Dan Racan: Blog http://www.danracan.com/blog en-us (C) Dan Racan (Dan Racan) Wed, 29 Feb 2012 15:04:00 GMT Wed, 29 Feb 2012 15:04:00 GMT The Island Explorer 3 - Our whale watching vessel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/island-explorer-3-our-whale-watching

 
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http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/island-explorer-3-our-whale-watching Wed, 20 Jul 2011 22:19:00 GMT
Whale Watching Near San Juan http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/whale-watching-near-san-juan

July 20, 2011- Today we trekked an hour north to Anascortes, WA for a whale watching trip with Island Adventures. It started out SLOW. After 90 minutes we had only seen some harbor porpoise and some seals. I was beginning to think this was just a boat ride. Then, not more than 30 minutes later we were starting to see Orcas. This continued for another 2 hours. We spotted Orcas from the J, K, and L pods (the normal resident pods of the area). There were no iPods. Sorry for the pun. Orcas were breaching the surface, tail slapping (see the picture above) and even a couple doing the spy look (sticking their head out of the water to see what was around). Seeing these incredible creatures in their natural habitat was absolutely amazing. I could handle living here. Absolutely beautiful.

 
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http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/whale-watching-near-san-juan Wed, 20 Jul 2011 22:15:00 GMT
Going to Seattle http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/going-to-seattle

July 19, 2011 - what was supposed to be a 4 hour flight almost turned into a nightmare. I boarded the plane in Chicago at 3:10 and we didn't take off until 6:00 due to mechanical problems. Fortunately we were able to leave and proceed to Denver. While approaching Denver we were forced South due to a bad storm over the airport. Once in the terminal i realized my flight to Seattle was on time. Yeah! But this was also eventually delayed an hour. Boo. Finally arrives at Seattle after midnight. My wife and father-in-law picked me up and we were at the hotel by 1:00am. 11 hours from chicago to seattle. At least my 4 hour layover in Denver was reduced to 2.

 
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http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/going-to-seattle Wed, 20 Jul 2011 21:48:00 GMT
Lake Michigan Circle Tour http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/lake-michigan-circle-tour

June 19 - 25, 2011 - I had joked about wanting to drive around Lake Michigan because "it seemed like a fun thing to do." One day Tanya had decided she wanted to travel somewhere and started making reservations based on my idea. It would just be the two of us this trip and we would be camping. Tanya's dad would be watching our dog Merlot for us which made us and Merlot happy. He is her favorite person after all. 


Our trip would have us camping for two nights in each of three Michigan State Parks, J W Wells State Park in Cedar River, Straits State Park in St. Ignace and Holland State Park in Holland. We were going to stay one night in Sheboygen, WI but they required a two night stay. Also, since we have been to Door County, WI the past three years we figured we could skip this part. about halfway through Wisconsin it started raining. We didn't know it at the time but this would be a recurring theme for the trip.


Nights 1 & 2 - J W Wells State Park, Cedar River, MI (Upper Peninsula)
The rain had subsided a bit when we arrived at the park. It allowed us to set up the tent with minimal water getting in before the rain fly was put on. Our campsite was on the shore of Green Bay (body of water, not the town).


Not a lot to do in the area except enjoy the scenery. We had dinner at the Lighthouse Pub a mile from the park entrance. We had a great pub burger and some pan fried whitefish. Both were very good. Then back to camp for a fire and then sleep. 




A stream running past our campsite. Green Bay in the background.
 
The next day we explored the U.P. We started with breakfast at The Swedish Pantry in Escanaba. Had some delicious swedish pancakes served with lingonberries, warm syrup, and melted butter.
After breakfast we toured the Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba and then headed to the Iron Mountain Mine in Vulcan, MI.
 
 
Heading into the Iron Mountain Mine.

 
After the mine tour we stopped at the Pasty Oven for lunch which we I enjoyed at a roadside rest area next to Fumee Falls in Quinnesec, MI.
 


Fumee Falls in Quinnessec, MI
 
The next morning we woke well rested and packed up the tent. As we finished loading the car the rain started again. This day would be a travel day to St. Ignace. We would make a stop at Mackinaw Trail Winery in Manistique. After a few tastes we were back on our way.
 
