Gordon Atlantic employees Travel Blog

How to stay warm in cold weather

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Mon, Jan 01, 2018 @ 08:14 AM

When the cold weather comes in hard, it's safer to stay inside and let it pass. But for those who want to experience the outdoors as it truly is, here are a few tips that can make it beyond tolerable, and quite fulfilling.

First of all, forget about fashion. We have one goal here: be comfortable as Mother Nature relentlessly tries to steal your heat.

Take a tip from the wild animals out there: think calorie count. Am I burning more than I'm consuming? When the cold weather first came in, mammals stayed sheltered to preserve their energy. But as soon as temps rose from negative and single digits into double digits, the need for calorie replenishment grew, and deer began browsing, squirrels began hitting the bird feeders again. So don't over-exert, but don't just sit still either. Moderate continual movement is good.

Fingers and toes are the first to get cold because your body senses heat loss and consolidates to the core: protect the heart and brain. When this happens, move these extremities around, or use commercially available warmers. Our ancestors didn't always have the luxury of a warm house and stocked pantry, but you can afford to burn more calories than you consume. If you are standing in snow, can you stand where the heat drain is less? Clear snow to stand on wood or a dry forest floor.


Mittens are better than gloves, but light gloves inside capacious mittens are even better. Insulated boots like Sorrels (fat boots that the ski operators wear) are best.
Wind chill factor is real; this accounts for the fact that wind has additional cooling effect, so cover your skin. This is one reason the gloves and mittens combo is so effective. If you have to expose your bare hands to the cold to get into the food or into a pack, they will get stinging cold quickly. Cover it up.

It's true that heat loss happens out of the head most of all. Always wear a good hat.

Winter picnic group

For the rest of your clothes, think layers. Layers work because they help trap the heat in air space between your body and the cold. Close to the body I like a tight fitting, long sleeve Underarmor workout shirt and long underwear. The next layer should be a tight weave wool or synthetic fabric to hold the warmth close: a good wool shirt, and soft cuddly pajama bottoms for the legs because we'll cover them with windproof baggy ski pants. Another layer on top such as a down jacket or comfortable wool sweater that opens at the neck to regulate heat are good. The final layer should be highly wind resistant. Keep that heat in the house!

Food can help: if your venture outdoors includes a picnic, soup or hot cider can add heat to your insides, warming those fingers and toes in minutes. https://www.agordon.com/hubfs/Winter%20picnic%20group.jpg

Alcohol does NOT help. It's true that a slug of booze may make you feel warmer, but what's happening is your capillaries dilate from alcohol, sending more blood to your skin. This makes you feel warmer, but has a tremendous cooling effect on your core temperature. Alcohol risks hypothermia, and if you become impaired, you may not recognize the difference between emerging hypothermia and an alcohol buzz-on. A little schnapps or hot wine is a tasty treat when recreating outside, but beware how far you take this. Alcohol can be deadly in the cold.

Shivering is the first sign your body gives to lower than optimal core temperature. If you can, get inside, get warm, and drink hot water or soup.

The animals outside deal with the cold all winter long, and it makes them resilient. Spending a little time in minor discomfort can be invigorating. Spending time outside without discomfort is even better.

 

 

 

Volunteer hurricane relief work after Hurricane Harvey

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 @ 04:42 PM

Volunteering to help others for disaster relief is as life fulfilling as anything else we can do.  Here are a few personal thoughts about helping out with hurricane relief efforts in Houston after Harvey.

How I came to Houston was a combination of an unexpected opening in my schedule and a memorable experience years ago in Louisiana after Katrina.  My wife was away on a trip with her sisters, and everyone knew that there was extensive pain and devastation in Houston.  Timing, opportunity, and need turned a whim into a fulfilling life experience. 

Volunteering after a catastrophe is easy. While there are travel expenses – the flight, and I like to have a car - the logistics of organizing and mobilizing volunteers is often well handled by local churches. Churches are dialed in to the local needs at a more personal level than larger organizations. The impact may not be as broad, but goes deeper to people often unable to navigate government or large non-profit services, which are more organizationally rigid. 

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I discovered Parkway Fellowship through an easy online search and arrived on Wednesday afternoon. The place emanated energy, had more racial and ethnic diversity than I expected in Texas, and the staff was well organized.  Churches draw a higher percentage of overall residents in the South than in New England, and this seems to contribute to heterogeneity in programs and membership, as well as skills contribution.  By 8PM I had met the team (also from out of town) that I'd spend most of my time with, and a place to sleep.  

