It has been 3 years since we lived in Arizona and had spent a Christmas in the 48th state. With the current Covid climate and the dogs to care for, it made sense to do a road trip instead of thinking about getting on a plane this year. Sice I can work from anywhere, we decided to do two weeks in Arizona, instead of a short trip, visiting the kids and their SOs.
Speaking of SOs, Matt announced that he and Meghan got engaged on December 5th while they were in Seattle looking at neighborhoods. Why were they looking at neighborhoods? Matt was able to secure a new position within Microsoft that he was hoping for and would eventually require/allow him to work in the Redmond mothership. He is now officially the Learning and Development Manager which allows him to design programs to train and guide the professional development of Microsofts global employees. Very exciting next step in his career.
So in the coming months, we may have him back living with us again, as we anticipate the sale of their townhouse in Mesa to go very quickly, leaving them with a transition period before moving to the Seattle area. Would be a nice change of pace for us.
Sometimes you feel like getting a little exercise while on vacation and this was one of those days. Having lived in Phoenix for 4 years, we did quite a few hikes, mostly over at South Mountain park, but never Piestewa Peak, which is north by Paradise Valley.
I had contacted one of our new sales gents a few months prior to let him know I would be in town, knowing that this particular hike was one that he does a few times a week. He was gracious enough to allow me to tag along for an early morning version of the hike.
We met at the parking lot at 5:45am to get the hike in before the work day started. Although I was on vacation, I wanted to get to see Simon and try the fairly steep peak. The hike covers approximately 1.2 miles up, with a vertical climb of almost 1,200 feet. The path is very well cut (into rock), but we did the incline in the dark so it was a challenge for a first timer. Not too many people on the path, but those that were on the path, had headbands with lights, or were using their cell phones.
Simon has done the hike regularly, so he knew the path very well and took off at a quick pace. I tried to keep up, but was second guessing my footing, despite his cell phone light, which was a little too far out in front of us to be useful for me. I eventually pulled out my phone to light up the path, by which time Simon had a bit of a lead on me. A combination of caution and getting stuck behind a few slower folks had me loose site of him. This caused me to make two wrong turns that I had to backtrack from and find my way. By the time I caught up with him, he had made it to the top and had come back down about 30 yards where he met me on my ascent. He went back up to the top with me where I was rewarded by a pre dawn view of the city.
On the way down, Simon was doing a speed decent and took a bad tumble. He popped back up and said he was ok, and seemed so all the way down and during our work conversation in the parking lot. But about 30 minutes later when I sat down back at the hotel, I received the following two images via text.
Photographic evidence that it was not a harmless tumble, but instead a gash that required 5 stitches to close up. I joked with him that I hoped this was not his contract signing hand, as it is end of the year for the sales team. Nope, he is right handed so he can sign away and enjoy a Christmas pint at the pub.
I will recap the rest of the trip in another post.
Continuing with my ‘I need to use my PTO’ theme, we took a trip to see the kids for an early Christmas. We left the springs late Thursday afternoon to get a jump on traffic for a 6:30pm flight to PHX out of DEN. I have been saving flight miles, rental car credits and hotel night for no particular reason, so time to use two of the three (hotel and car).
The Palomar in downtown Phoenix is one of our favorites, so we booked two nights there on credits (probably my last year as Inner Circle for a while with my travel being down) as our initial base of operations. The second two nights are at the Westin Phoenix to get me a little closer to Platinum for the 11th year in a row (yes,too much travel in the past).
The Blue Hound is the restaurant and bar inside the hotel the used to have Lorie’s favorite cocktail ‘The Lawless’. Alas, it is no longer on the menu although I heard the roll it out for special occasions. This time of the year a company from New York turns various bars into ‘Miracle’ bars for the holidays. Blue hound was one of those bars transformed while we were there. They did a nice job decorating with the Christmas themed lights, chairs, wall decorations and drinks. It was a very busy Thursday night and we were lucky to get a table for all 5 of us. There were no serving staff, so all the orders had to be placed at the bar. It too a while to get two rounds of drinks, but we were in no hurry as we had lots to catch up on.
My favorite drink was the ‘Yippe Kay Yay Mother F@#$%r’. We all had something a little different and did a pass and sip. We stayed for a few hours and then called it a night as we did not land till 8:30pm and got to the hotel/bar at 9:30pm. A nice first night.
