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The Will To Make It Happen!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

For all those Sparkers out there sill looking for something that sets you on fire, lights you up like a neon sign and makes you realize that THIS is what you were born to do: KEEP LOOKING! Keep pushing, exploring, trying out new activities, new adventures. There isn't anything more rewarding than working hard to build a life filled with SPARK and getting out to celebrate it!

I had originally intended to attempt a VLOG but it didn't appear as though it was loading properly so instead I posted the videos from today's ride at YouTube. I included a few messages along the way:


My biggest WOO-HOO of the ride:


More thoughts & views:


Most of today's ride was solo, but I had the pleasure of bumping into another bike club member around the half-way mark. He joined me for the 2nd of my big climbs today and we had fun chit-chatting along the way.

I loaded my bike with 30# of gear in preparation for the Catskill Mountain self-supported tour: 50 miles, almost 3,000 feet of climb and one absolutely GORGEOUS day as you'll see in the videos.

Toward the end of the ride I had one little (in comparison to the two mamba-jamba climbs earlier) climb. It was one of my least favorite types of climbs though: a 90-degree turn BAM! Right into a wall of climb...no ramp up in advance, just a granny slog. Feeling tired from the bigger climbs earlier in the ride, I had a flicker of self doubt: was I going to make it?

That was when I had this thought:

The only things between me and the top of this hill were my legs and the Will To Make It Happen! DONE!

And during that climb I transferred that thought, realizing it applies under so many circumstances as we build our lives filled with SPARK: navigating through the treacherous supermarket with its abundance of sugar/salt/fat bombs, how to make it to the check out lane without succumbing? Remember the thrill of the pay-offs, the awesome things I can do with my body that were inconceivable prior to finding my SPARK! Just like locking into my grannie gear for those tough long climbs, lock into The Will To Make It Happen!

This is no infomercial: this is our LIFE! We can DO THIS!

I am psyched and ready...lemme at those mountains!


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

L*I*T*A* 9/16/2014 12:51AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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SANDICANE 9/15/2014 9:55PM

    How wonderful for you to share the exhilaration your cycling gives you. Yes, it's all worth it...it's all worth it!

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WATERMELLEN 9/15/2014 6:36PM

    Super to share these views and your thoughts in your own voice . . . what a treat!

And I can feel your passion and your commitment and your exhilaration that you have made this happen in your life!!

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DAISYBELL6 9/15/2014 2:55PM

    Woo Hoo! Let's go for it!

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1CRAZYDOG 9/15/2014 1:17PM

    Great! I can tell from your site shares that you are just so into it! That's what nourishes your soul. Good job. Thanks for sharing, too.

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VALERIEMAHA 9/15/2014 12:04PM

    I like your helmet mirror...looks much more functional than mine! Thanks for the inspiring words, dear friend. And I loved putting a voice with an image (though it was not at all the way I imagined it!).

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FEEDTHEHUNGER 9/15/2014 7:45AM

    You've been riding the life of Riley the past few weekends with such spectacular rides and the rewarding feeling of being able to get there under your own power. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing the vistas without as well as the ones within.

EXTREMELY emoticon !

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FERRETLOVER1 9/15/2014 7:33AM

    Don, I know I have said this before...but you are my hero! You continue to impress me every single day! emoticon

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BROOKLYN_BORN 9/15/2014 7:12AM

    I can't see the videos because of my darn Internet connection, but YOU look great. That attitude will propel you up the mountains. Good job!

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KANOE10 9/15/2014 6:01AM

    I like that..the will to make it happen! Yes. we can do this and apply it to many areas of our lives. I liked the videos..especially the view from the woohoo moment and the river with the bridge. You are cycling around some lovely scenery. Thanks for sharing and for the inspiration.

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STRIVERONE 9/15/2014 1:35AM

    Hey Don,
Looks like you had a fantastic day. You were fairly close to me. If you do that ride again maybe I could hook up for a portion.

