night we had a key lime pie judging contest. I think all our friends at home would have enjoyed it. My choice for the number one pie came in second place. They were all good and we had fun.

A ride is better with friends. Thank you to all who rode with us; you were great company and help on the ride and during the week.

Sunset Key Group

Key West was an interesting and tourist friendly town and we had a good time exploring. It was better as a group at night as a lot of people are on the streets. I am glad our guide knew the way to go.

We had some really good dining experiences along the way. I did not take pictures of the meals. We really liked the tapas, a bunch of small dishes that the group shared. That was delicious!Ride to Keys 2019 last day post card Glen

The view from the last night’s dinner overlooking the beach with the palm trees and the open air was not just a good meal but also a good experience.

We biked over 150 miles during the week. Our longest ride was 50 miles in one day. We did not break any speed records; our goal was to enjoy the surroundings, and we did.Ride to Keys 2019 Second day stone crab Glen

On The Bourbon Trail

On the road again! A trip on the Kentucky Bourbon trail showed us that sampling the product is enjoyable. We began our tour at Maker’s Mark Distillery and then went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where we stayed at the Bourbon Manor. The Bourbon Manor is a well decorated Bed and Breakfast and our hosts treated us very well. This was the first time I had traveled with a group of adults. It was a blast! Thank you Lisa and Eric! You did a great job planning and setting the group up for fun.

The food at the Bourbon manor was delicious, and their apple desert for breakfast was as good as advertised. Sitting around in the evening with friends was wonderful. Another favorite place to eat was the Rickhouse Restaurant in Bardstown. Although finding it was tricky in the dark, the steaks were worth the visit.

We all strolled around Bardstown and were entertained by the lively arts and small businesses along the main street. The snowmen outside of the art show led us to spend some time inside experiencing the local art. It was very interesting to see the spinning wheel display and see how good several of the area artists are at painting.

Bardstown fun

Glen and Kim snowman fun in Bardstown

We even ran into Smith’s CPA firm, which was funny as one of our friends is a retired CPA named Smith. Of course we had to get a photo of Smith & Company CPA at the shop. It is great to be retired and see a thriving town of hard working people.

Bardstown CPA

Smith CPA at Smith & Company CPA’s

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! We were happy to be taking a distillery tour as the weather turned colder. It snowed while we were touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery. This was an agreeable, light and fluffy snow that only stuck to the grass and did not come down when we were driving.

At Maker’s Mark we had a delightful tour of the facility—the grounds are very pretty. We liked the bridge over Whisky Creek. In addition to the tour, our group signed up to learn how to make mixed drinks, of course with Maker’s Mark. We are not going to make a bourbon bottle chandelier but we liked the one at the restaurant at Maker’s Mark.

After the tour and the snow, the highlight for many of us was dipping our own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the red wax. This is the symbol of Maker’s Mark; we were happy to try to get the most drips on our bottle of bourbon.  I think Julie from our group managed the most drips on her bottle.

We learned a lot about distilling and storing the bourbon.  For example, the US Congress recognized the popularity of bourbon when, in 1964, when they designated bourbon as a “distinctive product” of the United States. Both chambers passed the Senate’s version of the concurrent resolution, which ensured that bourbon was made exclusively in the United States. The act indicated that bourbon must be at least 51% corn, distilled no more than 160 proof, aged in new white oak barrels that have been charred inside and age for no less than two years, although more than four is better. Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof.  Most bourbon (95%) is made in Kentucky, although it does not have to be made in Kentucky, just the United States.

In addition to the Maker’s Mark tour, we visited Heaven Hill, Willett and Woodford Reserve distilleries on our trip. Each one was different and they all had a good story to tell. The bourbon trail in Kentucky is an excellent tour. We could have seen several more distilleries, but even retired travelers have limited time.

One of the fun facts we learned on the trail is that there are today in Kentucky two barrels of bourbon for every person living in Kentucky. That is a lot of bourbon!

My Old Kentucky Home, you know the state song of Kentucky? Well, we had a terrific tour of the historic home located in Bardstown. Yes, this is the historic house that Stephen Foster wrote the song about. The house was all decorated for Christmas and our lively guide even sang the state song for us all. Some of us (not me) joined in for some of the words.  No photography was allowed inside, but it was a fun tour!

 

A few lessons learned.

