Friday, June 29, 2012

Iceland – Day 3: Suðureyri to Húsavík

I am still running a day behind in my postings.  I plan to catch up on Sunday when we have a day free from a lot of planned activities or travel.

On our third day in Iceland we spent almost the whole day traveling from Suðureyri to Húsavík.  Suðureyri, our starting point for the day, is only 300 kilometers or less from our destination, Húsavík as the crow flies.  However, due to the extremely rugged coast line and the number of fjords between Suðureyri and Húsavík our overall travel would be in excess of 600 kilometers.  Even through this was only kilometers as opposed to miles, it was still a very substantial distance to cover.

After a “hotel” breakfast we packed up and left Suðureyri.  However before we left the general vicinity of the town, we took a comprehensive tour of it all.  First we drove as far to the west as I felt comfortable driving as the road quickly gave way to a 4 wheel drive track and I didn’t want to push our little rental too far.  The scenery past the breakwall of the town was absolutely beautiful.  Though we were very close to the end of the head lands surrounding the fjord, there were numerous farms that dotted the desolate terrain to the west of the town.  With the intense beauty of the land beyond the break wall, I can only wonder about all the unseen landmarks of natural beauty that are only known to the few people who live that far out from civilization.  

Checking out the local ship packing plant, we found that it was a very small operation but it produced a large quantity of frozen fish ready for shipping to overseas markets.  The fish processed in this plant came from the small fishing ships that make Suðureyri their home port.

(Land beyond the breakwater in Suðureyri.)

After that we filled up on gas and began the long trek to our next destination.  At the upper reaches of the fjord we once again encountered the marvelously long tunnel that would lead us out of this wonderful little paradise on Earth.  This time however we took the opposite direction in when we came to the turn in the tunnel and headed to the much larger port town of Ísafjörður.  This town has a full time population of around 2800 and seems worlds larger than Suðureyri.

We stopped in Ísafjörður for a while and wandered around the town.  It was very exciting to be at the port as it was a hub of activity.  A large fishing vessel, by all appearances a bottom trawler was unloading it’s catch of fish.  The fish had already been processed and was in frozen cases for shipment to Japan by the looks of things.  It appeared like it was headed to Japan as half the writing on the cases was Japanese.  (I am not a fan of bottom trawling as it takes in all kinds of fish and there is a high amount of wastage as a result.)

 (Fishing trawler being unloaded of it's already processed catch.  Hard to see in this picture by there is an army of young men working to move and re-stack the boxes as they come off.)

We also spent some time hanging looking around the local museum that is dedicated to the fishing trade.  There was a considerable amount of fish out side the museum curing.  I can’t say I have every had cured fish they way they make it here, but certainly looks interesting.

After our time in Ísafjörður, we hit the road again and began our constantly curving journey through the fjords.  We stopped a short time later in the small town of Sudavik, which is home to the Arctic Fox Research Center.  For whatever reason, Zack has long had a fascination with Arctic Foxes.  I don’t know why, but for whatever reason he seems to love them.  Granted they are very cute, but Zack seems to have a real passion for them.  Regardless we stopped and paid the 800 kronnar fee to enter and explore the center.  The center presented exhibits on the biology of the foxes and how they have been extensively hunted in the past.  An interesting fact about Arctic Foxes is they are the only terrestrial land mammal that is native to Iceland.  All other large land mammals have been brought to Iceland by people.  Biologists are uncertain how the foxes got to Iceland, but there is speculation that at some point they may have floated to the island via ice flows. Or perhaps they came during the last ice age when Iceland may have been connected via ice to other large land masses.

After that we settled down to the routing of driving in spectacular scenery.  I am sure that Zack found it annoy but I would stop every 20 – 30 minutes to take more pictures of yet another amazing scene out in front of us.  The trip was routine except for two incidents involving birds.  In the first incident I stop the car to take a picture of a beautiful fjord.  As soon as I exited the car I was literally attacked by a bird.  It wasn’t a gull, but it was bigger than a robin and it just didn’t like me.  While I was taking the picture it kept trying to dive bomb me.  It would go for my head while continuously crying at me.  I defended myself with my camera until I realized it wasn’t really going to strike me.  At that point I let him fake dive bomb me all he wanted.  Needless to say I was glad to get back in the car and get away from that bird!

 (Wonderful views but there is lots of emptiness and desolation in the fjords.)

 (Lots and lots of emptiness and quiet out here!)

The second bird incident was no where near as funny as we ended up killing a bird – I believe with the car.  We were motoring down the road and suddenly a bird flew up from the side of the road and flew into the car.  The bird struck the car on the passenger side front, bounced up into the air and came down on the road.  I really couldn’t tell if it was killed or not, but I can’t imagine that it survived.  I felt very bad about the whole situation as I hate killing anything.

After that our ride settled down into a routine normal drive.  However I still felt bad about hitting the bird.  Despite the distance we arrived in Húsavík shortly before 8:00PM.  The sun was still shining brightly and it was a lovely day in Húsavík.  After grabbing a quick dinner in the hotel restaurant we spent what little of the evening we had left in our room doing some things on our computers.  I wrote and uploaded photos to Facebook and Zack played video games.

That wrapped up our third day in Iceland.  Our fourth day definitely brought lots more adventure, but I will save that story for tomorrow’s writing.

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Iceland – Day 2: Reykjavik to Suðureyri, Vestur-Isafjardarsysla.

