Saturday, August 27, 2016

Now THAT'S a Vending Machine!

Finally, someone has stocked a vending machine with something that's truly good for you.

Seriously, what they're offering won't make you fat,
won't expose you to artificial sweeteners, and it's good for your heart.
Of course you might get some sun, so bring your best hat and sunscreen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...
(drumroll please)
the kayak vending machine!!!


It's real.
Today is not April 1st and I'm not making this up.
Their facebook post that went up yesterday reads as follows:

WE'RE OFFICIALLY OPEN AND HAVE OUR FIRST RESERVATIONS!
THE FIRST OF A KIND PADDLE SHARE SYSTEM IN A NATIONAL PARK IS READY TO GO! THE DECISION WAS MADE AT 10:00 AM TODAY, THURSDAY, AUGUST 25, 2016, JUST IN TIME FOR THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CENTENNIAL (CURRENTLY BEING CELEBRATED AROUND THE COUNTRY AT OVER 400 NATIONAL PARKS).
WOOHOOOOOOO! HAPPY BIRTHDAY NPS! 🎉 🎈💥 GO CELEBRATE AND PADDLE YOUR NATIONAL PARK!
ANNOUNCEMENT COMING SOON ABOUT A GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION WITH ALL OUR PARTNERS. IN THE MEANTIME . . . . . . . . . . GO PADDLE!
16 kayaks are currently available at North Mississippi River Regional Park in North Minneapolis. 16 more are coming soon to the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization Stormwater Park. The return stations are at Boom Island Park.
To reserve a kayak go to: www.paddleshare.org and follow the instructions.
It's very simple:
1. Choose your location (North Mississippi Regional Park for now)
2. Select # of kayaks
3. Pay by credit card
4. Receive a code (via email) to unlock your equipment in a specific locker.
5. Remove your pfd, paddle, and unlock your boat.
6. Shut locker
7. Go paddle
You must have some experience and be 18 or older. All boats must be returned to the Boom Island Return station 3.9 miles downstream.
BE SAFE
HAVE FUN
Make your reservation today!
The Mississippi River Paddle Share is a self-serve kayak rental system where you can paddle a 4 mile stretch of river in your national park: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (Twin Cities Metro Area).

 
Of course you've got to give the kayak back when you're done with it,
so it's not quite the same as dropping a few quarters
and getting a Snickers bar, but this is fantastic.
 
Leave it to those crazy Minnesotans to do something like this.
 
I did some checking, and it appears that this is not technically the first vending machine to spit out a kayak.  A few years back there was a fun promotion that took place in San Francisco, where a huge vending machine distributed bikes, kayaks, and other items related to outdoor tourism in British Columbia. 
 
You can read more about it and watch a fun video at this link:

This kayak vending machine is in Minneapolis, and it got me thinking...
if they were to stock that rig with gondolas in October
(right around the time when we're competing at Nationals),
they'd be sold out for sure!


To learn more, see http://www.paddleshare.org
or search them on facebook for fresh updates.

Perfect Moment in Tahoe

photo by Cody Wright

A photographer in Tahoe who works with Drew at Tahoe Amore,
captured this two-boat shot near sunset. 
The boat in the foreground was a marriage proposal,
and I'm sure that this photo represents one of those perfect moments
in the life of those two passengers.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

4X4 on the Water

photos by Steve Elkins
 
Tonight, as the sun was just touching down on the horizon,
my guys and I were securing the Forcole on our gondola, The Phoenix
in preparation for our first four-oar workout.
 
When I woke up this morning, the sun was large and in charge, 
burning bright, with no clouds to burn through. 
 
But by late afternoon a marine layer had moved in,
and we were once again enjoying that gray haze following the
bright orange ball's touchdown.
 
We shoved off, got situated, and went about the business of reconnecting
with November of last year. 
I was quite surprised at how well these guys re-engaged with all the work we'd done last year.  I'd have gotten them all on the boat much sooner,
but Jakob was working on a fishing boat in Alaska until just last week. 
 
Passing other boats I announced that we were operating in "four wheel drive".
After eight months of rowing with one remo, it was refreshing and exhilarating to move so fast over the water.
 
I lost track of the number of times I shouted "Oh, I've missed this!"
 
Simon, Jakob and Kalev were all naturals - jumping back into the four-man configuration.  We spent much of the times cracking jokes as we rowed.
 
Approaching Steve's gondola...
 
...and passing by quickly.

Of course, there were those "Whoa, wait-a-minute!" moments,
and guys needed to take a break more than they did last October,
but it was a great first run for this team.

