Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: December 28, 2015
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.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: December 25, 2015
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.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: August 26, 2013
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.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: March 28, 2013
I have been traveling quite a bit with my new job which involves lots of planning. We don’t have a travel planner or anyone at our organization that handles that function so it is up to me to juggle schedules with all the clients. Now this is fine with me because there are no errors in scheduling because of lost emails or missed phone calls, and if a client has to reschedule I can pull up the calendar and immediately make the change to the next available opening.
So this week I was looking to reserve a car for my sons Sports Management Banquet in Slippery Rock, PA. Lately I have been renting with Enterprise because they consistently have the lowest price and are at just about every airport I fly into. This time however, Hertz had a better price for the same location and duration. I will usually reserve the subcompact if I am by myself then get an upgrade at the counter since I rent so much (dinner for one Mr.Durden?). So I went through the usual selection and saw the were a few incremental upgrades, like going from a subcompact to a compact for 95 cents more per day (take it). Compact to Standard for $3.00 more total (take it). Full Size for $7.00 more total (take it). But then the next jump was ridiculous and had to be a mistake. Upgrade to a premium for ‘less’ than $1322.00. That’s a very expensive upgrade.
At that point I had to back out to see what the daily rate was for that car and it was over $900 per day. Must run on rainbows and single barrel bourbon! I am tempted to call Hertz just to see if anyone noticed that rate and why it could be so high, but I am sure someone keyed it in wrong.
I had a similar experience down in Orlando about 15 years ago on one of our trips to Disney World before they had the Magical Express. I was looking at prices for rental cars and usually use Hertz at MCO because they have the gold service where the car is waiting for you and jut just put your bags in it and go. During my research I found a minivan (which I swore never to buy) that was available for $22.00 per day. Now, $22.00 per day for any car during peak season is awesome, but for a minivan it is incredible. Minivans are usually close to $100.00 per day in some locations during low season.
When I returned the car after our week there, the attendant printed out my receipt and had to do a double take. She said, ‘wow this is really cheap for a minivan’. I just smiled and said yes it is.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: December 30, 2012
Funny how we make such a delineation of our being from year to year. After all it is just another day in just another month in just another year in our life. Perhaps it is because everyone else is pausing to think about what they want to accomplish next year, and what they did not get to do this past year. Right now, everyone is looking forward to next year.
I think a better plan is to have a plan for the next few years and continually work and refine that plan as situations arise that are either beneficial to you achieving those goals or detrimental.
We had a few things happen in my household this year that helped us move closer to some goals and a few things that were setbacks. Some items we can control like choices and determination, but some things like health and for some of you, mother nature, can come out of nowhere and set you back a few months if not years.
Regardless of what hits us, we need to keep moving forward and not let these things stop us. One of the keys to progress I believe is having a strong support system. If you are having trouble achieving your goals or are getting discouraged, talk to someone close to you. If you don’t have anyone close to you, well that is another issue that you need to work on as mentors or trusted advisors can help you in many ways.
I left a company this year and took a position at a new one (to be detailed in a later post). This new company has clear goals and has forced me (for the better) to reexamine where I want to go moving forward.
For now I have one short term goal in 2013 and that has to do with why I started this blog 3 years ago. I will again be running on Disney Marathon Weekend but this time doing the half by myself. I have a goal of a sub 2 hour half, which will be a bit difficult as the previously mentioned health setbacks and all the traveling I have been doing for the hew job, has made training difficult.
I will try my best (that’s all we can really do when it comes down to it) to achieve that first goal, and then continue on with the rest to continue being the kind of person I want to be.
Best of luck to you all in the new year.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: July 9, 2012
I have a problem. I am a coffee drinker. Why is that a problem? I am in front of people every week, teaching a class, giving a presentation or just meeting people. I consider myself a very outgoing and personable guy and I like to smile, a lot. But recently I have been smiling a bit less because I was conscious of the color of my teeth.
A little background first. About 22 years ago, my older brother Mike was in dental school at the University of Illinois Chicago. At that time he was starting his cosmetic studies and required some patients to sit and get veneers installed. He asked me if I would be willing to come down to the Chicago campus for a few visits to get some new teeth. I jumped at the chance because I did not have the best natural teeth and in fact had a few chips from various sporting activities, which were repaired (patched) years ago by our uncle, also a dentist. So, long story short, the smile that Mike gave me lasted 22 years, which is pretty good considering the materials he had to work with back then. The design and form worked flawlessly for two decades, but my coffee habit caused them to get yellow and a little embarrassing over the years.
