Category Archives: Family Ramblings

Why Disney World?

During a recent school break we took the opportunity to visit Disney World in Orlando, Florida to watch as our daughter played in the high school marching band while marching at the Magic Kingdom. When we first started talking about taking the whole family to Disney World the first thoughts that came to mind was battling crowds to stand in long lines and paying large sums of money to do this. This wasn’t an incorrect assumption but wasn’t nearly accurate enough. Seeing the reality of this brought the question of why so many people desire to visit Disney World.

Marching at the Magic Kingdom

So in a nut shell here’s my question: Why pay over $100 per person per day to immediately get persuaded to spend even more money on food and gifts as soon as you enter the park and throughout the park only to be beaten up by the crowds to stand in long lines and kicked by kids who are unable to stand for that long? Lets break this down a little. First is price. The more days you buy the cheaper each day becomes which can bring your cost down below $100 per day but not everyone had that kind of time. Food and gift purchases are, of course, optional but there are way more gift stores and food places than attractions so that great smelling meal or those Mickey ears become harder and harder to resist. Looking at reviews of Disney World you will come across several complaining of the crowds and how rude people can be along with the wait times for attractions. My wife was hit by a mom who had one stroller stacked cross ways on top of another stroller causing these to require more room but this mom didn’t seem to care how many people she was going to hit while pushing these double stacked strollers with no children in them. And lastly, the lone lines. Many attractions had a wait time of about an hour but the most popular Avatar ride had waits exceeding 3 hours. We ended up not being able to go on this one as it was too much time but obviously a lot of other people were willing to wait that long. Security to enter seems cumbersome and slow as there are people that need to go through all of your bags before you can proceed into the park. This is the same at each of the parks so if you’re going to park hop add extra time for security at each one. And this is all called fun at the “Happiest Place on Earth!”

Waiting in line

So what seems to be so appealing that people from all over the world have to go to Disney World? First off, nobody does a better job of immersing you into a ride with all of the props, landscaping, music, and characters. They put a lot of effort into making you feel like you’re transported into another place and are a part of that ride. Although many of the attractions at the Magic Kingdom feel like they’re old and outdated when you compare them to the newest rides put together today. Maybe that’s one of the draws is people like these nostalgic rides. I felt they could do a lot more to many of them with today’s technology. Certainly other things like the castle, parades, and fireworks and lightshow work with these other rides to create the Disney Experience that so many return time and again for.

We didn’t take the time to look over reviews before going to Orlando and that was a bit of a mistake. Reading just a few reviews a couple of months before going would help understand just how important advanced planning and preparation is and can make your time in Disney a little better. Definitely learn about Fastpasses if you do not know about them and utilize them. You get 3 with each ticket per day. There are some great things to see and do at Disney World but the crowds and long lines definitely detract from them.

Fall decorations

20 Years Later

Recently my wife and I celebrated our 20 year anniversary and decided to spend a couple of days at Cove Point Lodge were we went for our honeymoon. We enjoyed staying here the first time so wanted to do it again. Just ahead of our trip we looked over photos from our honeymoon to remind us of what we did the first time. There was a photo of us in front of Cove Point Lodge taken from Cove Point which creates this little cove along the shore of Lake Superior that we wanted to duplicate just to see how much has changed. Well, other than us.

Certainly cameras have changed which made it somewhat challenging to attempt to capture the same photo. After some repositioning we got something close but not as close as I would have liked. some of which was hindered by Lake Superior being higher than normal with all of the rain we’ve received this year. Some of the changes noticeable were different colors on the lodge, some of the shoreline in front of the lodge cleared with chairs added to take in the magnificent view of the lake, and new buildings along the shoreline. Otherwise things appeared to have stayed much the same.

Standing in Front of Cove Point Lodge in 1997

20 Years Later

One of the mornings we were wakened by thunder with some lightning. I got up to watch as it was still dark our and you could see for hundreds of miles over Lake Superior so catching a glimpse of lighting stretching across the sky was easy to see. My bigger camera was left in the car the night before causing me to question whether or not to get dressed and fetch it or just enjoy the passing storm. I really didn’t want to get dressed or go out into the rain so I came up with another alternative. Attempt to use the camera on my phone. After some practice I actually was able to capture lightning streaking across the sky. With a little more exploring I found where I could change the settings on the phone camera to basically get what I wanted which allowed me to capture some cool shots of lightning satisfying my desire to photograph the early morning storm.