The story of bourbon is one of reinvention. After prohibition, many entrepreneurs took a gamble on bourbon. With the slow aging process it does not produce revenue for several years. It does produce for the state of Kentucky and the federal government tax revenue every year.

haven hill rickhouse inside

Look at all that bourbon! And this is the first of six floors!

Traveling in a group is entertaining. We will do another trip with friends in the future. We are so thankful for our friends. We had more fun than we could have imagined on the trip.

We all enjoyed the experience of mixing drinks. We are looking forward to our next get together to see if we remember what we learned in our mixing class at Maker’s Mark.

Makers mark frinds mule drink

Maker’s Mark Friends and our mule mixed drink.

Other highlights:

  • Visit to an abbey—the fudge was great. They even had bourbon balls.
Abby of Gethsemani

Abby of Gethsemani in KY

  • Viewing the historic Kentucky distilleries was fascinating. We learned something new in each one and the bourbon tasted different as well. My favorite distilleries were the Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve.
  • The press was at the Heaven Hill location as they announced the expansion of their visitor’s center to three times the current size. Of course the tour talked about their rick house fire although it was not prominent at the visitor’s center.
  • We were very impressed with the current center and will look forward to the expansion when we visit the next time.
    Heaven Hill visitor shop

    Heaven Hill visitor shop

    The bourbon trail was not a biking trip. I am sure we will get a biking trip in again in 2019. Even the bike at the Bourbon Manor had some snow. It was cold during our visit in November.

    Bike at Bourbon manor end shot

    Bike at Bourbon manor

Square 2 Square

My travel to Arkansas was supposed to culminate in the semi-annual square 2 square bike ride with my sister. Over 1,900 riders were signed up and ready to go. The ride was scheduled for Saturday morning and although it rained all day Friday, Saturday looked clear.

Bella Vista Gina-Glen-MomI received a call from the ride organizers at 5:30 on Saturday morning that the ride was cancelled as several of the tunnels were rained out from the day before.

My sister rode anyway, riding around the tunnels, unlike about 1,899 other riders. I took the opportunity to drive back home.

I am happy to say my sister and I did a tune up ride at Pea Ridge National Military Park. We have been to the park before. It was a good ride, some hills and no traffic! The ride was not too long, a good almost-8-mile loop around the park. The focus of the park is the Civil War battle at Pea Ridge. The stops along the way reveal Civil War history and the two-day battle. If you have not been to the battle site, it is worth the stop. Over 26,000 soldiers struggled in Northwest Arkansas in the battle that would decide the fate of Missouri.

I enjoyed riding the Razorback Regional Greenway Trail in Northwest Arkansas. I only took one ride during the week along the trail and this trail is part of the square 2 square ride. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the trail. I expected to be riding that weekend the same course with hundreds of others and I enjoyed a less populated trail ride.

I was able to take advantage of a new disc golf course near my mom’s house. My mom joined me on the first round and I did another “solo” walk around the course while I was down for the visit. I had played golf (with a ball) on this same location years before with my family. The old golf course was a 9-hole course. I can see that I hit the golf ball much further than I can throw a disc. It was fun to play the new disc golf course. The designers of the course had a good idea and layout. I enjoyed teeing off of a golf tee pad to hit, I mean throw my disc.

A quick stop in St. Louis and another bike ride on Grant’s trail was a warm up for the ride I was expecting to do in Arkansas. I enjoy the ride along Grant’s trail and found the balloons along the route to be a fun addition. I am looking forward to riding the expansion coming next year as well.

On a prior trip to St. Louis I was able to visit, along with my wife and in-laws White Haven, Grant’s home (also a National Park) in St. Louis. Grant’s trail, where we like to ride in St. Louis, goes along the home. It was great to walk around and learn more about this famous Civil War General and President.

When I got back from my travels south, a friend of mine from India was in town and we got to spend a nice day together in Cincinnati catching up on old times.Cincinnati Glen and Praveen

Before going to Arkansas I had a visit from a college buddy and we enjoyed Cincinnati and Cleveland play baseballmike-and-glen-at-cincinnati-versus-cleveland.jpg

I also have been able to take in a local hike or two and get back to the local Arboretum to see how the plants are doing. It is good to get out and hike among the trees and flowers.

 

Since the organizers of the square 2 square ride cancelled their ride, all riders were allowed a “substitute” 30 mile bike ride in order to receive their medal.

