Monday, August 8, 2016

Northeastern Exploration Day 2: Saturday, August 6th, 2016 (Hyde Park, New York)

This would be our first full day, and we we were in no hurry to get on the roads in New York City.  So after a nice breakfast in the hotel (I know lame, but it was FREE).  We like to take advantage of as many of Guy's travel perks as we can.  Lets just say, travel loyalty programs are essential to our adventures.  Our goal today was to get to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Historic Home.  We made it!  Along the way, we were able to drive through Harlem and the Bronx, the kids thought it was pretty cool.  We didn't stop, as we had a long drive ahead of us, but none the less, they were able to see a lot during the daylight.

Once we arrived at the presidential library, we began to understand why FDR liked the area so much. It was beautiful, tranquil, however, it had plenty of activity around it.  Oh, and a lot of trees!  Did you know he listed his occupation as a "tree farmer?"  Some fun facts--how many terms was he elected to?  4! Did you know that this was the very FIRST presidential library?  We can thank FDR for the idea that subsequent presidents have followed.  I will post a number of pictures once I get the opportunity.  We gave this stop two thumbs up!  Everyone enjoyed it.

After our visit we were famished, so we headed over to the Hyde Park Brewery.  Nothing special, but they had good burgers and beer.  Who could turn that down, after a long day.  Once our bellies were full we headed out to our final stop for the night.  Springfield, Mass.  This would be a long drive, but knowing we wanted to get to Maine the following day, we had some long drives at the beginning.

Springfield, Mass, the only good thing about this town that we found was The Basketball Hall of Fame.  Our hotel was totally a "socks on" establishment, however it was FREE.  I am not sharing the name, but it starts with an M and ends...with a T.  The highlight of this visit, was that the REAL Dr. J-Julius Irving was present for a Q & A at the Hall of Fame.  The irony of this, is that Dr. J is Guy's childhood basketball hero and all time favorite basketball player.  We all had the opportunity to meet him and got his autograph.  After being outraged by the cost of getting into the museum, we felt like we hit the jackpot once we saw Dr. J.

After our visit we headed out to Maine.  Again, it would be a long driving day, but the roads were really nice and the scenery was beautiful.  We were able to see some very unique campaign signs as well.  To those of you that didn't realize that we will be electing a new President this year.

Our culinary highlights for the day, was a stop at Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine. We had our first official Lobster Roll in Maine.  It was FANTASTIC!  Then finally, we were able to grab dessert as the sun set in Wells, Maine at Big Daddy's Ice Cream.  Lets just say--Wow!  Four thumbs up!

We finally rolled into a lovely and brand new Residence Inn in Bath, Maine.  tuckered out!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Northeastern Exploration Day 1: Friday, August 5th, 2016 (Brooklyn, New York)

Since we do a lot of driving on this trip, we made every effort to streamline our packing...well, lets just say, 6 bags was the best we could do.  However, we did bring along an Aero Bed, snacks, travel books and 12 personal electronic devices and all of the relevant charging tools.  Cierzan's do NOT travel light.

The first leg of this adventure included a flight from Minneapolis to New York.  It was a rather uneventful flight.  While Guy, Leah and I snuggled in Coach and enjoyed our airline snack, Noah enjoyed a little more room, breakfast and a feature film in first class.  (Special thanks to Dad for sharing his upgrades, one of the few perks of a lot of travel).

Once we landed in New York, Guy decided we should experience the nice airline lounge for American Express customers, while it was nice (with some delicious amenities, we quickly discovered Guy had some last minute business to attend too).  Once we had lunch and countless chocolate brownies and a cocktail or two, we headed out to find the car for our adventure.  First, we learned that the East coast personalities are nothing like the "Minnesota Nice" personalities that the kids have become accustomed to.  However, Guy gave them a run for their money.  Those that know Guy, can only imagine some of the sarcastic exchanges that we witnessed.

We finally secured our auto for the next leg of our vacation, however, driving in New York City is quite the adventure.  We were headed for Brooklyn, which was our first stop and wow was that ride.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any dramamine so it felt like we were on a roller coaster ride into the city.    We finally landed at our hotel, Marriott Brooklyn Bridge.  We gave the hotel a thumbs up!

