Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Update from Ben: Last Day of Chemo!!

After 6 long months of chemo, my sentence has been served and I've been freed to live my life. I've had so much support and prayers from friends, family, and the amazing staff at Northwestern Memorial that I never felt alone in my fight and for that I'll forever be grateful. Thank you to my awesome nurses Kendra and Betsy who calmed all my fears from day one and had remedies ready for all my symptoms. I couldn't have asked for a better oncology nurse than Kendra and we will miss seeing her every other week.

The biggest thank you goes to my incredible wife Dana who drove me to every appointment even when she had terrible morning sickness just to be by my side. We were never sure who would be the first to use to bucket in the car. :-)

 Cancer has forever changed my life. It showed me that life is short and can change in an instant good or bad. All the little things I used to constantly stress about seem so unimportant now. I've realized that nothing is more important than spending time with friends and family, and living life to the fullest every day! It has shown me an inner strength I didn't know I had and left me with a quiet confidence to take on whatever the world throws at me. 

There was a time when I thought I might not be around to see this year through, and now I'm cancer free (remission), done with chemo, and ready to welcome our son into the world in the next few weeks!! Life is good! :-)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Boating baby coming soon!

Just a few of our nautical maternity pics :-)  View the rest on Flickr if you'd like!
Photos by Lisa Marie Photography in Merrillville, IN.

Pregnancy is going well and we cannot wait to welcome our baby boy in December!

Monday, October 5, 2015

1st Visit to Kelley's Island, Lake Erie, Ohio

Welcome to Kelley's Island, Ohio
August 21-23, 2015:  We left Put-In-Bay Friday morning and set out to try some fishing.  The lake was not calm, but we anchored near Ballast Island and tried it out for a little while.  We didn't last long due to the waves and the constant wake from boats coming & going to Put-In-Bay, so we packed up and headed to Portside Marina on Kelley's Island.

Portside Marina, Kelley's Island, Ohio
Portside Marina was pretty tight to get into, but the marina crew were quick to assist us and on the dock ready to help us tie up.  We arrived early in the day Friday, so there wasn't too much going on or too much traffic.  Later on though, it was very entertaining watching all the boats crowd in after work around 5-6pm!!

Portside Marina and view of Cedar Pointe
Portside Marina is right downtown Kelley's Island.  Excerpt from the Kelley's Island Chamber Website: The downtown area remains the heart of island activity where visitors can do everything from shop in unique shops to play miniature golf or just sit and watch passers-by.  Restaurants provide both inside and outdoor dining experiences, a complete range of cuisine, and a variety of entertainment on most weekends. Small grocery stores stock just about everything anyone would need. Most visitors enjoy topping off their stay with a hand-dipped ice cream cone or some fresh island fudge. 

Meeting up with fellow Four Winns friends on Kelley's Island
We had some Four Winns Forum visitors for our first evening on Kelley's Island!  We love meeting boating families, and had a great time visiting with John and Michelle and family.  If they can travel with 3 kids on the same size boat as ours, I think we'll manage with one baby aboard and all our travel plans next year! :-)
Golf Cart rental is the way to travel on the island!
Kelley's Island Brewery
Amazing breakfast with a view at Kelley's Island Brewery
Saturday morning we rented a Golf Cart from the marina and set out to do some exploration!  The first and most important stop... breakfast at Kelley's Island Brewery.    Breakfast was great and the views couldn't be beat! If I'm craving anything this pregnancy, it's breakfast (with a lot of gravy).  From there we continued our trip around the island, with the next stop the Glacial Grooves State Memorial.
Traveled through some pretty scenery on the way
Glacial Grooves on Kelley's Island
A little history on the Glacial Grooves, excerpt from
A National Natural Landmark, the Glacial Grooves on the north side of Kelleys Island are the largest easily accessible such grooves in the world.  From a walkway, footbridge and stairs you can look down on the immense grooves, which are 400 feet long, 35 feet wide and up to 10 feet deep, suggesting the tremendous power of the ice that formed them.
Of Devonian limestone, Glacial Grooves Geological Preserve contain marine fossils that are 350 to 400 million years old. They were scoured into solid limestone bedrock about 18,000 years ago by the great ice sheet which covered part of North America.
Glacial Grooves Geological Preserveis locally managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resource's Lake Erie Islands State Park.

 The grooves and the fossils preserved within were very cool to see, and we highly recommend a visit!