Nights 3 & 4 - Straits State Park, St. Ignace, MI (Upper Peninsula)
 

When we arrived at our campsite it was looking like rain. We wasted no time setting up the tent. Within minutes of finishing here came the rain. A deluge! Lucky for us we have an eight person two person tent. We pulled the chairs and cooler inside and enjoyed lunch with a view of the Mackinac Bridge (sort of).




Waiting out the storm.

The Mackinac Straits Bridge
 
The next day we took the ferry to Mackinac Island. Yes, it was still raining and cold. We worked our way up to the Grand Hotel for their Afternoon Tea. It was a wonderful. The one benefit of the weather was the smaller crowds on the island. This was probably why we were able to get two seats with a great view of the foggy bay.
 
The Grand Hotel
 

Enjoying Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel

The next morning it was off to our third stop of the trip.
 
Nights 5 & 6 - Holland State Park, Holland, MI
 
 
Holland State Park was our least favorite of the three parks we camped. The sites were smaller and it was definitely more crowded. We were, after all, closer to civilization. 
 
We spent Thursday evening roaming downtown Holland. They had a few blocks of downtown closed to traffic and had street performers everywhere. It was really enjoyable. After strolling around and checking them all out we stopped in to the New Holland Brewing Company for some dinner (and beer!!!). 
 
The next day we explored Windmill Island Gardens and then Nelis Dutch Village
 
 deZwaan Windmill at Windmill Island Gardens


Holland Harbor Entrance
 
After packing up for the last time we were headed toward home. We did have a few more stops to make. We had lunch reservations at Tabor Hill Winery in Buchanan, MI. On our way there we did stop at Karma Vista Winery in Coloma and after Tabor Hill we visited the Round Barn Winery and BreweryWe did have one more stop before home when we visited our neighbors at their summer home on Crooked Lake.
 
It was only fitting that as we neared our house it started raining again. A great trip but also, as always, great to be home.
 
More pictures can be found here: Lake Michigan Circle Tour photos
 
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Michigan Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/7/lake-michigan-circle-tour Tue, 12 Jul 2011 20:10:00 GMT
Is this thing on? (or a summary of the last 12 months) http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/6/is-this-thing-on-or-summary-of-last-12 June 2011 - If I don't keep this going as I do things I'll fall behind. It is now just about 12 months since my last entry. I guess that calls for a 12 month summary in one post so here goes.

Door County - October 2010

 


Infra-Red photo of Fish Creek as seen from Weborg Point Campground
 
October found Tanya and I in Door County for the third consecutive year. This time we were able to secure a campsite at the Weborg Point Campground at Peninsula State Park. This is THE campground to stay at in the park. It is the smallest with the best views. The trip up north this time had us taking a detour to get a new battery for the Rav 4 after it failed to start after our stop at Door Peninsula Winery. After this it was a fantastic weekend.
 

Goats on the roof at Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, WI
 

After our third time here we finally made it to Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay for breakfast. I loved the swedish pancakes. The wait was long for a table so we decided to grab to open seats at the breakfast counter. The food was excellent. After breakfast we took the ferry over to Washington Island for the afternoon.
 

Mammoth Cave - November 2010
 
Dave, Wrigley, Billy Jo, Merlot, Dan and Tanya at Mammoth Cave NP
 
Thanksgiving weekend we headed to Mammoth Cave National Park. We promised our nephew Nicholas when he turned 16 we'd take him on the Wild Cave tour. I also persuaded my friend Dave to go along (it didn't take much). Tanya and Billy Jo and our dogs Wrigley and Merlot came along for the ride (but not the tour).
 
Las Vegas - December 2010
 
 
The Hoover Dam as seen from the O'Calaghan - Tillman Memorial Bridge
 
Between Christmas and New Years we spent five days in Las Vegas. We stayed at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street. Our activities this time included The Lion King at Mandalay Bay, the Hoover Dam, Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery, lunch at Emeril's Table 10 restaurant at Palazzo and  also lunch at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Caesars Palace.
 
Columbus, Ohio - April 2011
 
 
Tanya at Nationwide Arena for the Blackhawks game.
 
Tanya surprised me for my birthday by taking me to a Blackhawks game in Columbus, Ohio. We got a late start because of work but we were able to meet our friend Mike for a couple quick beverages before closing time at the Red Door Tavern. The next day was game day. We had pre-game snacks at Barrio Tapas near the Nationwide Arena. The game was a success, the Blackhawks won 4-3 on a shootout. The next day we went to the Columbus Zoo and then had a great dinner at Barcelona in Germantown. And by the way, Skyline Chili still sucks.
 