Adjusting to time zones that are more than 2 or 3 hours distant always seems to be a nightmare.  The adjustment to Icelandic time (Denver + 6 hours) was no exception.  Even with a 5 hour nap on Tuesday afternoon, neither Zack nor I was ready to face the daylight of another day.  Instead of waking at 8AM when I had the alarm set for we instead awoke at 10AM.  At that point we had already missed breakfast at the hotel, so after checking out our first task was to find some place to get some food.

We found a small little café off one of the main streets of Reykjavik.  Not being familiar with the food we choose a monstrous sized pastry and split it between the two of us.  It was tasty and filling.  It tasted the same as any kind of pastry you might find in a bakery in the United States.

After eating we quickly set our GPS for the town of Suðureyri in the Western Fjords of Iceland and we were off.  The first leg of our trip took us along the ring road to the north of Reykjavik.  Our first amazing encounter of the day was with a deep tunnel that ran under one of the many inlets from the Atlantic Ocean.  This tunnel was unlike any other tunnel I have ever been in as it seemed to go on forever and it dived to a very great depth under the ground.  I am sure we must have gone down for at least 200-300 feet before we reached the bottom of the tunnel.  Talk about a feel if you were claustrophobic! 

After this tunnel we wove along the coast for a good way.  We stopped in several small fishing towns along the way to admire the beauty of the ocean and the town itself.  After about 45 minutes of driving the ring road turned more inland and we lost sight of the coast.  Short after this we came upon our first adventure of the day – a series of extinct volcanoes that had covered the land in great depths of lava some 3000 years ago. 

This being such an interesting sight, we had to stop and investigate.  After finding a place to park, we got out to have a closer look at these 2 volcanoes.  Discovering that there was a path that allowed you to climb to the smaller volcano we set out to conquer the peak.  These volcanoes are located near the town called Bifrost and the one we climbed is called Grábrók.  The lava fields that extend in almost all direction from these volcanoes are now covered in plant growth and already show signs that the rock is beginning to break down.  It was very amazing to look at the vegetation covering and see how it was acting to break the rock into soil.

Right near Grábrók is a small university in the town of Bifrost.  Given it was already 2:00PM, we stopped there and found a café at the university.  They were offering one dish for lunch – a lamb stew.  It was amazing!  Of course Zack wasn’t particularly interested in it but he at least ate some.  I loved it!

Shortly after leaving Bifrost we departed the ring road and headed into the Western Fjords.  Our drive through the Fjords occupied the next 7 hours of our day and we didn’t arrive at our destination in Suðureyri until 9:00PM. 

It is very hard to describe the drive through the Fjords.  Just when we thought we had seen everything another spectacular sight would come into view.  Some of the most dramatic sights were of waterfalls plunging down hundreds of feet from the steep cliffs above to raging rivers that lead a short distance to the coast. 

The road system through the unbelievably rough terrain of the Fjords was remarkable.  In most of the Western Fjords district the roads are smooth paved two lane roads.  In some portions that roads are merely gravel roads.  However even for the gravel roads, they are relatively smooth and you can maintain a speed of close to 100 kilometers per hour on these roads without any problem.  Despite the quality of the roads I had no desire to speed as I wanted to capture every image in my minds eye as everything was so beautiful.  On top of that I stopped dozens upon dozens of times to take pictures of the beautiful sights we saw.

We stopped at three different gigantic waterfalls and walked to the base of them.  Each was unique and special in its very own way.  But all of them were dramatic and we could have easily spent hours upon hours at each one.

As the afternoon and evening wore on, we found the terrain becoming rougher and rougher and the roads becoming more and more deserted.  Before we made the final descent into the fjords in which Suðureyri is located, we burrowed through a tall mountain range between 2 fjords.  The tunnel is long enough and impressive enough to be mentioned in Wikipedia with the following quote: “The town of Ísafjörður is connected by road and a recent 5.4 km (3 mi) road tunnel to Bolungarvík which lies 15 km to the northwest, and to the small town of Súðavík to the east. The partly one-lane Vestfjarðagöng (Vestfirðir Tunnel), completed in 1996, leads to the small towns of Flateyri and Suðureyri, and to the western parts of the Westfjords.”

Arriving in Suðureyri it was truly like we had reached the end of the world.  There should have been a sign at the western end of town saying “you have reached the end – time to turnaround”.  I say that not as a negative comment upon the town but as something positive.  The town is very bucolic, happy and quiet.  We had several discussions with the staff in the hotel in which we were staying.  It seemed that all of them had sought out Suðureyri for the quiet and the peace of nature in this beautiful place.  It is truly a warm, welcoming town in which you could lose yourself.

Granted Suðureyri doesn’t have much of nightlife or much of a social life for outsiders.  But for those who call it home it seems like a happy place in which everyone pitches in to keep the town beautiful and alive.  (We witnessed a group of teenagers going through the town on Thursday morning cleaning up the streets and putting down salt to kill weeds that grew in the cracks of sidewalks.)

The physical location of the town makes it a wonderful location for fishing.  Given its place on the far western side of Iceland, fisherman calling Suðureyri home can quickly reach some of the prime fishing grounds between Iceland and Greenland.  Though only a small town, it provides enough fishing activity that it is home to it’s own fish processing plant.

One of the more unusual things we noticed about Suðureyri was the smell of fish that hung in the air.  Until we had time to walk the streets I didn’t realize what was causing the smell.  Upon closer examination, strange looking out building were actually fish “curing” buildings.  Each one of them was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of fish that were slowly drying in the ocean air.  Though the smell was a bit overpowering it was certainly interesting to see.