After a little rest, we ventured out for dinner, Hill Country BBQ-right near our hotel.  We were NOT taking the car out.  The kids gave it three stars, the brisket was delicious, but the sausage was spicy.  We ventured out for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge following dinner, as it was right near our hotel.  Wow!  Something everyone should do at least once.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles VIII, August 5-15, 2016: Cierzan's Northeastern Exploration

We are headed off for our 8th trip across country to explore, experience and taste some of the northeastern highlights.  Special Note:  what we may find to be a highlight may not be a highlight for the ordinary person.  We are always seeking that gem that no one has ever heard of or experienced.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hawaiian Adventure Day #2: Saturday, March 19th, 2016 (Kauai)

It is a special day for us today--Dad's Birthday!  Happy 8th Anniversary of your Birthday, Guy!  Guy and Kid #2 are so lucky to have been fortunate enough to celebrate their birthdays in warm climates.  We tried to make the day extra special for Guy.  We hung out in the hotel pool, Guy and Noah played a little catch (Noah has High School Baseball Tryouts the day we return to Minnesota).  So, they are trying to take advantage of the opportunity to throw when they can.

In the afternoon, we headed over to Puka Dog.  This hotdog stand, may seem insignificant, but it is a real gem and a favorite for us.  Mango Relish on a Polish Sausage, who could go wrong?  The lemonade is pretty special too!  

We ended the day with ride to the North Shore, our favorite!  While there is only one two lane road that goes from one side of the island to the other, everyone is on hawaiian time, so it takes about 45 minutes.  We had dinner reservations at Makana Terrace, overlooking Hanalei Bay.  A special place, if you experience it, you will totally understand.  The sunset is stunning, and the food is delicious.  

Hawaiian Adventure Day #1: Friday, March 18th, 2016 (Arrive in Kauai)

It was a long day, but totally worth the wait!  We left Minnesota and had a brief stop in LA before landing in Lihue, Kauai.  We are staying on the south side of the island (despite the fact that our favorite is the North Side).  We are staying on the island for 4 days and 3 nights, so we were able to grab a condo with a spectacular view of the ocean at Poipu Shores.  (Specifically Unit 303A).

Since we were arriving late at night, we decided to stay at a hotel with Dad's points.  We were able to grab a LOVELY room (despite the construction surrounding our room=no real view) at Koola Landing!  It was very nice and spacious, but the ground had an amazing amount of construction.  We are certain, this property will be lovely once the construction is complete.

However, we are seriously heading to bed.  Long trip here...

Cierzan's Hawaiian Adventure...Spring Break 2016!

We were lucky enough to experience two of the Hawaiian Islands, with Kid #1 and #2--Kauai and Maui!  While their spring breaks do not sink up any more, we decided to defer to Kid #1's schedule.  High School matters more now.  Kauai is by far our favorite island, but Maui holds a special place in our hearts, Kid #1 didn't remember it and Kid #2 had never experienced it.

While we like to blog our experiences, so our family can revisit some of our favorite places over time.  We hope that others may find our experiences helpful in creating their own own family adventures.

...from our Ohana to yours....

Saturday, August 1, 2015

PTA VII: Day #11, Sunday, August 2nd..There's no place like home!

Day #11...That is all folks!  We are on the way home.

PTA VII: Day #10, Saturday, August 1st...South Dakota one more time...

Day #10...

PTA VII: Day #9, Friday, July 31st...South Dakota and all of the Motorcycles...

Day #9...We have finally made it to South Dakota.  Guy once again, found us a place to stay that was perfect.  L Lodge

PTA VII: Day #8, Thursday, July 30th...the final leg, leaving Colorado and heading to South Dakota!

Day #8...The final leg!  Yes it is true, despite our love for the Rockies, we had to stick with our plan and head out and move on to South Dakota.  However, we decided we needed to take one final visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  (We did buy and annual park pass, so it wouldn't cost anything).  We had not yet explored Bear Lake, as we were told it would be the most busy, but beautiful.  It WAS the disneyland of national park venues, packed with visitors, shuttles pulling in and out and clean as a whistle.
Here are a sampling of the stunning views from Bear Lake.  The kids really enjoyed this short hike around the lake as well.  

This guy was clearly hiking farther than we were.  However, Noah really wanted to check out the Glacier-next time!
We headed out of town, after a quick stop for taffy in Estes Park at The Taffy Shop, and a visit to the "Famous" buckle shop, per the River's Family Recommendation.  Again, both of their recommendations were awesome.  No, we didn't buy any belt buckles, but we know where to go, when we do want some.