Spring MVOR Cave Weekend - April 2011
 
Here I am climbing to check out a new passage in Tunnel Cave in Missouri
 
The end of April I spent a weekend in Pulaski County Missouri at an annual spring caving fest. Caving is something I don't get to do often enough so I jumped at the opportunity of this event happening when I had an open weekend. I was able to explore three caves (Campground, Spring and Tunnel caves) and meet many great cavers. Check out the National Speleological Society for info on caving.
 
Warrior Dash - June 18, 2011
 
Me, Vince, Chris, Dave, Mike after the 2011 Midwest Warrior Dash
 
The Warrior Dash was probably not the brightest choice I made this past 12 months. It is a 3.28 mile course with ten obstacles on it (climbing walls, tires to run through, fire to jump over, and mud pits to swim through under barbed wire). I finished in 55:46.30 (at least it was under an hour). To say I was out of shape was an understatement. I'd rather ride my bike. I give credit to anyone who gets enjoyment/satisfaction from running. Out of all the Saturday "Warriors" I finished 6666 overall. Before the race my friend Dave thought it funny that his bib number was 45666 figuring it was an omen of things to come. The best part of the day was having a few beers after the event. 
 
This now gets me caught up to begin posting our Lake Michigan Circle Tour trip. Hopefully this trip will be posted soon.
 
Dan
 
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Miscellaneous Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2011/6/is-this-thing-on-or-summary-of-last-12 Sun, 26 Jun 2011 19:34:00 GMT
New Orleans 2010 http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/7/new-orleans-2010
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
June 21, 2010 - This was the third year in a row I've been to NOLA and it doesn't seem to be getting old. Each year I arrived by a different means of transportation. The first year was by plane, the second by train, and you guessed it, the third year by automobile.Also, this was the second year we were celebrating a birthday. Last year was Mandy's and this year was Steph's 21st.

We hit some of the usual spots to help Steph celebrate including dinner at Pat O'Brien's which included the famous Hurricane. Then it was off to Bourbon Street as any first time visitor to NOLA must see. The night for some of us ended at Cafe Du Monde for some beignets and coffee. This was also the site of the powdered sugar incident of 2010 (Thank You Honey!).
 
One thing we have found when traveling is to try and find the establishments where the locals hang out. One of these is a corner water hole called Harry's Corner. We seemed to end up there every night. A nice quiet atmosphere without the typical idiots on Bourbon Street.
 
Harry's Corner Bar

Of course it wouldn't be a trip to NOLA without at least one stop at Johnny's Po-Boys. If you're ever there start with the fried shrimp po-boy. You won't be disappointed.
 
Dan
 
 
 
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New Orleans Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/7/new-orleans-2010 Wed, 07 Jul 2010 20:13:00 GMT
The Road To New Orleans - Beale Street http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/6/road-to-new-orleans-beale-street  

June 16th, 2010 - A brief update to complete today's post. After a brief rest we headed down to Beale Street. I would describe it as a two block long New Orleans French Quarter without all the idiots. Just a block away is the FedEx Forum where the Memphis NBA team plays. All I can think of is how great that would be in Chicago if we had a Beale Street type area next to the United Center. Oh wait, we do. Except it's called Wrigleyville and it's next to Wrigley Field. Time for bed. Got Waffle House in the morning and 5 hours to New Orleans.

Dan

 
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Memphis http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/6/road-to-new-orleans-beale-street Wed, 16 Jun 2010 18:59:00 GMT
The Road To New Orleans 2010 - Memphis BBQ http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/6/road-to-new-orleans-2010-memphis-bbq

June 16th, 2010 - Driving down to New Orleans with my brother to help a friend's daughter and family celebrate her 21st birthday. We decide the spend the night in Memphis to break up the long drive down. After driving 8 hours and 15 minutes we arrived at our hotel. We unloaded and headed out to grab either a late lunch or early dinner. We decided to go to Leonard's Pit Barbecue which was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (and was also only a mile from our hotel).
 


I ordered the Ribs and BBQ dinner. This included BBQ ribs, BBQ pork shoulder, beans, slaw and rolls. The rolls were so good you didn't need butter. But who am I crappin'. I added butter. The beans had pulled pork mixed in them. The slaw was good as well. But of course the star of the meal was the BBQ and it did not disappoint. I washed this down with some sweet tea and I was in heaven.
 

