Edmonton (July 23-26)

We decided to power straight through on the drive home from Toronto in order to get an extra day at home before heading out to Edmonton.  My tolerance for riding shotgun is now up to 15 hours in a day.  After less than 48 hours at home we were off again, but this time we flew.  Our rental car was a lipstick red Toyota Yaris that had the crap beaten out of it.  Cracked windshield, multiple scrapes and dings.  The cost was $16/day, so I think it was a fair deal.

Edmonton is famous for the West Edmonton Mall, which was built by the same developers who did the Mall of America.  The Edmonton mall is bigger.  A lot bigger.  The only reason we went there was to find a movie theater, as we had a few hours to fill one afternoon.  We ended up watching Inception in IMAX.  Pretty mind-blowing.  We also went to two museums at opposite ends of the spectrum.  One was a brand new art gallery with all modern art.  It was worth it for 2 exhibits – one on MC Escher and one on Warner Brothers cartoons.  The other was a throwback to the 50’s – complete with dioramas and butterflies stuck to boards with pincushions.  There was a beautiful temporary exhibit featuring wildlife photography, otherwise it was pure kitsch.  We passed up the opportunity to make paper sack puppets, the featured activity for the day.

Plenty of good restaurants in Edmonton and we stayed in a real hotel.  Sadly, the A/C was inadequate for the passive solar heating our room experienced during the day.   We came close to camping out in the hallway, which was at least 10 degrees cooler than our room.

The race itself had one of the craziest outcomes we’ve ever seen.  Both Scott and Dario ran well all day and Scott was able to complete a pass to move into second place with just a few laps remaining.  We were celebrating our second and fourth place finish when Tim pointed out that all of the photographers were converging on Scott.  Not the supposed winner.  Turns out that Helio was penalized for blocking Will Power (his teammate), thereby allowing Scott to make it past Will into second place.  Helio did not serve the penalty (a pit lane drive through) so he was charged with 20 seconds, moving him into 10th place.  Result:  double podium for Ganassi!!

Race results – Scott 1st, Dario 3rd.  Yeah, baby!

Toronto (July 15-18)

In theory it wasn’t a bad plan.  After flying back to Buffalo from Phoenix (via Minneapolis, ironically) we would pick up our car at the airport, drive across the border and spend the night in Canada.  This would keep us from having to make the border crossing first thing in the morning, when I assumed it would be the busiest.  The flight was scheduled to land at 10:30 PM and the hotel was less than an hour’s drive.  We would be in bed by midnight, easy.  Or so I thought.

The plane scheduled to take us from Minneapolis to Buffalo was held up by severe weather in Green Bay.  So we waited and we waited.  By the time we actually took off it was after 10 PM.  When we reached the hotel it was after 2 AM.  The man at the desk who shuffled out when I rang the bell was less than excited to see me.  I was right about the border crossing though.  We were the only car behind 3 semis.

Continuing our hot streak, Toronto was in the high 80’s with oppressive humidity.  We made a lame effort at some sightseeing and then holed up in a bar for a few hours before checking in.   Once again I had tempted fate by booking us into a B&B.  A very non-traditional B&B.  It was one of 5 rooms over an art gallery, run by a family that owned the gallery and lived on the 3rd floor of the building.  But still, a B&B.  It did have central air but no thermostat for the room.  It was very nice, reasonably priced and relatively close to the race course.  I would recommend it to anyone traveling to Toronto.  But we won’t stay there again.

At least we had a shady spot to watch the race.  Both cars were running in the top 5 most of the day, until Scott was forced into the wall late in the race.

Race results – Dario 2nd, Scott 20th.  I hate Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Phoenix in July (July 8-14)


Don’t do it.  Just don’t.  Seriously, I’m not kidding.

Unfortunately our goddaughter Sedona’s birthday is in July and her parents have just moved to Phoenix.  So we went.  The party was at a Peter Piper Pizza.  If I ever start to doubt my decision not to have children, I will just visit it again.

I did get a lot of cute photos of her new baby brother Jaxson during our visit.  This one is my favorite.  Check out the rest of them on my website photo album under Family/Babies.

But don’t go to Phoenix in July.  It’s like walking behind a bus blowing hot exhaust at you.  Your flesh feels like it’s under a broiler whenever you are in the sun.

Trust me.

Beyond the Glen (July 5-7)

Our post-race travel included a visit to the Watkin’s Glen State Park and a stop at the Finger Lakes Distillery.  I highly recommend both, particularly the cherry liquor at the distillery.  (liquid cherry pie filling – honestly!)  We stayed at a B&B in Geneva for the next two nights.  Serious mistake.  B&B’s are always chancy – so much of the experience depends upon the host and the other guests.  Plus the typical B&B decor is antique tacky at best.  What I hadn’t accounted for was the abnormally hot weather and the lack of central A/C in an old, historic home.  Yep, our room had a temporary A/C unit in it that barely managed to keep the temp under 80 degrees most of the night.  The main areas of the house, including the dining room where breakfast was served, had no A/C at all.  So after finishing a 9 AM breakfast we were pretty much ready for another shower.