Flash forward to today and I again had the chance to get a new smile from Dr. Mike. This time the materials are a lot more resistant to stains (I was ecstatic to hear that) as my coffee habit shows no sign of slowing down. There are basically two types of veneers, those that are made by a dental lab (porcelain veneers) and those that are made and shaped on the fly, in your mouth while you are in the chair (composite veneers). My older veneers were made in my mouth about 25 years ago, after my teeth were very lightly prepped. The new veneers are applied to your prepped teeth (my old ones had to be ground off, which was a bit like resurfacing a roadway) using different colors or shades of composite (a tooth colored material used for fillings, veneers and other things) to match the final color I wanted. Natural teeth have many different colors, so its necessary to use different colors of composite so the final tooth looks real and not like a chicklets.
As I mentioned above, the fact that the materials require mixing and forming, requires that the dentist is actually an artist as well as a dentist. He needs to form and sculpt the material into something that looks great and looks like it belongs in your particular facial structure. This is where Mike excels. He did an amazing job with the color of the teeth (he convinced me to not go with the top two whitest shades as I would have had to had out sunglasses each time I smiled) and the shape of the six we were able to do in one sitting (I need to go back for the last outside two) are perfectly proportioned to my mouth and my face.
Mike has been perfecting his craft for a long time and it really shows. You can see some of his work when you watch various news casts in Chicago as he has given many of the news anchors their beautiful smiles. I can’t name names as the is verboten, but if they have a perfect fantastic smile, Mike probably helped them with that.
It was a long 8 hours in the chair, with breaks and some liquid nourishment, but at least I got to sit and get some sleep (yes I did get a few hours in as the Novocain made the procedure very comfortable) while he had to concentrate on my smile and work meticulously for the whole time.
I could not be happier with the results, and others have already noticed the difference. I was down at a customer in Florida last week and when I arrived and shook the clients hand he said “Wow, Dan, your teeth look amazing. He did a great job.” I had warned him that I would be getting some new teeth a few weeks before, so this was probably a premeditated comment, but sincere non the less.
This post may sound like a commercial for his services, but I wanted to express how happy I am with what he did for me. Could you find someone less expensive? Maybe, but you get what you pay for. Could you find someone better at what they do? In my opinion, no way. You can find examples of his excellent work over at www.smilesbymorgan.com. Thanks big bro.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: July 8, 2012
Once again, the fine folks at the Chicago Half Marathon have generously donated an entry for the September 9th, Chicago Half Marathon, which takes place on a beautiful out and back course that is actually run on Lake Shore Drive. Details about the course and facilities etc. can be found here. You can view some of the highlights of the 2010 race here.
The Half Marathon starts at 7am followed by a 5K start at 7:45am. All runners receive the following:
Packet pickup will be at Navy Pier, Exhibit Hall B at 600 N. Grand Avenue. Expo hours are Friday September 7th from noon to 7pm and Saturday September 8th from 9am till 5pm. Admission to the expo is free and open to the general public but you will need to pay for parking. Just plan ahead, get there early and walk around the pier and enjoy what Chicago has to offer. There is NO Race Day Pickup on Sunday the 9th, so if you forget, you will be watching the race from the sidelines. The deadline for race entry is September 2nd.
I am on the road quite a bit and one of my biggest challenges is staying on track with my training while traveling. I often go to locations that are quite a bit higher in altitude than Chicago and need to cut back on miles, or I am in and out of town for a one or two day trip with no time to even put my sneakers on.
To enter our giveaway for a free race entry, just comment on this post and let us know how you stay on track for your training while traveling or on vacation. I will pick the winner at random on Sunday July 29th at midnight, so you have 3 weeks to enter. We will send the winner an email with their free signup code. Please only enter if you are able to attend the race and use the code. You are welcome to comment even if you don’t want to enter, but let us know in the comment to exclude you from the drawing. Good luck and see you at the race.
Note: If you are participating in the Allstate Half tomorrow (June 9th) you are also eligible for the Windy City Challenge which will net you a third special finishers medal if you also complete the Chicago Half on September 9th.
Update: I gave the drawing one more week and will be selecting the winner on August 5th
Congratulations to Matt M. You are the lucky winner of the free race entry. See you at the finish line.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: June 28, 2012
I was traveling again this week and had a chance to try out the Westin Workout while staying and the Westin Imagine in Orlando, right across the street from the convention center. Trying to workout while on the road can always be a challenge, but at process at least helps simplify the solution. During check-in, I mentioned that I would like to participate in the rental of the workout gear. The woman checking me in simply asked what size shoes, shit and shorts I needed (woman can get capri pants or a sports bra as well). We finished check-in, and she stepped away for maybe 3 minutes before returning with a mesh draw string bag that contained all the gear. She explained that I just needed to leave the gear in the bag in my room when I was leaving for checkout (I was staying for only one night) and that I would be charged a small fee of $5 for the rental. The rental also includes a pair of padded shortie New Balance socks that you get to keep, so the total cost is really just a few bucks.
All four items in the bag were clean and fresh smelling and the shoes and socks were brand new. The shoes were in the retail box with the normal crushed paper stuffed in each shoe and the socks still had the not for resale zip tag on them. Also included in the bag was a 10% off coupon for a next purchase on New Balance gear from the New Balance website, and a small postcard explaining the program and the philosophy of the program. You can also request maps of local running trails or paths when you request your gear. I did not this time as I knew my time for a run was short (explained below).
