The North Pole and My Travel Goals

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Jul 222012

Visiting the North Pole was a trip that I’ve wanted to take since I discovered a few years ago that people could actually go there.  It wasn’t a travel goal that I had for decades and that required multiple trips to achieve like visiting all seven continents.

I currently have two travel goals.  One is to see all the species of penguins and I’m about halfway done with that.  The other is to plunge into all five oceans of the world.  At the North Pole I was able to check off the Arctic Ocean.

The water temperature was -1° Celsius but that’s what makes it a polar plunge!  I loved it!  Unlike when I jumped into the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, the air temperature at the North Pole was a little above freezing.  Downright balmy and comfortable after they give you a shot of vodka when you get out!

I just have the Indian Ocean left.  On the ship I met a wonderful fellow from Perth, Australia, who invited us down to visit.  Perth is on the Indian Ocean…

Ballooning at the North Pole

Ballooning at the North Pole

 Posted by at 10:15 pm

North Pole 1

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Jul 152012

Greetings, friends.  My partner and I just returned from the North Pole!  It was a spectacular trip that can truly be described as a ‘trip of a lifetime’!  Standing on the top of the planet was a thrilling experience.

The trip started in Helsinki, Finland.  We then flew to Murmank, Russia, where we experienced Russian bureaucracy first hand.  It’s all about jobs there.  If four people can do the job of one, then three more people are not unemployed.  It’s no wonder vodka is so popular.

In Murmansk we boarded the nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory which took us directly to the North Pole.  We have a picture of the GPS reading 90° 00.000’.  Because the Arctic ice cap is not anchored to land, it’s constantly flowing on the Arctic Ocean so even though we stopped the ship, our latitude changed after a few minutes.

We had a barbecue at the North Pole and also went on a tethered balloon flight.  I get vertigo so I was pretty nervous but I did it!  We spent almost a full day at the North Pole before heading south.  On the way back we stopped at Franz Josef Land for a day and a half and then headed back to Murmansk.

North Pole Barbecue

North Pole Barbecue

 Posted by at 9:34 pm

Southern Cross 2

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Mar 222012

Because I live in the Northern hemisphere and I grew up listening to the song by Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Southern Cross has always held mystique for me.  For people that are serious astronomers or star-gazers, it’s not that spectacular.  It’s a fairly small constellation in a sky filled with bigger and more glorious stars.

What makes the Southern Cross cool though is that it’s used to find the South Pole!  This is somewhat important if, let’s say, you’re living several hundred years ago and it’s your job to point the captain of the ship in the right direction so you can get to where you need to go before your food (and alcohol) run out.  Nowadays we have GPS.

All you have to do is draw a line from the top of cross, Gamma Crucis the orange one, through Alpha Crucis, the bottom star, and keep going about four times the length of the cross.  Then drop straight down to the horizon.  Violà, the South Pole!  How cool is that?  There are more accurate and complicated ways using other stars and angles and lines but this way is close enough.

Anyone else out there seen the Southern Cross?

 Posted by at 6:45 pm

Southern Cross 1

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Mar 192012

I’ve been doing some research on the Southern Cross for another piece that I’m writing and decided that it’s something pretty cool to talk about.  I recently saw the Southern Cross in Patagonia and I saw it for the first time in Antarctica this November!

Depending on where you are and what season it is, the Cross is either right side up or upside down.  That was a fairly hard concept for me to grasp.  I can get that stars rotate around above my head but the fact that it was truly upside down was shocking.  In Antarctica, I saw it upside down.

To find the Southern Cross, first you have to locate the pointer stars, Alpha and Beta Centauri.  These two are very bright and easy to find much as Venus and Polaris are pretty easy to see in the northern sky.  If you draw a line starting from Alpha Centauri through Beta Centauri and keep going to the right, you’ll hit the top star of the Southern Cross.

The Cross consists of four stars, Alpha Crucis, on the bottom, Beta Crucis (or Mimosa), on the left closest to the pointer stars, Delta Crucis, on the right, and Gamma Crucis, at the top, which , unlike the other three, has an orange tint.

Southern Cross

The Southern Cross from

 Posted by at 3:23 pm

Travel Goals Part 2

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Dec 222011

Southern Rockhopper Penguin

Southern Rockhopper Penguin


My other travel goal was inspired by my first trip to Antarctica and reinforced by this one.  I want to see all the different species of penguins.  There are currently seventeen (or eighteen/nineteen depending on the classification of Rockhoppers). I’m splitting Rockhoppers into two species.  Some scientists also add a Western and Eastern Rockhopper.  That’s too complicated for me.

List of Penguin Species: Adélie Penguin, African Penguin, Chinstrap Penguin, Emperor Penguin, Erect-Crested Penguin, Fiordland Penguin, Galapagos Penguin, Gentoo Penguin, Humboldt Penguin, King Penguin, Little (or Blue) Penguin, Macaroni Penguin, Magellanic Penguin, Northern Rockhopper Penguin, Southern Rockhopper Penguin, Royal Penguin, Snares Penguin, and Yellow-eyed Penguin.

