Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Anegada: Cow Wreck and Keel Point

Most of our beach days (everyday was a beach day) were spent on Cow Wreck Bay. It had everything you needed: Adirondack chairs, white sand, clear turquoise water, and a beach bar. It was about a nine minute drive from the hotel on a combination of concrete and sand roads. Along the way we passed a few nice rental cottages perfectly positioned for sunset views into the water.


The first thing that hits you at Cow Wreck is how the white sand, green water, and blue sky merge. It's a perfect stretch of shallow waters with lots of area to explore between the two points. We found a few nice small shells while exploring the shores.

We had lunch at the Cow Wreck Bar 4 times. Our choice lunch: the fish burger. They pan fried fish filets in the most seasoned breading we ever had. We miss them already. Belle, the one-woman show in the front-of-house is a work horse - and treats everyone very well. By our third visit she knew that David was the title on our tab without asking.

The only shade on Cow Wreck is provided by the 17 palm trees that were deliberately planted surrounding the bar.

The Adirondack chairs on the beach were colorful. Some chairs had the names of specialty drinks available at the bar or Bible verses. Dave became obsessed with photographing the chairs.

A few minutes drive east took us to Keel Point. There are a few guest cottages here as well as the Anegada Beach Club. This is a small boutique hotel (about 16 rooms) featuring the island's only swimming pool. This is the luxury lodging on the island, complete with modern furnishings, great tiki bar (not by the beach), and good food. Their happy hour was very nice and we determined this was the best Bushwacker on the island. The hotel is not directly on the beach, but a two minute walk to the top of the dune reveals some spectacular views.

Another plus - real lounge chairs

We had lunch at the Beach Club one day (enjoyable) and then spent some time on their beach. For the first hour we were alone. Then, about a dozen people showed up at once and then left within a half hour. This seemed to be a theme of the week. Lots of folks were on boats or day-tripped in on the ferry so beach-hopping was the rule of the day for them.

Our next Anegada post will cover the attractions at Loblolly Beach.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Back from Anegada, BVI

Holly and Dave just returned from their first trip to Anegada, an island that is part of The British Virgin Islands. The main reason this is their first visit is the fact that Anegada is a hard to get to. It is the farthest island from Tortola (about 18 miles) in the chain and one of the least populated - between 200-300 residents.

Not to scale

Our trip started by flying from Chicago to St. Thomas USVI, then we took an hour ferry ride to Road Town, Tortola BVI. The next ferry to Anegada was leaving the following morning so we overnighted in Road Town. Our 8am ferry was a 90 minute ride with a fast stop in Virgin Gorda.

Anegada is a coral atoll, whereas the other Virgin Islands are volcanically formed. That means Anegada is flat. You can see the other islands from Anegada, but not the other way around. This is not a lush island.

There were a few things we had to get used to:

  • Free-roaming cows. We've seen goats and chickens in other places, but not cows - and not this many.
  • Free-roaming donkeys.
  • Driving on the left: We had a rental car (big SUV). Dave only screwed up once. Some of the roads were concrete, but we encountered many sand/dirt roads.
  • No St. John cell tower to use for mobile access like we had on Jost Van Dyke other years. This meant wifi only - and when we had wifi it was not so good.
  • There were pine trees. The only palm trees around were planted for impression in the tourist areas.
  • Lobster is a big thing here and the price seems to be fixed at every restaurant.
  • You needed to book dinner by 4pm each day and provide your dining options by that time.
  • You get in cars with strangers - twice. We were to meet Dean at the ferry dock to pickup our rental car. Once there a man looked at us and asked if he could help. We asked if he was Dean and he said yes and took us to our rental car and told him to follow him. About a mile later we ended up at the hotel and basically told us we were the wrong people. Our Dean had called him. The right Dean picked us up and drove us to his home office and had us fill out the paperwork, then sent us back in the same car. When we were done with the car we left it at the airport unlocked with the keys in it.

Anegada has some of the prettiest beaches you can find anywhere - and hardly anyone is on them. We could always find areas away from the few annoying folks surrounding us by moving over a few feet. There are also flamingos and iguanas on the island. We didn't see any iguanas and only saw the flamingos from real far away. Snorkeling was supposed to be good and easy from a few beaches, but we never bothered. Fishing is another populate activity, especially bone fishing.

Most of the tourist activities center around the ferry dock at Setting Point and the north side beaches of Cow Wreck and Loblobby. There are a few (4) small stores at Setting Point, along with a gas station (one pump), 2 bars, a small hotel/restaurant, and a scooter rental place. Walk for five minutes up the beach and you will find 2 more restaurants and one small hotel/restaurant. On the north side beaches you have another small hotel (with a pool and awesome wifi), and 3 other beach bars. Rental cottages line the beach clockwise from Setting Point to Loblobby.