Lightning from an early morning storm over Lake Superior

Also while preparing for this trip we discovered how poor our memories can actually be. While recalling our first time at Cove Point Lodge we remembered hiking along a river which we were sure was accessed from a side trail from the lodge to the Superior Hiking Trail. Turns out this side trail, which we hiked again this time, does not connect to any sizeable rivers close by. Also we discovered that on our honeymoon we explored Tettegouche State Park hiking up to the high falls. I thought my first time seeing the high falls was actually many years later with our children. Another false memory was how the Lodge was arranged. Yes there was a fireplace, tables and chairs arranged around the fireplace, and a dining area but it did not match the way I recalled it from our honeymoon. While they could have rearranged the chairs the fireplace was in the same place only I remembered it differently. This is one of the reasons I photograph things now because I know our memories are not always accurate.

During our recent trip we did some hiking along the Beaver River nearby and stopping to see Split Rock Lighthouse for the first time but enjoyed much of our time relaxing around Cove Point. Sitting near the shore listening to the waves, watching thunderstorms, and staring at the night sky. After sunset one night we went out to stargaze and could see lightning occasionally near the horizon. Upon checking the radar it showed a line of storms several hundred miles away. That was pretty amazing to think we could see that far over Lake Superior. While it was a little disappointing to realize how much we didn’t remember from our honeymoon, it was an enjoyable couple of days with beautiful weather to take in the North Shore.

Hiking on the Beaver River

Planning for 2017

This is a year I’m certainly looking forward to as there are plenty of activities entering our calendar but also am getting a little concerned there is too much to accomplish to enjoy all I would like to. Last year’s goals were mostly accomplished with our travels to National Parks in Texas and Arkansas, taking thousands of pictures which I’m certain has improved my photography skills but still more to do, fixing broken portions of this website, as well as making it to Rocky Mountain National Park to hike Flattop Mountain and Long’s Peak.

Spring blooms

What does that leave for 2017? Plenty! How about starting with our Monopoly goals of visiting Dinosaur, Little Bighorn, and Yellowstone National Parks? Yellowstone has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time as it’s one of the marquee parks in the United States. The more I read about Dinosaur the more interested I get in exploring such a place tucked in Colorado’s northwest corner revealing pre-historic fossils among a beautiful landscape. What’s not to look forward to here? And Little Bighorn, a place among US history commonly known as Custer’s last stand. I get chills just writing that as it reminds me of Gettysburg and all those lost there.

Isle Royale National Park

There’s also a return trip to Isle Royale National Park for a more intense backpacking trip in the works. Our family took on an adventure here in 2012 at which time I insisted I was done backpacking and would never go back to this island. Well, a few months after my muscles and joints recovered I began to think about improvements I could do to enjoy it more but still never really seriously thought about another trip here. The most difficult part was carrying such a heavy backpack. Last summers adventure to Long’s Peak convinced me I could backpack and enjoy it. After almost despising an extended hike I’m now really excited about returning to the island and taking in more of what it has to offer. What’s different you ask? First I’m confident in my abilities after hiking 14 miles at higher altitudes and really want to know how much more I can enjoy it at elevations I can breath more easily at as well as I know how to prepare and train for an extended hike.

Clear winged moth on a warm summer night

Add in to this landscaping projects and a small remodeling project at my house, a camping trip, a snowmobiling excursion, and celebrating 20 years of marriage to my wife and this year will fly by I’m sure. I hope 2017 becomes a great year for you as well!

2016 Plans and Goals

Reflecting on 2015, which you can read about here, I came up with some things I would like to accomplish in this next year.  First and foremost, I want to enjoy the activities and adventures we embark on. We did a lot of fun and exciting activities last year but I didn’t feel like I got the most out of them that I could because there was always another event coming up soon requiring attention to plan and prepare for taking attention away from what I was doing. It seemed like we were always in a rush to do whatever it was we were doing because there was something else that needed to get done or was scheduled. If I can help it that won’t be the case in 2016 for us!