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COASTAL6 9/15/2014 12:49AM

    WOW! It looks like you had a great day, and ride! emoticon

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GHK1962 9/14/2014 11:23PM

    Wow ... great going Don. That sounded like a great day all around ... even with that last evil no time for gaining speed hill.

And it's nice to put a voice to a (smiling) face. That 3rd video .. at the bridge/river - man that makes me want to jump in and swim it looks so calm and sunny.

Though ... the 2nd video - you actually rode down at the speed you mentioned?!?!?!? Holy guacamole ... I have never gone that fast.

And again, nice job on a great ride on a great looking day.

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PRAIRIECROCUS 9/14/2014 10:41PM

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Yesterday was such a roller-coaster of experiences both out in the world and the internal dialogue and decision-making almost constantly roiling and percolating.

I have another opportunity for a self-supported tour coming up which is going to be led by the same fellow that led the incredibly satisfying Cape Cod tour I did last Sept. This one is shorter, however much MUCH more intense! It's going to be in the Catskill mountains, four days of 50-60 miles per day, fully loaded with gear (tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food) which is around 30 extra pounds and climbing around 3500 feet per day. Very daunting!

Sunday morning I decided that I would load up my bike with all my gear and embark on a 60 mile ride to test my meddle as a means of deciding whether or not to choose to make a commitment to join in this Catskill tour. This has been a relatively weak year of cycling for me with all my blood thinner worries keeping me off the bike until late June or so.

The OTHER most important decision I made yesterday morning concerns two critical strategies of maintaining my best health which I have chosen to neglect over the past couple of months: weighing in and tracking my food.

I'm sure you may have noticed my lack of discussion about this in my blogs as of lately...always a bad sign. If I'm not talking about it, odds are I'm not doing it. I've allowed that special sauce of stress at home & work with the added fun & distractions of vacations & special times undercut my resolve and erode those two essential self-care strategies.

So: I got on the scale! And was pleasantly surprised that my "penalty" for playing ostrich was relatively minor. I had reached my low of the year earlier at around 210. I weighed in at 218. While there is a price to be paid, it's not as great as I feared. I had begun to feel the price in the fit of my clothes. Thank goodness for THAT nudge!

Another choice: The ride I had in mind for today was a loop up to Norwich where they were having the Colorscape Festival www.colorscape.org in Norwich and one of my favorite folkies, John Gorka was performing for free at 3 pm. He's got a rich baritone which you seldom hear in music these days. Having a baritone of my own I thought it would be cool to see him perform for the first time.

BUT! One of our bike club members had invited me to an end-of-summer party at her place later @ 5 pm. If I go to the concert there would be no way to get back in time, shower up and make it to the party. So: do I take in the concert, which would have been a solo experience or do I head out to the party where I can connect with people?

Well that's a no-brainer! As much as I spend oodles of time with people at work, I'm realizing that over the years I've greatly short-changed myself of time spent with extended family and friends outside of work. The bike club has been a God-send in helping me to remedy this over the past several years and I wasn't about to pass up this opportunity!

Now onto my ride: WONDERFUL ride! Loved it! I restored my faith and confidence in myself, kicking myself for ever doubting that I could do this Catskill Mountain tour! I remembered those inspiring words of Mark Twain:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

How could I even THINK of staying home from this opportunity nursing a satchel full of coulda-shoulda-wouldas?!?

I realize I will probably be sore and greatly fatigued at the end of each day, but I will be filled to overflowing with wonderful sights and great times shared with others. Plus I continue to be impressed by my body's incredible capacity for restoring itself with a good food and a good night's sleep.

BUT: about 3/4 of the way through my ride I BONKED!


I have only bonked once before with all the riding I've done and that time was relatively mild. One sugar soda and I was set straight.

Being back in the saddle with tracking I had made the unwise decision to short-change myself with food this day, anticipating the party and wanting to save my calories for later. Normally when biking a long distance I will have a BIG breakfast of a lot of oatmeal with two eggs scrambled into it along with a banana sliced up and the "dirty" version including sugar and a good dose of butter. With that I can bike forever fearlessly with no bonk worries at all.