We stayed at Neptune's Treasure on the south side of the island between Pomato Point and Setting Point. Great small hotel with 9 rooms and two cottages. You can get 3 meals a day at the restaurant and this was the place on the island for Happy Hour. The bar was always filled with locals, day trippers, and sailors. Neptune's is also home to a bakery, with some of the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

Our daily schedule was pretty simple: Drive to a beach, enjoy the water, eat lunch, back to the beach, drive to the hotel, enjoy sunset, eat dinner, have a nightcap, bed. We ate 6 of 7 dinners at Neptune's. All the menus around the island were basically the same and Neptune's had a very pretty setup right along the beach's edge.

Those are the basics. In the next post or two we'll have lots of beach photos and some more info about the places we visited.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beers from Around the World: 2014

In our house we celebrate the start of the Olympic Games with a tradition we've kept for over 14 years. That tradition is "Beers from Around the World".

On the night of the Opening Ceremonies we'll order out some food and have beers from different countries (as the name implies). We buy a variety and share each bottle.

Rules: Sample the U.S. beer when the U.S. Team comes out and be sure we have a beer from the host country.

Here are some pictures we were able to find from prior years:

A few years ago friends asked us to video tape this experience. We've continued this tradition in 2014 with a twist..... We were leaving on vacation the day after the Opening Ceremony aired, thus staying overnight by the airport. Since we were having dinner and drinks out beforehand we had to kinda cut corners on the number of beers and our singing. The audio is rough for the first segment or two because we did not realize the USB port on the GoPro was broken so the mic was not connected properly. Take it for what it is.....


Thursday, February 13, 2014

The End of Team AllEars and the Start of Something New

Since its beginning, Holly and Dave have been involved with Team AllEars. Holly joined the team back in 2009 when it was formed as a way to help raise money for Avon's breast cancer charities while she participated in the 2010 Walt disney World Marathon Weekend events. Dave helped along the way with audio, video, and photo support before joining the team officially for the 2012 race weekend. Holly and Dave formed their sub-team, "Team Tizzel", and created to help spread the word and raise money for Avon's Breast Cancer Foundation while providing its readers with some entertainment along the way (we hope). We also created and our marathon spectating guide to add to our cause.

Team AllEars had a fantastic run and has made a difference for those fighting breast cancer:

  • 2010 40+ members raised over $25,000
  • 2011 60+ members raised over $50,000
  • 2012 90+ members raised over $70,000
  • 2013 ~100 members raised over $80,000
  • 2014 ~100 members raised over $104,000

For 5 years Team Allears raised over $330,000 for breast cancer. Our family, friends, ermployers, and followers of added approximately $33,000 to that total - with $11,030 coming in the final year. Thank you!

The decision was made to disband Team AllEars after the 2014 WDW Marathon Weekend. We've made so many friends and memories and we are a bit sad to see it end. So now we have to figure out the next plan for Team Tizzel.

From the beginning we decided would always have some focus to charity. Now, that focus will shift away from Avon to other worthy causes. Holly is still collecting money in a jar at home each time she does a training run or race. It's not our Team AllEars jar anymore - just a Disney-themed candy jar we got for Christmas. We decided that we'd pick a charity of the month, feature it here on the blog, and donate the jar money for that month to the selected organization. We'll give you links so you can donate as well, but there won't be a heavy fundraising drive like before.

With February being National Heart Month we decided that our first featured charity is the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago. These are the folks that diagnosed Dave's need for a new heart valve and preformed the operation. They do research around heart disease and congenital heart conditions. Donations can be made at this link by selecting cardiovascular care from the pull down.

We have a few other charities picked out for the next couple of months so stay tuned!


Friday, February 7, 2014

2014 WDW Marathon Week - Full Marathon

Here's Holly's recap of the WDW Full Marathon:

The last day of the Dopey Challenge! The day before, my throat was starting to feel scratchy. I hoped it was just from talking too much and that I wasn’t getting sick. Unfortunately when I woke up Sunday morning, I had a full on chest cold. I had a killer sore throat and my chest was really tight and congested. This was going to be fun!! Dave got up early even though he was done with the Grumpy Challenge and we drove over to Epcot so he could spectate. Before meeting the team we made a pit stop at the merchandise tent as I had heard they sometimes sell the banners from the Expo there. Dave scored the last Dopey banner (the huge one). I was extremely happy!!

We had another long walk to the corrals and an even longer wait in the corrals for the start. I was tired, no adrenaline like a normal prerace. I knew I would have fun today, but I also knew this was going to be a challenge. I had no voice really but I still needed to talk to everyone of course.