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Houston Sprawl

Houston has an urban infrastructure problem.  The city has been one of the country's fastest growing for several years (now third or fourth largest in the country), and while freedom from zoning regulation contributed to that growth, the lack of urban planning is reflected in – among other things - bad rainwater runoff management that exacerbated Harvey's effect, into vast neighborhoods across the socio-economic spectrum. 

The human element
This failure contributed to some of the human tragedy we see today in Houston. I met a fellow who lives in a "500-year' flood plain, meaning FEMA believes the chance of a flood is 1 in 500 years. Federal mortgage requirements require insurance on homes in the "100-year" floodplain, but not in the 500-year plain. This guy has spent the last three years making his home his palace.  After a few days of torrential rains, reservoirs were opened to save downtown: but the flow spread into thousands of homes (I heard the number 100,000, but can't confirm) within the 500-year plain. This guy's home stood in five feet of water by the end of the rains.  Neither he nor thousands of others thought flood insurance was needed.  How can you plan for that?

Harvey is the third 500-year storm in Houston in the past 50 years.   

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The work
The work after a major flood involves removing everything that got wet: if there was a foot of water in the house, all flooring, three feet of drywall and insulation have to go... Not to mention dishwashers, AC compressors and other mechanicals, and of course, most of the furniture. For remaining studs and exterior walls an anti-mold agent needs to be applied.  This is labor intensive, dirty, work that needs 

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to be done before the skilled contractors arrive.  While many people did their own work, others cannot physically do themselves, nor afford to hire someone. This is whom we helped.

The cleanup by neighborhoods
Houston's sidewalks are being cleared by specialty, large volume, refuse haulers hired by the counties. The  word on the street is that the county will make three runs down every affected street (in the worst neighborhoods), picking up what's on the sidewalk each time. After each pickup, the remaining refuse pile has to be moved back out onto the sidewalk. Since some refuse covers entire lawns, people may need to hire their own roll-off dumpsters at their own expense if three trips isn't enough.  (A roll-off costs about $2,500 these days)

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The Future for Houston
There is talk in the neighborhoods and at city hall about how the infrastructure needs to be better designed to move water. Sitting on the eastern edge of the warm Gulf of Mexico, future storms with this much water aren't expected to take another 500 years to appear again.  This is a clear need: watch how Houston addresses it.  

A few final thoughts about Texas.  

I heard from several people, "Texas is more than a state; Texas is a State of Mind."  Texans don't wait; they do.  Everyone I met was incredibly kind, and gracious, and appreciative.  The picture of my clothes is an example.  One day I'm working at the pastor's neighbor's house, cleaning off at a garden hose.  The pastor's wife says, "Let me wash your clothes."  She 

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doesn't even have a home to go to; she's staying with friends.  And yet she returns these clean clothes to me (they were really dirty) at the end of the day, plus this cool phone charger than someone had donated to the church.  Plus the awesome note, 'Texas Loves Boston'. 

When the work was done, Texas music plays.  Houston has a lot of work to do, but I'm looking forward to another visit there, next time, to play. 

Tags: volunteer work, hurricane relief,, disaster relief

Trout Fishing: Dumoine 2011

Posted by Gordon Atlantic Insurance on Sat, Jan 28, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

TroutFishing is a sport for young, old, rich or poor.  The pull of a line and an exciting retrieve are the thrills that drive anglers to boats and shores with all the weapons they can afford.  But it’s the time in the boats, getting to the shore, and the stories that are the soul of fishing.  This is the story of fishing in Quebec, economy class.

Quebec is a vast province, but getting to remote regions doesn’t need to cost a fortune.  The Dumoine region is accessed 2 hours north of Ottawa, a day’s drive from Boston, and only 4-5 hours from upstate New York.  Our fishing expedition took us another hour across primitive roads, roughly 30 km from Deep River, Ontario where there are great outfitters and less campy fishing opportunities available.   There are also fly-in opportunities out of Rapides des Joachims on Air Swisha, just across the Ottawa River in Quebec.

The licensure requirements in Quebec have two levels: the province (Quebec license) and the “Zone Ecologique de Control” (the ZEC).   The only real trick is deciding which ZEC to fish; once you do this, you’re limited to that zone.  If you’re in for a week, a one week Quebec license and two three day ZEC licenses is a good way to see more country, though a week in a single ZEC is still more water than you could possibly visit in the course of a week.   A ZEC map available at the outfitters in Deep River is worth the investment; the reverse side lists the known species to each lake.  Ours was mostly a brook trout show, though pike, walleye and lake trout are plentiful, and we caught all these on appropriate water.

