Monday, February 17, 2014

It's been 20 years...

Night skating at Tenny Park
Last night I went ice skating at Tenny Park lagoon.  After about a half hour on thei ice, I approached the ramp that leads up to the warming house, I saw two folks working their way slowly, and carefully, down towards me. I waited at the end of the ramp and as they passed I said; "This ramp is the hardest part." To which the lady replied; "I haven't skated for 20 years." To which I said; "I know the feeling." The man with her was not wearing skates and she was leaning heavily upon him as she stepped onto the ice and awkwardly ventured forth.

Twenty years is about how long the gap was for me as well - maybe 30 years - from the time during my teen years when we lived by a lake and we'd all go skating out into the moonlight or build a bonfire on the ice and skate around it to keep warm - and the time a few years ago when I started coming to Tenny Park during the winter months to keep my legs strong when I could no longer ride bike because of the snow and ice.  I re-discovered the fun of gliding across the ice and the challenge of staying upright on narrow blades of steel.

The ice - after 2 inches of fluffy snow
I did put on skates a couple times during this gap when my kids were growing up and we thought it would be fun to do this together. They didn't think it was all that much fun and pretty soon we found other things to do and ice skating again fell out of favor.

But now the kids are grown and for the past 5 or so years I've strapped on these old skates and joined all the other Madisonians who seem to love the ice. The Madison parks department does a wonderful job of keeping this ice clear of snow and in good shape. They flood this area every few days to level out the cracks and smooth over the gouges left by the pick-up hockey games that regularly spring up in 3 or four areas around this lagoon.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Riding on the City of New Orleans - well not exactly.

Spring Break for the Bakers (and Youngs)

This time of year (February) we are usually preparing to hop on the Southwestern Chief for our pilgrimage to Las Vegas and points southwest. This year we took a look at our Bucket List and decided to finally cross off "Cruise".


My wife and her sister started talking about this - in their daily phone chats - and we decided it would be fun if she came along. She's always wanted to take a cruise, too, and this way we can ride share to New Orleans and share some of the cost.
Cruise route.

So Wife contacted her friendly travel agent (not me this time) and put together a Caribbean Cruise from New Orleans to the Yucatan Peninsula, down to Honduras and then back to New Orleans.We'll be sailing on Norwegian Cruise Lines' Norwegian Jewel.

I was afraid we'd get on one of those monstrosity ships that look more like a skyscraper than a boat so I was pleased - and greatly relieved - to see this 'small' and very streamlined ship. We are booked onto the 9th deck in a room with a private balcony. Our travel agent was relieved when we told her we wanted a balcony right off because she wouldn't have to waste time convincing us it was well worth the extra cost.
Norwegian Jewel
For reference, deck 9 is just above deck 8 which is the life boat deck and the balconies on deck 8 have an obstructed view (if they are balcony rooms at all). Our room is located in the forward section on the port side (get used to these terms - matey). Sister has booked a separate room that is near to us - three rooms down - but inside (much cheaper and will only be used for sleeping anyway). We will have plenty of room on our balcony for the three of us.
This boat holds 2376 passengers and 1100 crew members (pretty good ratio). It's 1000 feet long and 100 feet wide. I have no idea what that means - no point of reference. Football fields? Yeah, but when's the last time I rode on a football field - on the ocean (okay, this is only the gulf - so...).

No trains or planes

They say that getting there is half the fun. We'll see. Instead of flying we've decided to drive to New Orleans. I hate flying and refuse to put up with all the hassle and insult to my humanity, and pocketbook, and my dignity that flying has become. I would have preferred to take the train (it really is "The City of New Orleans" - like in the song ) but the cruise is costing us enough already so reason prevails. Wife and Sister have already made this drive a couple years ago to celebrate a friend's retirement from the Marines. These folks still live around New Orleans and have invited us to stay with them while in port (matey).

It's a two day drive to New Orleans - the way we travel. [ I'm trying to write this in the car and it's making me sick ]

(to be continued)