Today I brought three apples and a bag of almonds, from which I sparingly ate a few here & there. One rider shared part of her banana with me. By the time I was bonking I had one apple left and the almonds.

Shaky, wobbly, fatigued, finding my saddle INTOLERABLE (normally little problem there), I got off the bike, stretched a bit, got the apple out and ate it while walking my bike along for a stretch, adding some almonds. I felt enough better to wrap up the final 12 miles of my 60 and immediately on arriving home I wolfed a couple of Dannon single-serve greek yogurts and an Arnold's sandwich thin. My fatigue I'm sure was heightened by the bonk.

So choice time: do I take the bonk as a sign that I'm unable to do the Catskills? No: I take it as a lesson in not being STUPID by assuming the extra pounds of flab that I carry will guard against bonking.

Next? PARTY TIME! Such a wonderful mix of people! Co-workers of my friend who teaches at the local school, friends and neighbors of hers and several bike club members. A little awkward at first, but we all warmed up very nicely together. Delicious & healthy food, fun conversations which waxed on into a night that didn't want to end...!

I played my guitar as well as having brought my blue-tooth speaker to DJ some music here & there during the course of the evening, but I didn't isolate myself and engaged in numerous satisfying conversations and enjoyed meeting new people throughout the night. Someone had the super idea to convert the BBQ grill into a campfire of sorts as the night grew dark and the full moon came out.

A very similar sense of camaraderie and connection that was savored last week in the 1,000 Islands was restored again tonight. So invigorating and enlivening!

Lessons learned:

Be confident!

Be inspired!

Take care of your body and soul!

Pay your SPARK forward and reap those rewards as what goes around comes around...!

and Don't be Stupid! :-)


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

_LINDA 9/9/2014 4:17PM

    emoticon Enjoyed this immensely! Love the upbeat attitude of getting back at it! Yes you can do it, what ever you put your mind to!!! Way to inspire, in fitness and social life!

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MAYTAGKAT 9/9/2014 12:36PM

    Great post!

Reminds me to work up to things gradually......
Going to Glacier Nat Pk later this month, need to put on some walking miles before that! Thanks much for the great post! Glad you had FUN!

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KANOE10 9/9/2014 7:40AM

    You have made some great choices. You got on the scale and found the damage was not too bad. You learned that you need to fuel up before those long bike rides. I am glad you had a great time with your friends at the party. I know you will enjoy that upcoming ride!

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L*I*T*A* 9/9/2014 12:14AM

    awesome blog......
you are such an inspiration to us all!!
blessings and hugs......lita

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CHANGE4FIT 9/8/2014 10:02PM

    I simply love reading your blogs. You have this incredible capacity to capture the struggles so many of us feel and deal. Glad you were able to pull the "lessons" from this whole episode to make improvements and see that the bike tour is, indeed, possible! Ride on, Don!

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SANDICANE 9/8/2014 9:47PM

    Your blog is so full of life, of figuring out how to live life to it's fullest without wouldas couldas shouldas.

Way to go...and congrats on that ostrich thing not being as bad as you thought it might be!!!

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1CRAZYDOG 9/8/2014 9:07PM

    Yes! Woulda, coulda, shoulda's will haunt you. Lessons learned. Fun had!!!

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ONEKIDSMOM 9/8/2014 8:50PM

    Way to Spark, Don... taking the setbacks as lessons. As for the "If I'm not talking about it, odds are I'm not doing it." I represent that statement... I'm pretty bubbly about a lot of stuff, but when I go totally silent? Something is amiss!

emoticon emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 9/8/2014 7:58PM

    So much in this great blog -- glad you figured out that the "bonk" was not a sign you can't take on that big bike ride but just a sign that you gotta eat for exercise: and also that you enjoyed the party!!

You're on a roll in a whole bunch of areas of your life!!

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    What an experience you had -- joyful, scary, wonderful and sobering all at the same time. I have often tried to use my stored fat as an energy source but it turns out it's not that straightforward. No matter how fat or thin you are, your body still has immediate energy needs when you're doing a hard workout and it can't get that from stored fat no matter how much of it is lying around. Lesson learned and on to the next awesome experience!