 

I was happy to ride with my wife on the Loveland bike trail in Cincinnati to complete my Arkansas ride. I receive the medal in the mail and I will look for another time to ride the trails.

A few lessons learned:

Take a chance and ride when you can. I was all ready for the square 2 square ride and was disappointed not to be a part of that ride. I did go on several rides the week before. It was enjoyable to be outside riding the different trails even though I did not make it for the event.

Bella Vista Lake View

Keep your mind busy. Here is a look at the jig saw puzzle table. My Mom works on puzzles daily. When she is all done, she donates the used ones to a local charity.Bella Vista Puzzle pictures

Enjoy the area where you are. The Pea Ridge bike ride was a last minute thing. It was enjoyable for the scenery and that the only other traffic on the road was a few others on bike. We had the entire park to ourselves. This was better than a simple bike path because of all of the history and stops along the route.

 

When a friend calls up to say hi, have them over or spend the day with them. Local plans can wait.

Trip by the numbers: Here is a picture of my substitute 30 mile bike ride. It could have been in Arkansas and I did the ride in Ohio. The result was the same—I had fun riding.Little Miami Bike Trail bike road map

It must be time for another ride!

Glen with Sq 2 Sq Medal

 

Colorado Springs

We went to Colorado Springs to visit with our kids who recently moved into the area. The views from their house are amazing. I can see why they enjoy living out in this area. We spent more time with the kids and some of the boxes than we did sightseeing.

One of our highlights was hiking at The Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. The free park is awe inspiring. I was in the park about 8 years ago and it is a must visit when you are in the area.

We enjoyed hiking along the Ute trail in the mountain biking area. The magnificent red rocks are jutting out of the ground are quite the contrast with the rest of the mountains in the area and the green vegetation along the trails.

The beauty in this area is so different than our home state. It was wonderful to see. After our hike on the Ute trail we hiked around the main area. We followed the good tenants for getting acclimated to altitude, not over doing it on the first day or two, limiting alcohol and drinking plenty of water.CS GG KGB

Our other big hiking adventure was in North Cheyenne Cañon Park. If you go in the summer, it is probably best to avoid Saturday or Sunday visits as it was crowded when we went. We had to park away from the main parking area, which was fine for us as we enjoyed hiking up to catch the visitor’s center and the starting point for the trail up to Helen Hunt Falls.

Colorado 7 bridges hike to trail head

The hike up was beautiful.

The visitor’s center was fun with a map where hikers noteColorado 7 bridges hike to trail head--Hellen Hunt falls where hikers come fromd where they were from.

This is another park owned by the city of Colorado Springs.

Colorado 7 bridges hike to trail head--First trail up 6 G-K-S-B view from top of silver cascade

 

From Helen Hunt Falls we continued our day by hiking up the Seven Bridges Trail (although we only made it over 3 of the bridges). We found ourselves in the middle of an ultra-marathon (they were running 50 miles). Our kids had read a comment online about this trail that you should dance over each one of the bridges and do a different dance for each. That was fun and I am not posting the videos! We also managed some non-technical boulder climbing after bridge #3.

Other highlights:

We went bouldering. The kids have been enjoying a local past time, climbing rocks. It is fun to do so indoors in a controlled environment and even outside. Our daughter and daughter-in law enjoyed the outdoor rock climbing as well.

We will be back before too long and have more to share. We did hike over 10 miles and I rode a bike one day 5 miles in the neighborhood. We also recycled boxes and helped out around the new place in Colorado.

I managed one bike ride in the neighborhood. I had not ridden in an area with wild cactus plants growing before this ride.

Colorado mountain bike 2018 cati

View from the path near the kids house

I only managed 5 miles, but it was a fun 5 miles after I put the bike together and got it in working order.

We will be back soon!

Garden of the Gods G-K

Walking in the Garden of the Gods

Bike

Bike from my ride. This is in the driveway. What a view!

Fun in Germany and Austria

Our visit to Germany and Austria took us from Frankfurt to Munich (and a side visit to Shloss (castle) Neuschwanstein) and then to Austria visiting Salzburg and Vienna.  We had our travel expertly organized and managed to stay in the center of the old town in all of our city visits. Thank you Kayla! That was a real plus in seeing the cities on foot. We did take part in walking tours in every city except Salzburg, where we took a bus tour.

