Category Archives: Trips

Toronto, Canada Trip

For our 2015 trip, we decided to go to Canada. None of us have ever been to Canada before. We first stopped in New Orleans, where we would fly out of, to visit my mom. Here is mom hard at DSCN2829work cooking Susan and Aaron’s favorite dish, BBQ shrimp. On June 5, 2015, we flew to Buffalo, NY, and then drove to Toronto. We rented a condo in downtown Toronto, which was across the street from the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre.

On our first night, we just went grocery shopping and called it an early night. Saturday we started with a tour of the Ripley’s IMG_5174Aquarium. Probably the coolest part of the aquarium was a long glass tunnel that had a moving sidewalk to take you through it.

After the aquarium, we took a trip up into the CN Tower. The CN Tower is the second largest building in the world. We started going up to about 1100′. Then we went up another 400′ into the sky pod. The views were spectacular. DSCN2903Here is a photograph of Susan and Aaron looking out of the skypod windows. There was a Blue Jays game going on at the DSCN2913time. We were actually able to look down and watch the game. There was also a helicopter flying around that was lower than us.

After the tour of the CN Tower, Susan saw a small train that was going around a brewery that we wanted to tour. Susan made everyone ride it. I think we were the only ones on the train that didn’t have a small child in our group…lol. After the train ride, we tried to tour the brewery, but the tours were sold out DSCN2922for the day.

In the evening, we ate dinner at Wahlburgers. We watched the show about the restaraunt and looked forward to trying their food. Everyone ordered a burger and loved it. After dinner, we went to the Mirvish Theater to watch Titanic the Musical. The musical was very well done. It was our first musical, other than the Broadway plays we have been to. The photograph is the stage during intermission.DSCN2933

On Sunday, we went to a Blue Jays game. The Blue Jays were playing the Houston Astros. The game was very good. The Blue Jays came back in the last inning to win the game. The stadium was electric. This was probably my favorite major league baseball game that we have been to.

After the game, Susan and Aaron wanted to go back to Wahlburgers to eat one more time. After dinner we went to the Amsterdam Brewhouse for a drink. I ended up buying a growler because they were so well made. I was surprised by the number of breweries and wineries in Canada. They were everywhere.

Monday morning we woke up and left for Niagara Falls, which you can read about here.

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Jazz Fest 2014

On May 3, 2014, Susan and I attended the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for the firstDSCN0204 time. We went with three friends: Maria, Julie and Jon. Maria asked us to go because she wanted to see Bruce Springsteen. Although we are not Springsteen fans, we knew the festival would be fun.

We arrived in New Orleans on the Friday before. We just hung around the French Quarter for the first night. Maria and Julie had a tarot card reading.

The next morning, we got an early start and headed to the festival. To the right, is Susan and I as we entered the festival. The festival opened at 11. We got there about 12:30, just in time to sample some of the traditional New Orleans food.

The festival is the largest one we have ever attended. We might have seen half of it in the one DSCN0222day we were there. Susan was excited to see a pow wow that was hosted by several different Indian nations. The photograph to the left is Susan with the Indians after the pow wow.

We were not able to see Springsteen. We got to the stage too late. It was packed. We did get to see Better than Ezra and Foster the People. We enjoyed both concerts.

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Las Vegas Trip

For our 2013 family vacation we went to Las Vegas, NV. We flew from New Orleans to Las Vegas DSC01273on June 6th. We stayed at Bluegreen Club 36, which was less than a mile from the strip. On Friday we went to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden at the Mirage Hotel. We saw dolphins performing and several exotic animals. To the right is one of the dolphins performing a stunt to get a fish to eat.

IMG_1552Aaron and I went to the Stratosphere to ride two of the rides at the top of the tower. Susan and Brian wanted no part of the rides. Instead they walked the strip and shopped. The photograph below is of Aaron right before we rode out first ride.