Since the temperature and my heat rash didn’t really lend itself to more time in the sun, we spent the day driving to a number of wineries in the area and moving from the car to the tasting rooms as quickly as possible.  We got a little crazy buying wine (ending up with about a case).  In theory this wasn’t a problem since we had a car and would eventually be driving home.  However, our trip involved a flight detour to Phoenix via Buffalo and the car would be sitting in a parking lot for 6 days. In the 90 degree heat.  This would pretty much ensure that the wine was undrinkable by the time we got home.  So on the way to Buffalo, after our second night in the sauna suite, we made a stop at a UPS store.  $90 later and our wine was on the way home.  (For those of you who can’t bear the suspense, it arrived safely at my mom’s house where she was kind enough to look after it until we returned)

Whew!  After one night at a blissfully cool hotel next to the Buffalo airport, we were bound for Phoenix.

Watkin’s Glen (July 2-4)

This was our first time attending the Watkin’s Glen race.  Since this venue might not be on schedule next year, it could also be our last.  The Glen is a large permanent road course in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  It’s a beautiful area and relatively close to Toronto, the next city on the schedule.  Unfortunately, two weeks separate the two races so we ended up planning a rather ambitious itinerary in order to fill the time and not drive back home in between.

We started driving early on July 1st and made it to Corning right around lunch time the next day.  We allowed two days for the drive and did attempt sleeping at a hotel in Pennsylvania, checking in just before 1 am and checking out less than 7 hours later.  I’m not sure it was worth stopping.

Highlights of the weekend included a visit to The Corning Museum of Glass (AMAZING), two great dinners in Corning and the brand new Hampton Inn where we stayed.  Nicest.  Hampton.  Ever.  As nice as a lot of higher end hotels we’ve stayed at.  Unfortunately the weather continued its 10 + degrees above normal trend and there is almost nowhere to sit in the shade at the track.  On race day, we sat in the car for over an hour with the A/C running and the sunshade up so we could eat lunch in comfort.  Got a lot of interesting looks from people passing by.  Once again, I ended up with a heat rash on my arms.  Really getting tired of that.

Race results – Dario 3rd, Scott 8th.  At least we made it to the podium.

Iowa (June 19-20)

Iowa is a good track for us.  Dan Wheldon won there in 2008 and Dario won in 2009.  Dario also won in 2007 (the inaugural year for the race) before he started driving for Ganassi.  Since he didn’t compete in the IRL in 2008 he is undefeated there.  So we leave with high hopes for a great weekend.  It’s an easy drive to Des Moines, even after having to turn around and go back to the house 15 minutes after we started.  I forgot the MAGIC PASS.  This is the one and only thing I absolutely have to have for every race weekend.  It’s the team credential that gives me access to all IRL races.  I feel like a complete idiot.

The Iowa race is in Newton, about 30 miles east of Des Moines.  Hotels in the Newton area are scarce and completely booked up by race teams.  Consequently the best option is to get something on the east side of Des Moines.  The Holiday Inn in Altoona is close to ideal, but also full for the weekend.  So I found a Baymont Inn and Suites that was conveniently located by the freeway and reasonably priced.  For a reason.  It’s a dump.

Booking hotels online is always a crap shoot.  I look at tripadvisor reviews and hotels.com reviews and check out the photos posted online.  Usually this works out okay, especially when booking a name brand.  Not always.  The Baymont was rated 8 out of 43 hotels in Des Moines on tripadvisor.  Seriously?  To be fair, it looked like it was a nice place about 30 years ago.  The lobby reeks of fading grandeur, with twin curving staircases and a large chandelier.  The room was straight out of the 70’s with a stained and faded floral sofa, bad wallpaper and the oppressive smell of cheap air freshener.  When the air freshener smell faded, we realized why they used it with such a heavy hand – the room had an unpleasantly musty odor.  The bathroom was equally sad with a cracked formica countertop and tiny slivers of soap more suited for elves than adult humans.

I will give them points for trying.  The TV was relatively new, the room had a mini frig and the wifi was about the best we’ve ever had.  The staff was professional and the breakfast was pretty good.  They obviously haven’t given up yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the entire place slips into a state of irretrievable decay.

Sadly, the race didn’t turn out much better.  On the plus side, the team hospitality was set up (for a certain nameless executive who was unable to attend due to severe storms in the area race day) and we got to hang out with Harbo and Curt the friendly Canadian.  Dario dominated the day but was taken out by a broken gearbox late in the race – the first mechanical failure for the team in 2 years.  Scott suffered from some pit lane contact that caused one of his tires to go down, resulting in some limping around the track until the next pit.

Race results – Scott 6th, Dario 18th.  Ouch!