Brook Trout cannot compete with many favorite anglers’ favorite catch, bass, nor its co-habitants, pike and walleye (cousin to the perch), as these fish will decimate the small fry trout before they mature.  Thus, once a lake has been infested with these species, trout cannot survive.  This is the basis for important and tight regulations never to introduce live bait (minnows) into trout waters.  If you’re going to fish with minnows, catch them yourself in the water you’re going to fish.   Don’t contribute to the eradication of a great fish.

During Quebec’s separatist movement in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Americans and many English speaking Canadians found Quebec less than hospitable, and fishing by outsiders declined.  In addition, the Dumoine region was clear-cut logged, changing the landscape substantially.  Today the forest is mostly new-growth poplar and birch, but old growth white pine, spruce and white cedar remain in a few pockets.

A more welcome regulatory structure makes fishing regions more accessible again to outsiders.  The old logging roads are the upside to the logging operations of the 1970s.  Many lakes, formerly accessible only by extensive wilderness traverse (paddling across water and portaging - - walking around in the woods with a canoe on your head) are today readily accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles.  Secondary unimproved logging roads, accessible by 3- and 4-wheel ATVs will get you even further in.   As with any wilderness travel, the further you‘re willing to go in, the more wildlife and fewer humans you’ll see.

Accommodations are primitive, if you’re on a budget.  But primitive is a relative term.  Our camp is owned by the Dumoine Rod and Gun Clu and includes a gas fridge. 3-burner stove, bunk beds, and a screened porch looking out across the lake.  We were delighted to find a fine folding card table and folding chairs where we wiled away non-fishing-hours playing cards.  Having spent enough rainy nights in our youth stuck in a tent trying to heat water to make rhaman noodles soft, we were living large.  The little tricks we’ve learned over the years to maximize comfort make staying at Camp Cullen as comfortable as the Ritz.  And the Ritz can’t touch the view …or the sounds of owls and loons in the short solstice night.

Part of the allure of wilderness camping is the richness of life, even in a place with a growing season of about 60 days.  On the final mile in we spotted a large snapping turtle laying eggs in the road sand by a beaver pond.  That evening, as we fished our own Lake Cullen, we were shadowed by a beaver whose lodge was just around the corner from ours.   A black bear sighting, wolf prints in the mud, watching a loon grab the trout one of us had just released (apparently he hadn’t fully recovered) were other wilderness encounters we won’t soon forget.

The bugs of Quebec deserve more than a footnote.  Bug spray isn’t enough, though the Native Americans’ use of bear grease was the best they had.  Full head-nets are a must, and a sleeping canopy net can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad one.

A good, but fairly typical day was our third.   We began with a delicious hot breakfast then paddled our boats to the landing where the truck was parked.   We headed to Lake Benwah, which has only native trout and is closed after a certain number are taken.  We caught and kept three fine native brook trout from this mile long lake.  After Benwah, we explored two other lakes known for large pike, but were skunked.  Back at camp by mid-afternoon, Peter made a fire to fry our fish, and I went for a swim.  About halfway to my island destination two loons came in for a close look at the splashy, noisy swimmer on their lake.  Later, washing down campfire trout on crackers with a cold Canadian beer while waiting for our evening fish, I wrote in my journal.

My hardest decision for the day still vexed me: would I go with a gold Phoebe, or silver Kastmaster against the pike that night?

Here's a video slideshow of my trip, enjoy!

 

Geoff Gordon

Tags: Dumoine fishing, fishing, trout, trout fishing, dumoine, quebec fishing, fishing blog

The Grand Canyon

Posted by Gordon Atlantic Insurance on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

The day before our Sedona Trip, my family decided that we should see the Grand Canyon. Now it’s worth mentioning that my family, like the countless before us, fell into the vacational quagmire known as ‘mindless sightseeing.’ Not one of us had any particular interest in the Grand Canyon, but we all felt compelled it see it by the almost tangible feeling of expectation breathing down our necks with its hot, rancid breath. So we went anyway. Ultimately I’m glad we did, but it always bothers me when I see things just to say I’ve seen them.

It’s also worth mentioning that I didn’t bring a camera for unfortunate reasons known in clinical psychology circles as ‘terrible decisions’; all these pictures are courtesy of other photographers. These are not my photos, and I deserve exactly no credit for any of them. I’ve added them so our visually inclined readers can slug through my words without feeling the need to jump off the Canyon rim.

If you end up visiting the Grand Canyon yourself, there are many great things to see (see below). But for me, the most enjoyable part of the visit was the 3 hours spent hiking around the rim. Hiking is particularly enjoyable here because there’s ALWAYS a breathtaking view, no matter where you are (unless you choose to hike with a sleeping mask, which I don’t recommend). It’s also great because the vegetation and rocks provide great shady places to stop and eat or just rest.

