Vegas Baby!

IMG_20160729_111821Yah, I know it’s been 8 months since the last post on this blog. On top of that, this post is about two months old. Sorry! This post is a catch-up/photo post from a short Vegas vacation we took back in July. Jess and I went with a couple of friends, Ken and Nicki, for a long weekend in Las Vegas. We saw several shows, including 2 Cirque Du Soleil (Ka and Beatles Love), and the Penn and Teller show. We ate really well. Jess and I had the best (and probably most expensive) meal of our lives at Tom Colicchio’s Craft Steak. All in all, it was a good trip. Check out photos in the album.

B1G Championship Game

IMG_20151205_155743We recently took a quick road trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game. The Hawkeyes were 12-0 for the first time ever, so we figured we needed to see their tournament game in person. It was a low-scoring slug-fest, but unfortunately, we didn’t end up on top. Both teams were very evenly matched and it came down to the last team to have the ball. On the plus site, the crowd was almost 3-1 Hawkeyes. Indy was painted black and gold for the day. We took a number of photos in the gallery.

Off to Brazil

I just returned from a recruiting trip to Brazil. Our normal international admission counselors had some other trips scheduled, so I was asked to take a trip to Brazil to try and get some students to go to the University of Iowa. The trip was a planned tour that took us all across the country. They had transportation, lodging and all of the school visits set up.

I flew to São Paulo on September on September 4th and had a bit of time before the tour started. São Paulo is the largest city in South America, so we had plenty to see while waiting for the other members of the tour to arrive. Our hotel was close to the main shopping area so we were able to walk around and check out the city. There was a big independence day celebration while we were there so there were a few parades and markets set up for that event. After getting used to the country, our orientation was held at a Fogo de Chão Brazilian steakhouse. The Brazilians love their meat! The keep bringing you cuts of amazing steak until you tell them to quit. I ate my weight in cow that night, and was prepared to start the tour the next morning.

The rest of the tour involved a lot of bus time and a lot of school time. Our days would consist of leaving the hotel early in the morning and heading to 3-4 high schools to give our presentation and then hold a college fair. Our group was made up of 15 different schools from around the U.S., and was a nice mix of sizes, types and locations. The first few days we stayed around São Paulo and then to Campinas to the north. After a few days of fairs in those cities, we drove back to São Paulo to fly to our next city. When we arrived at the airport, we learned that all flights were canceled because of some issue with the lights on the runway. 11108853_10206187912191617_1595653008095293934_nBrazilian national TV was at the airport and interviewed me about it (I’m a star in Brazil!). I think they wanted an American perspective about how messed up Brazil was, but we had just gotten a new flight and they’d opened up the airport again, so I didn’t give them what they wanted. We were off to Rio!

In Rio, it was much of the same. Bus to school, to bus to school, to bus to school. We did get a little free time in Rio though. I went on a helicopter tour of Rio with a couple of other school reps, and then tool the Sugarloaf cable car up the mountain (the one “Jaws” climbs after James Bond in Moonraker). After some time in Rio (there was a really cool school with a great view of the city), we jumped on another plane to go to Porto Alegre.

Once again, we made a bunch of school visits, but had a bit of free time one evening so we went to another Brazilian steakhouse with a Bolero show… so lots of meat with some entertainment this time. We also explored what looked like a state fair that was across the street from the restaurant. Our local guide told us 11261632_10206217786938467_939843498391098706_nPorto Alegre is like the Texas of Brazil and they were celebrating a war that was won. There were a number of booths and vendors, and we got to taste a bit of local Brazilian culture. I think if I were to move to Brazil (not likely), I’d like to live in Porto Alegre.

From Porto Alegre, we flew to Brasilia, which was an odd city. If you look at it from above, it’s shaped like a big airplane, and seems very manufactured. There are districts for everything. There’s a hotel district (where we stayed), and a Pharmacy district, and the entire city is very cut up in interesting ways. We didn’t have a whole lot of time there, but found a gas station across the street from our hotel that served some of the best chicken Shawarma I’ve ever had. It was odd, to sit in the parking lot of a gas station and have a drink and eat. It was a very popular spot for the locals. After a couple of days in Brasilia, I hopped on a plane and headed for home.