The drive to South Dakota, while long, it went fast!  Did you know that the speed limit in Wyoming is 80 mph?  Once we passed the Colorado state line, not only did the landscape change, but so did the speed limit.  However, we did get a glimpse of the beautiful landscape in Wyoming, before it became too dark.
Perhaps the biggest highlight on our drive for Guy and I was that we BOTH were able to see an amazing shooting star, fly across the sky as we drove in the darkness.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

PTA VII: Day #7, Wednesday, July 29th...Rocky Mountain National Park

Day #7..."This place is ridiculously beautiful!"  This was Leah's comment nearly one mile into the park.  This is after she was grimacing at the prospect of hiking in the mountains all day.
It was stunning, we knew we had a lot to cover in little time.  Keep in mind the Rocky Mountain National Park is ginormous!  However, we wanted to make sure we hit the big landmarks and sites.  Ironically, we drove right up to the "Old Fall River Road."  It was a road that was 11 miles long, with countless switchbacks and steep grades AND it only goes one way!  It was terrifying to drive, but the majestic beauty that we got to experience was stunning.
This is just a sampling of the very narrow dirt roads that we had to drive up to the top of the mountain.

The road did have a number of pull outs near the switchbacks, where we could stop enjoy the view and take a break.  The kids especially enjoyed the breaks and the short hikes, it was a kids climbing paradise.  

We all really enjoyed the Rockies!  The climbing could go on forever, but there was so much to see!

The water was sparkling, the weather was perfect and we really enjoyed the landscape variations.  
At the top, the kids continued look out to the mountains, to see what else may be hiding out there.  According to Leah's handy journal entries, she noted 30+ animals, including, Moose, Elk, Mule Deer, Squirrels, Marmot, Ground Hogs, Beavers, etc...  

It really was an amazing day, full of stunning sights, which we finished off with a visit to Grand Lake.  Since it was dinner time, but we were not ready to finish our sightseeing, we found a highly recommended sandwich shop:  Cy's Deli.  Ordered some of their specialties and headed back out exploring.  

While the views and the lake were stunning, we decided to start our journey back to Estes Park.  

Here are some additional highlights from our drive back home.  We did make one stop to hike back to the beginning of the Colorado River.  Since we went rafting in it, we figured we should see where it started.  

We also saw a couple of additional animals in the park, on our way out...

Finally, the road didn't become any less forgiving on the way out of the park.  Here is a picture of one of the passes at the top, that we had to drive through.  

PTA VII: Day #6, Tuesday, July 28, 2015 ...Last Day in Vail and Heading to Estes Park, Colorado

Day #6...We couldn't leave Vail, without taking the kids up the Gondola and checking out the top of Vail Mountain.  (This is one of our favorite memories, when we went skiing in Vail).  So we headed out in the morning to "Gondola One." The kids loved this experience, Leah wasn't even scared.  Now the thought of riding up one of the open chair lifts, was terrifying for her.
(This will have to represent the air travel portion of our summer adventure).
When you get to the top, all you see are countless mountain biking trails, hiking trails and lots of ski signs.  (We are warming Leah up to coming out in the winter sometime).  We decided to take things easy and take one of the less strenuous hiking trails:  Upper Fireweed.  Well, lets just say, less strenuous doesn't mean the same thing to all people.  Leah was wiped, and "hangry."  (Our new word we started using to describe someone that is hungry and angry.  However, Guy did great considering he was on a conference call while on the hiking trail.
This is the trail we headed out on...
Noah and Leah head off...

Leah and Noah at the top of Vail Mountain
We did get to snap a couple extra shots before heading back to the hotel, wish we could have spent more time at the top of the mountain.  We had no idea, there was so much going on up top!

As you can see, Noah didn't want Abby River's to pass him.  The thought of Nate's younger sister lapping him was unthinkable.  (Kidding-Abby!)
After checking out of our hotel, we headed on to the next leg of our adventure:  Estes Park, in the Rocky Mountain National Forest.  Ironically, we learned that some good friends-the Rivers Family were also visiting Estes Park.  We were able to rendezvous with their family for Dinner.  We met up in Lyons, Colorado at a very cool and hip joint for dinner:  Oskar Blues.  (The chicken lettuce wraps and Pinner Beer were FANTASTIC!)  It was so great to visit and catch up with them, somewhere OUTSIDE of the baseball fields.  
Steve, Sam, Nate, Abby and Jen Rivers with Guy, Leah, Penny and Noah.  (Yes, I must be shrinking, not sure why all of the boys are taller than me now?)

We then headed out to check into our cabin (for the next two days).  Guy found a great spot at River Stone Resorts in Estes Park for us.  However, the kids were quickly reconnected with the Rivers family.  We met up at "Fun City".  A place where the kids could hang out a bit more, and Guy and I could get some touring advice from Steve and Jen (who were clearly experts in our minds).  They have done this hiking stuff before and could give us some tips and tricks.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PTA VII: Day #5, Monday, July 27, 2015 ...Colorado River, here we come!

Day #5...Whitewater Rafting on the Colorado River!  We did it, check that off our bucket list.  Yes, it is true, we took the entire family rafting down the Colorado River.