Friday night we went to our second Cirque Du Soleil show, O. The show was partly underwater. The show was very well done and is our favorite show thus far.

On Saturday, we went to the pool at Planet Hollywood. The evening, Susan and I went to Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace. The show was very funny. After the show, we were trapped in the parking garage. The police shut off the entrance for some reason. Susan and I went back inside Caesar’s and went to the club Pure. Several of the Miss USA contestants were at the club that night.

On Sunday, we went to the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor. The exhibit was very well done. They had aIMG_1568 large section of the ship on display. We also went to Score, which was an interactive sport’s exhibit at the Luxor. Sunday night we went to the Blueman Group. Brian saw them in Orlando and wanted to see them again in Vegas. The show was very funny and entertaining. The photograph on the right is the boys right before the show.

On Monday, everyone but Brian went to a timeshare meeting. The boys wanted to see DSC01333the Jabbawockeez that night. So for attending the meeting, we got four tickets for $100. Kevin Kelly, a former boxer champion, was actually the timeshare salesman. After the timeshare meeting, we went to Pole Position and rode the go carts. The go carts can go 45mph. I won! Poor Susan and Aaron was in a distance third and fourth. We then saw the Jabbawockeez. After the show, we went to Fremont Street. Brian, Aaron, and I rode the zip line down the street. The photograph on the left is at the top of the platform looking down the zip line.

On Tuesday, we traveled to the Hoover Dam. The Dam was only about an hour away from where DSC01350we were staying. We took the complete tour, which included entry to the power plant and a tour down into the dam. The photograph below was taken from the inside of the top left vent that you see when looking directly toward the dam. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the dam and it’s construction.

On Wednesday, we left very early to see the DSC01411Grand Canyon. The trip was about 4.5 hours long. We decided to take a bike tour. We rode bikes along the south rim for about six miles. The views were breathtaking. At the beginning of the tour we saw a Condor, which is an endangered species. There was a volunteer documenting the bird’s location. The photograph below was taken toward the end of the tour. As we were leaving the park, there were two elks feeding on the side of the road. The elks were about 20′ from our vehicle.DSC01424 This was the first time any of us have seen an elk.

After we returned to Vegas, we met our niece, Alyssa. Alyssa was in Vegas for a HP convention. We went to eat at a very good Thai restaurant, Komol. We then walked the strip to see some of the sites. We watched the fountains at the Bellagio, the pirate show at Treasurer’s Island and the volcano at the DSC01436Mirage.

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We really enjoyed our vacation. Susan and I plan to return to Vegas in the future. Oh, and we didn’t loose any money! Then again we didn’t gamble any.

The return flight was interesting. We were diverted from Denver because of microbursts. We missed our connecting flight and had to stay the night in Denver. Southwest kept all of our luggage, so we just had what was on our back. We were not prepared, to say the least.

Orlando 2013 Trip

During the last week of March 2013, we went to Orlando for Spring Break. This was Brian’s last DSC01179spring break with us. My mom, stepdad and stepbrother met us in Orlando. We stayed at Vacation Village Resort, thanks to mom.

We had a three day pass to Universal Studios. With the exception of Brian and Ethan, this was everyone’s first time to visit Universal Studios. Brian actually went to Islands of Adventure the weekend before, as part of his senior class trip. To the right is a photograph that we took on our last day.

DSC01137On Tuesday, we visited Universal Studios. On the rock it ride, Brian’s eyeglass arm broke off. Brian was pretty bummed because it was his Oakley glasses he just got on his last birthday. While we were waiting in line at the Twister ride, Susan saw an eyeglass arm lying on the ground. The arm was Brian’s! The arm clipped right back in and was not damaged. What are the chances? Brian’s day was brightened. He didn’t wear those glasses back to the parks the next two days. To the left is Brian holding his glasses right after Susan found the arm!