King Penguins, Gold Harbor, South Georgia Island

King Penguins, Gold Harbor, South Georgia Island

The penguins I’ve seen and have photographs of are in italics.  I technically did see Northern Rockhoppers but we couldn’t close enough because of rough seas to get a decent picture.  So far my favorites are Adélies, Rockhoppers, and Chinstraps!

Chinstrap Penguin, Elephant Island

Chinstrap Penguin, Elephant Island

 Posted by at 5:38 pm

Travel Goals Part 1

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Dec 182011

After visiting Antarctica last December, I met my first travel goal of setting foot on every continent.  I live in North America and have traveled to Italy (Europe), Ecuador and Chile(South America), Mongolia and South Korea (Asia), New Zealand and Sydney (Oceania), and Egypt (Africa).  I love to travel and therefore needed a new travel goal!

I have two new ones.  My first one is to plunge into all the oceans of the world!  While this sounds difficult, it’s not because there are only five oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Southern, and Indian.  I’ve seen the number of seas listed as any number between 85 and 115.  Wow, that one is much more daunting.  I’m sticking with oceans.  Three down (Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern), two to go!  Next post, I’ll talk about travel goal #2.

Gypsy Cove

Trip Pic: Gypsy Cove on the Falkland Islands


 Posted by at 3:25 pm

Back in Wisconsin!

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Dec 042011

Greetings everyone!  The Packers are still undefeated and we are back in Wisconsin.  Partner and I went to Antarctica again although it was a different trip than last year.  This year we started in Ushuaia, Argentina, visited the Falkland Islands, then South Georgia Island, and finished up with the Antarctic Peninsula.  The next few entries will have some pics from the trip as well as other stuff.

This is pic is from Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina.  The land is named Land of Fire because the Spanish explorers found a stark beautiful countryside where the people (Yamana) were always naked and had many fires.  The temperature in summer ranges from 32 to 50o F!  Naked with a fireplace sounds like a good way to live!

 Posted by at 9:16 pm

Mount Vail, Aspen, and Leadville

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Jul 182011

After enjoying the fireworks in Vail, partner and I hiked the Bighorn Creek Trail in White River National Forest the following day.  The altitude reaches a mild 10,800 ft. and the trail is rated moderately difficult.  We got an early start (7 a.m. is about as early as I can manage when on vacay!) and enjoyed the hike.  Along the way we saw numerous mountain streams, wildflowers and birds, and, on the way back, several winded hikers, who were starting out much too late.

The next few days were spent touring the surrounding area. We visited Leadville, which is touted as the “last truly untouched mining town of the 1880s boom period.”  The area is rich in ore containing zinc, silver, gold, magnesium, lead, and copper. It was very reminiscent of an old west town

 and we stopped for drinks at the Silver Dollar Saloon.

We also drove to Aspen and enjoyed a trip via gondola to the summit.

On our way back, we stopped at the Continental Divide on Route 82.  Again, more spectacular views of the Rockies!

While I am usually very productive while on vacation, I was only able to edit five chapters of my latest book, Playing For Keeps.  I am, however, completely recharged and ready to write!


 Posted by at 11:22 pm

Fourth on the Eagle River

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Jul 152011

After visiting Denver, my partner and I drove to Vail where we spent a week.  To celebrate the 4th, we went whitewater rafting on the Eagle River.  The river was running a class III-IV.  Class III means that there are numerous, high, irregular waves, a lot of rocks and eddies, and rapids with passages that are clear but narrow and requiring expertise in maneuvering.

We did the lower Eagle River on the 4th and the middle Eagle River on the 6th.  I’m in the middle on the far side of this picture.  There was a mom and her kids in the same raft with us.

The night of the 4th, we ate at Alpenrose Restaurant. I had the Zürcher Geschnetzeltes with spätzle. Yum!  We then caught the fireworks on Golden Peak.  We were so close that, looking up, it looked like they were falling on us.  A piece of a firework wrapper did fall on me.  My mom says that means good luck!

 Posted by at 11:01 am


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Jul 102011

My partner and I usually go to Door County, Wisconsin for the 4th of July. This year we opted for Denver and a small family reunion to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. As a small child, she would vacation in the Dolomites and seeing the Rockies was always a dream for her.

We arrived the night of June 30 and, much as I truly believe Chicago O’Hare airport is the worst on the planet, Denver International competes well for the title.

We spent a full day in Denver and visited the Denver Zoo. It was fantastic and the Okapi were our favorite exhibit.

We had dinner at the Wynkoop Brewing Company which is a brewpub just like those found in Wisconsin! We also caught a ballgame at Coors Field Stadium. The Colorado Rockies creamed the Kansas City Royals. They had spectacular fireworks and it was an awesome evening. Too bad the Brewers couldn’t win as well.

 Posted by at 7:55 pm