Grand Canyon Hike

This is what it looks like when you hike.

Even so, the shade is really unnecessary because of the dry air, which has so little humidity that it feels like 80 degrees when the temperature is supposedly near 100. Hiking in the crisp air and wind made for one of the most comfortable hikes I’ve been on (temperature-wise).  Note that the same will NOT be true for your car. The hot Arizona sun will heat the interior of your car to blistering temperatures in only a few hours. Be sure to crack a window, or you might burn yourself on your seat belt when you return like a witless simpleton (see: me).

Grand Canyon Hike

If you’re not faint of heart, you’ll also enjoy visiting the famous (or infamous, depending on your personal comfort level with heights) ‘Grand Canyon Skywalk.’ This is a glass-bottomed U-shaped structure that reaches out over the canyon unsupported from below. While the views are amazing, you’ll probably find out whether you have more faith in human engineering or gravity.

Grand Canyon Skywalk

There are also lots of off-site things to see if you get the opportunity.

One of the coolest places (in my opinion) is called Antelope Canyon. It’s a long drive away from the Canyon, but truly incredible if you have eyes or an interest in irregular geometry (strangely, the ‘chaos of irregularly iterated fractals canyon’ just doesn’t have the same ring). The rock formations in this canyon look both carved and smooth, with edges and warped surfaces. If you visit around noon, you can see the ‘light of God’ at the bottom, like in the picture.

Antelope Cavern

'Light of God' or just really cool optical physics? Both?

If you can make it (it’s a long drive), try visiting the Hoover Dam. I particularly liked how the Hoover Dam is a marvel of human engineering placed smack in the middle of some of nature’s best engineering.  If you couldn’t tell already, I’m a huge fan of contrast and corn dogs (you probably couldn’t tell the second part).

Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam simultaneously gave me feelings of empowerment and vulnerability. Humans as we know them have only been crawling around for a few thousand years, whereas the Colorado River has been carving the Canyon for millions of years; regardless, we’ve managed to erect a structure to regulate all that natural change in a geological blink of an eye.

On the flip side, when I see the Hoover Dam, I don’t see a dam …well, I do see a dam, but I also see a battle between the concrete it’s made of, gravity, and the billions of gallons of water constantly pressing against it. It’s here today, but gravity isn’t going away any time soon; nature always wins in the end.

Despite its touristy ‘street-rep,’ it’s definitely worth your while to make at least a stop here. It’s the one place on Earth where you can take a picture anywhere under any conditions and have it look awesome. Poor photographers (see: my family) don’t need to worry about lighting or scenery. The Grand Canyon is popular for a reason.

Corbin Foucart

Tags: Arizona, Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Antelope Canyon, Colorado River, God, grand canion, grand canon, grand canyon attractions, grand canyon sights, grand canyon sites, Grand Canyon Skywalk, grand caynon, Hoover Dam, hoover dam tours, skywalk west rim, west rim skywalk, United States

Sedona, AZ: Our Hiking Trip

Posted by Gordon Atlantic Insurance on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

The following account is the tragic tale of how my foot was introduced to Echinocereus fendleri, known to biologists and Jeopardy contestants as the “Fendler Hedgehog Cactus.” But because I am haunted every night by the ghosts of Shakespeare past, I feel obligated to start at the beginning of the story.

My uncle and his family used to live in Sedona, Arizona because, like our family, they tend to accept “familiarity breeds contempt” as a central doctrine and move around frequently. Either that or he’s a repressed linguistic compensating for his semantic yearnings by moving to places that rhyme.

Whatever the case, we decided to travel to Arizona to visit with them and more importantly, to hike. Sedona is one of the agreed-upon most beautiful places in America. It boasts towering mesas, red sand, fresh air, and depending on the season, tourists wearing all the seven major varieties of the “awful polo.”

Sedona

We spent two days in Sedona after visiting the Grand Canyon (which is another story for another post), so naturally the bar had been set high. However, Sedona did not disappoint; I, unlike WolframAlpha, think that Sedona is cooler than the GC.

Our first day involved some intense road-tripping and poor verb creation. We traveled 3 or 4 hours to Sedona by car. Depending on your personal affinity for driving and how much you like playing “I spy” (ignore the libelous ‘warning’ to avoid playing in cars; the directions were written by ruffians), I would recommend long drives as part of your trip. The Arizona desert is possibly the most gorgeous landscape to drive through. Rock formations smeared with vibrant reds and oranges as well as a variety of plant and animal life will make the drive well worth the while.