What a great life you're giving to yourself!

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    Don, Thanks for writing about this experience and your reflections on it. I so appreciate your honesty and ....intention to move forward in health with joy. I'm always a little nostalgic for CNY when you write about the beauty of the area and I learn so much as you recount your lessons learned. I have been feeling sorry for myself today and decided to stop it !!! about an hour ago. Once again, I learn it is ME that needs to move forward in my life. You keep moving forward. Bike as example and metaphor. Thanks. emoticon

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DAISYBELL6 9/8/2014 11:21AM

    Great blog! You are always such an inspiration to me!

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When Numbers Don't Matter

Thursday, September 04, 2014

I have gotten SO far away from caring about the numbers when it comes to working out and cycling. Over the weekend our cycling up Canada way wasn't the kind of distance that we've cycled in the past...much to the chagrin of one of our new members who came for her first time. She is working up for her MS 175 ride, 100 one day, 75 the next. I did that ride with her a few years back, but have since given up doing benefit rides (pay me to go have a blast on my bike! ...eh, doesn't sit too well with me).

So instead I shared my trick with her: if I'm not racking up the kind of miles I might prefer, I crank up the intensity of my ride and kick up the speed! Another club member agreed and the three of us did "intervals" where we would BLAST OFF for a stretch, then back off, repeat until good, sweaty & satisfied.

During one of my solo blasts another rider pulled up along side me and asked how fast I was going apparently impressed with my speed.

To which I replied: don't have a clue! My speedometer / odometer never worked right so I just ditched it a few years ago. I just pump it up when I want to, take 'er easy when I want to. I don't care about the numbers, I care about moving my body in ways that feel right for the present moment which I'm trying savor as much as possible. Perhaps a song in my head or the view that lies ahead or catching up with another rider for chit-chat. That's what it's all about for me.

The other point is that when it comes to working out and calories, who really KNOWS how much of whatever activity burns whatever amount. There's so much variation in ways of measuring this.

The number that matters to me is the amount of time I spend moving my body and the consistency of doing this day-in, day-out.

The numbers that REALLY matter way more than ANYTHING are the quality and quantity of calories I'm taking in. The rest will take care of itself if I'm on top of my food choices.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BESSHAILE 9/14/2014 6:33AM

    This is so right in so many ways.

I understand the fixation with numbers and I myself count minutes at any given exercise ... but honestly? What we really need is a joy meter. LOL

Great leadership showing in this blog.

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WATERMELLEN 9/8/2014 8:00PM

    So sensible -- there is too much numbers obsession and I really don't myself believe that the "calories burned" are very accurate anyhow . . . .it's how you feel and getting moving!!

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    I echo what others have said here, Don. You are a healthy person inside and out. I'm glad you share here. Pam

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KANOE10 9/5/2014 8:31AM

    You have developed a healthy life. The numbers that matter to you, give you joy and health. You are doing well and are inspirational.

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ZELLAZM 9/5/2014 4:14AM

    Sprints! Good idea for those days when I don't have time to get in a long walk or run. Thanks for the reminder!

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L*I*T*A* 9/4/2014 7:43PM

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    I really like this and the research says that intervals of increased intensity is best so you are doing it right!

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CHANGE4FIT 9/4/2014 3:00PM

    Well said. I am more interested in IF my heart rate is getting into a range that will promote heart health and for long enough to matter on a regular basis. I have never given much credence to the whole idea of tracking "calories burned". I also weigh, but don't really put a lot of stock in the scale. A better indicator is my mood and how "well" I feel. Of course how your clothes fit is also a great non-number reinforcement :) Alas, the more I move the better all these metrics "measure up". Bike on!

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_LINDA 9/4/2014 2:33PM

That is the best attitude to have too! You are in it to enjoy it. Period. Life is not a race. You really don't want to get to the finish line in a hurry. You want to enjoy and savor every single moment!
Keep on having fun doing the things you love!