A few miscellaneous facts about Suðureyri tell the story of life there.  First – there are only about 300 full-time residents.  So that town is very small.  Additionally, Suðureyri is the town in Iceland that remains in the darkness the longest in the Icelandic winter.  Due to its position at the base of a very steep and rugged mountain, the winter sun is not seen in the town until February 2.  It goes without direct sunlight for the longest period of time of any town in Iceland.  Though it is a quiet and peaceful town – the lack of sun light would kick my butt.

All-in-all our first full day in Iceland was more than I could have imagined!  The sights we saw and the things we experienced were beyond anything I had hoped.  Each of the coming days I am sure will fill us with more wonderment and surprise.  Iceland is a beautiful place that is remarkable in all of its characteristics.

(For pictures from June 27th, please look at this album on Facebook.  Even if you aren't a Facebook member you should be able to see these pictures.)

From chilly Husavik, Iceland – thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Iceland - Day 1: Denver to Reykjavik

This blog entry was started on Tuesday evening.  However an unexpected computer crash prevented me from finishing it.  It is only Wednesday evening that I am getting back to it to finish.

The sun is finally beginning to set upon our first day in Iceland!  It is 10:50PM local time in Reykjavik and the sky is starting to ever so slowly darken.  Darkness when it finally does come will only last for about 3 hours before the sun will once again pop above the eastern horizon.

Even despite the late hour to which the sun has stayed in the sky, this day has been exceedingly long.  For me the day started around 4:00AM on Monday morning in Denver when I had to rise for early morning calls for work.  Monday seemed to be a blur of activity until it finally came time to leave for the Denver airport around 2:30PM.  We were very fortunate to have Lisa take us to the airport.  This saved us a considerable amount of time in the fact we did not have to park and then walk or take a shuttle from one of the remote lots.  A big thank you Lisa for helping us out!

Ticketing and check in on Icelandair was relatively simple.  The line long wasn’t too long and everything was in order with our reservation so things went very smoothly for us.  Given our arrival time at the airport we did have a little bit of time to kill so we spent the time reading (in my case) or playing video games (in Zack’s case).  The boarding period was very short and surprisingly everything went smoothly and the airplane pushed back away from the gate within 4 minutes of the planned time.

All-in-all the flight was good.  There was very little turbulence and the entertainment system on the Icelandair flight was good.  The accommodations on board were average as Icelandair’s largest airplanes that they fly are 757’s.  Each airplane has a name and ours was Hekla – named after one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes.  The only detraction from the entire flight was the fact that all food on board must be purchased.  In my experience this is unusual for international flights of any kind of duration.  What made the experience worse was the fact that because each meal had to be purchased it took the flight attendants several hours to distribute food and drinks to everyone on board.  Given our seating position in row 25 it was about 2 hours after takeoff until we got the chance to eat.  I always prefer to take my sleeping pill on an overnight flight until I have eaten.  As a result this prevented us from taking our sleeping pills for a considerable period of time.  Oh well – far worse things have happened on my flights before.

We arrived to a sunny and beautiful morning in Reykjavik.  Our flight arrived at 6:20AM which was about 15 minutes earlier than scheduled.  Clearing immigration and getting our luggage was quick and simple.  No paperwork to fill out, just present our passports and have them stamped.  There weren’t even any questions about our purpose of the trip or anything.  It couldn’t have been easier!  As for customs – unless you have something to declare, you get your luggage and walk out of the airport.

We found our way to the Hertz counter and were quickly directed to our car in the parking lot.  I took a short amount of time to familiarize myself with the car, hook up the GPS system we had from Hertz, punch in directions to Reykjavik and we were off.

As soon as we left the grounds of the airport it became readily apparent that Iceland is a volcanic island.  Evidence of the volcanic eruptions was all around us.  Much of the 45 kilometer drive from the airport to Reykjavik was through lava fields that were only sparsely covered in vegetation.  Regardless of that fact, the surrounds were beautiful and every time we glimpsed the ocean it was alive with color and waves.

Another unique point about driving in Iceland is how well the roads are maintained.  Though most of the roads are simple 2 lane roads they are in excellent condition.  Literally I only hit one pothole the entire drive into Reykjavik.

Reykjavik gradual comes into being as you head to the east.  The first you realize you are coming to Iceland’s capital is the number of homes around the main road begin to increase.  Eventually the round becomes a four-lane road and the amount of traffic increases.

Finding ourselves in Reykjavik we were quickly able to find our hotel.  Given the early hour of the day – around 8AM, it made no sense for us to go there and attempt to check in.  Instead we decided to explore Reykjavik and find some place for breakfast.  After driving around for a while we came to what is considered the main street of the commercial district.  Because of the early hour most shops were still closed, however we were able to find one small café open for business.  Breakfast for us consisted of ham and cheese sandwiches washed down with a coke.  There doesn’t seem to be any specific kind of “Icelandic” breakfast as most of the food items offered have been either American or European.  

After breakfast we concluded we might as well get about doing something so we headed out to find Thingvellir National Park.  This Park is known for two very important places in Iceland history.  First it is known in Icelandic geological history as the place where the North American and European continental tetonic plates are splitting apart.  As such there is a giant rift between the place that the two continental plates come together.  The second reason for Thingvellir’s significance is of human history.  The unique rock formations that make the rift between the two continents became known as the Law Rock in early Icelandic history.  It was at this place that the oldest parliament in the world was found in 930AD.  Early Icelanders saw this place as special and decided it was where they should meet to establish the laws by which they would rule themselves.  It was also here in 1944 that the Icelandic political leaders met to declare their independence.  