An ocean sunrise

My next goal is to explore Window Trail in Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Seashore, and Hot Springs National Park. I’m pretty confident in being able to complete this in the next year as we already have some lodging accommodations, airfare, and a car reserved. I’m looking forward to this trip as we will be staying in Big Bend which will only be the second time staying right in a park reducing travel time and increasing exploration time.

Using the GoPro Hero 4 underwater

As has been the case for the past several years, I want to continue learning and improving my photography. Originally I set the bar at wanting to take 3,500  photos this year. That just makes me laugh now after having taking over 11,000 in the past year. I’ve decided to up that to 5,000 photos towards the goal of improving. That means working on composition and technique, not just randomly taking pictures of family and friends or the dog. As part of this I want to capture images of individual snowflakes.

A woodland mushroom

Along with the photography goal I would like to complete the Photography Experiment board by learning more about flash, fill flash, rock climbing, and travel portraits. This is a goal that would be nice to complete but if it doesn’t happen I won’t be too concerned. Still, working a little on it would be good.

Time at the lake

Continuing to update and improve this site is another one of my goals for this year. Since I needed to re-build this website in 2015 I find several broken links that need to be addressed as well as some programming pieces that need to continue to be worked on to get them to work as I have envisioned.

Being watched in the woods

I’ve wanted to put together a video from all of the photos taken on our trip to Alaska in 2013. It’s probably time to get this done so I can remove the photos from my computer and free up space. It is uncertain at this point if I will be able to post the video as I’m probably going to use music that is copyrighted preventing me from being able to use it on the internet.

Just floating on the water

One final goal for 2016 is to volunteer more. I feel like I failed at helping others in 2015 and that is something important to me to get back to this next year. Sure I volunteered to help coach my daughters basketball team and spent a number of hours volunteering at our church. I guess it comes down to volunteering at food shelves more. Seeing people starving is something that affects me and a priority for me to help reduce to the best of my ability. We are so fortunate to be able to have all that we need and it is up to us to help those that we can. Food and shelter are at the top of my list to help with when possible.

Lunch on the prairie

That should keep me busy this year and hopefully allow me to enjoy our adventures. If not, there are more homeowner projects to undertake and a potential hiking trip in the Rocky Mountains.

2015 in Review

This past year seems more like a blur that lasted a few months rather than a full year as our family kept quite busy with lot’s of projects and activities. Now that 2015 has wrapped up and we’re on to 2016 it seems like a good time to review which goals were accomplished and those that I fell short on. Looking over my goals for this past year, which were published in this post (click on ‘post’ to read it), I see we managed to achieve half of them.

Warm Caribbean Waters

Exploring Padre Island and Hot Springs ended up being delayed until this spring. Instead we took in Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Shenandoah National Park to see Lewis Falls. The timeframe for Padre Island and Hot Springs became filled with an anniversary celebration trip for Karen’s mom and dad who have been together for over 40 years. Definitely an accomplishment worth celebrating in my book!

Putting in windows

It may have almost killed me (at least it felt like it) but we completed our window project. I estimated my time spent which ended up at over 110 hours of my weekends and evenings to complete. That doesn’t include the time of others that helped me tear out the old ones and lift in the new ones. You can’t imagine how greatful I am to those that helped us and to be done with this home improvement.
Water Lily

Continuing my learning of photography took a back seat for much of the year so I didn’t complete my Photography Experiment Monopoly board once again. Maybe this year. In spite of this I did still manage to take over 11,000 pictures with my Sony Nex. That doesn’t include the thousands of images taken with my new photography addition – a GoPro Hero 4. By the way, I really enjoy the GoPro and where it can go and what it can do. I have definitely learned more about photography composition and techniques with the opportunities I was fortunate to have.

There were other accomplishments during 2015 which may end up in a different post.

A New Year, A New Site

Monopoly Traveler Site old    Monopoly Traveler Site old -2 

This has been a much longer journey than I expected but we’re finally back with new content. Back in March MonopolyTraveler.com had some uninvited guests who destroyed portions of this site. There were many attempts by a number of people to revive and restore things back to normal without success. Each time we thought we had the website back to normal and secure from these intruders new issues would pop up causing the necessary action of taking it down. By the end of March it was determined that MonopolyTraveler.com would have to be completely re-built from scratch requiring a significant amount of time.