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1CRAZYDOG 9/4/2014 2:19PM


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The Rest of the Story...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Here's the thing: to be immersed in nature and to soak up such wonderful sights while reveling in the movement of one's body on a bicycle in a way that has become as much a part of yourself as walking...such a beautiful experience!

But...to do this in sync with 18 other people? With such fun-loving harmony, respect and good-will? To discover gorgeous vistas together and almost hear a collective sigh of "ahhhh, just look at that...!"

It rarely gets any better than this.

One of us attempted to sum it up with his words:

"It Was a very Relaxed and very Inspirational Weekend.
It's a Retreat of Like Minds,
and I want to Thank each and everyone of You
for Sharing and Giving up, your ones Self,
for the Common Interest of us All.
Our Harmony was Perfect
and I am Filled with your Spirits and Laughter ...."

Here is our hostel at Tibbett's Point, complete with our own lighthouse:


Our host at the hostel was a hand-in-glove fit with our group. The cost of staying at this hostel for each of us from Friday through Monday was a meager $66 for the entire weekend! I encourage folks to check out hosteling as a low-cost, personable means of travel. The above link can direct you towards hostels which may be available for your travel plans.

We each brought food to share, dishes all made up and ready to eat. I brought my home-made hummus, veggies, a big container of home-made lentil-zucchini soup, salsa, apples, bananas, oatmeal and a couple dozen eggs & butter. Such a collective bounty of food was brought that there was no need for dining out. All meals were a collective group effort and we sometimes cozily jammed into the little kitchen, but mostly sat around in the Adirondack chairs or picnic tables outside to enjoy our meals and conversation.

During the day we would ride out to Kingston, CA by ferry or explore some of the islands Wolfe Island, which sprawled across Lake Ontario from Tibbett's Point. Other islands we explored included Simcoe which was a little ferry ride away from Wolfe Island and Wellesley Island which was up near Alexandria Bay after crossing the 1,000 Island bridge:

Friday and Sunday evenings offered gorgeous sunsets which we all savored while enjoying each other's company and conversation:

Saturday night was a wild and crazy night of weather! The wind off Lake Ontario was so strong that one could almost lean into it and allow it to hold one's body upright! Along the horizon one could see thunderstorms crackling and flashing a show that lit up the sky! We didn't have the rain yet so we were able to get out and let the wind pummel us as we took in such a powerful display of nature!

Friday and Sunday evenings were quieter and we gathered 'round a campfire. I played my guitar and loved hearing all the conversations all around me and joined in at times in between songs. Some of the nights drifted on well past midnight...just didn't want it to end!

Even after checking out on Monday morning we weren't willing to simply go home...so we stop at the Black Pond Nature Preserve and beach on Lake Ontario on our way back home:

And a final meal at Bob's BBQ in Homer, NY:

What an absolute joy the entire weekend was for all of us!

I'll sign off with yet another beautiful sunset:

...and a wish for all of my SparkFamily to fill your lives with equally heartfelt and special times.


Update: FYI...this is my 2nd year joining with club members in what has been an annual tradition for many, many years. My hope is to never have to miss spending my Labor Day weekend with my cycling buddies up at Tibbett's Point!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KANOE10 9/4/2014 7:17AM

    What beautiful pictures of lovely places. I love the sunsets. That was indeed a wonderful weekend of sharing. Plus you ate healthy and cycled. Perfect!
I am happy for you.


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L*I*T*A* 9/4/2014 12:50AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 9/3/2014 8:37PM

    Gorgeous pictures, glorious times!! Thanks for letting us all ride along, Don!!

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ONEKIDSMOM 9/3/2014 7:03PM

    I wish this for you, as well... that you enjoy this annual trip for many, many years to come!

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    Beautiful pictures and beautiful words

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SANDICANE 9/3/2014 2:49PM

    What a beautiful, beautiful blog.

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1CRAZYDOG 9/3/2014 1:32PM

    emoticon This is just incredibly beautiful . . . both the scenery and the camaraderie! Wonderful.

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    Think of how many people sit at home alone feeling lonely on a holiday weekend instead of getting together with other like-minded people and enjoying themselves outdoors. What a great life choice you're making!