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We actually got the opportunity to drive part of the way through a thunderstorm, which was also something everyone should be able to see. The winds whip the rain into pseudo-twisters that whip back and forth around you; quite a remarkable sight!

Once we arrived in Sedona, we hiked as much as we could. ‘Hiked’ is a loose term here; there were other people on the trail with backpacks they could drink straight out of and goofy improvised ski poles, glancing at us with disdain as they shuffled past. I suppose they were the ones that were actually hiking; we ‘vigorously walked’ the trails around Sedona. It’s really unfortunate that I was at the stage where I would never take pictures of anything (because I thought that worrying about a camera ruined the experience). The Sedona trails boasted some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. If you ever have the opportunity to walk these trails, do so. Ski poles or not.

sedona hiking

For the most part, these trails are very safe and well marked; but on the last day, I wandered off the path and stepped right on a cactus (a Fendler Hedgehog Catcus to be precise, see above) wearing only sneakers. I may or may not have said some unspeakable things; words that I didn’t even know I had access to. Which leads me to my most important recommendation: WEAR BOOTS.

fendler cactus, sedona The Culprit. Looks sinister, doesn't it?

Despite this painful turn of events, I watched an Arizona sunset from a Mesa, which is when I once again felt an irrational urge to scrapbook. Oh well, such is life. Next time, I’ll bring a camera. For now, here's a YouTube video posted by someone who had the sense to bring one.

 

 ...Stupid Cactus.

Corbin Foucart

 

 

Tags: Arizona, arizona trips, Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Hiking, Jeopardy, Sedona Arizona, sedona az, sedona az tours, sedona hiking, sedona resorts, sedona tours, sedona trips, things to do in Arizona, tours in sedona, Trail, United States

Dumoine Fishing Trip 2016 Andrew G Gordon Ins. Norwell MA

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Tue, Jul 05, 2016 @ 04:53 PM

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Licensure  

We got gas in New Hampshire, ending up at ZEC Dumoine at 6:30.  The licensing station closes at 7 and we still had two stations to go, so we were cutting it close.   The 7-day Quebec fishing license is about $70 CDN and is available at Lance’s at the entrance of Swisha, which is open 8-8 almost every day. 

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Food

Right when we got to camp on Tuesday, we went out fishing.  Kurt filleted his 22” catch and we had it after dinner, which was on the stove when we pulled in, about 10. When we woke up on Wednesday, we did not tarry over coffee or breakfast, as we had reserved a say at Benway, a 300 acre lake.  After the morning activities on Wednesday,   Peter turned our camp lunch fixins into a delectable tuna salad on toasted flatbread and cheese.  After a short fishing excursion early on Thursday morning, I came back to camp for a great breakfast of hash and eggs.  For lunch, Peter made grilled cheese and ham with Oscar's smoked mustard.  Dinner was Norwell sourced: I brought Canadian goose breasts and Kurt brought venison rump roast.  Peter added twice baked potatoes over the newly repaired fire ring, added a little pinot grigio and we were good. For dinner on Friday, Kurt was on his venison, which included rump cuts and the back straps, while Peter prepared the brookies.  Jeff and I got the fire ready while Kurt and Peter prepped the Vidalia onions and asparagus for grilling, and a mushroom sauce and mushrooms.  It was outstanding.  Peter brought out some killer carrot cake.  Saturday’s dinner and our final meal was a week-in-review: moose and venison, trout hash, and some brussel sprouts with garlic and onion.

 

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Fishing

When we arrived on Tuesday, Peter and Jeff had left us a canoe at the road. They were gone, so we just left our stuff and hit the water.  Kurt caught two walleyes.  His second one was closer to 22", so we kept it.

On Wednesday, we headed out early because we had reserved a day at Benewah, a 300 acre lake with no stocked fish.  I broke the ice with a small speckled trout, and Kurt tagged one soon after. After taking a few more passes along the eastern shore, Kurt and I broke off to explore the little inlet cove.  We caught - didn't boat - some small brookies at another lake above Benewah.  At the bridge crossing the Fil de Grande - a north to south river that drains into the Dumoine - Jeff scored with two pike, the first small, the second respectable, and that seemed to spook the rest.

It was raining on Thursday, so I started the day with a short fishing excursion here on Cullen, heading to Third Chain when the rain broke off slightly.  We were skunked at Third Chain, and returned to camp with plans for fishing elsewhere later in the afternoon.