The fireworks were much better today and we were finally off. The first mile was hard, and everyone’s legs were heavy, but thankfully they loosened up and we were back on Main Street again. That never gets old!! Saw our great cheering section by the Hub and we were back out on cone alley. Thankfully Brad Garfinkel noticed my scratchy voice and he offered me some cough drops. I’m not sure why he had cough drops, but they were a lifesaver! Thanks Brad!! We headed through the Speedway, which I’m not really fond of, and then over to Animal Kingdom. We decided against riding Expedition Everest and kept on going. Tara Miller saved the day again with pre-peeled Clementines and icy cold towels. She completely rocks!!

10 Team AllEars Members and family!

Next up is Osceola Parkway. Team AllEears comes through again with some icy Coke! Soon we were entering Wide World of Sports and I was starting to hurt. The cold was kicking my butt, plus the culmination of all those miles. I was thrilled to hit mile 20 and got a second wind when we saw Laura and crew at Mile 20.5! She also came through with delicious orange slices! Next up was the Studios and then the narrow walkway to the Boardwalk. More Saviors! Deb and crew and of course the Troosts with beer!!!

Finally reached Epcot and we were thrilled. We had people come and go with us during the day, but Stan Harris, Joe Weeks and my running twin Jessica Awotona were with me all day and I know I wouldn’t have made it without them. We had a great moment in the World Showcase and then met up with some of our group for a picture taken by specatators extradonnaire Dave and Pam! They also had beer!! Finally we leave Epcot and get across that finish line hand in hand. What a day! What a weekend! I was done and ready for a beer, a shower and food. In that order!! Team AllEars rocks and I know this weekend wouldn’t have been half as fun without all of you!!

Dave's Comments: One of the most relaxing days spectating ever! Once I took the team photo I headed off to the car to drop off the huge banner and set out to the Magic Kingdom via monorail. Usually I head to the Contemporary first for coffee, but I heard a rumor the park was opening at 5am for spectators so I got off at Magic Kingdom and sacrificed the coffee (I had a Coke in my bag so I was good). There were about 200 people ahead of me, but I knew most of those suckers would line up along the shops of Main Street and not go to my preferred spot. With that in mind, I immediately hit the restroom before making my way to the hub and ultimately Tomorrowland Bridge. As usual, our teammate Christine beat me there. By the time Pam and the Torok family showed up we had a nice little area carved out for ourselves.

This was the first year our teammates ran in wolf packs. Usually two or three might come through together, but not 10-12 at a clip. It made picture taking hard, especially when the groups were blocking solo teammates passing by. We managed to see most of our friends on the course. Once we were sure everyone went through, Pam and I headed to Epcot. Our goal was to spectate in Germany. Usually I go to the United Kingdom, but I've done that so many years I needed a change.

I stocked up on snacks at the new Starbucks in Epcot. Very nice location and I had my first ever multi-grain croissant. Tasty! Pam and I made our way upstream to Germany, going the opposite direction of the marathoners. Once we got to Germany we made camp! I admit I was not on the best side of the course for pictures, but I had a bench and World Showcase Lagoon at my back. This would be the place to take "the picture" when the group finally reached us.

We didn't use runner tracking because we had a much better system. Mike Scopa was outside the Studios and texted when someone approached him. Kim was at the Beach Club and texted when people passed her. So we had good early waring systems.

A text came in telling us that Barb, whom was running her first marathon, was approaching. I promised to get her a beer but the German beer kiosk was closed. So I had to cross-course and head over to the Outpost kiosk for a beer. Once we got her beer-ed up we got notice the others were coming through and needed 3-4 beers. You can only buy two beers per person, so that meant two more trips......

I was able to get some good shots of friends going by until the craziness began. Group one came in with ten folks. I had beers to hand off and photos to shoot. Then right on their heels was group two - Holly's crew. It was just manic and some of them are ready to finish so take the darn picture all ready!!!! I had no real time to check my shots and "the photo" was a bust in my opinion.

we don't know the people in costume

Then it was over. I was left with one full untouched Landshark Lager and a Yuengling that was maybe 2/3s full. No idea whom, or how many, drank from it but the rest of it was mine. The Landshark went to a passing runner. Pam and I rallied our way back to the finish area as best as we could given the spectator congestion. Our runners were through the finish chute and waiting for us.


I got Holly to the room and marshalled her as quick as I could so we could celebrate the day away in World Showcase. We met up with some friends for beer, margaritas, more beer, dinner at Via Napoli, and the final team meet watching Illuminations. Pretty fun day.