Minnesota, here we come!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rainier from Gig

photo by Janet Halseth Perry
 
Think your gondola location has the best view?
The folks at Gig Harbor Gondola might have one better.
Imagine rowing with Mt. Rainier in the background.
 
Here's a nice shot taken from the Gig Harbor waterfront.
Many thanks to Janet Halseth Perry for this great image.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Training at Sunset

top three photos by Ruben Jay
 
 
With Nationals just two months away, Kalev and I decided to take a jaunt
on the Contessa to work on our tandem rowing skills.
 
 Heading out,
 
and chasing down the sunset.
 
We met up with Simon as he was out with passengers.
The three of us circled around and sang "Santa Lucia".
 
What a perfect night on the water.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cowardly Sabotage

I'm a big fan of keeping things positive here on the Gondola Blog.
You won't see many things here that denigrate another person or group of people.

I will make an exception today,
and in a moment you'll understand why.

This coming Thursday there will be a blessing on the steps of the church of Santa Maria della Salute - a tradition that goes back a very long time.
All of the rowers in the upcoming Regata Storica will be there,
with each two-man team aboard the gondolino that they will compete on
just three days later.

Yes, it's that time again.
The Regata Storica is right around the corner.
Nine sleek racing boats which are used each year for this race have been stored and maintained by the Commune di Venezia to be used in the ultimate rowing race through La Serenissima.

So far all the things I've said could describe what happens each year at this time.
Nothing new.

And then it happened,
someone gained access to the gondolini that were stored and ready for launch on Friday, and amazingly, managed to chop seven of the nine boats in half with some sort of a saw.

Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.

Here are some images that have been circulating online.



For most folks, a series of questions come forth:
- What kind of person does this?!

- WHY would they do it?

- How in the world did they get away with it without being caught, or even seen doing it?  As of this writing, nobody seems to know who did it or why. 
There are many theories, but that's it. 
The police are investigating this,
so it's probably just a matter of time before the truth comes out.

And of course there's the practical question...
- What can be done in this short period of time?

Imagine if the Superbowl could only be played with one particular football,
and someone put it into a woodchipper.

Here's where, if I had less self control,
I'd launch into a blistering tirade of filthy language.
But since my kids read the blog I'll just say this:
Take the very worst insults and foul language,
spin it up in a blender of rage, and give it a Soprano's-style delivery...
and THAT'S how I feel about the person or people who did this.

The Venetian spirit, however, is remarkable.
From the time their forefathers began building the foundations of the city,
Venetians have shown the world that they are survivors,
they're resilient,
and they have a natural skill in adapting and overcoming.

See, at this moment, in a building on the island of Giudecca,
three masters of boatbuilding are working tirelessly to save the day.
Roberto Dei Rossi, Gianfranco Vianello "Crea" and Dino Tagliapietra have come together to put these remarkable boats back together in time for the blessing on Thursday.

And it won't just be a cosmetic patch job either.
The seven gondolini will be race-ready.

So on behalf of Venice and all of the fans of Venetian rowing around the world, there is one other thing I'd like to tell those cowards responsible for this disgraceful act:

You failed!


I hope you enjoy watching the Regata Storica this year.
I know I will.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Selfie Sticks are Welcome

photo by Mitchell Luckey
 

I know they can be annoying and in some cases unsafe in amusement parks and other places.  But on the gondolas here in Newport, selfie sticks are welcome, and photobombs by the gondolier are encouraged.

US Gondola Nationals 2016!

photo by Ignus Holm

It has been announced.
In two months, we'll be converging on Stillwater, Minnesota
to take part in the 2016 US Gondola Nationals!
Here's the message from John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica in Stillwater:

Hello USGN community,

Mark your calenders for the 2016 US Gondola Nationals being held in Stillwater Minnesota on October 22nd and 23rd.
I hope to see everyone at this annual one-of-a-kind event.

The more of you that can come the better.
If there is anything I can do to help get you here please contact me at 651-755-3002. If you need help with lodging let me know and I will see what I can do.
For lodging info go to http://www.discoverstillwater.com/ Registration forms will be out early next week. It is best to fly into Minneapolis/St. Paul international airport.

Ciao for now,

John

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Palio di Siena

Last month in my post about Calcio Storico,
I mentioned the "Palio di Siena" - a wild horse race through the city square.

They typically have Palio races on two days each year,
and last weekend was the second one of the year. 
If you're like me, and you're saying "I've got to get out there to see it",
then you'll need to wait until next year.

Here's a clip of the race that happened just two days ago: