The Ginny European Tour

The next time I travel to Europe, I want to go to some of the places that Ginny, from Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, visited. Since there wasn’t a map available, I made one using the AWESOME Google Maps. This is a cheat BEDA post as I’m sending you to another blog post, but I think this map should be highlight, because Maureen is awesome and Google is awesome. That’s all.

ps … did I mention that you can download the book mentioned here for free? At least until next week?

Unlimited; Together We’re Unlimited

I’ve always loved The Wizard of Oz. I remember seeing the movie as a child and wanting to be a part of munchkin land, or wanting to skip down the yellow brick road. So naturally, when the show Wicked came to Broadway, I had to see it. Wicked, is based on a novel of the same name, by Gregory Maguire. It’s the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West. I attended the show on a free ticket, a lucky break. It was a great experience; I remember leaving the theater with the songs playing through my head. I got the soundtrack the very next day and played all the songs on repeat for one entire week. At Karaoke places I would sing all the Wicked songs that were available. I declared Wicked my favourite Broadway show.

This past Saturday I got a chance to attend Behind the Emerald Curtain and take a peek at how Wicked came into existence.

Our tour was lead by Jerad Bortz (ensamble and understudy for Fiyero) and Anthony Galde (swing and understudy for Fiyero, Wizard and Father). They took us through all the stages an actor experiences from audition to the stage. One of the most interesting stories was the fitting. The actor spends the day going to different shops, standing in their underwear in a room of mirrors and getting their measurements taken while being observed by a group of people who are holding clipboard and talking about their body. Intimidating? I think so.

I was blown away by the effort and detail that goes into each costume. Every single costume is custom fitted for each actor who will be portraying that role and some costumes cost thousands of dollars.

Jerad and Tony explained the behind the scene choreography that goes on with the costume changes. There is a system off stage that’s just as detailed as the dancing happening on stage. With limited time between scenes the actors have to know exactly where to go, what they are taking off or putting on and how to move along the line to change. Sometimes they do all of this while STILL singing.

The spoke in detail on the setting up of the set, the masks and the sound (mic placements), then we got to sit in the theater’s orchestra section while they showed us a short film on the making of the musical as well as the jobs of the folks in the background who keep the show running. One thing that struck me was the amount of people behind the scenes that work on the show while there is an audience watching the performance. I believe they said that there were about 100+ people working backstage to make sure each show runs smoothly, this is not including orchestra or actors.

To say that I was impressed with the effort and money it takes to put on Wicked is an understatement. I was blown away by the hard work and many hours. I thought back to the time I saw the show; when I left the auditorium I wasn’t thinking of the people doing the sound or the light, I was remembering the spectacular closing scene of Act 1. I was not wondering about the wardrobe team or the stage team, I was enjoying the look of the stage and the gear-like props that added something different to the setting of Oz. I know that the next time I see Wicked – and there will be a next time – I will probably be engrossed in the show on stage again. However, in the back of my mind I will also remember this day and I am quite sure that I will have a greater appreciation for the hard work that 100s of “invisible” people do on a daily basis to allow me to enjoy the work of art that is Wicked, the Musical.

Five Boro Bike Tour

(video from

Every year for the last four years I have considered doing the 5 Boro Bike Tour by Bike New York. Every year I’ve either forgotten, complained that I did not own a bike or else, registered too late, only to find it filled. This year thanks to a reminder from a friend I managed to sign up before the tour sold out.

Waiting to start our 6 hour tour.

The fact that I already knew how to ride a bicycle was a positive minimized by my not owning a bike and thus never riding one more than a few blocks. The tour is a forty-two miles ride though the trafficless streets of 5 New York Boroughs. Initially I considered renting, however, renting cost more than the actual tour itself! Next I thought of buying, however, I did not know what kind of bicycle to get and everyone I spoke to told me to go to an actual bike store and not a general store. Finally another friend suggested that I borrow and this being the route of least resistance (read cheapest), I took it. Through a series of events the bicycle I ended up using for the tour was one I never rode on before tour day. What an experience! Note to self: Make sure you familiarise yourself with the bicycle before you actually ride it.

on 14th & 6th

For those unsure, the 5 Boro Bike Tour takes its riders from  downtown Manhattan (through Central Park) into the Bronx and then onto the FDR. Back into Manhattan you go over the Queensboro bridge, through Astoria Park and onto the BQE which leads to the final run over the Verrazano Bridge and finally into Staten Island where you stop for the Festival at Fort Wadsworth. After this you still have about three miles of cycling to the Staten Island Ferry which takes you back to Manhattan, the end of the tour.