In addition to all this, Thingvellir is also an area of tremendous natural beauty.  The largest lake in Iceland is also located within the boundaries of this park.  It is a beautiful place with a lot of symbolism to the people of Iceland.  The park is located a little over 1 hour outside of Reykjavik.  Zack and I went and explored a large amount of the park.  On our way there we stopped at every point we saw that we thought was fit for a photograph.

After spending 2 or 3 hours at the park we took a different way and journeyed back to Reykjavik.  Zack promptly feel asleep in the car on the way back.  Unfortunately for me, despite my lack of sleep on the airplane, there was to be no sleep for me as I had to drive.

Once we arrived back in Reykjavik however, we made a beeline for our hotel – Hotel Floki.  Though it was only 2:20PM, we were allowed to check in and as soon as we got to our room, we threw our stuff down and settled in for a much needed nap.

(Zack near the lake in the center of Reykjavik.)

(Lake in the center of Reykjavik filled with birds.)

(Looking out to the north from the beach to the west of Reykjavik)

 (Near Thingvellir National Park)

(Zack on the beach near Reykjavik)

(The rift between the North American and European tectonic plates.)

(Waterfall in Thingvellir National Park.)

 (Looking out toward the lake in Thingvellir National Park.)
Our nap lasted almost 5 hours before I final woke and decided it was time to get Zack up and find some dinner as I was starving.  The hotel was exactly as I expected it – very basic and bare bones.  It was very similar to other inexpensive hotels in which I have stayed in Europe.  The rooms and beds are small and there are very few extracts in the room.  In this case there was no TV.  For the rest room we needed to share the common toilet that served all 4 rooms on our floor.  It was neat, tidy and clean – all that we needed.

For dinner we asked the person at the front desk and she directed us to several restaurants in downtown.  In the ended we went with a pizza joint that made pizza that was uniquely Icelandic.  There was very little sauce applied to the pizza and it was heavily laden with all kinds of different spices that you normal don’t find on pizza.  All-in-all it was very good and served to top off our day.

After dinner we spent another hour or so exploring the local environment including the world famous lake in the city center in which large numbers of birds hang out and wait to be fed by kind people.  We also drove as far to the west as we could on the piece of land on which Reykjavik is located.  At the end we found a wonderful open space in which the views of the sky and ocean dominated all other senses.  It was absolutely beautiful and took away my breath for yet another time that day.

After that we were both exhausted so we headed back to our hotel.  I attempted to spend some time writing but when my computer crashed the whole exercise became an effort in futility as I was utterly spent and unable to mental process anything at that point.

That is a brief recap of our first day in Iceland.  Tomorrow I will catch up and write about today and hopeful tomorrow – provided I don’t have any computer crashes.

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Next Stop Reykjavik!

The day has finally arrived!  After almost a year of planning, today is finally the day that Zack and I depart for Iceland.  I don't remember the exact date, but when the announcement was made that Icelandair would start round trip flights between Denver and the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik - the goal was set that we would visit Iceland in 2012. 

As we depart today, the temperature is approaching another record high over 100 degrees.  When we awake tomorrow "morning" on our descent into Reykjavik, we will have covered thousands of miles and will land in place in which the high temperature is expected to be less than 60 degrees.  The transition will be immediate and in our faces as we step out of the airplane and walk into the much cooler air of the far northern climes.  

The suitcases are packed.  The camera batteries are charged.  The itinerary is fully planned and in a little less then one hour we head to DIA to begin our trip.  I hope to be able to update the blog throughout our trip.  Many of the places in which we will be staying are mere hamlets, small outposts of humanity scattered across the rocky shores of that cold but beautiful island.  We may or may not find connectivity through the Internet to our world back here in the United States.

Regardless of the connectivity or not, I will write and then I will post when I return. 

I hope the heat here abates and the fires stop burning.  Hopefully when we return it will be to a cooler and wetter Colorado!

Please look for updates when we can manage them.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Sorry for the gap in my time between my posts.  Between work, the house reconstruction and my personal life - things have been more busy in my life than they have for a very long time.  As a result time spent on my writing has been quite limited in the last week - and for that I apologize to my dedicated readers.

This morning when Zack and I headed out to do errands that we needed to do, the thermometer in the car read 93 degrees at 10:30AM.  Ninety-three degrees at 10:30AM - that is just crazy!!!  But it seems to be the tone of things in Colorado these days.  We move from one heat wave to the next with no rain and no humidity in the air.

In the last 2 weeks several giant wildfires have consumed massive amounts of Colorado's woodlands.  This morning however things are even worse as the small town of Manitou Springs outside of Colorado Springs stands threaten with annihilation by a massive wall of flames.  This is personally very disturbing to me as Manitou Springs is such a lovely, quaint little town.  It is also the starting point for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  If the fire enters the town, there will be literally nothing to be done as the old homes and stores that make up this town are packed tightly together and once one burns you and pretty much kiss the town goodbye. 

Here's a picture I found on Facebook of the fire shortly after it started.

The High Park fire near Fort Collins has now been burning for going on 2 weeks.  On Friday the fire, which had seemed to be settling down made a major run to the north and west, bringing a community of many hundreds of homes into danger.  The battle to save those homes continues even to the this hour.  With the high temperatures and gusting winds, it does seem the firefighters will have their work cut out for them if these homes are to be saved.

