Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chicago's Navy Pier

When we visited Chicago last summer on my 50 state quest, we borrowed an apartment from a friend. (Thanks Larry!) We had  perfect weather while we were there so I thought that a boat ride on Lake Michigan would be fun. So we took the el , got off at a bus stop and got on a very crowded bus. Which dropped us right  in front of Navy Pier. 

Navy Pier is a Chicago landmark. A pier located on Lake Michigan, it is Chicago's number one tourist attraction. It started as a pier for incoming ships which segued into a naval training center in the Second World War. Then it became a part of The University of Illinois. It's always been a popular gathering spot though and today it's home to the Chicago Children's Theater, stages, a ferris wheel, an Imax theater and various restaurants and bars. It's also where you can pick up  boat rides on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

The day we were there was a total madhouse! There were families wearing family reunion t-shirts, groups of kids and teens on school trips, and groups of couples looking to go on boat rides. People everywhere! Looking for somewhere to eat lunch, I thought there was no way we would find a seat at any of the restaurants. But luckily we found a seat at Harry Caray's Tavern and enjoyed lunch outside looking over Lake Michigan.

Luckily again, we were able to get a seat on a boat tour heading out on the Lake. It was an hour ride amongst the sailboats with fantastic skyline views of the Windy City.  They had an pre-recorded lecture of Navy Pier and the Chicago skyline to listen to while enjoying the ride.

The last time I was in Chicago, some 20 something years ago, it was winter so I wasn't able to visit Navy Pier or take a boat ride. Chicago winters are notoriously brutal, especially along the lakefront. So it was quite nice to experience summer weather this time.

We took a walk down to the end of the pier and enjoyed sitting in the Beer Garden for a little bit. Then we headed back to our bus to take us to our home away from home for the rest of the weekend.

How about you? Have you been to Navy Pier? 

Per usual, I am linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections En Route and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner. Go check them out and tell them The Unpaved Road sent ya!

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I loved, loved, loved Hanalei! Duh. Who wouldn't love the town where Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the
sea? But seriously. Hanalei is the cutest little laid-back, surfer town on the northeast coast of the island of Kaui in Hawaii.

We were staying at The Kaui Marriott Resort in Lihue  just after New Years and decided to drive up the coast to Hanalei and the north shore beaches. We drove north all the way until there was no more road to drive on.(Hawaii Route 560 or the Kuhio Highway) It dead ends into the parking lot for the famous Kalalau Trail, an 11 mile trail that leads from Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Beach along the Na Pali Coast. (Made famous by the creepy movie A Perfect Getaway with Steve Zahn. Have you seen it?)

We backtracked from there stopping at a few of the beaches - and let me tell you, they were some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen!

Funny story about the above beach. We were the only people there besides a group of five people of different genders, race and age. All five were dressed very nicely and were running around laughing and jumping in the waves in their clothes. I would love to know the back story on that!

It was time for lunch so we drove through Hanalei - it's really small - and found a cute outdoor place to eat lunch, Kalypso Island Bar and Grill. Walked through town and did a little window shopping. I'm pretty sure I could pack up and move there in a heartbeat!

On the way back to Lihue we stopped at the impressive Princeville Resort. We got a drink at the pool bar and sat overlooking the beach. I'm told they have a sunset ceremony every evening which I didn't know about so we didn't stay. Next time!

Tips on visiting Hanalei and the North Shore of Kauai -

-Parking is limited. We were there on a weekday morning in January and there was no place to park at the beaches. It may take awhile to find a spot to park.
- Hanalei is small with limited number of restaurants. You might want to think about packing a picnic to take to the beach.
- Beaches are public with lifeguards but be careful to stay off of private property of houses along the beach.
-Princeville Resort has valet parking but there is also self-park. You can visit the resort and eat or drink at the bars and restaurants there.
-There is a pull-off with a good view on the left just before you get to the Princeville Resort.
-If you don't want to drive all the way to the end of the road, there is a public beach park and pier located on the bay in Hanalei
-Have fun and enjoy all the South Pacificy (just made that word up) beaches!

