Underwater Poker

For a guy trip with a little adrenaline and other worldly experience, try an underwater poker tournament. Divester reported about a tournament to raise money for a military family, but there are tons of other good causes as well.

Here's how to organize your getaway with friends while raising money for a good cause:

  1. Decide how many guys can make this commitment. Note: They must either be scuba certified or willing to be trained how to dive.
  2. Arrange practice group dives before the big tournament.
  3. Arrange practice poker matches just for fun.
  4. Decide where to go diving and make any necessary hotel, transportation, etc. arrangements. 
  5. Set the date of the tournament, the cause for which you'll donate money, and the target amount to raise. Alert the non-profit organization, church, family, or other benefit group.
  6. Raise funds. Make calls. Go door to door. Do email blasts. Ask co-workers. Post announcements on MySpace. And so forth.
  7. Create a trip on TripHub to invite any who want to join the tournament and go as spectators or participants.
  8. Discuss trip details using TripHub's trip discussion blog, organize and post everyone's info and trip details on the event schedule.
  9. Then go on the poker tournament, win big, and feel great about donating to a worthy cause while bonding with your pals in a unique way.

 


Snowshoeing: An Eco-Friendly Winter Activity

Puget Sound Journey's Nov/Dec issue has a great article on how snowshoeing is "an escape from both urban and ski-resort crowds." As winter blusters its way in, snow fans who want to get their fill of the powder, but away from the crowds and off the beaten path, can reap magnificent rewards with snowshoeing. It's a great group sport for the following reasons:

  1. Like skiing, you can snowshoe at your own pace. Like hiking, this often leads to good conversation with various members of the group, depending on your speed, etc. Unlike skiing, you rarely lose your group to lifts and runs and mostly stick together yet with the freedom hiking allows to stop and snack, look at vistas, etc.
  2. Safety in numbers: Should avalanche danger exist, or one person gets injured, there are multiple people to take action and mitigate problems or help in any other way.
  3. Orientation: If solo trekking while snowing, your tracks can easily get erased with new snow, causing some disorientation of where the trail is or which way is north; therefore, it's always good to count on at least one other to share responsibilities for staying on track.
  4. Unique way to "walk" in nature and share an outdoors experience.
  5. Photo ops: You won't just get scenic shots. You can get proof you were there by having a friend take your photo next to Mt. Spectacular and email it to your mom.
  6. Green travel in action: Snowshoeing is one of the best ways to experience winter without noise pollution (as in snowmobiling), expensive gear (as in skiing + lift tickets), and low impact on the environment (it's essentially you, the elements, and your snowshoes).

Any other reasons snowshoeing is either neat-o in general or eco-friendly? Any other tips for people organizing group snowshoeing trips?

 


Ironman Quest: Smells Like Team Spirit

Whether you're scoring points on the field or rooting in the stands, team sports are a bonding experience among groups of friends and like-minded jock and jills. Athletes of all levels compete in leagues of softball, football, soccer, hockey, tennis, year-round.

Others choose individual sports and only race against the clock and their own athletic skill in marathons, triathlons, walk-a-thons, and race for the cure type events. Groups can occasionally join forces for training, but when it comes to the fiercest, most grueling sports, it takes a unique individual with an independent spirit.

Such is the case with the Ironman triathlon, a famous event where fit athletes swim for two miles, bike over 100 miles, and finish by running a marathon. It's inspirational for anyone who's attempted a race, played sports, or even tried to stay in shape. Ironman participants are in a league of their own. The athlete in all of us has to admire them, which is why they usually have a team of supporters cheering them along the route and ready to share in the momentous accomplishment of crossing that finish line. Groups of athletes, fans, friends, and family often travel to these events to witness a bit of athletic history.

A new movie, What It Takes, documents four Ironman participants' training and preparation for the 2005 event. You don't have to be an Ironman to appreciate the sheer physical and mental prowess it takes to do a triathlon of this magnitude. This film follows Peter Reid, Heather Fuhr, Luke Bell, and Lori Bowden (three of them previous world champions) for a year on their quest to the 2005 Ironman finish line. For an insider's look at one of the pre-eminent sports competitions, take a look. It opens in select cities across the U.S. this  month. And you can enjoy the movie from the comfort of a theater seat, popcorn and drink in hand.

