Window in the Garden (of the Gods)

The Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado about an hour south of Denver but a world away when it comes to the red rock formations scattered throughout the area. There are a number of relatively easy hikes (all one to three miles round trip) that I was able to knock out in half-a-day or so since they are also relatively close to one another. I’m sure there are more challenging hikes but the park is set up to really be family friendly and this would make a nice stop for someone visiting Denver and looking to get a quick day trip done (of course Estes Park – the home of Rocky Mountain National Park – is also only about 90 minutes away and I’d favor that over Garden of the Gods if I had to choose just one).

Photo of the Day – The Window of the Gods

Garden of the Gods Siamese Trail Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak in the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountain Range is visible through a rock window on the Siamese Twin trail in Garden of the Gods. A quick, well-marked trail takes you to this spot with duel rock formations with views onto the Continental Divide in the distance. Positioning yourself perfectly allows you to clearly see Pikes Peak in the distance. This was a terrific fall day in Colorado – one could really get used to living out amongst all this beauty. Each time I visit I’m really jealous of those lucky enough to live in the Denver area.

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The Rocky Steps

Perhaps the most famous set of steps in the United States are in Philadelphia, PA and are leading up to the Philadelphia Art Museum. The steps aren’t famous because of the museum – which I’ve heard is quite nice though – but rather because a fictional boxer ran up them through various montages in each of the Rocky movies. The first movie had him running through the streets of Philadelphia and by all of the famous landmarks (he ran 31 miles covering all that ground so he was in really good shape!) – ultimately winding up on the steps while jumping up and down with Getting Stronger playing in the background as the sun rises behind the museum. His foot prints are memorialized in the top of the steps where he jumped up and down and was mobbed by the kids for the scene.

Photo of the Day – Getting Strong Now

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As you can see there are still alot of people that run the steps as part of their workout everyday. At varying times there was probably 100+ people going up and down the 72 steps – some like myself – just for the novelty of it but others were taking several trips up/down and clearly were trying to get a workout in.

$3,000 in pudding? But a World of Benefits

On Thanksgiving I read an article about an engineer who figured out how to translate $3,000 in pudding ($2,200 if you factor in he was also able to write it off on his taxes) in order to generate 1.25 MILLION airline miles. Instantly (like the pudding), this guy became my hero. Seriously, for the price of roundtrip ticket to China he was able to get enough frequent flyer miles to fly there and back nearly 20 times (70,000 miles for a RT ticket to China – AA’s most expensive coach mileage ticket – factoring in the 10% bonus for mileage so that the ticket only costs 63,000 miles). Now on top of that he realized that if he donated the pudding to shelters that he could write it off on his taxes because who the hell can eat $3,000 dollars in pudding except for maybe Bill Cosby. Check the article out here – it is seriously some genius stuff!

Photo of the Day – Perfect Evening in Florence

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Our first night in Florence, Italy we climbed up one of the many towers and took in the sunset over the city. Amazing to think that last year at this time we were thinking we weren’t going to do any travel during 2013 as my wife started school fulltime at the beginning of the year. However, as we approach the end of the year it has been one of my busiest travel years. Alot of that was work travel but we also did a lot more personal travel than we imagined largely because of our ability to take advantage of airline miles, hotel points and car rental points.

The Future of Flying….and I’m not looking forward to it

This morning on a private jet Gogo – the company that has brought wifi to thousands of planes in the air – unveiled their newest technology….an app that will allow passengers to text and talk while thousands of feet in the air. Thus, the future of flying involves hearing that annoying conversation at an ‘outside’ voice level instead of the current (relatively) quiet and peaceful hum of airplane engines. This is the technology I knew would ultimately get here but I’m dreading the roll out of it. Why is it necessary? Can we not go 3 – 4 hours without being on the phone? The wifi technology allowed for the use of email, Facebook Messenger or other ways to stay in contact if in that rare instance it was absolutely necessary to be somewhat available but in all reality who is that important? Maybe the people on private jets need the technology but if you are flying commercial like me and coach at that you are not that crucial and neither is your conversation. Do what I do and take the time to focus on reading a good book without all the distractions – TV, music, email, etc… – that seems to get in the way in our day to day life.

Photo of the Day – Twilight in Cinque Terre

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I snuck over a fence that walled this path off from the main trail. This is the usual trail along the Mediterranean Sea that most walk from Monterrosso to Vernazza. However, because of the 2011 floods that hit the area the trail was still under construction when we visited in April. I was a bit nervous when I crawled under the fence and had to scamper over some downed trees to get to this viewpoint. However, watching the moonrise over the Mediterranean was worth it. In the distance you can see the towns of Volastra, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Five Ways to Travel Hack your way to your Next Vacation

I saw an article earlier about ways to find the time and the resources to take your next vacation and am happy to say that I do all of these things already. Another thing that also jumped out at me was that on average Americans do not use 11 vacation days per year – this is ridiculous to me! I bring that average down quite a bit.

Photo of the Day – The Bank of the River Arno

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In Florence, Italy back in April during our trip overseas back in April. Every year around this time we book a vacation for the following year and always use airline miles. That is one of the benefits of traveling for work – but if you used travel hacks (specifically playing the credit card game for airline points) you could fly overseas once a year and do the same thing. If you have good credit it is worth it!

An Evening in Rome

Pasta, wine, more wine, gelato followed by grappa to help it all digest….that is about what every night in Rome was like. The area outside of The Pantheon is lively but not nearly as obnoxious as some of the other more popular night spots – Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain – so you don’t have vendors trying to sell you flowers or flying light up helicopter things every two steps. However, as you can see the crowds are still very lively and there are alot of people out. We were on our way back from dinner and going to get gelato at one of our favorite places when I stopped to take this shot.

Scott Kelby has a free online video showing some of his photographs from Rome (aptly called a Walk in Rome) which made me really want to go back through my pictures and relive those memories. Next year in April we are off to Belize – just booked the trip last week. My travel guide arrived this week and I’ll start figuring out what we want to do there. It will be different from our Italy vacation since I think we will only go to two distinct regions instead of four/five like we try to do when we head to Europe.

Photo of the Day – Dinner at the Pantheon

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Seattle Skyline

I was in Seattle for a layover during my trip back from Glacier National Park. The layover was around six hours long – rather than hang out at the airport I decided to take the train downtown. There were a couple of reasons this made sense to me – the weather looked nice (80 degrees or so I think) and the food in/around Pike Place is delicious. My favorite place serves, primarily, clam chowder (I think it is called the Chowder House) and I had a cup of the best clam chowder I’ve ever had. They really do a phenomenal job. After the chowder “appetizer” I walked over to a nearby vendor and picked up a deliciously filling mushroom and steak pastry (called a Proshky) from a (relativel) hole in the wall – Piroshky, Piroshky, Piroshky – that is right outside of Pike market.

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One more day in Philly then back to Chicago. Looking forward to being away for a few days.