We slept in Friday morning (8 am is sleeping in) and then walked down to the lobby for some coffee. The Kimpton always has a good morning coffee spread and for the holiday they have a hot chocolate bar. I chose to combine the two this morning to make a nice unpretentious Mocha. We checked out of the Kimpton for our move over to the Westin (needed a few more Marriott/SPG nights).
We spent the day driving around to some of the old places we used to go to including a drive by of our house. We also made a trip to my favorite resale shop Well Suited to see if I could find a few bargains. We struck out at the Lincoln Village Location but I was able to find a Rockmount and Pendleton and a Tommy Bahama at the Desert Village at Pinnacle Peak location. Worth the trip. Matt and Jenna met us for dinner Friday night with their significant other for a little vegetarian food and good company. More catching up which was nice.
Saturday we slept in again, had more coffee and picked up Jen and did some shopping for her and Lorie. The day went by pretty fast between shopping, lunch and more shopping. We met again for drinks a a cool little bar called The Whining Pig and had a nice sour beer..or two.
Sunday was a coffee repeat but this time I walked down to the Starbucks near the convention center where I used to stop when I was working with the Arizona Department of Administration. Its nice to experience things that are the same but in a different context. We went to visit my friend Robert but he as off painting at his moms house (shame on me for not calling ahead). We at least got to see his his wife and two lovely girls for a little while. Some more coffee at Coffee Rush and we were off to Matts for our Early Christmas Eve.
Lorie had not met Teddy before, Matts one eyed pug, so she was excited to finally meet him and see Megan and her dog Bailey as well
Matt has a nice spread for the six of us and Jenna was nice enough to being some vegetarian sausages for me and regular brats for everyone else. They tasted just like real meat but were friendly to the digestive system. We settled in for the Bears/Packers game, and thoroughly enjoyed the Bears victory, Jenna’s boyfriend is a big Packers fan so he did not have such a good time. Boo Hoo. Matt had a bottle of the same Lost Spirits rum that we had, as he had been to the distillery before us and actually suggested that we stop their on our LA trip. I enjoyed the dark liquid in moderation as Navy Strength rum can sneak up on you pretty quick.
We had a great tine catching up and playing some Nintendo Switch party games (Lorie and I lost) and were all pretty tuckered out by 9:30. Matt had to work in the morning and I had a hike to do with one of my co workers, at 6AM so we called it for the night.
I did my morning hike the next day at 5:45 am up Piestewa Peak with Simon from work. You can read about that hike here. and was back to the hotel by 7:30. We took our time getting coffee and getting ready for check out, then proceeded back over to Jennas to pick her up for lunch and a final visit. Following lunch we headed over to Matts store to say hi to his manager and pick him up for an early dinner before we had to head to the airport. He let us know that he unfortunately did not get selected to help open and become an employee of the new London store. He still has an opportunity to do a career experience like he did in Sydney, which would be temporary and not require him to move to the UK. He was hoping to get the full gig, but the door is still open for a smaller commitment.
The flight back was uneventful, and our checked luggage full of booze made it back just fine. We had stopped at Trader Joes for the Muscato Lories likes that we cannot get in Colorado Trader Joes as they do not sell liquor.
This was the second Christmas we spent not in the same town as the kids, but at least we were able to go see them for this one. Last year was the first one spent apart and it was a little weird with just the two of us and the dogs. All in all a very pleasant trip.
It’s that time of the year, when companies have a get together to celebrate the holidays with their co workers, spouses and SOs. This was my second ‘Holiday’ Party as an employee of Cherwell, the first was 2017 immediately after we moved here from Arizona. The event was held at the same hotel as last year, the Antlers in downtown Colorado Springs. The Antlers used to be the Adams Mark back in the day, one of the nicest hotels in the area back in the 80s.
This year we had a little preparty at my house with a few of the team and their spouses. It was nice to get to talk about things other than work with some of my outstanding team members. We shared a little of the Lost Spirits rum that Lorie and I picked up while on our Hello Kitty trip to LA. The 61% rum was a big hit for everyone who enjoys rum. I should have purchased two bottles while we were there as it is very hard to find outside of California. We will get back there soon and I will get a few bottles of that and their whiskey.