IMG_5250

We expected the countryside in Germany and Austria to look like farmland and the towns and cities only to have old historic buildings.

Neuschwanstein 1 Drive in countryside

We did not expect sand and surfing.  We now think that parts of Germany and Austria want to live on a tropical island. In Frankfurt we visited the Palm tree (Palmen Garten) garden; in Vienna we noticed several biergartens along the Danube Canal had sand and beach chairs for their guests. In Munich we watched kids surf in the English Garden.

Frankfurt or as it calls itself, Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt from the bridgesFrankfurt Germany was the first and last stop on our travels. We arrived early for our bike boat adventure and got acclimated to the time zone and the culture prior to the bike ride. We really enjoyed walking along the Main River and noticed that the people of Frankfurt do as well.

Our walking tour guide shared that apple cider was the drink of Frankfurt; the ones we tried were very good. I also had beer; it was Germany!

We were surprised to learn that many of the “old” buildings in Frankfurt were rebuilt in the 1980’s in the old style, replacing buildings destroyed in WWII. The buildings did not look new and we were happy they were rebuilt to look as we expected. Of course some of the buildings were modern; Frankfurt had many skyscrapers, in contrast to many of the cities we visited. Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany so it was nice that as a part of the walking tour we stopped by the stock exchange, one of the largest in the world.

When we visited the Palmen Garten we were surprised to see an extensive palm garden inside the city known mostly for banking. We did not know that you could grow palm trees in Germany, let alone all of the uses for palm trees we learned about on our tour. We enjoyed the variety of trees and flowers in addition to the palm trees. It is worth a visit if you are in Frankfurt.

Munich or München

Munich 2 Glen

After our bike tour we took the train to Munich. For us, Munich had a “big city feel.” Of course we had just spent a week biking through small towns. We recalled our visit to Frankfurt, and the city of Munich appeared to us as a more urban setting.  We loved the statues and the plazas. A lot of history in a small area.

We spent several hours walking around Munich and discovered the English Garden and did see people surfing. On our walk we visited the place where the Octoberfest takes place as well as taking in several great looking buildings and local scenery.

 

Neuschwanstein

A big part of our being in Munich was the proximity (about 110 KM) to Schloss (castle) Neuschwanstein. Our bus included Neuschwanstein, a visit to the town of Oberammergau, and Linderhof Palace where King Ludwig II lived prior to moving into Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein 9 best view

The view from a nearby footbridge on the way to the castle does not begin to tell of the beauty of castle Neuschwanstein. We enjoyed the hike up to the grounds, and even with scaffolding on the main entrance the castle was breathtaking.

Neuschwanstein was impressive on the inside as well. Of course the castle only housed the king, and he lived there for less than one year. The inside was impressive and well worth the visit. No photography was allowed inside the castle. I guess it takes a king to build a fairytale castle.

Neuschwanstein 7 view from castle

We enjoyed the surrounding property of the castle and had great views from the walk up as well as from inside the castle itself. The “old” castle that the king grew up at is also on the grounds.

We enjoyed the stop at Oberammergau. They have been putting on a Passion play for almost 400 years, with the next one coming in 2020. You can buy tickets now. The town began the plays in 1634. All of the actors and actresses are members of the town.  The town puts on the play as a result of a vow made by the inhabitants of the village when they were spared from the effects of the plague. We had fun visiting this town and trying on some traditional head wear and, of course, eating some ice cream. We were pleased to walk around the theater. I am sure the Passion play will be a great production in 2020.

Linderhof Palace was our third stop on the tour. This was a smaller place than Neuschwanstein and almost as impressive. I am really glad we stopped here for a visit. I especially liked the magic table and the fountains outside. You will have to see it for yourselves. No photography was allowed inside; take my word for it, the inside was impressive.

 

Salzburg, Austria

Saltzburg 21Our international travel from Munich to Salzburg was just another train ride. There was no pre-check of passports prior to boarding or a checkpoint along the way. The Europen Union has no restrictions on travel between countries once you are in one of the countries. One of the tenets of the EU is people traveling freely throughout most of the continent.

 

We learned that Mozart was not Austrian; he was from Salzburg, which was an independent (non-EU member…) country when he was born. We enjoyed eating chocolate here; Mozart balls are a favorite. We also enjoyed staying in a 700-year-old hotel in old town Salzburg.