On the same day, we all got stuck on the Mummy Ride. We were told that someone tried to get off during the ride. After waiting in line for about an hour, Susan, Aaron, and I got stuck during the DSC01139first five minutes of the ride. My mom, stepdad, stepbrother and Brian got stuck on the very end of the ride. Since we were stuck, we received an express pass for one ride. We actually were able to use it for four rides. Here is a photograph of several of us stuck on the ride. This has never happened to any of, so we wanted to memorialize it. Some girl that worked at Disney World was also stuck with us.

We had a very nice time. This is the first time all of my family got together in about five years. We look forward to our next vacation that is just several months away! We will be going to Las Vegas in June.

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Battle of New Orleans

On January 11, 2013, we traveled to New Orleans to witness a reenactment of the Battle of New DSC00929Orleans.  The reenactment took place on the original battlefield, which happens to be about a mile from where my mom lives.  The following morning we went to the Chalmette Battlefield to view several demonstrations related to the Battle of New Orleans.  The weekend was very informative.  Susan was probably the most excited since it is a topic that she teaches in fifth grade.  The photograph is a cannon demonstration.

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Los Angeles Trip

During June 2012, we packed up and headed west for our annual family vacation. We drove to New Orleans, LA. In New Orleans, we caught an Amtrak train to Los Angeles. The train ride was la1about 46 hours long. Amtrak was sold out of sleeper rooms, so we had to sleep at our chair. The train ride was very interesting. We saw many sights as we passed through Texas, Arizona and Nevada. The train stopped in San Antonio for about two hours (around 11 p.m.). We used that time to walk around and stretch a bit. Overall, we enjoyed the train ride, but were ready to get off after two days.

We arrived early in LA early June 13th. I thought our car rental was through Hertz. Probably because I recently rented Brian a car through Hertz. Hertz didn’t open on time (8 am), but Budget Car Rental was open on time. We waited almost an hour for Hertz to finally open. When Hertz opened, they were unable to find the reservation under my name. That was when I realized that I reserved a car through la2Budget. No harm though, since Budget didn’t have our vehicle ready for another 15 minutes.

Our first stop was the Reagan Presidential Library. The library was very nice. We enjoyed it more than the JFK Library. The library had Air Force One on display. Air Force One was the actual aircraft used through George W. Bush. We were able to walk through the aircraft. Outside was Reagan’s grave and an actual section from the Berlin Wall. I bought mom a replica of the Berlin Wall for watching Forrest. Mom was born in Berlin.

After our visit to the presidential library, we checked into our house. For our time in Los Angeles, we stayed in a house in Hollywood. On the second day, Susan and I went to a taping of the la3Tonight Show. Penelope Cruz and Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars were on the Tonight Show. Susan and I sat in the first row for the taping. After the Tonight Show, we went to the Broadway show, Addams Family. The show was held in the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. The photograph to the right is Brian and Aaron right before the Broadway show.

On our third day we went to the Grove, which was a shopping district. While there we saw a la4taping of the television show, Extra. Afterward, we went to the Kodak Theater to watch the Cirque Du Soleil show, Iris. Before the show, we visited the famous Chinese Theater. To the left is a photograph of Susan and Brian with the hats they bought near the Kodak Theater.

After the Iris show we went to the Griffith Observatory. The Observatory was on top of one of the mountains. There were two high powered telescopes to use to look at space. The night we went, it was overcast and the telescopes were closed. We enjoyed an Imax movie la5though. Also, we went through the various informational displays. To the right is a photograph at the Griffith Observatory, with the Hollywood sign behind us. Notice the cloud cover that is visible.

On Saturday morning, we woke up very early and went to the studios of Warner Brothers. We did the VIP studio tour. We got to see the outdoor sets that have been used in many movies and television shows. We saw where la6Ellen’s offices were. We got to go inside two sound studios. The tour was very nice. We went through a museum that contained numerous outfits and props that have been used in famous movies. The boys highlight was probably the cars they had on display that were used in various films. Here is Brian and Aaron next to the Batmobile.