Our concierge at our hotel recommended Timberline Tours and their trip down the Soshone Rapids on the Colorado River.  Leah was VERY apprehensive, so he spent some extra time trying to convince her this would be ok.  (Note:  He was an expert raft instructor himself.)  However, he did make one mistake of showing her a YouTube video of the rapids that freaked her out.  She was a trooper and didn't bail out, instead she was going along with the adventure as the rest of us were so excited to do this!

They suited us all up in the proper safety gear and gave us our instructions, before dropping us in the river with our guide.  It was at that point--Leah said, "NO WAY!"  Needless to say, I was disappointed, but our very special driver, assured us that he could take us to another spot to meet up with them after the wild rapids.  So, in the end, we all had the opportunity to experience rafting down the Colorado River.
Dad and Noah heading toward the Soshone Rapids, without Leah and Mom!

Leah and Mom waiting to be picked up at Grizzly Creek.  (Just happy Leah agreed to get into the Raft!)

Noah was NOT going to miss the opportunity to jump into the Colorado River!  He remarked...BBBRRRRRRR!
In the end, a great time was had by all!  Guy and Noah are looking forward to doing it again soon!

We headed back to the hotel for a nap and quick dip in the pool.  (Leah wants to be in the pool every second!)  We ended the evening with a great dinner at La Bottega a wonderful Italian restaurant in Vail Village.  We would all highly recommend it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

PTA: VII Day #4, Sunday, July 26, 2015 ...Watch out Mountains, the Cierzan's go off roading!

Day #4...We head off into the Rockies on an ATV!

Hard to believe, but true, we wanted to really get into the mountains and experience the rugged terrain with the kids.  We were referred to a great company right outside of the city, Sage Outdoor Adventures.  While Leah said she was excited to do this, she wasn't real excited when she saw the machines.  "They look just like Uncle Dan's."  However, Dad assured her with his "superior" driving skills, she would enjoy the ride.  (I think she was secretly hoping for a golf cart that she could drive).
Our guide didn't put her at ease when he excitedly announced that he had seen a mountain lion recently on one of the trips.  I assured her, this would be fun!  Also, with Dad's superior driving skills he could certainly outrun a mountain lion, right?!
Leah making sure she is all buckled in!
 While the ATV was a lot like Uncle Dan's, all 4 of us could ride in one machine.  It was rugged terrain certainly evidenced by all of the photo's of our dirty faces!  Can you tell who was sitting in front and who was sitting in back?
Noah, Mom, Leah and Dad with our ATV in the Rocky Mountains!
The sights were amazing!  It was much like looking into the Grand Canyon, from some of the locations.  
Dad is showing Leah some of the unique features of the landscape, while Mom is stressing out about them standing right on a cliff!

Noah couldn't get over how grand the view was, I am certain he is going to fill up his phone with photo's on this trip.

At the end of the trip the kids both remarked...THANK YOU!  That was great, however, we were flithy!  Oh...apparently Leah is the only one that "thinks" she saw a Mountain Lion.

We headed back to the hotel, in typical Griswold fashion, filthy dirty and ready to jump into the pool at the Four Season's Hotel in Vail.  Guy and I couldn't do it, we insisted on quick showers before heading to the pool.  After a quick bite poolside (because that is all Leah really cares about is being in the pool as much as possible).  Noah and I convinced her that we should rent some bikes and check out some of the bike trails in Vail.  So the three of us headed out for a little more exploring.

We took a few stops, to check out the river running through the city.  It was crystal clear, and Noah (the germ freak) actually wanted to taste the water, it was clear and cool.  I didn't think it was such a great idea, but later I learned-it isn't a good idea.  So fortunately, he didn't fill up his water bottle.  So, far there are not side effects.  

Leah on the other hand, liked climbing around by the creek.  She did NOT like biking up the hills!

We decided to head back after a couple of hours to check on Guy.  He needed a little more rest, as the altitude stuff was bugging him again.  However, as we have now come to expect from the Four Seasons, the service is superior!  Matt from the front desk, actually sent up an "altitude sickness" assistance bag.  It had snacks, ginger ale and some Altitude Adjustment Supplements that they assured us would help Guy acclimate to the altitude.  In addition, they also loaned us a Mercedes SUV to go pick up some things at the grocery store nearby. The kids thought that was REAL cool.  As did I, kind of fun driving a different car that is NOT packed with junk all over the place.  I might add, that is another cool added value of staying at this property.  

The kids finally wore us out and we hit the sack, after watching Paul Blart Mall Cop 2.  (Sorry, Uncle Dan, Leah waited as long as she could, she wanted to watch it).  Good family flick!