Fire has always been part of the ecosystem of Colorado.  However what has changed is that now many people are building their homes in areas that are prone to these kinds of wildfires.  My sincerest hope is that people will learn lessons from these fires.  Hopefully in the aftermath of these fires counties and communities will put restrictions upon where people can build homes and will change building and landscaping codes to enable people time to have the best chance of survival.  It doesn't matter how much defensible space you build around your home - if you live in these areas eventually it is all going to burn.  Let me be clear - I am not blaming anyone for building in these areas, as people where not aware of the fire dangers when many of these homes were built.  My thoughts are with everyone who has lost homes, I just hope these calamities can be prevented in the future.

Let me put this in personal terms.  My condo in the hills above the small town of Silverthorne is built in one of these areas that will eventually burn.  I know that and realize that.  When a forest fire does start there, I am prepared to lose it all.  There is nothing of deep personal value that I keep there.  I expect it to eventually burn and that is the way it is going to be.

The fires are even worse this year due to the number of beetle killed trees in the forests.  I think eventually all the forests filled with beetle killed trees are going to experience this kind of fires.  To make matters worse the extreme high temperatures and lack of rain have made the forests tinder dry.  The merest spark can set off a raging wildfire.

Just wanted to provide this short post as this is something that is on my mind.  If I have time tonight I will write more as I wish to write a bit more about Iceland.  Zack and I leave on this great adventure tomorrow afternoon!  We are so looking forward all that we are going to see and experience.

To everyone dealing with the wildfires my thoughts are with you.  To the men and women who are fighting these monsters may you all be safe.  How they can do what they do in these kinds of conditions - I really don't understand.  They are amazing!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Business Travel!

Monday evening brought another blast from the past back into my life – business travel.  It hasn’t been anything too drastic, just a quick 3 day trip to Chicago for the rollout of a new strategy for selling within the line of business within which I work for my company.  The roll out/education sessions started at noon today and I contemplated flying into Chicago this morning, but we were instructed to fly Monday so I did.

Leaving Denver at 9:48PM I arrived at O’Hare a few minutes before 1:00AM.  Thankfully the flight was on time and the evening didn’t drag out any further as it was 1:30AM by the time I reached the hotel.

The whole trip brought many thoughts into my mind that I haven’t thought about in a long time.  It caused me to take a quick gander down memory lane and think through the many years in which I spent the majority of my time traveling.  The funny thing is that since the beginning of 2006 I have only taken about 10 or so trips for business.  How different that is from the days in which I used to travel 47 weeks per year?

One of the memories that came streaming back into my head was from when I used to travel from Denver to Philadelphia back in 1997.  I distinctly remember sitting on a bus going to the Hertz car rental center and observing the people on the bus around me.  At the time I was only 31 years old and I was probably one of the youngest people on the bus.  There were numerous “road warriors” on this bus – you could just tell by the looks of them that their lives were lived on the road.  I was struck by one particularly thread worn gentleman who looked to be in his mid-fifties or so.  Looking at him I was determined that there was no way in this world I was going to be doing the same kind of traveling when I was in my mid-fifties.  The toll that this kind of continuous travel takes upon your body and your life is so high.  There is no way I wanted to put myself through that kind of life.  I don’t want my life to be so focused on work that I it becomes dominated by travel.  That was my life for a long time – from 1988 to 2006 and there is a lot that I missed out on in life.  I won’t do that again.

I do feel that I have reached a point where that kind of traveling life is not going to be my future.  Without a doubt there will probably always be the need for me to travel for work infrequently.  Given what I do there seems to be no way in this world that I can avoid some kind of travel.  But it is not going to be my life going forward.  The people in my life at home are too important to me to forever continue to be on the road. 

This last statement might cause some pause.  It doesn’t mean that I thought less of the people in my life when I used to travel continuously.  No – it just meant that I didn’t know enough about life.  During 2006 – 2008 I learned a lot of lessons.  One of those lessons is that you never know what life is going to throw at you and who you might lose when.  These lessons have caused me to never take those in my life for granted anymore.  You never know when illness and death are going to strike.

For this business trip I am staying in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg.  Back in the year 2000, I spent a lot of time working in another suburb – Rolling Meadows that is very close to Schaumburg.  While I was in the cab coming from the airport to the hotel on Monday night, we traveled through a lot of familiar territory.  What I found so remarkable about all this is that most of the buildings look the exact same as they did back in 2000.  However, in most cases the names of the companies on the buildings are so radically different.  The amount of change in the companies that are now established here is pretty amazing.  Change in the ranks of corporations is a continuous thing I suppose.  But it was so apparent how many old companies have fallen by the wayside and have been replaced by others.  When I worked in Rolling Meadows back in 2000 the clients who I worked for were companies like 3Com, Palm and US Robotics.  Now none of these companies exist!  They have each been swallowed up and digested by other companies – in many cases even their product lines have been killed off.  I guess change is inevitable and will come whether we like it or not.

Though I am not at home from what I have heard the work on the kitchen is proceeding at a good pace.  Today the cabinets were being installed and with any luck the template for the granite counter tops will be created tomorrow.  All this means that I need to get busy when I get home buying my appliances and selecting the rest of the required material to finish off the kitchen and family room.  The key couple of things that I have yet to select are the rock for the fireplace and the bottom of the eating area, the color of the paint for the walls, tile for the backsplash and decorative lights.  I really need to get all this selection wrapped up in advance of our summer vacation.