Dana posing with baby bump at the Glacial Grooves
Quick stop at the beach - Kelley's Island State Park

Continuing our island exploration, we stopped at the State Park and finally at Inscription Rock.  Excerpt from
Inscription Rock is located in Erie County on Kelleys Island. It is one of Ohio's most famous rock art sites. Pre-contact groups of North American Indian poples engraved more than one hundred designs onto a huge limestone boulder on the south shore of the island. The symbols are called "petroglyphs" from the Greek words for rock writing.
The precise age of these carvings is unknown. Based on the symbolism and the amount of weathering of the generally soft limestone, they probably are less than one thousand years old and so likely are the work of the the so-called "Late Prehistoric" period Sandusky culture, or the work of American Indian peoples living in the region during the period of European colonization.
The large boulders on the north and south shores of the island were dramatic landmarks for the American Indians who lived in the area. Marking the rocks with petroglyphs was one way of making a personal connection with the land.
Inscription Rock is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Leaving Portside Marina back onto Lake Erie

Overall we really enjoyed Kelley's Island, especially exploring via golf cart and visiting the historical sites on the Island.  The island was more laid back than Put-In-Bay, but still had quite the nightlife!  It seemed to be a good mix of family activities and nightlife.

Our next post will have a fun video from our night at Portside Marina (if 2 ft waves in the marina while you're trying to sleep is your idea of fun). :-)  We also have some information about our visit to the nice family at Loadmaster Trailers!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Exploring Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio

August 19-21, 2015: Put-In-Bay seemed to have just about everything we'd want in a getaway destination: close to home, easy access by boat with nice launch and trailer parking nearby, lots of restaurants, history, and beautiful surroundings.  We made the decision to go to Put-In-Bay during the week, because we had heard that the weekends could be quite crazy (like the whole town turns into a frat party) and most of the marinas require rafting of up to 4 boats (not interested!).  While we were there Wed-Fri, it wasn't very crowded and boats were not having to raft up as far as we could tell.  Just as a precaution though, we had gotten a reservation at Miller Marina, which was one of the few that did not require rafting.  While we did not experience too much of the party atmosphere, it was easy to imagine how different the weekends must be!

Ben and I on the tour train
We decided the best way to explore Put-In-Bay for us was on the Tour Train.  For only $9 per person (with the $1 off coupon), we were treated to an hour long ride, a history lesson of Put-In-Bay, and drop off/pick up at some of the top attractions on Put-In-Bay.

Entrance to Perry's Cave
Inside Perry's Cave
Antique Cars at Perry's Cave / Family Fun Center
Our first stop was the Perry's Cave Family Fun Center, where we were able to tour Perry's Cave, a natural limestone cave 52 feet underground with an underground lake.  The steep steps and slippery surfaces were a little difficult for this 6 month pregnant lady, but I made it! :-)

The museum at Perry's Monument
Perry's Monument
Perry's Monument
Next we took the Tour Train around the island to the museum and Perry's Monument, which was "established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812, and to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada and the U.S. The Memorial, a Doric column, rising 352 feet over Lake Erie is situated 5 miles from the longest undefended border in the world." - from  It was a beautiful inside, and a $3 fee got you a brief history lesson on an elevator ride to the top of the monument with outstanding views of Put-In-Bay and the Lake Erie Islands. 
View from the top of Perry's Monument
View of Put-In-Bay harbor from the top of Perry's Monument
23 weeks pregnant on the top of Perry's Monument
We spent a bit of time enjoying the views of Lake Erie, the islands, and even as far as Canada from the top of Perry's Monument before the howling 30 knot wind chased us back down the elevator.  We would definitely rate it a "must see" on Put-In-Bay.

Downtown Put-In-Bay - golf carts are the most common mode of transportation
Downtown Put-In-Bay - The Round House Bar
Downtown Put-In-Bay - Mossbacks
Lunch at Mossbacks - Perch & Pierogi (an interesting menu combination!)
Put-In-Bay's famous Boardwalk Restaurant
The Upper Deck at the Boardwalk Restaurant
View from the Upper Deck at the Boardwalk Restaurant
We really enjoyed the variety of restaurants in Put-In-Bay, and ate at The Boardwalk Upper Deck, Mossbacks,  Hooligans Irish Pub, and a quick lunch at the Dairy Isle.  Dana's favorite was lunch at Mossbacks (perch AND pierogi!!! 2 of my favorite things!) and Ben's favorite was dinner at Hooligans (try the beer cheese dip).  We got ice cream a couple times from the PIB Candy Bar - soooooooo good!