 

Also, my brother and I split a BBQ Bologna sandwich. It intrigued me and am I glad it did. I'd recommend it to anyone. Although my wife would probably equate it to me and my enjoyment of SPAM.

That's all for now. Heading to check out what Beale Street is all about.

Dan

 
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Memphis http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/6/road-to-new-orleans-2010-memphis-bbq Wed, 16 Jun 2010 15:20:00 GMT
Our Kayaking Adventure in Morris http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/5/our-kayaking-adventure-in-morris
Marc (L), Dan (C), Dave (R)

May 8th, 2010 - The idea of kayaking came about from the day my friend Dave and I went skydiving in April 2009. We finally put our ducks in a row and made it happen. Dave and I along with our friend Marc arrived at Kayak Morris and proceeded on our kayak adventure a little past 11am. Up until this point the trip seemed like a horrible idea. The weather was around 50, overcast and very windy. But once we launched all was good. The water was warm which seemed to make it warmer in the kayak.

Being the first time I've kayaked I didn't know what to expect regarding the stability of the kayaks. I thought for sure I'd flip it, especially after I got it in the water. After a few minutes all was good. We proceeded NE up the Illinois River on our journey that would take us over 9 miles, a little over 4 hours.


Our journey for the day.

We did also tour the Mazon river, which required a crossing of the Illinois River. The Mazon is a lot narrower than the Illinois River and more scenic.


Blue Heron Rookery

We came across a natural Blue Heron rookery. I never saw this many on one spot. You could hear the chicks chirping.


T-Bone (Marc)

Marc earned the only nickname of the day based on the above picture (taken by Dave). Marc was kayaking with reckless abandon.


Dave giving his approval on the days activities.


Me taking a break.

After 9.77 miles and more than 4 hours it was time to head home. What started as a bad day in terms of the cold, windy weather before we launched ended with rain when we pulled out of the parking lot and headed home. We managed to fit our trip perfectly into the best weather slot of the day. Now we have to figure out when the next kayak adventure will happen. There's more of the river and its offshoots to explore.

Dan

 
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Kayaking http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/5/our-kayaking-adventure-in-morris Sun, 09 May 2010 16:22:00 GMT
New Year's Eve http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/4/img00048-20091231-2226jpg
December 31, 2009 - New Year's Eve ended up being a long day. We started out with a bus tour from a company called Over The Top. We were supposed to go over the top of the Wicklow mountains which from Tanya and my last trip I can tell you is beautiful. But Laura and Don hadn't seen it so we thought it would be a good idea for them. It ended up being a bus trip from hell. We never made it to the mountains because our van driver thought it would be too dangerous that day because of some snow and ice that recently fell. We instead ended up going to some other small town with some historical past which wasn't that exciting. Oh yeah, he also drove us past Enya house and Bono's house. Yippee!
We finally made it back home after a grueling day (I think I slept a good part of it). We rang in the new year at The Ferryman Pub which was at the corner from our hotel. Happy 2010!

 
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Ireland Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2010/4/img00048-20091231-2226jpg Thu, 08 Apr 2010 17:22:00 GMT
Kilmainham Gaol / Traditional Irish Music Night http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/traditional-irish-music-night

December 30, 2009 - It was pouring out so we took a taxi to Kilmainham Gaol for a tour and then to Dublin Castle.

Around the corner from Dublin Castle was a highly recommended chip shop, Leo Burdocks Traditional Fish and Chips. The fish was very good. The order was large enough to share. It was a take away place so we caught a cab and enjoyed it back in our hotel room.

Tanya took a brief nap while Don and I went down for a couple pints of elixir. Once Tanya woke up we decided to head to the Temple Bar area for some traditional Irish music.


Last night we went to the Temple Bar district for some drinks and traditional Irish music. The cab driver gave us so$e good tips on where to go and where to not go. Our first stop was the Temple Bar. This place was packed, and with good reason. They had a 3 piece group that was very good. Guitar, fiddle and accordian. Mostly instrumental.

A great atmosphere and a great pint and like any good Irish Pub a great selection of Whiskey.

Our next stop was The Quays (pronounced Keys).