 


Tailgate Party Winner: Ole Miss

Tailgate parties conjure up images of football fans gathering near stadiums, camped out for the pre-game hours and into the game to celebrate their alma mater or favorite team. The tailgate party may be as American as applie pie, bringing college friends together for weekend reunions or regular reconnections. Clubs and teams may also gather to root for their team and toast the season.

The New York Times recently reported on the University of Mississippi (aka Ole Miss) tailgate party as the pinnacle of such events. The article portrays this as more than a normal tailgate party, one of history, where the cars have been replaced with tents, and it is thee social event in Oxford, Mississippi, not just for the students or alumni, but for the whole town.

Here's an excerpt from William L. Hamilton's New York Times piece to give you a sense of the event:

"Ole Miss's stadium accommodates 60,580 people, and devotees of the Grove argue that the Grove accommodates more. It is every kind of party you can describe, at once: cocktail party, dinner party, tailgate picnic party, fraternity and sorority rush, family reunion, political handgrab, gala and networking party-hearty — what might have inspired Willie Morris, one of Mississippi's favorite sons, to declare Mississippi not a state, but a club.

The party is technically a picnic. Originally an informal tailgating get-together when most serious pregame socializing took place at Ole Miss's fraternity and sorority houses, by the 50’s the Grove started to become its own pregame tradition.

Cars have been kept out since a rainstorm in 1990 that reduced the Grove to a rutted swamp, and tents replaced them. The Grove Society, an alumni organization, posts a strict schedule for the event, which dictates that set-up will start at Friday midnight.

The Grove is a grove of generations of Mississippi families who went to Ole Miss and who send their children there. Alumni and students, fathers and sons, old friends and new acquaintances, seemed inseparable last Saturday, as if they had walked out of the halls ringing the Grove and were meeting between classes, not between decades."

Does anyone know of an equally enticing tailgate party?

Source: New York Times


Clubs and Teams Travel Guide

You're a member of a church that takes spiritual retreats. Perhaps your tennis or ski team travels for competition. Or your alma mater organizes football tailgate parties for home and away games. You could be a soccer parent planning away games with other parents. Or even belong to a swanky book club that travels to Italy after reading Under the Tuscan Sun. Whatever your lifestyle is, membership organizations (clubs, teams, associations, etc.) are great ways to stay active and pursue interests while meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends or colleagues.

For like-minded individuals who travel together, here are planning resources for organizing your next group trip.

How to Book Group Reservations

How to Pack Properly

Tips for Traveling en Masse

Quick Checklist for Club, Team, or Organization Group Trips

  1. Prepare a budget. How much will it cost? What are the shared expenses? What are deadlines for deposits, etc.? A basic spreadsheet with all big pre-trip shared expenses will help if you're organizing or on a committee for a given trip or retreat.
  2. Collect money for shared expenses such as hotel rooms and transportation. You can track money owed using TripHub's money tracking tool.
  3. Get release forms. If your trip is a school scenario with kids traveling with parents, coaches, and chaperones, you'll need to make sure release forms are signed.
  4. Make dining reservations and arrangements for your group. Depending on group size, some restaurants may or may not be able to accommodate you, so book well in advance (even a couple of months). Groups get cranky when not fed, which makes for a stressful, less fun experience for everyone. Arrange for meals on group trips to people sated and/or energized.
  5. Order custom group t-shirts. Nothing screams "team spirit" like a gaggle of people wearing matching uniforms. Geeky though it may sound to some, it's still unifying. Not only can you easily identify each other in crowds, but you'll have a memento from traveling together. You can even put a logo, photo, or pithy slogan on it.

TripHub allows you to easily plan and coordinate trip details so everyone stays informed about trip plans and itineraries. It's ideal for groups where there are varied interests, budgets, needs, etc. Here's how TripHub can help clubs, teams, and similar groups plan trips:

  1. Determine location and destination for the trip
  2. Create a trip home page
  3. Invite team/club/association members (ski team, church group, school mates, professional organization members)
  4. Discuss trip details with travel companions
  5. Create an event schedule of dinner reservations and other key itinerary details
  6. Shop for flights, hotels, rental cars, activities and attractions (or share travel information if already booked elsewhere so the group knows when people arrive, leave, and where they're staying)
  7. Discuss hotel options

Scuba Dive Grid

While summer ended with the quiet dawn of fall, winter vacations in sunny destinations are coming soon, including trips to Maui, Cancun, the Bahamas, and anywhere else you can still get a tan and splash around.

