Sunday, October 14, 2012

Florida Vacation

I returned yesterday from a week long trip to Orlando Florida.
I was invited to go by my friend Joye, who had a free vacation rental to use before the end of the year. Joye, her boyfriend Karl, and another couple (Harold and Gloria) traveled together and I met them at the airport on October 6th.
We stayed at the Grand Beach Resort, near the Disney World properties. I couldn't have asked for a better place to stay. The condo and resort amenities were outstanding. The resort was also close to many good food places and easy access to universal studios and the airport.
The couples sat through the 90 min time share presentation getting us all a discount on our theme park tickets. I ended up with a 2 day DW pass, 7 day Universal Studio pass with early entry and a one day water park pass, all for $307. I supposedly save about $100.

Here's how the week played out for me:
Saturday: PDX to Orlando by way of Denver. Leave 1:15pm, after working the day before and being up all night. Don't do that again! Arrived at 11pm, after almost missing my connection in Denver. Met the rest of my group a short time later and was in bed by 2am.
Sunday: this was planned as our "down day". We went shopping for food, and arranged our park passes. Then had time to check out the pool. This was the only day we had a thunderstorm. The temp was warm and humid.
Monday: an 8am start at Universal Studios, which is about 15 mins north of our condo. We were told that the Harry Potter area, in the Islands of Adventure park, was the most popular area, so we headed there first to beat the crowds. Little did we know that we were going to do the best ride of any that we rode, first. The Harry Potter ride had a great story and the ride moved well. I actually felt like I was flying on a broomstick. Love, love, love this ride. The nearby kiddie roller coaster was ok, but very short. The adult roller coaster was also very short, but I didn't care for being upside down and turning at the same time. No more of those!
We moved next to the Marvel Comic area where the Spiderman 3-D ride received high marks, finishing as my third favorite ride. The Hulk roller coaster looked impressive and scary, we had no takers in our group. Just before lunch we hit the two "wet rides". I loved the Dudley Do-Right Ripsaw Falls ride and we got soaking wet, which helped cool us the rest of the day. The Jurassic Park ride was cool with dinosaurs and had a nice drop at the end.
We headed over to the other park where we waited in line way too long (60+ mins) for the disappointing MIB ride. Next to MIB was the Simpsons ride, which was my second favorite ride. Being late in the day, the line was long and wait time was probably close to 60 mins, +\- 10 mins. This doesn't allow you to ride the ride multiple times very easily.
We left the park around 4pm. Pool therapy refreshed us back at the condo, as the day was warm and humid.
Tuesday: The first Disney Park we went to was Epcot, where the Food & Wine Festival was in full swing. Since the World Market didn't open until 11am, we rode the hang glider simulator "Soaring" and toured the Disney research areas. After Universal Studios I found the Disney Parks to be less exciting. But one thing Disney does better is the art of people moving.
Disney does a good job keeping people entertained while in line, and moving more people through faster. I also liked that you could basically take a number and come back when you would have been at the front of the line, without waiting in line. There was no extra cost for this, like there is at Universal. In fact at Universal it's annoying to be slowed down in line by the people who have purchased the "ExpressPass".
At 11am we started our tour of the World by getting our "passport". Each country represented at World Market has a small kiosk that offer a taste of the country's food and drink. When you purchase an item, you get a stamp in your passport book from that country. I enjoyed tasting food and drinks from various regions vs having a full meal at one location. By the time we were done, I had probably spent $100, but it was so worth it. going into the day we thought we might spend half a day here then return to condo pool, then return for a concert and stay for the Illumination show at 9pm. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we just staying for the 5:30pm Boyz II Men concert and then went home. We crammed a lot into this day! This was also a warm and humid day.
Wednesday: I took the rental car and drove to Melbourne Beach to visit my Aunt Mary and Uncle Dan. I was able to see Uncle Dan for a bit before he had to head to work. aunt Mary and I had lunch then headed to sit on the beach and chat.
Uh-oh, it happened again. I started a blog post then never finished it. I'm so bad at that. I'm going to post his one because it has so much info on it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Finally, Hobies for Two!

Randy and I have been talking about kayaks for years, but always put off buying them.  Well this year, we did something about it and are now the proud owners of two new Hobie Mirage kayaks.

Randy's is a blue Hobie Mirage Outback, about 12.5' long and weighs 68 pounds.  His is stable and comfortable.

My kayak is a dune colored Hobie Mirage Revolution 11, 11.5' long and weighs 45 pounds.  Mine is a "sports car" of sit on top kayaks.  It's a little tippier than I'm used to, but I get comfortable very fast on water craft, so I'm hoping it's not going to be an issue.  My kayak is fast and smooth in the water, but not quiet as comfortable sitting position as the Outback.