One of the projects on the to do list was to make it more mobile friendly so this seemed like a good time to accomplish that and way over due. At that time a decision was made to look over all aspects of the website and decide what we liked and what should be updated in addition to making it more mobile friendly. Some of the components of this website were no longer functioning correctly and needed to be replaced or re-programed so those were addressed along with bringing more focus to the photographs. After some debate between putting time and energy into re-building the existing site with some improvements or going with an entirely different theme it was decided to use the time towards a new theme so here it is.

Working into the long hours of the night programming and testing a new site

Unfortunately existing commitments and unexpected events required more time away which continually delayed the completion of MonopolyTraveler. In spite of our best efforts there always seemed to be something else that was a higher priority taking time from assembling a new site so there it sat for months and months. Finally it has become a high enough priority and my last goal of getting this ready before the New Year is somewhat met. It has been a nice break from blogging but there are many photographs and experiences I want to share and a stress relief by having this off my to do list. There are still pieces that are being worked on and noticeable changes may come up as the mobile version is not completely satisfactory but for now here we go.

By the way, I said new content – not necessarily better or useful content, just new.

Goal Progress–Windows

Applying Stain and Finish to Windows

One of my goals set for 2015 is to complete the installation of replacement windows on the house. There are five windows left as the rest have been replaced a few years ago. This has been done in stages to spread the cost out in order to avoid borrowing money for this project. At this point two of the windows are almost complete. They’ve been stained and finish applied. The other three are on their way. It’s nice to have this much progress but I definitely look forward to this project being behind us.

Staining and Finishing Windows

Vacation Style

Going to the Ocean on Vacation

What’s your vacation style? No, not vacation in style. How do you like to spend your time away on vacation. Just a quick internet search brought some entertaining results which centered around luggage styles and travel fashion. I’ve gone through three different styles as I’ve gotten older and my choice of vacations is an indication of that. They are: Beach Bum, Whatever Happens, and Adventurer.

The first vacations I had decisions in was crossed between ‘beach bum’ and ‘whatever happens’. Spring Break in Daytona Beach is what I consider my first independent vacation where I primarily just wanted to lounge on the beach with the biggest decision to be made for the day was what to eat. A second vacation on a cruise ship brought more of the same as I never wanted to leave the ship even while at port. Apparently there is enough adventure when you’re a college student between classes, homework, working, and activities that vacation was all about R & R. Of course, spring break usually came after difficult exams and large projects requiring a mental vacation.

Beach Bum

That first vacation along with several after did include a bit of ‘whatever happens’ as Daytona Beach was the sight of Mtv’s Spring Break broadcasts and I took part in those from time to time along with a quick trip for my first time to Disney World. Planning is not a priority for these types of vacations but you still decide to take advantage of an opportunity or two when they happen to go on an adventure. Maybe a snorkeling trip or a ride in a submarine for something to talk about later.

Currently I reside in the adventure vacation style which can take quite a bit of planning. As daily life now involves a lot of routine, vacations need to be more fulfilling to me. The need to just catch some sun has passed and actually feels like wasted time away from work. It usually takes 3 – 4 days away to begin to mentally get a break from the grind of everyday events so just using my vacation time a day at a time does not accomplish its purpose of refreshing me. My goal often times is to return from a trip needing to catch up on sleep but with many great memories packed into a short time.

Adventurer

There are definitely downsides to the ‘adventurer’ vacation style. Usually these trips can be more expensive because everything costs money and they require more time planning and making reservations. Along with the planning can often come additional stress because of trying to figure out if you’ve taken care of everything in preparation and needing to be at a certain place by a certain time once on vacation.

These vacation styles kind of came to me recently because of our next trip coming this spring break which happens to be a Caribbean Cruise. Cruising has lost its appeal to me because I want to spend the time in port doing things instead of be on a ship most of the time with all that food. So why am I going on a cruise you ask? It’s has become part of a family trip to celebrate my mother and father in-laws 50th anniversary and they would like that trip to be on a cruise ship. Our initial plans where to visit Padre Island and Hot Springs Arkansas for spring break which falls into the ‘Adventurer’ category. That will happen another time as a 50th wedding anniversary is an incredible milestone to me. I can only try to imagine it.