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DAISYBELL6 9/3/2014 12:03PM

    What a wonderful weekend. I wish I could cycle well enough to do something like that.

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ZELLAZM 9/3/2014 12:02PM

    I especially love the view of the lighthouse. Glad you enjoyed your weekend - immensely!

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HILLSLUG98239 9/3/2014 11:49AM

    Nice travelogue. It sounds like a great weekend, and a wonderful tradition.

I watched some of the 2002 Winter Olympics in a hostel in Fernie, BC, Canada. There were numerous Australians and Kiwis living there - they were working at the ski area during their summer break from college - and people from South Korea, Japan, the UK, Germany, some other European countries, and of course, Canada and the States. That was a wonderful way to watch the Olympics. And when a Kiwi won the gold medal in speed skating, the place nearly exploded. Some of the lift workers were so hung over the next day they could barely stand.

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MARYJOANNA 9/3/2014 10:45AM

  What a great trip and the scenery was super.
thanks for the pictures.

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_LINDA 9/3/2014 10:31AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
What a wonderful trip! So very special! I hope you never do miss one!
Hostels are very interesting places to stay and are great value, just have to watch out for theft. I had left a bag of souvenir items I bought on my bunk because I didn't want to haul them around and they were gone when I got back :-( But its neat the places you can stay, in Europe they even have them in castles!

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GHK1962 9/3/2014 9:33AM

    A lighthouse! Coolness supreme indeed. Sounds like you had an incredible time ... and hopefully this will be an annual event for you.

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VALERIEMAHA 9/3/2014 9:30AM


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SLIMMERJESSE 9/3/2014 9:25AM

    What a great trip and beautiful photos!

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Still Basking...

Monday, September 01, 2014

Too late to tweak & share my pics, but some of the others who shared our absolutely AWESOME Labor Day weekend @ Tibbett's Point, Cape Vincent, NY on the shores of Lake Ontario near the beginning of the 1,000 Islands have already posted some of their pics.

So I'll share THEIR links and hope they work for you and you can get a preview of our long, glorious weekend on two-wheels, by the campfire, late night conversations in the kitchen over wine, cheese and all the delicious food shared by each of us.

More to follow!

Update: fiddly...the links were private so cannot be shared...have to wait for my pics...and words...don't know if I can begin to capture the wonderful camaraderie and warmth of the weekend...!


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 9/3/2014 7:19AM

    So glad that you had a great time!! Nice bookend to the summer!!

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SANDICANE 9/3/2014 7:02AM

    Sounds wonderful!

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1CRAZYDOG 9/2/2014 1:12PM

    The most important point . . . it was an awesome experience. Good for you!

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CATS_MEOW_0911 9/2/2014 1:01PM

    Sounds amazing, Don!

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L*I*T*A* 9/2/2014 12:12PM

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JLAMING263 9/2/2014 11:40AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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GHK1962 9/2/2014 10:43AM

    Heh ... I love that ... "fiddly" ....

And we'll wait for the pictures ... sounds like you had a great weekend at any rate!

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SAM60SUMTHINK 9/2/2014 9:00AM

    Sounds like a fantastic weekend! Nice!! emoticon

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BILLB000 9/2/2014 8:31AM

    Will be looking forward to it. emoticon

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FERRETLOVER1 9/2/2014 7:58AM

    Sounds like you had a simply emoticon Labor Day!

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ONEKIDSMOM 9/2/2014 7:56AM

    Your bubbly words, though, tell the tale. A weekend full of memories!

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KANOE10 9/2/2014 7:42AM

    I am happy you had a great weekend.


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    Okay - I am patiently w-a-i-t-i-n-g !!!
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_LINDA 9/2/2014 1:53AM

    emoticon emoticon
Look forward to the reports and pics! Really fabulous to spend time with a like minded group of friends! Glad you had a great time!

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VALERIEMAHA 9/2/2014 12:41AM

    This is what I have to say:


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MELYROD18 9/1/2014 11:35PM

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