Attached are two versions of our video. The first one is the director's-cut. The second is the same film, but I had to replace the songs I used in the first video with generic ones because it is blocked from mobile viewing due to copyright violations. When I have more time I can go in and tweak the director's-cut and repost. Enjoy!



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2014 WDW Marathon Week - Half Marathon

The big mile days were coming up with the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon for Holly on Sunday. We decided we needed to keep the time on our feet light after Friday's 10K so we had a no-park day agenda. After the race we relaxed in the room a bit before hitting Fantasia Gardens for some mini golf. After that we went offsite with a few friends for lunch at Sea Dog Brewery (worth the visit). Next we had a Team AllCheers meet (where Dave fell asleep) and a Mickey Miles Podcast meet. A few of us had some drinks over at The Crew's Cup before heading to dinner at Il Mulino. We had a surprise dinner guest: Joe Taricani from The Marathon Show. Our meals were a bit delayed and we ended up in bed a little later than we had planned.

Two iPhone alarms going off at the same time that our wake up call started told us it was 2:15am. The third early wake up call led Holly to think that once was enough for Dopey. It was starting to feel like Groundhog Day. Up early, drive to Epcot, team picture, shuffle to the corrals and wait in the corrals.
We prepped everything we needed to prep and left the room around 3am. Disney likes to have you at the start area as soon as possible so they can make you walk for at least 20 minutes to the start line and sit in your corral forever (assuming you are in the mid-to-back corrals). At our Team AllEars meet-up we snapped our customary team photo and started grouping with others in our corrals. We were in Corral K with about 15 other friends. The walk to the corral (including potty break) was probably a half hour. Much better than last year. One funny/embarrassing thing did happen to Holly in the corrals. The gang decided to sing Happy Birthday to her. 1) Holly's Birthday is in June. 2) They unknowingly started singing right before the moment of silence began.

runDisney had a new corral system in-place this year. There were more corrals than before with varying numbers of people in each corral. The first few corrals had less people than the later corrals. Launch times for each corral varied as well. The table below (which we created to help out Team AllEars spectators) turned out to be a good estimate:

One nice thing runDisney does is to send off each corral with their own fireworks show. Apparently the addition of so many more corrals must have caused a technical glitch by the time they hit Corral K. No fireworks for us, but we did get a Team AllEars shout out from Rudy.

The group was going to split up a bit today. Dave was going for a PR so he flew solo. Half of the group was going to use Galloway 30/30 intervals and Holly's group was going to do 2:1 interval.

As far as the review of the race course, just read last year's report. It was the same race, different day. The sport cars were in the location, Stitch was still outside The Poly, and still no Duffy photo opp in Epcot. We thought it was less congested than the previous year going through the castle, even cone alley.

Holly's comments: We had a blast. It was an honor to see our friend Joe Weeks run up Main Street for the first time. A funny moment was when Joe turned back towards me as I was videoing him running up Main Street. He ran back to me and grabbed me and tried to spin me around. Yep, I’m heavier than I look! I’m glad I didn’t kill him! The notorious cone alley was better than previous times so I think the new corral spacing was an improvement. After Cone alley is the long run down World Drive back to Epcot. This is where every year I feel tired and start thinking about having to run a full marathon the next day. The funny thing is was even though we were all tired we ran fastest during this stretch. We were happy to get back into Epcot and we met up with some other teammates here and crossed in a big group. Happy to be done with one more race!

Team AllEars was out in force for the race. They were everywhere! The support from the Team means so much.

Dave's comments: Fortunately the morning wasn't as warm as it was the day before during the 10K, but it was still humid. I was also out there with (in my mind) a non-functioning Garmin. Since I could not get a satellite signal I thought the only thing it was good for was a heart monitor. In order to make sure I kept pace for my goal I used my iPhone timer and calculated the pace every mile. Over some drinks in Epcot later that day I learned the stop watch function still worked. Doh!

I didn't stop for pictures, or to say hello to our teammates spectating (with the exception of Laura's spectacular at Mile 7 - there was food and cold towels). I'm rude that way just plowing through it all. To make matters worse, I sweated out my iPod around mile 7. That made for a few boring miles. Even the kites at mile 11 didn't hold any interest. In the end I got a 9 minute PR and met my time goal. I still haven't found a passion for doing half marathons, and with this one being my second on the same course, I don't see a need to ever repeat this race again.

That closed Dave's races for the weekend. Holly surprised Dave with a gift - his own Grumpy medal. Since our team ran with the concept of naming Grumpy for the combination of the 5K, 10K, and Half she had medals made up for everyone on our team that participated in those three events only. This was a very nice surprise. Before hitting our main Team AllEars meet we hit Epcot for a quick lap around the World Showcase.
Here's our Half Marathon Video: