Thursday, July 26, 2007

Indianapolis - US Grand Prix

We left mid day Friday hoping to get to our hotel near Indianapolis before 1 am. It was supposed to be a 10 hour drive but with breaks it took a little bit longer and we only managed to get to our hotel by 2 am. Thankfully the SUV we rented was very comfortable.

We got up early next day in a hope to catch the early races and every bit of the qualifying. We drove to the campsite and parked our car. The camping stuff was all left for later in the day. F-1 cars were already on track with pre-qualifying practice and we could hear the loud roar of their engines from outside. We entered through the GATE F which was at the end of the start finish straight. The practice was over but we were just in time for the formula BMW race. The race was competitive and proved more exciting that we had anticipated. As soon as the race ended we headed for the stand opposite the paddock in hope of catching a better view of the formula-1 qualifying. We were there with our cooler filled with beer and drinks and right on time.

Formula-1 cars were a class apart, their engines deafening, with shining armor and lighting speed they almost seemed out of this world. We were totally thrilled and amazed as the cars zoomed around in a bid to set the fastest time. McLaren’s were setting the pace in the first and the second qualifiers. It was no surprise they set up scorching laps to grab 1-2, Hamilton at pole and Alonso second. They left hapless Raikonnen and Massa in their wake at 5 and 3 respectively. I have watched formula-1 racing for many years but seeing the action from the track is a different experience altogether.

Hot sun ensured that we took about an hour to set camp. There were hundreds of campers in that campsite from all over the world. Unable to bear the heat and direct sunlight we lazed away in our AC SUV till the sun came down a little. Then it was time to cook some delicious snacks, play soccer, Frisbee and the finally more cooking, dinner this time. Camping was more fun that we had anticipated. Later that night we had fun playing poker in a clearing between our tents.

Next morning, rested and enthused, we headed to the tracks for the race. We had booked tickets for corner 6 stands which was supposedly very close to the track and were in time to catch the driver’s parade on antique convertibles. I couldn’t believe we were seeing Raikonnen, Alonso and other driving by right in front of us. The stadium was packed and as with yesterday we were ready with our cooler and refreshments. We got our beers out as we keenly awaited the start of the race. The start of the race was exciting but we had to catch that on screen as we didn’t have a great view of start –finish. However, we were more excited to see cars speeding on corner 6 and we had a good view of the first quarter of the circuit. It was close amongst the top runners with Hamiliton leading from Alonso. Mid-field racing was more exciting as Fischella in particular, after a laggard start, was on the limit and overtaking at every opportunity. Corner 6 was his favorite as he overtook from both inside and outside. We didn’t mind and cheered him all the way. Top runners continued in the same fashion with some minor re-positioning after pits and Hamilton went on to win the race. I must remark that it is truly breathtaking to see the cars from so close and you can easily tell the difference in speed and sound of a formula 1 car as compared to others. When I say others I mean race cars on a race track!

We were very pleased watching the race first hand and I hope I get to catch the race in a European circuit and check out the atmosphere there. If you are a racing fan this is a must!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Movies I watch

Ratings: 5.0 Excellent 4.0 Good 3.0 Average 2.0 Bad 1.0 Avoid


Michael Clayton - 4.0
Darjeeling limited - 4.0
Eastern promises - 4.0
There will be blood - 3.5
Assisnation of Jesse James - 4.0
Dan in real life - 3.5
Friends with money - 3.0
Gone Baby Gone - 4.5
National treasure 2 - 3.5
Charlie Wilson's War - 3.0
Great Debaters - 3.5
High School High - 3.5
Into the wild - 5.0
The notebook - 4.0
Trainspotting - 4.0
Requim for a dream - 4.0
Harry Potter andChamber of secrets - 2.5
Harry Potter and Sorcerer's stone - 2.5
3:10 to yuma - 4.0
Rescue Dawn - 3.0
American Gangster - 3.5
Transformers - 2.5
I now propunce you checuk and larry - 3.0
Superbad - 4.5
Knocked up - 3.5
Science of sleep - 4.0
I am legend - 3.5
Blades of Glory - 3.5
In the Land of women - 3.0
The Lives of Others - 3.5
Flying Scotsman - 3.5
Bheja Fry (Hindi) - 3.5
Madagascar - 4.5
Yuva (Hindi) - 3.0
Shootout at Lokhandwalla(Hindi) - 2.0
Ronin - 3.5
The Sentinel - 3.5
Number 23 - 3.0
Malice - 3.0
The English Patient - 3.5
Thank you for smoking - 4.0
Butterfly effect II - 3.5
Memento - 5.0
Pan's labyrinth - 3.5
Ocean's 13 - 3.0
The Machinist - 3.5
Equilibrium - 3.5
Surf's up - 3.0
Shrek the third - 3.0
Shooter - 2.5
Sunshine - 3.5
The Pursuit of happyness - 4.0
The Last King of Scotland - 4.0
The Good Shepherd 3.5
The Prestige - 5.0
The Departed - 4.0
Blood Diamond - 4.0
Crash - 4.0
Factotum - 3.5
Smokin' Aces - 1.0
Borat - 2.0
Black Dahlia - 3.5
Usual Suspects - 4.5
The Station Agent - 3.5