Scuba diving is one of those activities you can still do in the winter - in sunny destinations. I've heard Grand Cayman is a diver's mecca, and the Great Barrier Reef and Red Sea also rank high. Since I'm terrified of being masked and submerged for extended periods of time, my water activity consists of snorkeling in shallow bays near shore.

However, divers take note: Scubaratings.com is a site that allows you to find dive packages and rate dive trips to various destinations. It looks like a divers' community site, complete with a new "Dive Grid" where you enter in trip criteria (number of divers, travelers, dates, number of rooms needed, etc.) and see results of vacations that are specific to divers.

In doing a basic search for 6 nights, scuba diving 5 days, and traveling solo, I got results ranging from $463 to $8,011 across 11 countries (from Trinidad to Tanzania). Quite the range of budget to luxury packages. Dig around and see if the dive grid or site works for you. Summer may be over, but sun worshippers and adventurers who gear their travel around warm-weather activities can start planning now for winter getaways.


Guys Getaways vs. Mancations

Mancations? You heard it right. Gadling reported on a trend CNN recently wrote about, and one TripHub has known about for a while - guys getaways, apparently now also referred to as mancations. (Men, are you cool with this term? Sounds a little goofy to me, but then again girls getaway probably sounds equally as goofy.)

Groups of guys with old friends from high school and college (or just life) traveling together is a growing trend indeed, if nothing else, evident from hotels and resorts catering to men only groups with such testosterone-infused packages including things like:

  • poker parties
  • hand-rolled cigars
  • buckets of beer
  • sports tickets
  • race car driving
  • "man-friendly" spa treatments

Keeping in touch is important and doing so while traveling (away from the girls) is a way to bond in ways you can't do as a couple. I can vouch that my girls getaways (goofy as that trendy little name sounds for a vacation) are a God-send when it comes to staying connected to friends. Especially when you're increasingly busy post-college with work and life.

P.s., clearly, other bloggers think the term mancation is as ridiculous as I do. However, the concept is sound. Guys do travel together, label or no label. Take a look at what other bloggers are saying about the new travel industry invention of the term mancation


San Juan Island Boating

After two weeks boating in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state, I'm back to blogging.

Sanjuan_boat_trip_009 What a trip! Bird watching. Kayaking. Whales diving under our boat (and me in tears with a mixture of fear and awe). Dining like royalty on freshly caught crabs. Anchoring and tying up to docks around the islands. Meeting other boaters and reveling in the comaraderie. Feeling more relaxed than I have in years. Meeting up with family and dining with friends on various stops along our cruising route. Ah, that's the life. Now, back to reality and awaiting the Visa bill.

Each island has a unique flavor, as does each harbor and bay. Although the charm of Deception Pass State Park (on Whidbey Island), Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor (both on San Juan Island), Fisherman's Bay and Spencer Spit (both on Lopez Island) is specific to each locale and its inhabitants, I found Sucia Island the most mesmerizing.

Sucia is a state park unto itself without permanent residents, a fossil bed, a tranquil respite from urban sprawl, a sanctuary for birds, vultures, seals, and very possibly a mouse or two. It offered what I needed most - silent nights and a bounty of nature to explore. The abundant plant and tree diversity was pointed out to me by my forester companion (who also doubled as skipper and chef - what would I do without him?!). He identified species as we hiked along the 15 miles of trails around the island. I believe there were approximately 14 tree species alone; each time we saw a new one, our heads would tilt back to find the top (I was looking at the beauty of it all while he analyzed the tree health and age). Madrona, firs, cedar, oak, maple, juniper, aspen, alder, yew - the list seemed as endless as the seascape, viewable from various bays, inlets, rocky embankments, and beaches around the island. Sucia is a wonderland for nature lovers. I know I'll return.

Quick tips for boating trips:

  1. Take a wearable PFD and wear it
  2. Learn how to tie knots before the boating or sailing trip
  3. Practice at least once jumping off the boat to the dock to secure the lines (when docking) so the vacation isn't your first time having to do it (this is to avoid looking like a novice nerd at the docks when your boat cruises in; and also for safety)
  4. If you're not the skipper, be a great crew member by being alert for his/her instructions and thinking ahead to anticipate problems and needs
  5. In peak boating season, plan ahead for places you must see by making reservations (and wing the rest - leave room for flexibility based on weather and whim)
  6. Bring two cameras in case one dies or you run out of film on a remote island (trust me on this)

Boating trips - whether you charter a boat, take a cruise, or book a sail or cruise as part of a group trip, is a great way to go. You get a unique perspective on scenery from the water and have an opportunity to explore where cars cannot go.