After the studio tour, we went to the Peterson Automotive Museum. The Museum was three stories and very impressive. There were many rare cars. Brian begged us to go there. I wasla7 impressed with the rare Apple matchbox car from the movie “Cars.” After two floors of “no touch” area, the third floor had various cars and experiments that guests could touch. Here is a photograph of Brian and I sitting in an antique car. An interesting fact was that the intersection in front of this museum was where the Notorious B.I.G. was murdered.

On Sunday, we went to Venice Beach. I started the day at the beach by running six miles. After the run, Susan and I rented a tandem bike and the boys rented bicycles as well. la8We rode on the bikes from Venice Beach through Santa Monica. The round trip bike ride was about 12 miles. After the bike ride, we walked along Venice Beach. The photograph below is Brian watching one of the street shows. Brian was actually a prop in one of the shows. The boys had some money they wanted to shop with. Almost every block there were “medical marijuana” shops that were yelling trying to get customers. That was pretty annoying. The water was too cold to go swimming. Surfers in wet suits were pretty much the only ones in the water. Since it was Father’s Day, I picked where to eat. I asked Susan to pick up some take out Thai food while I relaxed at the house after the long day.

On our last day in Los Angeles, we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain. This was our second visit to a Six Flags as a family. We arrived just as the park was opening. We had just enough time to ride la9every major ride once. We rode one ride twice. Susan surprised everyone by riding all of the rides with us. The boys named Six Flags Magic Mountain as their favorite amusement park that they have visited. After leaving the park, we stopped at Red Lobster, which was right outside of the gates, for a later dinner. The photograph below is Brian and Aaron waiting to ride one of the rides.

On Tuesday, we woke up, packed and departed for LAX Airport. The car rental return was the largest operation we had ever seen. Car rental companies lined the streets. Budget Car rental had about 12 lanes to drive into. We then caught our direct flight to New Orleans. On a side note, New Orleans did not have an available terminal for us. We had to wait on the runway for about 20 minutes for a terminal to open.

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Mardi Gras 2012 (NOLA)

During the first weekend in February 2012, we traveled to New Orleans. Originally, we planned to go to New Orleans to see the Red Hot Chilli Peppers in concert. However, the concert neworleans2012was cancelled because the lead singer had to undergo surgery. We decided to still make the trip. Our friends Erik and Shannon joined us. On Saturday night we went to two Mardi Gras parades that were in the French Quarter. The parades were quite short and threw few things. We were disappointed with the parades to say the least. We took a horse carriage ride around the French Quarter, which was the highlight of our trip. The carriage was actually pulled by a mule though. The photograph on the right is Susan and I after we ate dinner at the Crazy Lobster. The restaurant was on the Mississippi River.

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Maine Marathon

On October 2, 2011, I ran my second marathon. The marathon was at Portland, Maine. Our friend, Bill Kendall, and his wife, Melanie, ran the marathon with me. This was Bill and Melanie’s mainemaraton1first marathon. The marathon was smaller than the New Orleans Marathon that I ran in March. This marathon sold out at 3,500 runners. The weather did not cooperate. It rained the entire run. I finished in four hours and 11 seconds. I had a goal of finishing before four hours. I did shave off 33 minutes from my previous marathon. Bill finished in four hours and three minutes and Melanie finished in four hours and 20 minutes. We all were very happy with our finishing times. Bill and I might race again in January at the Disney Marathon in Orlando, FL. The mainemaraton2photograph on the right is of the three runners right before departing for the race.

Susan and I flew to Maine alone. The boys stayed in Pensacola under the watchful eye of their grandmother. Before leaving Maine, Bill and Melanie took us to the Portland Head Light. Portland Head Light is a famous lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth. The photograph on the left is Susan and I near the lighthouse at Portland Head Light.