The shawShank redemption - 4.0
The good, the Bad and the Ugly - 4.0
Schindler's list - 4.0
The matrix - 5.0
American Beauty - 4.0
Apocalypse Now - 4.0
Auberge espagnole, L' (The Spanish Apartment) - 4.0
Seven - 4.0
Forrest Gump - 4.5
Terminator 2 - judgement day - 4.0
Life is Beautiful - 5.0
Braveheart - 4.0
Fargo - 4.0
V for Vendetta - 4.5
Gladiator - 4.0
Butch cassidy and the Sudance Kid - 4.0
Casino - 4.0
Pirates of the carribean - 4.0
Final destination - 4.0
Butterfly effect - 4.0
Jurrasic Park - 4.0
Aliens - 4.0
Braveheart - 4.0
The Truman Show - 4.5
Platoon - 4.0
Ice age - 4.5
Ice Age II - 4.0
Shrek - 4.0
The godfather - 4.0
The Untouchables - 4.0

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - 3.5
The Pianist - 3.5
L A confidential - 3.5
Blow 3.5
Catch me if you can - 3.5
The incredibles - 3.5
Silence of the lambs - 3.5
Quand j'├ętais chanteur (When I was a singer) - 3.5

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Illinois Adventure trip

We needed a getaway, a road trip; something adventurous yet relaxing. Of the many options we finally settled for Illinois countryside that seemed to have quite a few adventure sports on offer. A group of seven, we started early on Friday, rounding of shopping for essentials before heading on towards Illinois. We had rented a spacious Mini-van to allow us the luxury of indoor games en-route our 8 hour drive to base camp i.e. Morris. My attempt to describe how much we enjoyed the drive would be futile as the excitement was literally captured in the confines of the mini-van. Put some heavy rockers together with loud music and there is bound to be some head banging. And what do I say about poker enthusiasts? Well we did also have a picnic on the way with a not so competitive soccer game and even friendlier Frisbee throw. It was a wee hours of the morning when we finally arrived at Morris.Good night sleep later we were ready for some adventure activities.

Our day started late and mood was somewhat dampened by bad weather which prevented us from either skydiving or river-rafting. However we did find that we could go on a river cruise by renting a Pontoon. Thrilled on this opportunity we hurried to our destination. Renting formalities completed, we all jumped on the boat with food supplies. After taking quick instructions from the staff, I pulled the boat from the Dock and headed downstream. The weather was great with temperature around the 75 F and a good cloud cover. We took turns behind the wheel of the pontoon and being our first time we were all excited to steer the boat. When not at the helm we sat in the front with feet hanging over the edge and enjoyed the ride or lazed over the deck enjoying snacks we brought onboard. Cool breeze made us relax and this was totally our idea of a perfect getaway. Moments of silence and harmony were interrupted by motor boats speeding across leaving ripples in the water that rocked our boat. It was amazing as simple things such as these and passing scenery generated so much excitement and delight. On our way back, still half an hour from the dock we were treated to some heavy downpour. Pinching drops of heavy rain made it difficult to stand but like kids eager to get wet in the rain; we enjoyed every bit of it. Until we got too wet and shivered with cold. Our landing couldn’t have come soon enough for us. Drenched but merry we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at the Captain cove’s inn. Quick pit stop at our hotel was followed up with a visit to the downtown Morris which was all but a few blocks on a single street. Few drinks later it was time to call it a night.