The Passion of World Cup 2006

By guest blogger John George

Oh, the tension.  It's a four year cycle, and I've been riding it since it was at the low point in 2002, just after the US lost to Germany in the quarters. 

It's hard for most Americans to understand the tension that builds as the World Cup approaches.  Soccer is a European thing. It's a South American thing. It's even an African thing. It's far from being baseball, hot dogs, apple pie or Chevrolet. Back in 2005, while 99.9% of the country was watching the AL beat the NL for the tenth time running in the All-Star game, I was with a dozen soccer buddies and chewing my nails.  Would the US get a result in Costa Rica (even a tie would be good) and actually qualify for the tournament?

But it's not just tension. It's passion. Being a soccer fan is something that permeates your entire being. Supporting the national team goes without thinking. And after the great run by the US in 2002, I just couldn’t suppress the idea of going to Germany for the 2006 tournament. So I scored some tickets, made plans with my roomie to visit a friend in Geneva and booked an expensive flight. 

I arrived a week into the tournament and a day before the US/Italy game in Kaiserlautern. Changing trains and cramming into to progressively more crowded cars – fun times. The last leg was standing room only, but it was nothing like the bedlam of the stadium.

Kaiserlautern was teeming. It took us 40 minutes to fight the crowds, get around the stadium, through the gates and to our seats. Then we had 90 minutes of standing and yelling with 50,000 fans. I've been to a lot of US games, probably 15, but I've never been surrounded by so many US fans. It was intoxicating (and it wasn't just the effects of the rosé!) The cheers were all new to me, but, you know, it's all pretty easy.  Clap ten times in a simple pattern then yell "U.S."  Repeat repeatedly. Whistle when Italian players fall down (which was often). Do the wave when the game gets slow. Our section was nearly silent when Italy scored, and I felt the stands move when the US got a tally.  Huge cheers when an Italian got thrown out. Then booing at the ref when each of two US players got a red card. The last 20 minutes were pandemonium and the tension peaked. If they US could hold on for a tie–a valuable tie–they could still become world champions.  And they did hold on.  That 1-1 tie gave the US the slimmest hope that they could advance to the knock-out round where anything can happen.

That hope dissipated before I got my voice back.  The US lost to Ghana five days later in Nurnberg – another raucous event– and was eliminated from the World Cup. The tension was gone. I could just enjoy soccer for the next two weeks and tour Switzerland and environs without all that pesky worry about how the US will do in the next game. I could just enjoy the tournament in bars and pick a new team to support as the last one was eliminated–which was often as I generally root for the underdog.

With the Cup now over, the four year ebb and flow of tension is rising again. Qualifiers start next year. And so does the nail biting. I'm already starting to wonder how South Africa will compare in 2010.

John's lifelong passion for soccer is equalled only by is passion for outdoor recreation that doesn't require a lot of expensive gear, catching bands while they still play in small venues, and consuming cold pilsner (or rose'). He still plays recreationally when his knees allow.


Boating, the Great Urban Escape

Ah, cities with water. Whether its lakefront, oceanfront, bayfront, or riverfront, living in or visiting a city with water access can be bliss in the sultry summer months.

Dangling my toes from the bow, I went on a boat ride this past weekend with a few others. A potpourri group of friends and family. This activity is highly group-oriented, especially in a city known for having the highest number of boats per capita. Seattle waterways were jam-packed on Sunday with kayakers, power boaters, wooden boaters, canoers, rowers, floaters, pedalers, sailors, wake-boarders, water skiers, and the list goes on.

Watching other boats pass our boat, I noticed that regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status (believe me, you can tell a lot by someone's boat), everyone had a perma-grin. Water can be the great equalizer. People on boats of all shapes and sizes (passengers to match) waved and smiled as they floated by each other.

With so many people crowding the waterways, I felt privileged to help the skipper navigate by yelling, "Canoers on the port side!" and other super official-sounding lingo. I was luckiest girl in the world, for the day. Warm breeze, water splashing, scrumptious food and drinks, all in good company.

I highly recommend some form of a boating this summer, kicking your feet up, and letting the wake be your guide. Even within city limits, you can be miles away.