Here they had a 2 piece group that played a mix of traditional irish along with some comtemporary selections. We were able to get a seat at the bar here. Met a nice guy from Scotland who insisted on buying us a drink. After that drink we decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel. We had planned to go to the Palace Bar (another cabbie recommendation) but sleep was calling us.

 
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Ireland Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/traditional-irish-music-night Thu, 31 Dec 2009 11:23:00 GMT
Shopping Day http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/shopping-day December 29, 2009 - Tuesday ended up being shopping day. I woke up and didn't feel quite right. I think it was a combination of too much Guinness and jet lag.

We went down to Grafton street to shop. I ended up buying a new scarf and a couple sweaters. I will definitely use them here this week.

I called it an early night and am now caught up on sleep.

 
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Ireland Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/shopping-day Wed, 30 Dec 2009 04:22:00 GMT
Laura's Birthday http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/lauras-birthday
December 28, 2009 - Today is my Mother-in-law's birthday. We had a busy day that is still going on. We went to Jameson Distillery and Guinness. At Jameson they pick volunteers from each tour group for a whiskey tasting. Tanya volunteered as one of the tasters and tried Jameson, Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels. The non tasters just got to try Jameson which was very good as most people know.


Our next stop was Guinness. The self guided tour ended in the Gravity Bar where Don (father_in_law) and I each had 2 pints because Laura and Tanya didn't want theirs.

We are now grabbing a bite to eat at Kates Cottage, a pub a short walk from our hotel.

After a brief rest at our hotel Tanya and I took a short walk to Mulligan's Pub on Talbot street to meet up with our friend Claire from back home who happened to be in Dublin with her sister.

Later, Dan.

 
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Ireland Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/lauras-birthday Mon, 28 Dec 2009 09:33:00 GMT
Chip Report From Dublin http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/chip-report-from-dublin
December 27, 2009 - Since I didn't have this blog the last time I was here I figured I would have to post about Bacon Fries. These are without a doubt the best snack we have ever had in the chip category. Plus when had alongside a Guinness it canKt be beat. I think it's time for bed for me and my father-in-law. The girls crashed a couple hours ago. Dan

 
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Ireland Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/chip-report-from-dublin Sun, 27 Dec 2009 16:23:00 GMT
Stopover in Paris http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/stopover-in-paris
December 27, 2009 - We landed at Paris about an hour late due to the snow storm in Chicago and the deicing procedure. We have a few hours to kill so Tanya and I decided to have a drink in France to knock another country off our list of places we had a cocktail.

 
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Ireland Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/stopover-in-paris Sun, 27 Dec 2009 02:09:00 GMT
Leaving the snow behind. Heading for rain. http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/leaving-snow-behind-heading-for-rain
December 26, 2009 - Getting ready to board our flight to Paris and then to Dublin. We'll have 4 hours to explore the airport in Paris. Not quite enough time to take the train into town unfortunately.

 
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Ireland Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/12/leaving-snow-behind-heading-for-rain Sat, 26 Dec 2009 14:44:00 GMT
Back Home http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/back-home June 29, 2009 - We are back home safely from Italy. I'm very tired and will probably have to go to sleep soon. Back to work tomorrow for me.

Sent from my Treo™ Pro on the Now Network™ from Sprint®

 
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Italy Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/back-home Mon, 29 Jun 2009 15:56:00 GMT
Waiting to Depart Rome http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/waiting-to-depart-rome

June 29, 2009 - Tanya and I are at the airport waiting for our departure. Our flight was originally scheduled for 10:20am but is now scheduled for 10:45am. We were dropped off at 7:15 and had our bags checked and passed through security and passport control by 7:30. That leaves us 2 hours and 25 minutes to shop at the airport be for we board at 9:55am. So far this was one of the quickest and easiest airport experiences I've had.


Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

 
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Italy Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/waiting-to-depart-rome Sun, 28 Jun 2009 23:18:00 GMT
Rooftop Bar http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/rooftop-bar

June 28, 2009 - Tanya and I are currently enjoying some wine on a rooftop bar with a view of the Pantheon. A nice end to a glorious trip.


Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

 
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Italy Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/rooftop-bar Sun, 28 Jun 2009 11:34:00 GMT
The Pope http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/pope

June 28, 2009 - Tanya and I just saw the Pope. Here's a picture.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

 
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Italy Travel http://www.danracan.com/blog/2009/6/pope Sun, 28 Jun 2009 03:17:00 GMT