Yes, we did take the Sound of Music tour. We sang, we laughed and we loved it! Now that we are back home, we are watching the movie and excited to see the places we visited on our tour. We also noted that our tour guide in Austria was in one of the anniversary shots about the tour groups in Salzburg.

 

Vienna, Austria

We left Salzburg all too quickly and headed by rail to Vienna.

Vienna 11

As Vienna is so much bigger than Salzburg, with about 25% of the population of Austria in its borders, we rented bikes to explore more of the city. It did rain on us on the way back to the bike rental location, but we had a great time riding the streets anyway. There are over 1000 KM of bike trails in Vienna; as a result, it was easy to ride in the city.  The highlight for me was riding along the Danube Canal and seeing the Danube River.

We enjoyed the music of Vienna, the churches, the palaces and the monuments. We enjoyed running across Mozart references as well as statutes of other composers.

Vienna 12 Stadt Park

Our hotel was centrally located in the heart of Vienna’s district 1 on the Stephansplatz. We could view the church and square during our breakfast. I miss that view.

We enjoyed walking around the imperial palaces of the Hofburg and Schönbrunn as well as the public parks and gardens.

We managed to walk to the Riesenrad (German for Giant Wheel), the 212 foot tall Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt. We saw that it is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. It symbolises the second district in Vienna as well as the city for many people who live there. We did not take a ride on the Ferris wheel, although it looked like fun. When we walked by we noted several people riding in the wheel.

Other highlights:

  • I received my MBA from Webster University, way back when…seeing a Webster University building in Vienna was fun and not expected. Vienna 18 Webster University

 

 

 

  • We were impressed by the trains and the speeds. We noticed the one from Salzburg to Vienna went almost 200 KPH (124 MPH). Trains were a great way to get around.

 

Lessons learned

  • Learn to linger over dinner or any meal, especially when you are with someone. We enjoyed the Vienna coffee house and lingered as long as we could. This was the only spot we found you could get a “free water and refills.”Vienna 15 coffee house
  • Beer in Germany and Austria is less expensive than soda or water … lesson: drink beer with meals!Saltzburg 19
  • When we went to Vienna we learned a lot about the ruling families. The one lesson that struck me was that the Habsburg dynasty won territory by winning hearts through intermarrying its family across Europe and not wars. A marriage to Napoleon was also accomplished by the dynasty. Unfortunately, they took more care with the Lipizzan stallion’s blood lines then their own. A visit to the stables housing the stallions was interesting as well.
  • The city of Vienna earns money by renting rose bushes to inhabitants for five years in their beautiful Volksgarten (Peoples’ Garden). This sounded to me like a cool idea raising money for the city as well as keeping the gardens beautiful.
  • Try the local favorites. I loved the Schnitzel.Saltzburg 20 snitzel
  • Pay attention to the train numbers and not the destination city. On one of our first train trips, we sat by the area that had the city of our final destination listed on the board. We discovered when the train left an “hour early,” that we needed to re-think what we focused on in order to board the correct train. All of the information we needed was on our tickets and the signboards, once we knew what information was important.
  • Ask locals where to eat. Our walking tour guide in Vienna suggested we try Manner chocolate. We found it to be delicious. We also enjoyed eating the rich Demel chocolate.

    Vienna 20 chocolate

    Vienna chocolate

Vienna 14 Frankfurter

 

We found the best place to have a sausage was at the “ Bitzinger Wurstelstand Albertina.” The sausage was awesome. We enjoyed the Käsekrainer sausage, which they assured us was the most popular and we agreed after we tasted it! We are thankful for our guide steering us to places we may have otherwise passed over.

Our travel followed these three simple rules:

  1. Move and exercise. Each day we hiked in the cities.
  2. Find peaceful, beautiful surroundings. We stopped and smelled the roses, admired artwork, enjoyed singing and watching the river flow by.
  3. Meet different, interesting people. We enjoyed all of the people we met and were amazed at how similar and different we all are. Singing with a group of strangers on the Sound of Music tour was a highlight.

 

Activity statistics:

  • We rented bikes one afternoon. It was a great way to see more of Vienna. We rode about 11 miles.
  • Hiking/walking totaled about 7-10 miles on most days around town. We managed over 25 in two days of walking in Vienna.

 

Vienna 3 bike