I am very tired tonight so I am going to call it quits at this point and do a little bit of reading before I go to sleep.  Tomorrow afternoon I fly home and then get started on activities for a busy Friday and weekend.  My college roommate Allen is coming into town on Thursday, so it will be good to spend some time catching up with him.  Hopefully with any luck we will be heading to the mountains for at least part of the weekend.  It would be the first time I have taken Lisa to our condo, so it should be a lot of fun.

With that I will say good night!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Iceland Itinerary

Excitement is the word that fills my thoughts as I think in a little over two weeks Zack and I will be arriving in Iceland.  Since I was 10 years old and I would peruse the vast library of books and encyclopedias that my parents had in my childhood home, I have been forever fascinated with Iceland.  It has been a country that has called to me for years to visit and I can't believe that I will finally arrive there on June 26, 2012.  Only Mongolia and Afghanistan rank higher on my list of countries to visit than Iceland.

This trip feels like a fulfillment of a lifetime of dreams and wishes to visit the far and remote corners of our planet.  As a result I have read and I have planned much more than I have ever done for any foreign trip that Zack and I have taken before.  In comparison to our trips to France, Belgium and Costa Rica I have done countless hours of research and reading and I feel like we are embarking on an adventure of epic proportions.  With that said however, this is just the first adventure that is going to highlight our lives.  Even though we have yet to embark upon this trip, my mind is already churning and thinking of what the next trip will be.  I don't think the next trip will be to a place as remote. 

Our itinerary for this trip begins on Monday, June 25th at 5:15PM when we embark on Iceland Air Flight 670 from Denver to Keflavik International Airport outside of Reykjavík - the capital of Iceland.  We arrive in Iceland at 6:35AM and once we clear customs we will proceed to the Hertz Car Rental and pick up our car.  I am quite certain at that hour of the morning we are going to be tired as all hell.  Our arrival time in Iceland is 11:35PM MDT - so we will have a VERY long day ahead of us.  The plan for this first day is simply to visit the sites of Reykjavík and get adjusted to the time difference.  Knowing me and my reaction to European time zones, by 2:00PM Iceland time I will be absolutely exhausted and wanting to nap.  (Every time I go to Europe I tend to crash out the first day.  If I do what my body is telling me to do and sleep, I tend to feel so much better in the coming the days.)

Waking up early on Wednesday, June 27 isn't going to be difficult.  Given the time differential between Denver and Iceland, I am sure I will be awake by 5:00AM at the latest.  Once we check out of our hotel we will head to the north and east to reach the Eastern Fjords of Iceland.  This area of the country is one of the more desolate parts of the country.  It is marked by steep and isolated fjords that occupy the entire coast line.  The sights are beautiful but there isn't much there aside from the wonderful natural beauty of the mountains and the sea. 

For most of our trip through out Iceland we will be following the "Ring Road", which is an 832 mile road the entire way around the island.  However we will make many detours off the road as we journey into the more remote parts of the country.  The entire Western Fjords are off the Ring Road and we will spend most of our first day of travel off the Ring Road weaving along the broken coastline.

 (The Ring Road is shown on this map as the boldest red line.)

The following link provides a hour-by-hour update on road conditions throughout Iceland.  We will keep a close eye on this website as we travel around the country.  So if you are interested to see what we will be facing on a day-to-day basis you can check out this site.

That evening we will be staying in a very small fishing village called Suðureyri.  Suðureyri is a small Icelandic fishing village perched on the tip of the 13 km-long Súgandafjörður in the Westfjords.  The village has no economic base other than what is earned through fishing and from tourism.  Here we will be able to experience the dramatic beauty of the fjords and also learn a little about life in Iceland as the town offers tours of it's fish factory and we can arrange to sail with a local fishing boat.  We will definitely do the fish factory tour, but Zack is not too happy about some of the aquatic adventures I have planned for us, so this might be one we skip.  Our hotel in Suðureyri is called the Fisherman's Hotel and it is the only hotel for miles around.  I am guessing we will be eating a lot of fish while in Suðureyri.

On Thursday June 28 we will leave Suðureyri and head back towards the interior of the country to rejoin the Ring Road.  We will make our way along the northern coast of the country stopping here and there to explore wonderful waterfalls, mountain ranges, historic sites from the Icelandic sagas and fast flowing rivers.  At Lake Myvatn we will depart the Ring Road and head far north for to reach our destination of the day at Husavik. 

We will spend the next two days in Husavik doing things like going on a whale watching expedition, exploring the world famous phallogical museum (more on this later), experiencing the hundreds of thousands of birds that make Lake Myvatn home and doing a lot of hiking to view volcanoes and hot springs.  The phallogical museum in Husavik is Iceland's most off-beat museum and is quite famous around the world.  Inside the museum thre are examples of the penises of just about every mammal found in Iceland or off it's shores.  Yes - it's a penis museum.  Who would have possibility thought that something like this existed!  It's so bizarre that we have to go and visit it.

After our two days in Husavik we will once again head out on the road and turn to the south.  When we leave Husavik we will journey through Jokulsarjljufer National Park.  The park is situated around a dramatically beautiful canyon that is believed to have been formed by the ice water melt when a large icecap was almost immediately melted by the eruption of a volcano.   Along the rest of the way south we will see plenty of huge waterfalls and other spectacular scenery. 