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Red Dress Run 2011

On August 13, 2011, Susan and I attended our first red dress run.  The run was hosted by thereddress2011 New Orleans Hash Harriers. Everyone was required to wear red dresses, including the men, to participate. The event started at Washington Square, which was near the French Quarter. Thousands of people attended the event. There were several bands, all you could drink beer and BBQ was catered. The funny part about the run, was that there was no run. At least that we saw. There was just a mass exit to Bourbon Street toward the end of the event.

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Eastern Caribbean Cruise

During June 2011, we went on our second cruise as a family. This was our fourth cruise together. We left Miami, FL, on June 19th. We were on the ship, the Carnival Valor. cruise20111Susan and I actually sailed on the Valor previously, but with a different itinerary. It was overcast in Miami, but the rain held out for us. Our friend Dan Bell traveled with us. We enjoyed seeing South Beach on our way out to sea.

On day two, we anchored at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. Half Moon Cay is a private island that Carnival purchased a few years earlier. The island was very nice. We spent the day lounging at the beach. Brian and Aaron spent the day hanging out with their new cruise20112friends. Carnival brought food out to the island to feed us lunch. At Half Moon Cay, I purchased another Del Sol frisbee since my other one was getting worn out from use. Below is a photograph of Aaron and I standing near the beach with the Carnival Valor in the background.

Our second stop was at St. Thomas. At St. Thomas we boarded a ferry boat and rode to St. John. Susan and I decided to visit St. cruise20113John since they have been to St. Thomas before. We took a short truck ride at St. John to Trunk Bay Beach. We snorkeled around a natural reef at Trunk Bay Beach. We saw a lot of fish. There were schools of lane snapper that swam around us. Many of the snapper would come within an arm’s lengths. I saw a four foot tarpon while swimming back to shore. Aaron almost caused the family to miss the ride back to the ferry boat. When it was time to leave, he was about 150 yards from shore snorkeling. I had to swim out and get him (without any gear as it was all turned in). cruise20114Fortunately, our truck driver waited for us. To the right is a photograph of Susan and the boys on the ferry ride from St. John to St. Thomas. The photograph below is of Susan and I with Harass Island behind them. This photograph was taken from the Carnival Valor while leaving St. Thomas.

Our third stop was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In San Juan, we hung out with Dan. We grabbed a cab to the Bacardi Factory. At the Bacardi Factory, we enjoyed two free drinks made with Bacardi. We toured some of the facilities. We cruise20115learned a lot about the history of Bacardi. After our free tour, our cab driver, Susanna, drove us around San Juan. We saw the beach front and downtown San Juan. Susanna dropped us off at the port, where we shopped for some liquor. There was no limit on liquor purchased in San Juan since it is a U.S. territory. The photograph below is of the boys at the start of the Bacardi Factory tour. The photograph on the left is our family with Susanna He was a very cruise20116nice man. He was a retired fire fighter.

Our fourth, and final, stop was Grand Turk. At Grand Turk, Susan and the boys went on a catamaran sailboat for a snorkeling excursion. They snorkeled near the “wall,” which was a location where the ocean floor dropped off quickly. Susan and the boys could see a lot of fish. Most of the fish stayed about 30 feet away though. I went on a certified scuba diving excursion. My excursion first stopped at the cruise20117“Rolling Hills” reef. The reef was natural. The reef was near the wall. I dove to 75 feet. During the dive I saw many fish. Some of the fish looked like colorful trigger fish, which I am accustomed to seeing in the Gulf of Mexico. On the second dive, I dove at the sight called “Coral Gardens.” I saw a barracuda with a fish in his mouth. On the way in from the dives, I saw the boat Susan and the boys were on.

All of the family thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. Susan and I enjoyed having their friend, Dan, join them. Brian met a friend, Jordan. Brian and Jordan usually hung out together while on the ship. Aaron met several good friends as well. As with the previous cruise, Susan and I had to force the boys to spend time with us during the days at sea. Brian and Aaron always joined us for dinner in the formal dining room.

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