On Friday we headed out early.  The sun was already up over much of the lake, so Peter and I headed to the eastern shore to fish the shaded shore.  We began in shallow water, and I had a hit on my Wabbler and worm.  Further along the same shore, I caught a maybe 12", which we kept by choice for dinner.  Before we were done, we had caught about a dozen brook trout and kept five, releasing the rest.  Jeff and Kurt were slinging tin, and while they didn't have the same success, were also both rewarded with several fish, losing two on a stringer.  On Lake Robinson, we tried several different lures with no success.  I finally tried a north river Rapala, and hooked quickly into a couple small walleyes.  Below the falls onto the slow water, Kurt tried a top water frog imitation, and Peter a gold Phoebe, but nothing produced pike.

On Saturday, we fished Cullen in the morning for pike.   Jeff and Peter were planning to cast along the left edge, but with the breeze down the lake we decided to paddle a quarter mile up the shore.  Kurt was using a jitterbug from Bill Drummy, a top water splashy twitchy bright thing. He had only a few casts before he caught onto something substantial.  This was by far the broadest and longest fish we caught.  We fished the same cove to the left of the main body of water below the old heron rookery.

dumoine geoff gordon insurance norwell

 

Tags: Lake Benwah, fishing, trout, trout fishing, dumoine, fishing blog, good food, Lake Robinson

Travel: The Keys of Florida

Posted by Bill Cordaro on Thu, Jun 02, 2016 @ 09:49 AM

My travels to Key West Florida, the most southern point in the United States.

The trip began in Boston, MA on a 5am flight to Miami, FL. I meet my travel companions at the airport. They are a combination of old friends and some new acquaintances that have become friends. They reside in the Clearwater beach area of Florida and drove down to pick me up in Miami. We were on the road by 9am to the first of many Keys.

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost portion of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about 15 miles south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern part of Key West is just 90 miles from Cuba. The Florida Keys are between about 23.5 and 25.5 degrees North latitude.

The climate of the Keys is defined as tropical savanna according to Köppen climate classification. More than 95 percent of the land area lies in Monroe County, but a small portion extends northeast into Miami-Dade County, such as Totten Key. The total land area is 137.3 square miles. As of the 2010 census the population was 73,090 with an average density of 532.34 per square mile, although much of the population is concentrated in a few areas of much higher density, such as the city of Key West, which has 32% of the entire population of the Keys. The US Census population estimate for 2014 is 77,136.

The first adventure was to Robbie's of Islamorada. We had lunch Oceanside watching tourist take pictures of the torques waters and some marine life. We also had a chance to feed tarpon. Please see attached photos.

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After several hours of driving through many smaller keys, we arrived at Key West. After hopping into the pool for a few minutes to get the stiffness of traveling in a car, we headed down to our local bike rental shop and got our wheels for the weekend. This was the view at the end of our street. Yes, that is my bike I road for three days.

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We drove to the most southern point in the United States and took the proper photos to document “We were there “ Then we proceeded to bike around and see the charm of key west.

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Tags: vacation, travel tips, key west, the florida keys, southernmost point

Istanbul Reflections

Posted by Geoffrey Gordon on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

 

 

Istanbul reflections

I recently returned from our first trip to Turkey, and came away with great memories, and new appreciation of Turkey and the Turkish people.  We were fortunate to have had a Turkish student as our house guest for three months in 2012: Atahan.  We decided to visit Atahan, who had grown from a "guest son" kid into a young adult friend.  One of the highlights of our trip was the development of our relationship with Atahan. 

Below are some of my other reflections on our stay.

 

Hospitality - not just in Atahan's home where we were guests, but Turkish hospitality in general.

We had dinner with an old acquaintance from when I was studying in Munich in 1976/77. I called him locally, as he had frequently said, “If you are ever in Istanbul, I'm the only Opak in the phone book”.  My intention had been simply to call to say hello and reminisce for a few minutes.  He graciously invited my wife and me and Atahan to dinner.  He offered to pick us up, enduring a brutal traffic getting out of town, with grace and patience.  Not only was it a pleasure to reminisce further about our days in Munich, but this meeting gave me the opportunity to communicate with a Turkish person without Atahan as our interpreter.   We talked about his Haj (pilgimmages to Mecca), his business, and other local topics.  (and dinner was outstanding).

I remarked to him the hospitality we had seen and experienced seemed particularly special, well beyond the cordial politeness some Americans or some Europeans show struggling visitors. He mentioned that he traveled a lot for business, and confirmed that my observation was on target.   Turkish hospitality is indeed extraordinary.