I'm linking up for  Travel Photo Thursday with Budget Travelers Sandbox,Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels  so please go give them a look see!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Florida Ironman Triathalon

An Ironman Triathalon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2 mile run.
Florida Ironman, traditionally held the first weekend of November in Panama City Beach, Florida, is one of the first races for triatheletes to qualify for the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island of Hawaii. If an athelete qualifies, then they have all the way until the next October to train for the World Championships. Some 2,600 competitors participated in Florida Ironman 2014 and 2015 is already sold out.


We had arrived in Panama City Beach the day before and enjoyed some beachtime and a golden sunset. The day of the race we woke while it was still dark and made our way down the road to the beach where the swim was to occur. At 45 degrees, it was a brisk day for Florida in November. Lots and lots of people speaking so many different languages, we were all piling on to the beach when it was announced that the swim would be cancelled due to high winds and riptides. So the bike start would be done in waves. We parked ourselves along the bike course and waited for our triathalete that we had come to cheer on - we'll call him Steve - to start the bike portion of the race.

After a little waiting, we saw him ride by and tried to give him some encouragement at the start of his race.

And he's off!

I left it up to Mr. UR, who competes in sprint  triathalons, to figure out where and when we would be seeing Steve along the route. After a little waiting, we headed to our car to see him once again along the bike route.

Steve raced for the NF Children's Tumor Foundation

Fraternity brothers

Our next spot to see Steve would be in front of Pier Park and there just happened to be a Margaritaville right there on the route. So a little afternoon snack and some bike watching was in order.

Now it was time to transition to the run. I'm told that the run course is nice and flat. And we tracked Steve throughtout the night on his run.

It became too dark for pictures but Steve did indeed finish the race. He is now a two-time Ironman and is registered to race again next year.

This was the first time I had ever watched an Ironman Triathalon. There were small racers, large racers, old  (including an 84 year old racer who qualified for Kona) racers and young racers. All shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. And all were incredibly inspiring. As the night wore on and got colder, some were walking and some were bent over in pain. Amazingly, they all kept going. Almost all would say Thanks for the encouragement or at least nod, if they could, when we cheered them on. Makes me almost want to compete in a race. Almost. But let's not get too carried away!

If you are interested in watching an Ironman or even competing in one, the official website is Try to go see one. It's truly a lesson in the human spirit.

I'm linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner. Please visit them for some travel inspiration!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Panama City Beach's what Spring Break dreams are made of. Sugar sand beaches. Luke Bryan concerts. Any kind of tropical drink you would like. And thousands of college students descend upon Panama City Beach ( or South Padre Island. Or Palm Springs. Or Fort Lauderdale) every year to have the time of their lives. But since we are of the over 50 age group we didn't need to worry about a fake id. And we were visiting in the off-off season of the beginning of November to watch a friend compete in the Florida Ironman Triathalon.

My older brother graduated from Florida State University so I had been to the Florida Panhandle once before but only to Tallahassee. So we started the long trek there and arrived after dark. Couldn't see any of those gorgeous white beaches until morning. And this is what we woke up to. Sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico.

Our friend who was competing in the Triathalon had rented a one-bedroom condo with bunk bed alcove so we were fortunately able to stay with him for the weekend. It was very chilly for the first weekend of November but we still took a walk on the beach first thing in the morning. Baby powder fine beaches. Very few people. If you don't like crowds, this is the time to visit these Florida beaches.

Our condo was right next to Wet Willy's on the beach so we decided that would be a good place for lunch. We met up with another friend from college who lives in the area and had a little jambalaya and some burgers.

We found out where everyone else was after lunch. At the Race Expo!

After visitng the expo, it was time for some beach and pool sitting. Even though it was too cool for swimming, it still felt delightful to feel the sun as we relaxed for the afternoon. (How about the color of that water?)

We enjoyed an incredible PCB sunset. Maybe one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. But then it was off to bed early as the next day would come around quickly to head out to the race.

To be continued....

I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute  and Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels. Go visit them for some travel inspiration!