Both kayaks are sit on top kayaks with Mirage pedal drives.  This allows us to use our leg muscles to get around and have our hands free while sailing.  We steer using a rudder lever next to our seat. It looks a little funny to be pedaling your boat, but I'll go long, further, and faster than a  person paddling their boat.

We ordered our boats in Coos Bay from Waxer's Surf and Skate shop,  after demo'ing two of their boats in the bay one weekend earlier in the month. We picked them up last week, and took them on their maiden voyages to two coastal lakes.

The weather in Coos Bay on the southern Oregon coast was typical for the summer.  Nice in the morning, steadily building wind bringing in the afternoon fog. Because the Willamette valley had temps in the upper 90's to 100's, we were getting socked in with coastal fog and wind by early afternoon. This meant if we wanted to get on the water in the sun and calm, we'd need to do it early in the day.  We took off for the the South Slough Marine Preserve in near by Charleston OR, unfortunately the coastal fog was already socked in and the wind was blowing.  Not a good place to try our stuff out for the first time.
We headed back to Coos Bay and found Empire Lakes near the campus of Southwestern Community College, right in town!  The lake had a nice parking area and a grassy area to get our gear set up in.  The coastal fog was not over the lake, but we could see it on its slow approach our way.  Empire Lake was the perfect place to put everything together and start our learning curve.  We pedaled around the lake for about an hour and half, not much to see, but good experience.  The next day we headed north for Florence.  On the way north we put in at Eel Lake, next to Tugman State Park.

Eel lake is a larger lake with a nice parking and launch area.  Being further north and a little inland from the ocean, the coastal fog was not an issue.  The day was beautiful once again, and we kayaked in shorts and t-shirts. The pictures posted here are all from our Eel Lake trip.

The kayaks are so easy to set up and put away, there's just not much to complain about.  The only thing we keep getting hung up on is seating the Mirage drive pedals in the boats.  Both times we've tried to put the drives in after putting the boats in the water and have struggled with them.  Next time I'm going to try it while the boat is on it's wheels.  
We paddled around this large lake for almost 3 hours, taking a 1/2 hour break on a floating dock to practice self rescue maneuvers.  This involved me finding the tipping point of my boat and practicing how to right it and reboard the yak.  I've reboarded sit on top kayaks, in the warm waters of the Caribbean and Hawaii, on snorkeling trips with no problem.  For some reason, this wasn't as easy.  Possibly it was the life vest getting in the way, or the fact that I didn't have fins on, that made it hard to "beach" myself on the top of the boat.  I'm going to try it with fins next time.  The water in this coastal lake was surprisingly warm, swimming was not a big shock.  
From the floating dock, which was situated in a cove sheltered from the north wind, we could see that the wind had picked up substantually and the channel we had to cross to return to the dock was filled with fast moving wind waves and white caps.  Our crossing back to the dock was going to be a good test of how our boats would do in rough waters.  Adding to the challenge was the that the shortest distance to the protected shoreline was to run perpendicular through the waves.  This would put us in the best position to "accidentally" tip over (can't really be an accident if we knew it was high risk).  I thought the channel was great fun.  I love riding in the waves and surprisingly didn't have much trouble moving through the waves.  The bigger problem was that while practicing the self rescue, my boat took on some water in the interior.  This made my boat more sluggish and hard to control as the water moved from side to side inside the boat. We've ordered a bilge hand pump and will remove the water next time.   Randy's boat was fine in the waves, but it goes through the waves instead of over them, making his trip a little slower and splashier.  That's why I bought the "sports car" model that I've got.

In the near future we will test the waters closer to Florence, including the Siltcoos River trail, the South Slough of the Siuslaw River and the North Fork of the Siuslaw River.

Overall, very happy to be Hobie owners, but beware.... it's alot like being a Harley Davidson owner.  There are many accessories to make your ride better and none of them are cheap.

Stay tuned for more adventures.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Still on my Imaginary Trip to Greece

Here's what we've been up to lately....

Add caption

In this visit we were instructed to use a pen that was not permanent and only add one color.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Virtual Travel

If I could afford to travel all the time, I would.  Since that's not possible, the next best thing is "virtual travel" and this month I'm in Greece!
The last week in April I joined an "Imaginary Trip to Greece" from the website   The website is hosted by Laure Ferlita who is our travel guide and travel journal instructor.  As we hop from place to place Laure sends us information about the area, pictures and a video of how to paint what we see, as if we are on site.  After our video lesson, we draw and paint from one of the pictures and then post it to the class blog site.  From there we get to see what others have done and get tips and suggestions on our own work.  The group I'm traveling with is large and diverse.  It's been fun to see the variety of styles and interpretations , as well as the "ah-ha" moments, that our group is producing.  This is my second trip with Laure, the first was to Paris.

Here's a couple of paintings from my visit so far...