Instead of driving to the venue, we asked Russ and his wife for a lift, planning on taking an UBER back (I still had my AMEX Platinum credits to use in December). We all arrived fashionably late, but in time for a few drinks from the cash bar before dinner. Dinner was a nice buffet with lots of veggie options which I appreciated and enjoyed. The band was the same one as last year and they were again very, very good and the crowd enjoyed the entertainment.
Most of the team sat together but spent lots of time milling around and speaking to those that they wanted to interact with. I had a list of folks I wanted to speak to and barring those that had to cancel last minute, I got to spend time with all those that I felt were important to my place in the company, including the new CEO.
Lorie and I had lots of fun and we stayed all the way till the lights went up. Not everyone did though as it seemed like about half the crowd left right after dinner. Not sure why you would only sty for dinner and leave, but they must have their reasons.
Looking forward to another prosperous year with the company.
I sit here writing on the eve of our holiday party at my new employer. Quite a bit has changed since my last post and I have much catching up to do to document all of that, if I decide to do so. I did decided to take up skiing/snowboarding after moving to Colorado a year ago and pausing on the mountain yesterday during my third lesson at Copper Mountain, I decided to start updating my blog again.
This post is my push to get going again with writing on a more regular basis. There is still quite a bit happening in my life, so I need to get documenting.
Thought I would be back on track in the last few weeks with my training, but work had different plans for me. We are very much underwater with too few resources and too much business, so most of my days start when it is dark and end when it is dark. That makes it difficult to get any training in at all.
I have always had a challenge with working out too late in the evening as it keeps me from getting meaningful sleep. This makes it hard to get up the next day and makes the day even longer. The cycle is vicious and impactful.
Not sure what I am going to do about this as my next race is in about a month and I have given in to the fact that I will need to walk run to make it through. It makes me cringe to say that but if I push too hard, it will be very difficult to recover so I can start training for my next race.
Travel has been crazy the last few months (writing this while sitting in a seat on a flight from MSP to PHX), and I don’t see it getting too much better. My training has definitely suffered as it is had to find time to get even a small run in. The body and mind are willing but the location is not always able. I know I can try harder to make that happen and I need to do that soon, as the Dark Side Half in Disneyworld in April is going to be painful.
I had hoped to finally get my sub 2 hour PR but I don’t think that is possible now. Running is not something you can catch up in quickly like catching up on email or even sleep. If you don’t put the mile in, you don’t get the results. You can’t do 11 tomorrow if you got 5 in two days ago but missed your 6 yesterday. That would not only be painful but also foolish for your body.
The focus not is planning for runs during travel, even if it means inclement weather locations like Minnesota this week. I have never had good luck with my lungs and running in cold weather, it always end up in a hacking cough and sickness. Perhaps I need to look into a nationwide chain of fitness centers like LifeTime, or even check on day passes if the weather is bad and my hotel does not have facilities. I have some homework to do.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I had an opportunity to go to Australia at the end of 2015 to spend Christmas with my son. As with any trip I learned a bit about what I liked and what I would do differently next time I come down.
The first thing I would do is spend more time here. I really only had 4 days to spend on activities as you loose (literally) the first day traveling (getting from Phoenix to LA, a layover then a 15 hours flight to Australia) and loose a day (but gain a calendar day) going back.
The other thing I would do is get out of the city more. Although there is quite a bit to see in Sydney, I want to get into the country more next time and see what I envisioned Australia to be like. We did visit a few beaches (Bondi and Manley) and did the usual items like the Opera House, Darling Harbor, worlds largest IMAX, Paddy’s Market, Royal Botanic Gardens, Contemporary Art Museum and the water ferry system. We also walked about 10 miles a day and even got a good run in.
Of the two beaches we visited, I prefer Manly because it has more space and has more variety of places to get food and drink nearby. We did visit Bondi on Christmas day so it was packed and all the restaurants there had all in one pricing as they had a captive audience.
I was scheduled to leave Monday so we decided to do the Sydney Bridge Climb on Sunday late in the afternoon. Sunday turned out to be an overcast day which is OK as we overdid it and Bondi, and my Irish skin was cooked despite sunscreen on MOST areas.