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On Islam and terror in the Middle East

We enjoyed a day and evening with our host's father, and our conversation covered many subjects, including both Turkish and American politics, and religion. I asked about the effect radical Islam was having on Turkey. This man pointed out that Turkey has long been a European country as well as an Asian nation with a mosque in every town (over 3,000 mosques in Istanbul alone). It is also the transit point for people heading from the east to the west (today, Syrian, Afghani, and Sunni refugees), and from the west to the east (as we were). Thus, Turkey is accustomed to many cultures and ideas flowing through its land.

This fellow is a 'Secular Muslim'. (We were having this particular conversation over drinks at one on Istanbul's many rooftop bars.). He remarked that nowhere in the Quran is alcohol prohibited. The prohibition is implicit in preservation of the purity of every body created in God's image,;but nowhere is it expressly forbidden.   This man's decision to enjoy alcohol is between himself and God.   This feeling is remarkably in line with many Americans who don't want to be told what to do by others, but desire to be left alone with these choices of conscience.

The concern with radical Islam is far more complicated than simply an opposition to being told what to believe. For one, there is the simple economics of Turkey, and Istanbul in particular. Tourism is an important part of the economy, and Americans don't visit Turkey as they used to. The next 9-11 type attack will turn the trickle of tourists to a complete halt.  Merchants know it, hotels know it, and nobody who is providing services to tourists likes to think about the effects of the next terror attack.

There are national and tribal differences as well. Turkey's exposure to the rest of the world provides exposure to socially progressive ideas. (Turkey was one of the first European nations to adopt women's suffrage, in the 1920s). Other Middle Eastern countries similar to Turkey in their acceptance of such ideas include Jordan, Egypt, and once,   On the other hand, Lebanon. Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are far less tolerant of others' religious expression.  That night we all agreed on one concept: God is great, it is people who malign God's will into something ungodly.

 

The risk of visiting Turkey

Before our trip, we had asked our host Atahan if my wife should wear a veil, and the question underscored our lack of exposure to the city of Istanbul or the country of Turkey. His response was that Istanbul is a city of over 20 million, twice the size of New York City, and is located half in Europe. There are plenty of veils in the city, including full burka'd women from Saudi Arabia (often with Gucci bags or expensive shoes), but few among the local women. Thus, our light skin and blue and green eyes barely stood out. We felt as safe in Istanbul as we would in any US or European city. I would not hesitate to return, and already look forward to further exploration in the countryside (We will avoid the east, a war zone).

 

refugee

 

Refugees    IMG_8068-1

As mentioned, Turkey has long been a transit point for eastern and western passage. Today, thousands of Syrian and Sunni refugees are trying to get to Germany or the UK. These people come from varied backgrounds and personal circumstances, but all are trying to find a better life in the west. We watched this man catch a fish in the Bosphorus. When he landed his first, he pulled a plastic bag from a waste barrel to keep the fish. Nearby his 7 or 8 year old son was trying to sell tissue packages to passersby for 1 Turkish Lira (about $0.33).  Istanbul was NOT their final destination. There is no safety net for these foreign visitors (although Turkey has erected huge refugee camps in the east, near the Syrian border). Refugees are easy to spot, with their darker complexions, and frequently begging or selling something on street corners.  Istanbul, as with many visitors, is a transit point.

The effect on Istanbul cannot be overstated,and concludes this reflection.  Visit and see people from all over the world, enjoy heartfelt hospitality, and see ancient places remarkably preserved..

 

Tags: Turkish Hospitality, The Risk of Visiting Turkey, Istanbul, Turkish Customs, Istanbul Reflections, Turkey Vacation

Travel: St. George, Utah

Posted by Emily Kirslis on Fri, Aug 07, 2015 @ 09:55 AM

After my family spent a week in Las Vegas, we drove for about two hours to St. George, Utah. It was a lovely and relaxing place to go after spending a week in such a bustling city, yet St. George is a quickly growing metropolian area itself!

The first thing we did when we arrived was get lunch at George's Corner Restaurant. I had a caesar salad sandwhich that was absolutely delicious. We went because online reviews indicated that they had excellent gluten free options, and my sister was diagnosed with Celiac disease on the first week of our trip in Vegas. She was also more than pleased with her food! They give generous portions and have a fabulous menu, plus there's a very homey feel. 

On our first full day, we went to the Rosenbruch World Wildlife Museum, which was very well done. If taxidermy offends you, then this is not a good place to go, but my family enjoyed learning about all sorts of different animals. Admission was very cheap, but we were provided with talking wands; you press the number of the exhibit you are in, and the wand plays a recording with info about all the animals in the area. The gift shop had lots of choices for all age groups, and overall the whole facility was very well done if you're looking for a one or two hour indoor activity. We also went to the St. George art museum at the center of town, which as an artist, I enjoyed, but may be a little dull for the average tourist (the facility is nice, but most of the paintings are of cowboys and landscapes, so my siblings were quickly bored). 