Going on a Cruise Ship

Back to my vacation style realization. When booking this next trip the portion I really was having a difficult time with is spending all that time on the ship. That has become kind of boring to me and I’m not all that attached to food so there is not as big of an appeal there either. That enlightenment helped me understand that I’m no longer a ‘beach bum’ and have moved further from the ‘whatever happens’ style as well. For this trip being in the ‘whatever happens’ category would be most beneficial but I’m not able to let myself and my family be that type of traveler because I know I’m missing an opportunity to create life long memories with my wife and children and the chances to do that are diminishing as the children get older.

It’s interesting to me to recognize changes in how I spend my vacation time from when I first started taking vacations to now. I’m sure that will continue to change as things in life continue to evolve. I know several people who like to be in the ‘beach bum’ or ‘whatever happens’ categories and that is a great place to be, just not for me at this point in my life. Is there a benefit to classifying vacation styles? Probably not. Just something I did without realizing it and decided to put out there. Enjoy you’re vacation any way you can!

Creating Family Memories

2014 In Review, On to 2015

Reflecting on the Setting Sun

Reflection is an important piece in learning but I don’t want to spend too much time on it because going forward provides the ability to experience new things. With that in mind, how did I do in accomplishing my 2014 goals? Here’s what they were from my 2013 in review post:

-Finish the Photography Experiment Monopoly Board

-Explore Gettysburg, Edison, and the Lewis Falls Trail

-Share these travel experiences with others creating life long memories they can reflect on.

-Send Lysa off on her own European adventure

As I look over these I see I only accomplished a parts of most of them. Finishing the Photography Experiment Monopoly Board was close. There were five spaces that I didn’t complete – Flash, Fill Flash, Rock Climbing, and Travel Portraits. There are a couple of reasons they went uncompleted. First, these are unavailable on Peter Carey’s blog, and secondly because these aren’t experiments that seem as interesting or useful for me. Having said that I did start playing around with fill flash late this fall and realized there are times it can be quite useful so I may try to accomplish this space in the new year. Travel portraits are something I should probably pay more attention to as I tend to focus on scenery more than people taking in the scenery. Another goal for 2015.

Looking Towards the National Mall

We did get to explore Gettysburg and Edison but changed our plans to include the National Mall, Valley Forge, and a stop in New York which means Lewis Falls Trail is still on our list of places to experience. I have been debating since we started this National Parks adventure on how many places to cram into one trip and if it should be done at one time or split into multiple trips. Opportunity provided the answer with a conference in Baltimore making more sense to visit areas around that city. Lewis Falls Trail goal will be added to another year. In addition to only partially completed Gettysburg, Edison, and Lewis Falls Trail, I didn’t fulfill the goal of sharing those travel experiences with others. That was a little bit beyond my control. I did share other travel experiences with people beyond the four of us on a journey to Mammoth Cave, Churchill Downs, and a few days in Las Vegas.

Lysa made it to Europe so that goal was completed.

Another goal that I made but didn’t really push for was to take at least 3,500 photos to improve my photography. Surprisingly I took over 5,000 pictures this year. I write surprisingly because by the forth of July I had only taken 1,300 photos so the last half of the year provided more opportunities.

The Sun Setting on 2014

That essentially recaps the 2014 goals. Let’s move on to 2015.

The goals for this next year don’t include quite as much travel at this point. Here there are:

-Explore Padre Island and Hot Springs

-Complete the window replacements at my house

-Finish a few more spaces on the Photography Experiment Monopoly Board such as Fill Flash and Travel Portraits

-Take 3,500 more photographs in an effort to continue improving.

I started replacing windows in the house back in 2011 and figure I better finish all of the windows before styles change or the stain I used at that time become unavailable along with trying to keep all of the windows about the same age. Since there is not expected to be as much travel in 2015 I figured it’s a good year to complete windows.

Celebrating the New Year