It took a bit longer than I’d hoped to get home. Brazil to Miami was fine, Miami to Chicago was fine, but I got caught up in the American Airlines computer failure. My flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids was canceled before I hit the ground at O’Hare, so I found a courtesy phone to get a new flight and was able to get on a United flight way on the other side of the airport… in 20 minutes! I had to book it through 4 terminals and barely made it before the door closed. I made it on the plane, and they had steering issues and delayed, then sent up back to the gate. They finally got us a new plane, but a thunderstorm came through so we had to wait for that. Once that passed, they had some issue with an overhead bin… soooo, 4 hours later, I get on a flight home. When I got there, my luggage did not. Fortunately I was able to get it the next day.

The trip was a good time, but very busy. I’m glad I was able to go, and hopefully I was able to convince a few students to go to Iowa.

Check out photos from the trip in the gallery.

Scandinavian Cruise

IMG_0081We just returned last week from a lovely vacation. We took a Scandinavian cruise. We flew to London on the 23rd and got on the ship (Caribbean Princess) in Southampton later that afternoon.

Our first day was in Belgium. We got into port at Zeebrugge and took a bus to Blankenberge where we got on a train to Brugge. In Brugge we took a brewery tour, looked around the town and had some Belgium waffles (life-changin), and chocolate before catching the train back to the ship.

The second day was a day at sea where we relaxed and hung out on the boat perfecting our Gin Rummy games.

The third day we were in Copenhagen, Denmark where we started with a walking tour of the city, and then found ourselves on a canal tour before we grabbed some dinner, visited the Little Mermaid statue, and walked 5 miles back to the ship (in hindsight, we should have taken the shuttle).

The fourth day we were supposed to go to Sweden, but the weather prevented that, sooooo… another day at sea.

The fifth day we landed in Oslo, Norway. We visited a number of museums in Oslo, including a viking museum, the Con Tiki museum, and the Fram museum. We then explored the downtown area, grabbed some lunch and did a bit of shopping before heading back to the ship (it started to rain).

The sixth day was another day at sea.

We arrived back in Southampton on the seventh day and disembarked. We met our transfer driver and made a pit-stop at Windsor castle, where we took the tour. From there we made the rest of the trip to our London hotel. We got in earlier than we had planned so we explored London a bit. We worked our way down to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and House of Parliament. We were down at the Thames River and someone handed us an unused boat tour ticket, so we took a trip down the Thames and saw a number of other London sights before heading back towards our hotel. We made a quick stop at Harrod’s department store to grab some gifts and pastries.

The next day we scheduled a tour of the Tower of London (with Beefeater Steve) and then met up with a friend for lunch before wandering around London for the rest of the day. Considering we were only in London for a day and a half, we saw quite a few sites.

The trip was a lot of fun. A smaller collection of photos are up in the gallery, or all of the trip photos (400+) are up on Google Plus.

Thanksgiving Extravaganza 2014

Another Epic Thanksgiving Extravaganza has come and gone. It was a busy few days again this year with many family members in attendance. With the Iowa/Nebraska football game in Iowa City this year (and and unfortunate outcome), we hosted a very large Thanksgiving gathering again. I believe we had 19 in attendance this time around. It again included a fried turkey in our front yard, and a smoked turkey from Ben’s front yard, and many other sides and desserts. I think everyone had a good time, and had PLENTY to eat.

On Friday, several us braved the cold weather to watch the Iowa-Nebraska game, and an unfortunately loss in overtime. We then came home for some chili to warm us up, and some cake to celebrate National Cake Day (our family’s made-up holiday). Check the plethora of photos (and turkey fry video) below.

¡Bienvenidos a México!

We recently returned from a wonderful trip to the beach in the Riviera Maya area of Mexico. We stayed at an all-inclusive, Gran Bahia Principe Sian Kaan. It was a great escape from the real world for a little while. We mainly sat on the beach and drank Mojitos, but did take a few excursions. One of them included visiting the Mayan ruins of Tulum and retaking our engagment photo.

We also visited some other ruins at Chichen Itza, swam in a cenote, and swam through a cave at Rio Secreto.

You can check out all of the photos from our trip in the photo gallery.