I highly suggest the climb, even if you are scared of heights. Matt is not a heights person, and I have been known to get the heebie jeebies as well, but after talking to a few locals on the ferry to Manly who are also scared of heights, they both agreed that as long a you don’t look straight down, it is one of the best experiences in the city. It is not cheap and as of this writing the cost is $293.00 per person Australian or $213 US per person after the conversion.
We arrived about 15 minutes before our scheduled 3PM departure and ended up being two of the four Americans in the group along with a big family of 8 from Argentina. The other two Americans were high school aged girls from Santa Monica and Portland respectively visiting the California girls uncle who lives in Sydney.
The thorough prep instructions and gear up session took almost 40 minutes from the time we walked in to the time we clipped on the guide cable for the start of our walk.
I wont give a step by step review, but let me just say, WOW, what an experience, and doubly so that I got to do it with my son. Unfortunately, my daughter and wife would never have been able to complete it because of the height, so it was good that we were able to take advantage of opportunity.
We had a fantastic guide named Phoebe (smelly cat), who was very bubbly and knowledgeable about the history of the bridge and city itself, and there was not a question she could not answer. She was sure to include everyone in the conversations and her jokes (both good and bad) throughout the 2 plus hour climb and decent. one of the highlights for me was seeing one of the P&O cruise ships leave port and go right under us as we were almost at the top of the bridge. It really showed how high we were and how big those ships are.
When we reached the top, the wind was whipping at about 35 kph which was a bit unnerving, but Phoebe said they still lead groups if the wind is 90 kph or less, so more than twice what we were feeling.
One the way down Phoebe talked about the accidents and deaths that had happened during the construction of the bridge (only 16 over the 8 year project) and that only 3 actually happened on the steel. She purposefully waited till the down trip so as to not make anyone to nervous on the way up.
When we returned to the equipment room to take off our gear, there we square holes in the wall that measured about 16 inches by 16 inches. All participants were to put their gear in the correct hole, like straps in one, kerchiefs in another and our pillow like fleece bundles on another. I decided to try a jump shot from about 8 feet away and the father of the Argentina group saw me may the motion and he put up his had to stop me and said “10 dollars you don’t make it.” I said ‘You’re on’. I proceeded to sink the shot which got his whole family whooping and laughing. I turned to him and said ‘that is 10 dollars US, not Australian’. He wanted to redeem himself so he suggested if he makes his we are even. I agreed, and he proceeded to brick it. USA, USA, USA. You cant beat a guy who grew up going to see Michael Jordan. I decided not to be ‘that guy’ (with some suggestion from Matt) and let him slide. After the climb, we walked back to Darling Harbor to meet two of Matts co workers for dinner by the water, some ice cream and one final walk back to the Westin before we turned in.
We took a taxi to the Airport on Monday for our flight, breezed through security and gained access to the Quanta First lounge. This was my first ‘first’ lounge experience and I am now spoiled for all other travel. I have never had such a pleasant experience including full free breakfast, at any airport. Now I know is was not actually free, as getting to Executive Platinum had considerable cost to it, but just being handed a full breakfast menu with no prices on it was strange and a bit exciting.
I am writing the rest of this from the plane, flight 72 back to LA. I was able to use my system wide upgrades to get business class pods for both Matt and I, so I am looking forward to getting some sleep on the 14 hour flight back. I know there has been some controversy on the availability of system wides and when they clear, but these two cleared for me 3 days before. I did need to call the Executive Platinum desk to get a system wide added to Matts reservation, but the rep was able to clear both of us all the way through to Phoenix.
I would (will) go back at some point in the future and will use what I learned on this trip to make it an even better experience next time.
Writing my first post in quite awhile, from a different continent. My son was chosen by Microsoft to go to Sydney Australia and help with the opening of the new Microsoft store down under. He was scheduled to be down there for almost six weeks, so it seemed an opportune time for me to take a short trip over the Christmas holiday, spend time with him and get to see Sydney.
I will write a full trip report on my way back, but for now, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, from the future.
It has been quite a year since I last posted to the blog. My next post was going to be about the 2013 Disney Marathon but between then and now I have taken a new job, my father in law passed away and I sold my house, twice.
I have been heads down with the new job traveling quite a bit so my postings have taken a back seat to day to day operations. I will expand on all the above events very soon, but for now, its good to be back.