Bright and sunny Sunday morning could be more aptly put as the lull before the storm. It was our day to go skydiving g. The group was keen, enthusiastic, excited and more but at the same time anxiety was evident. Understandably so, not often do people jump of a plane albeit with a parachute. We arrived at skydive Chicago around noon and got right down to the paperwork i.e. pages and pages of disclosure agreeing not to sue or hold responsible should anything go wrong. Not the most comforting feeling. Anyways we got that done and were ready for our instructions. They were pretty simple actually – keep good shape, look at the horizon, check your altimeter and pull your parachute. We kept the instructor on his toes with some clever questioning “parachute always opens, doesn’t it” “has anyone died doing this?” He was obviously impressed by our display of courage. Nevertheless we did get down to business after an anxious wait for our plane. Our instructors’ help us put on the jumping suits and we were joined by our cameraman shooting the videos. We walked down to the glider that was going to carry, ahem how many 20 people, really? 20 people, but this is such a small plane. Yup we sat on the plan packed on each other’s laps. The engines spurted and hummed but got us in flight, barely and we wobbled our way to 13,000 ft when the doors opened. 3 pros smiled, waved and jumped off, their bodies disappearing in a jiffy. Okay whose idea was all this? It was too late to bail. So slowly, I mean real slowly and one by one we crawled to the door, counted to 3 and jumped. So here is how it feels in words.

Jump….ahh…woooooow…what a view…falling fast…oh the wind….get your hands extended…wind is killing me, breath breath…the cameraman…lets pose…..oh the Hat check….look at the altimeter…find my parachute cord….look around…everything’s fast…everything’s stationery……..cameraman…pose again…what abt 360…here it is…..look around….oh..ughh.. Whats that jerk …damn its 4500 ft and instructor pulled the cord, should have checked altimeter. Within 60 seconds of the jump we had fallen 8000 odd ft. With the parachute open there was this amazing calm and an excellent view which we could now enjoy. Take a deep breath! ‘How about some maneuvers’. ‘Lets try a red turn’ a right one and then a left one. Few minutes later it’s time to prepare for the landing and what a sweet one that was. Incredible, amazing thrill. I am not sure if this describes the experience. I guess only way to get the nostalgic feeling is to do it yourself.Cameraman caught me on the ground for a brief interview for my video and then I joined my friends for victorious hugs and congratulations. Awesome experience. Try it!

We knew that nothing else we did on the trip would match this experience but we tried anyway. Next of the list was canoeing and kayaking which we thought would be a relaxing experience. Four of us (3 bailed out and camped instead) rented a canoe and a kayak, wore our life jackets and headed upstream. River was calm, scenery was good and it was all very pleasant and soothing. Except for some speeding motorboats. Paddling upstream did take some effort and soon we just hung out the oars and lay down in our boats, soaking every bit of the calm nature experience. Few hours later we were nice and relaxed and headed back to shore. We met up with our team and chilled for a while under shade of a tree where they were camped. With the day drawing to a close it was time to head back home.

It was Monday and later that day we had to start heading back to Minneapolis. We did have one last event planned. It was wine tasting at local winery in Utica County. Small town of Utica had an almost artificial, Hollywood set feel to it. The local winery was known for its fruit wines but we weren’t going to restrict ourselves to those. We picked up our mark sheets and pencils and sat down at the Bar. Starting with the dry red wines, off-dry, fruit and then the dessert wines we tasted most of the 20 wines available on the list. 5 of us started the tasting, 2 bailed out in the middle and 3 that completed it including me, I must say were very shaky on our feet. As expected the really good tasting wines were the fruit wines and sweet wines but couple, I must remark were delightful. Impressed, we all bought a fair share of our bottles. Drunk, it was now time for food and we had a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant. The whole day had a very nice relaxed feel to it, very unlike our previous day.

All of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience and left content on our way back home.Looking back I think we got exactly what we expected from the trip - some adventure, some travel, some sightseeing and whole lot of relaxation. You have to do this every once in a while.

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