Travel_review_St_George_Utah_Andrew_G_Gordon_Inc_InsuranceThe next day, we hiked in Snow Canyon (warning: it's not actually snowy). St. George is only about an hour and a half away from Las Vegas, so if you read my previous travel post, you'll know that temperatures were around 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day. If you go hiking in national parks, be sure to bring water and never go alone. We saw some old volcano caves, and the scenery was beautiful. To the left is a picture of my sister in Snow Canyon.

Travel_vacation_st_george_utah_Andrew_G_Gordon_Inc_Insurance

We also went hiking at Zion Canyon, which was about an hour from our hotel (the beautiful Villas at Southgate). Zion is structured a little differently from the other national parks; there are multiple stops and hiking spots that you reach via shuttle. The area has a rich history and has been home to Native American groups for generations. The canyon is gorgeous, but again, I didn't enjoy hiking in such extreme heat. Right is a picture of a notable spot at Zion; "The Three Patriarchs). 

We spent most other days in Utah in the condo's pool, which was very relaxing after so much hiking and the stress of Las Vegas. My parents also went to Bryce Canyon, about a two hour drive away, and they both said it was an absolutely breathtaking, incredible place. Overall, I enjoyed the relaxing parts of our trip, but I would recommend going during a cooler season. 

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Travel: Las Vegas

Posted by Emily Kirslis on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 @ 01:00 PM

Warning: if you don't like the heat, don't travel to Las Vegas in the middle of July! I went for a week with my family and did family-friendly activities, as none of my siblings or I are over the age of 21. Temperatures were around 105 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the week, and there was a flash flood one night, so be prepared for extreme weather!

Travel_to_Hoover_Dam_Andrew_G_Gordon_Inc_InsuranceThere was about six hours total of flying time to Vegas, and there's a three hour time difference between Nevada and Massachusetts. On our first full day, we went to the Hoover Dam. While it truly is a wonder of the modern world, my family found the tour disappointing and the visitor center was extremely small. The main message of the place was that it is an amazing engineering feat and that today's kids aren't smart enough to do things like that, which I found to be pretty offensive. Overall, it's one of those places you should make the 40ish minute trip to from Vegas so that you can say you've been there, but it's not a full day's trip. 

On Tuesday, we went to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum at the Venetian, which was awesome! It's a nice, air-conditioned indoor activity, and there are so many wax people from a wide variety of fields and times that any age will have fun. I've also been to Madame Tussaud's in NYC, and I felt that the quality of the figures in Vegas was better, especially the faces! 

The next day we went to Red Rock Canyon, which was actually probably my favorite part of the trip. There are parks for hiking around the area, but be warned; the heat is really extreme, and I'm someone who is usually fine with it! There was a lovely visitor center with an info movie, gift shop, and tortoise exhibit. Then we went on the 13 mile scenic drive. There were many stops to get out and really take in the scenery, but being able to enjoy the view and then jump back in an air-conditioned car was fantastic. It really is a beautiful place!

We also went to a show called "Legends" at the Flamingo, which was excellent! It featured impersonators of Michael Jackson, Barry White, Britney Spears, Steven Tyler, and of course, Elvis! It was only a little bit over an hour long, but I really enjoyed the music. We ate a lunch at the Margaritaville at the Linq Promenade, and my cheeseburger was delicious. We ate another day at the Hard Rock Cafe that isn't on the Strip, and the service and atmosphere was not nearly as good as other Hard Rock Cafes I've been to. 

Little_France_Las_Vegas_Review_travel_insurance_Andrew_G_Gordon_IncI went walking around 6 am with my mom every morning to beat the heat and see all the hotels. My personal favorite was the Bellagio; I loved the fountains and the fun decor they have inside. I also walked through Ceasar's Palace, the Mirage, the Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, the Venetian, Paris, and New York-New York. I didn't ride the roller coaster in New York or go up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but I was disasppointed with how small little France was. We stayed at the Holiday Inn about a 15 minute walk from the Strip, but even the heat from the walk was brutal. However, the Holiday Inn was lovely and had great pools!

Overall, the atmosphere of the city was a little bit stressful for me, and as someone who is under 21, four days would have been enough for me. I'm sure it's much more fun if you're over 21 and going out with your friends. I would also not recommend visiting Vegas in the middle of summer if you plan to be outside! Contact us with any insurance questions and browse for more vacation reviews!

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