From Saturday June 30 through Monday July 1 we will be staying in an area called the Eastern Fjords in the small town of Djupivogur.  (I don't know why I even use the word small to describe these towns as the entire country is small.)  This is an area that is known for it's wildlife and is described as a "nature lovers paradise".  Staying here will also give us access to reach the interior of the country.  Though I would like to strike out into the interior on our own, we simply can't do it.  We will not be driving a 4 wheel drive vehicle and the interior consists of a lot of unforgiving terrain.  So we just aren't going to do it, instead we will hook up with a tour operator out of Djupivogur to visit the interior.

On Monday morning we will begin the trip back to the west.  We will drive along the southern coast of Iceland past rivers and bays choked with icebergs.  Along the way we might stop in Hofn and do some sea kayaking among the towering icebergs.  Our destination for this day will be something even smaller than a town - a mere outpost of civilization along the road.  Monday evening will find us staying on a farm that also provides over night accommodations for travelers.  In the morning we might have to go out and help with the milking of the cows, it all depends upon what they needs us to do.  Regardless it should be a really interesting stay and I am really looking forward to it.

Tuesday morning after our farm chores we will head back to Reykjavik.  The remaining 2 days of our trip will be spent in Rejkjavik, however each day we will travel far afield from the city.  The first day we are there, July 3 we will be heading to a ranch located south of the capital to spend the day horseback riding among the lava fields that fill this area of the country.  The ride will take most of the day but we will have great mounts as the Iceland horse is one of the more docile and obedient horses in the world.

Our last full day in Iceland will be July 4 and we plan to spend the day in Pingvellir National Park and also on the Snaefellsnes peninsula to the north of the Reykjavik.  We will then pack up and head home on Thursday July 5th.  We leave Iceland at something like 3:00PM local Icelandic time and arrive in Denver at 4:40PM local Mountain Daylight Savings time. 

It will be a wonderful trip for us and I am hoping we will be left with many wonderful memories that we can share with others through stories and pictures.

Besides getting the itinerary for Iceland set there are many other things going on in our lives.  Zack's last day of school was on Wednesday.  He is now free and clear of school until the end of August.  There are several camps in which he will be taking part throughout the summer, but in general for kids his age there aren't too many camps.  As a result, he is going to be spending a lot of time working around the house.  This is the summer in which Zack is going to learn the value of work!  The key project he is going to be working on is cleaning out a lot of the overgrown landscaping in the back yard.  He's gotten a lot taller and stronger so it's time for him to put those newly grown muscles to work!

Work on our kitchen has reached a fevered pace.  The drywall is now all finished and the new hardwood floor is being laid down.  The floor looks gorgeous and they finished laying it today.  Tomorrow the floor will get sanded and the cabinets will start being placed on Monday!  After about 8 visits to different granite show rooms around the city, I have finally selected the granite that will be used for the "centerpiece" of the island and the eating area.  Having that selection finally done is fantastic as making that choice was agonizing.

A major curve ball has been thrown my way by my work.  I found out early this morning I am going to need to be in Chicago for several days next week.  Getting this kind of notice for travel really kind of stinks as I don't have a lot of time to get everything organized and in place like I normally would.  On top of that I still don't have all the logistics of exactly where and when I need to be there.  Hopefully I will get an e-mail over the weekend with that information or Monday morning could be a real scramble.  Oh well - fun things like this sometime happen I guess.

I hoped to wrap things up with some new pictures of my kitchen/family room, however, access the to the space is difficult at this moment because there is plastic covering everyone of the doors.  So I will have to wait until tomorrow.

I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead!

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Monday, June 4, 2012

All the Miscellaneous Stuff from My Life that is Fit to Print

Aside from my "Stupid Jerry" post on Friday, it has been a bit since I have updated the blog.  There's been a ton of things going on and I just haven't even had much time to write recently.  So hopefully I will have some time to write today before I am pulled away to something else!

Things have finally started to move in earnest on the house reconstruction project.  The rough in inspection was passed last Thursday and since then there has been constant motion.  Over the weekend most of the new drywall was hung.  The space is starting to feel like a room again now that we have a ceiling!  Today the framers are here doing the work to frame in the space for the new sliding glass door and the new windows.  Once that is complete, the final structure work for the new space will be complete.  Next steps are for the work on the dry wall to be finished and then the floor will be put down.  I am hoping the work on the floor will be completed by the end of this week and then the cabinets can start to be installed.  I'll just have to wait and see how far they progress this week and if they can get that far.  I know at this point they aren't going to be done with the work before we go on vacation so I will be having some one stay here while we are gone so that workmen can come and go.

Here are two pictures of the current shape of the kitchen.  Most of the drywall is up and the spaces for the new windows and the new sliding glass door have been framed in.  Seeing progress is so very good! Notice Finnegan wandering around to check everything out.  Both Finn and Lex have been so curious about all that is going on.  They have to check out what has happened every day!

Zack has just 1.5 days of school left after today.  It is so hard for me to think back to where he was last year this time and to see how far he has progressed.  He is an utterly different kid than he was a year ago.  First of all, he is so much physically different than last year.  I think he has grown about 4 inches and he has put on about 15 pounds of weight.  He is definitely starting to develop a lot more muscle.  His voice is also at that point where it is drastically starting to change.  I have to laugh when he is talking and his voice totally cracks as it sounds pretty funny.  He is very pleased to know that his voice is changing and he is very proud to have acne - at which I utterly have to laugh.

He has also changed tremendously in his mental demeanor.  The whole issue of anxiety and OCD is pretty much gone.  I don't want to say that it is totally gone because I think for Zack it will always have a presence in his life.  The key for him is what he chooses to do about it.  He can choose to let it control him or he can choose to control it.  For now he is controlling it and he now understands how he can control it.  Before he really didn't have any idea of how to control it nor was he able to control his anxiety because he really had a functional issue with his brain chemistry.  Now that we finally have him on the correct medication it is making a world of difference.