Each item fit very well and the shoes themselves were fresh, shiny New Balance model 759s. The shoes were very light and comfortable to wear. I laced them up and went downstairs for a quick workout. I unfortunately had recent back surgery (external) so I was only able to do a quick run so as to not aggravate the wound. Since I knew I would not get to do a full 1 hour test of the shoes, I had planned to go over to Downtown Disney and walk over to Saratoga Springs for dinner, wearing the shoes as a test.
I spent a good 3 hours in the shoes today and overall was impressed with their weight, comfort and size. They felt a bit less supportive than my Brooks Adrenaline 11’s, but I think I need a 1/2 size smaller next time. I was not a picky during this process as I would normally be if I was buying so I just estimated on the size I normally wear.
Bottom line is this is a great program if you forget your workout gear or if you just want to try some new equipment. The possible downside is the property could be really busy with health conscious gests and could be sold out (rented out) of your size. Since this program is so new, that was not an issue for me. I will be adding this to my list of positives when I am deciding on which property to stay as during my business trips.
What do you do to stay on track for your workouts when you are on the road? Please leave a comment.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: June 27, 2012
I had my first pleasant and humorous TSA pre check experience today. It was pleasant because of the speed and humorous because of the agents and one guy in the premiere line.
I arrived at OHare my normal two hours before the flight and was greeted by a rather long line for 5 pm on a Wednesday . As I approached the security lines, I noticed the TSA pre check sign right next too the premiere access lines at the far south end of the United counters in terminal one. I stepped down the end of the line and the woman in front of me immediately turned around to ask what TSA pre check was. I started to answer her question and was interrupted by the guy in front of her who she had NOT asked. When he finished, I politely added that this line would get her to premiere access as well as TSA pre check. The guy again butted in and added that this was for pre check only. I politely corrected him and referred the young lady to the signs indicating both.
A few minutes later we were up to the scan station that determines if you continue to premiere or get in the pre check line. Here’s where it gets funny…. for me at least. The interrupting guys hands over his boarding pass to the agent and says he is pre check. The agency that scans it and…. Negative sir you are not. ‘ What do you mean I’m not?’ Tirade follows. ‘ I signed up x number of days ago… Blah blah blah.’ He proceeds to hold up the line. Finally he moves and the lady in front of me just tells the agent she is not present check so he does not need to scan. I step up and present mine. I had applied about a month ago and was already Nexus approved so knew I would eventually get it. Agent scans it. Beep, beep, beep. The three magic beeps which means I am in the system and approved. I stepped in to the pre check line and just turned and smiled at the guy who threw a fit.
I got up the the next check point in less than 10 seconds ( there was absolutely no one ahead of me) to the 3 waiting TSA agents. One of them said ‘we have a winner’ and another one actually said ‘finally we have been waiting for someone to come through’. I felt as if I should have been given a stuffed animal or something.
I breezed through the check with my shoes and belt on, my laptop in the bag and my liquids in the bag. As a bonus the agent on the other side of the metal detector was a Purdue fan ( I had my Boiler golf shirt on).
By far my best security experience post 9/11.
Posted by: b1naryb1k3r on: June 14, 2012
Being on the road so much I needed to choose a hotel loyalty program that meets my needs and has properties in most of my destinations. I choose two a few years ago and have attained top level status for both of them. I choose Priority Club because you can find a Holiday Inn or one of their other properties in pretty much any town in the US or Canada, and I choose SPG because I live the rooms, the upgrades and the points I can earn with Sheraton and Westin properties.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Westin has recently started a program called the WestinWorkout whereby guests at a Westin property can ‘rent’ gear from New Balance during their stay. In addition to gear, the hotel will provide running maps for local routes and in-room video workouts to help you stay on your training track when you are away from home.
If you ever wanted to try New Balance shoes (I am a Brooks guy myself), this would be a great way to be able to do so at very little cost. They are offering the 759 as their rental shoe as of this article. For clothing, they offer the NP Short and Tech Tee for men and the Fitness Capri and the Tonic Crop plus CB Tempo Short Sleeve Tee for women. The product types and availability will vary by property so you should check before you arrive at your hotel.
If you don’t like the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes, thoroughly washed or not, you can wear your own, but this is great if you forgot to pack your own stuff and want to stay on your training regiment. I buy lots of my items at the local thrift store so this does not bother me at all.
The email I received says the rental is only $5 for shoes and clothing but does not say if it is $5 each or for the whole package. I will do a little research and find out. You can find more information at westinnewbalance.com.
I have two stay in Florida this month so I will try the rental program and report back.
Update: I called the Westin Imagine in Orlando and she confirmed that it is a flat $5 fee which includes the shoes and the clothing.