I cannot say I trained for this ride, I did go to the gym and did build up some endurance however, riding a stationary bike as exercise and being on an actual bike route with elevations are two completely different experience.

At a rest stop in Queens

We started on 14th street and 6th avenue to avoid the crowd of people at the start line (Battery City), this was probably a good decision since you had to get there pretty early to be close to the front and you are also riding with 30,000 people. 30,000 people trying to get started is a lot of waiting. It also made our Central Park wait, for people merging and runners crossing shorter; and though I love trees and grass, I do not particularly like the smell of horse manure, so waiting just five minutes – as opposed to the one hour I overheard a lady telling her friend – was worth the 14th street start.

Vehicles of choice

After our second rest stop at Astoria Park and about 25 miles into the ride I wanted to stay off the bike seat and perhaps lie on the grass for a bit (or forever). As a wise friend and 5 Boro Bike Tour veteran once told me, “It’s the getting back onto the seat after stopping that really hurts!”. Indeed, she was correct. She was also correct when she told me that the BQE is much harder than the Verrazano Bridge. I struggled on the BQE. I could not understand why people were passing me nor why it took so much effort for me to advance. When I finally reached the rest stop before the Verrazano Bridge I had already decided that I was not going to ride up the bridge, if the BQE was that difficult then I did not know how I would make it up such a long incline.

A few people from our group left before the Verrazano Bridge, so from ten we were down to six.

Here we go into the 4th borough

The trek up the Verrazano Bridge turned out better than I thought, so I kept peddling (slow and steady, just keep going) until I reached the peak of the climb and then it was all downhill from there (literally). Going down was one of my favourite parts of the tour as it was the promise of the end, the cool – almost cold – breeze that hits you and knowing that I did it, I travelled across the Verrazano Bridge for free! (Seriously, Staten Island, $11.00 to cross a bridge?) It was only on the descent that I noticed that I had lost a lot of air in my tires – probably why I was struggling to move forward on the BQE, but that is just my supposition.

We rested for at least 30 minutes at the festival, got some free massages (best feeling ever) and flavoured coconut drink and I accepted a free visor – so much sun. The final three miles after the festival took us to the Ferry and then a Ferry ride took us back to Manhattan and that ended the tour.

With a total of six bananas consumed, a start time of around 8:30 a.m. and an end time – at the festival – of 2:30 p.m., I think I did pretty well for my first long distance bicycle ride. The pain the next day was not as bad as I thought it would be (now that it’s a somewhat distant memory). Will I do it again? I’m pretty sure I would.

Latitude Log of Tour

The day on Twitter:

It’s too early for me to be up. #tdfbbt #whatdidigetmyselfinto
5:15 AM May 2nd via web

Racked and ready to roll. #tdfbbt #earlymorningsmarts
5:56 AM May 2nd via UberTwitter

Silver Bullets new friend. #tdfbbt #gettingtweetsinbeforeriding
5:59 AM May 2nd via UberTwitter

First rest stop. Back in Manhattan, just blasted thru the Bronks. #tdfbbt
9:27 AM May 2nd via UberTwitter

At Astoria stop. Bananas are yummy!!! #tdfbbt
10:32 AM May 2nd via UberTwitter

In the 4th borough – Brooklyn. Passed the 25th marker on the way. Wow … This is crazy. #tdfbbt #whatwasithinking?
11:49 AM May 2nd via UberTwitter

From our first rest stop about an hour ago. #tdfbbt
11:52 AM May 2nd via UberTwitter

Only the Verrizanno bridge to go. I feel like I accomplished something. My butt hurts. #tdfbbt
1:36 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

FINISHED the bike tour!!!! #tdfbbt #accomplished.
2:36 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

I rode the ENTIRE Verrazanno!!!! #accomplished! #tdfbbt
2:42 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

I survived my FIRST bike tour!! #tdfbbt
3:03 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

Juuust got a free massage … A massage never felt this good. #tdfbbt
3:41 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

I’m on a boat! Well, the Staten Island Ferry. #tdfbbt.
5:16 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

home. showered. bed! what a great day at #tdfbbt
8:05 PM May 2nd via web