In other big happenings for us, in exactly 3 weeks we will be leaving for Iceland.  I am really excited for our trip and I am so looking forward to experiencing all that Iceland has to offer.  Our itinerary for our trip around the island is pretty much complete.  I still have a couple hotel reservations to make, but I will get that complete in the next day or so.  We have even selected specific activities that we are going to be doing on specific days - like going on a whale watching expedition, riding horses through the lava fields, potentially sea kayaking through a bay filled with icebergs and visiting giant bird rookeries and waterfalls. 

In our day-to-day life things have been quite busy.  This past weekend was one event after another.  It made for a fun and enjoyable weekend.  On Friday night I went with Lisa to the South Denver Comedy Works and saw Jay Mohr.  He was hilarious and the most amazing thing about it is that he really didn't even swear that much.  He can be raw but he wasn't too raw.  Another neat thing about his show was that he talked a lot about what happens in his life and he sounds like a pretty normal human being as opposed to some Hollywood snob.  But that could be part of his show - who knows.  We ended having a great time and laughing our butts off.  Saturday during the day was spent going to granite and appliance showrooms.  Saturday evening was the Chalk Art Festival in downtown Denver with Lisa.  It had rained a fair amount on Saturday afternoon so that really slowed down the artists progress.  Normally by Saturday night the vast majority of the art is complete, but this year there were only a very few that were complete.  But we still had fun and explored a new restaurant (Temayo) to which I had never been.  If you live in Denver and have never been to this restaurant I do recommend it.  The cuisine is Mexican but they do a very different take on it.  Sunday was then all about trying to get things done around the house.  With the work on the kitchen taking place I have a unique opportunity to clean stuff out and get rid of a ton of things.  I am taking full advantage of this opportunity.

(Crowds on Larimer Street for the Chalk Art Festival)

(My favorite chalk art this year - the blue fox.  It doesn't show as well in a photo but it was an amazing picture!)

Other miscellaneous stuff going on....  I am still waiting to hear back from my surgeon on starting physical therapy.  I am chomping at the bit to get this going for several reasons.  First I want to get active - I am sick of not being able to do the things I want to do.  Second, I am still having a good bit of pain in my hips and legs.  Most of this is a different kind of pain than before the surgery.  So I am hoping that physical therapy will solve it.

Here's a picture of the tattoo I got last weekend.  It's just the outline of what it is going to look like.  Eventually all the designs will be filled in with black ink.  It's gonna take at least one maybe two sittings to get it complete, but it will be worth the wait.

The flowers in front of the house are at the peak of their blooming beauty.  They are perennials so they come back every year but they only look good for about 2 weeks..  I snapped a bunch of pictures of them before they start to lose their petals.

Do you know that people from 94 different countries have visited my blog!  I started tracking the countries people visit my blog from back in January.  In that time people from almost 1/2 of all countries in the world have visited the blog.  How cool is that!  I was surprised to have people from Afghanistan and the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan visit my blog.  I have no idea what they did to reach the blog but it is interesting to know that people from all over the world read what I write.

Lastly, I re-did the GoPro video from last week, but this time I used a copyright free piece of music for the sound track.  I don't really like it but it was the best I could find.  It's nowhere as good as it was when I had the Dave Matthews song for the soundtrack!  I think what I am going to start doing to post videos like this is to use one of the websites that I own - like and post the videos to that and then just share the link here.  Anyway, here is my most recent attempt at film editing.  And a thank you needs to go out to Beth McCarley and her boyfriend Eric Carlson for providing me with the stylistic concept of how to build a film like this.  What Beth and Eric have done with GoPro cameras is amazing.
(This video was shot during Memorial Day Weekend 2011 on the Michelson bike trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota.)

There's a lot more I could write about today, but that's all folks!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Stupid, stupid, stupid Jerry

It's Friday and we are on an adventure that wasn't planned. I am sitting in the Littleton Hospital ER with Zack. I am writing this blog post from the blogger app on my iPhone.

So why are we in Littleton ER? Zack takes a medication every morning for his anxiety. Unfortunately the medication he takes comes in the exact same type of bottle and the medication is the same size and color as my blood pressure medication. So Zack ended up taking 600 mg of Labetalol this morning instead of his anxiety medication. That wasn't really good at all.

I didn't realize this until he had left for school. I figure it out because my BP medication was out of the drawer we keep the medications in and his anxiety medication was still in the drawer.

Once I realized it I called his pediatrician who had me call poison control. Poison control told me that he should be ok but it would better if he went to the ER to be monitored. I went to school and picked him up and took him to Littleton ER. He is absolutely fine and his BP hasn't gone that low. At it's lowest his BP was setting off the monitor alert but they didn't have to give him any medication to counteract the Labetalol. Hopefully I will be able to get him back to school as he really wants to go back because they are having end of school parties today.

Lesson learned for me is that I need to make sure the medications bottles are very clearly marked. The way it is now you need to read the prescription label. I need to mark the bottles so you can tell whose is whose. Or better yet I need to put one of the meds into a different kind of bottle. Zack is taking responsibility for taking his own medications so it is something that is important. Making a mistake like this is pretty darn easy, but it could be a dangerous mistake!!

Oh my - what a day it has been. But in the end run it is going to be OK!

Hope your Friday is better than mine!

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.