Overall, as a destination we really enjoyed Put-In-Bay, but we weren't very impressed with the marinas and docking situations available.  There was not much protection from wind and waves to be found, and we spent every day/night there rocking & rolling on the boat.  If we went back, on a weekday, we might just try the city docks (shown in the photo above) and hope that we didn't have to raft off anyone.  I'm not sure we're brave enough for a weekend!  The other thing we noticed was that everything was very expensive on the island... probably since it's an island and you have to eat somewhere!  We ended up splitting meals most places we went, so definitely keep that in mind if you go!

Next post we'll review our stay at Kelley's Island and share a video of that "rocking & rolling" I mentioned... it was so crazy!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Trailer Boating to Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio

A rest stop somewhere on the Indiana Toll Road
August 19-21: We were looking for a quick getaway and to explore someplace new, and Seapickle had never been on Lake Erie, so we made the decision to pack up the boat, truck and trailer for an about 4 hour tow on the Indiana and Ohio Toll Roads to the Lake Erie Islands!  As far as trailering goes, this was by far the easiest tow we've done with the most convenient access to trailer-friendly gas stops along the way.  We did, however, rack up about $80 round trip in tolls!!!

Arriving at Mazurik Access Area on Lake Erie
Seapickle launched and ready to go. Very nice launch ramps.
A beautiful, calm Lake Erie greeted us after the storm passed
Before leaving, we did some research on various places to launch that would also allow a secure place to store the truck and trailer for the long weekend.  The Mazurik Access Area on on the north side of Marblehead Peninsula offered concrete ramps, a huge, well lit parking area, and was just 7 miles South of South Bass Island.  I couldn't get a straight answer from anyone when I called to inquire, but we had no problems leaving the truck and trailer parked in the lot for 4 days.  Oh and the launch was free!  Just as we finished putting the canvas up, we had to wait out a heavy, but brief storm before launching the boat.

Put-In-Bay - Perry's Monument in the distance
Passing south of Middle Bass Island and the remains of the Lonz Winery
Turning into the bay and Perry's Monument from the water
First night's dinner stop, The Boardwalk, from the bay

Ben found and ordered a Lake Erie chip for our gps on craigslist before we left, and the 7 mile trip from the launch ramp to Put-In-Bay was pretty straightforward with no hazards.  Only when we neared the island did we have to make sure to go around north of Ballast Island (between Ballast Island and Middle Bass) instead of between South Bass and Ballast Island.  We entered the bay without any problems and scanned the shore to figure out where to find our dockage for the night at Miller Marina.  As soon as you enter the bay, the no-wake starts pretty immediately.  The Boardwalk mooring balls are immediately to starboard and we had to go around them to get to the marina.
Seapickle docked at Miller Marina, Put-In-Bay, Ohio
Docked at Miller Marina, looking out into the bay and Gibraltar Island
Sunset over the bay from Miller Marina
 We arrived at Miller Marina just before closing time (5pm) as we usually seem to do!  We got tied up for the night, with the harbor master requesting we set out extra lines (uh oh!) and would settle up in the morning.  We knew from researching and looking at photos of the marinas that dockage at Put-In-Bay was.... interesting... but we were happy to be at a marina with a reservation and settled in for a few days.  We'll expand more on a review of Miller Marina in the next post, and then also more information about Put-In-Bay and South Bass Island!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015

Visiting Northern Michigan - by Boat and Car!

Visiting Leland
 Our third day visiting Elk Rapids, we decided to leave Seapickle at the dock for the day and explore some of our favorite areas of Northern Michigan by car!  Our first stop in the morning was Leland, for breakfast at Early Bird and a nice walk and shopping around Leland and Fishtown.

Launch ramp at Leland - for future reference :-)
Leland Marina

 We still haven't stayed at Leland with Seapickle, only visiting once before and stopping for fuel on our 2010 trip before crossing to Wisconsin.  It's a very cute little marina, though, and we hope to bring Seapickle next time!

4 Month Pregnant Hike
View from the overlook on the Whaleback Natural Area Trail
After buying a cute Leland ornament for future Baby Liss we drove down the coast and looked for a place for an (easy) hike.  We happened across the Whaleback Natural Area Trail a couple miles south of Leland, at the beginning of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  It was a nice, but still a little difficult, hike for this mama-to-be.  The view from the top was well worth it though!

Couldn't resist checking out the tiny life jackets at West Marine

One of the buildings not yet renovated at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Inside the mercado of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Our next stop on the driving tour was Traverse City.  If you know Ben, you know we had to stop at West Marine in Traverse City before we were able to do anything else. :-)  Next I had been wanting to visit the Village at Grand Traverse Commons - built in 1884 and previously the Northern Michigan Asylum and Traverse City State Hospital.  We walked around a bit then grabbed some cheesecake for the road!  If you're a old building or history (or cheesecake) fan, it's worth a visit in my opinion.