Texas (June 4-5)

Texas is hot.  Really, really hot.  On race day (June 5th) the temperature hits 105 degrees, about 15 over normal.  It’s a night race, so in theory it should be cooler, but I doubt it dropped below 90 before the race was over.  Our hotel is a Fairfield Inn in Denton.  On the plus side, the A/C seems up to the task.  Something I normally take for granted.  Future race weekends will prove this assumption to be sadly naive.  Also on the plus side, there are several good restaurants nearby, including an excellent Thai place.  We ate there twice over the weekend.  On the minus side, it turns out that Denton is in a “damp” county.  This means every gas station and convenience store sells wine and beer, but there are no liquor stores and no hard liquor available.  Meaning, no vodka.  Major bummer.  Despite the slathering of SPF 60 sunscreen I end up with a heat rash on my arms.  I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone lives in Texas.

If you happen to find yourself near Denton and you like Thai food, be sure to visit Thai Ocha.  I’m sure the weather is lovely at some point in the year, February maybe.

Race results – Scott 4th, Dario 5th.  On the plus side, Dario leads the championship points standings coming out of the race.

First Impressions

I really LOVE not having to get up at 5:15 AM anymore.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to set an alarm clock in the last 2 months (mostly travel related) and I’ve never slept past the time it was set to go off.  I usually go to bed between 10:30 and 11 PM and I usually wake up between 7 and 8 AM.  Go ahead and hate me for that.  I think I’m still working off some long term sleep deprivation.

Our travel schedule has been a little intense since I retired.  My husband and I had the privilege of being able to purchase Target Chip Ganassi team credentials for the 2010 racing season and we’re trying to attend as many races as possible this year.  (For more information on the Indy Racing League, check out http://www.indycar.com/ or   http://www.ganassi.com/)  We missed a few at the beginning of the season, but have been to every race since the beginning of June.  I’ll try to do a short post of each of the races as part of my “catch-up” blogging.

I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of real free time so far.  A big part of that is the travel, especially when you consider the amount of planning that goes into it.  I’ve made 14 hotel reservations so far this year.  I’ve also had a fair amount of financial stuff to sort through.  I’m certainly feeling less stressed and doing things at a more leisurely pace, rather than feeling like I have to cram so much into every day.

I made my first ever lasagna.  It wasn’t a total disaster but it certainly wasn’t worth the ridiculous amount of time and effort I put into it.  I think I like the idea of cooking more than the actual cooking.  I’m hoping to get better but I don’t think I will ever be really good at it.  My idea of the perfect recipe is one with 6 ingredients or less that takes no more than 30 minutes to make, has no more than 500 calories per serving and is low in sodium and fat.  Did I mention it needs to taste good too?  I have about 3 recipes that meet all of the criteria, if I can expand it to 30 I will be overjoyed.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on photography yet, although I am getting some things posted on my website.  I am not impressed with the photo album capability on the site but at least I’m getting something out there.  For anyone who missed my retirement slide show, most of the photos will be on the site in one of the folders.

Oops, I think it’s time for bed.

So Now, What?

On May 28th, ten days before my 46th birthday and less than a month before what would have been my 24th anniversary with Target Corporation, I “retired.”  I use the word retired because I did not leave to take another job, nor do I intend to ever work in a traditional job again.  In the spirit of that intent, my director and HR were kind enough to throw me a really classy and very fun retirement party.  With cake.  (I use the quotation marks around the word retired because the government doesn’t officially recognize retirement before the age of 55.  So consider it sort of a CYA, if you will.)

When I announced my retirement, I received one of two reactions from people.  The first was along the lines of “I hate you/I’m so jealous” and the second was some variation of “Take me with you.”    So I think it’s fair to say that the idea of a really early retirement appeals to a lot of people.  Of course it leads to an obvious question – what next?  This blog is part of the answer.  I would never have made the time to do something like this while I was working.  I also have a lot of ambitious travel plans and the desire to do a lot more with my photography.  That feels like enough for the short term.  Maybe in a year or so I’ll need something else.  Or maybe not.

It’s About Time

When I retired from Target on May 28th, I left behind a promise to start blogging and posting photos online so people could follow me vicariously.  (Something a surprisingly large number of people have expressed interest in doing)  So here it is nine weeks later and I am finally starting to fulfill that promise.  Not that I haven’t been busy in the mean time.  (More on that in future posts)  Since I’m new to this, I’m not sure how often I will be posting but will try for something more than weekly and less than daily.  I guess it will largely depend on how often I feel I have something thought-provoking, interesting or at least mildly amusing to say.  I will get a few posts under my belt before I send out notice that Just Jacque has gone live, so there will be a relative flurry of activity for the next few days.

Before I really get started, I have to thank my husband, BFF and relentlessly patient technical support person (aka Tim) for building this site as a gift to me and for coming up with a really cool name for it.  If you are wondering about the name, ask a fan of Will and Grace.