2010 IRD - Halifax, Nova Scotia - Canada
decided to drive from Hagerstown to Halifax. This year our
three of our members - Leader (Mary), her daughter now 11),
Treasurer Elise) and faithful member Judy set out with our friend
John from the Smithsburg chapter for Canada. We double checked
passports before leaving just to be safe. John picked up
Elise, stopped at Mary's where we all piled into the Tahoe and made
our way to pick up our travel companion Judy and hit the road.
Our first night we stopped in Suffern, NY for the night. All
was going well until we went to our rooms. One of the rooms
was already open and looked like Goldilocks had already been
sleeping in the bed... so, after a trip to the front desk, we
got it resolved and new rooms. All was well. After a
quick "free" breakfast because of the mix up the night before, we
set off once more. As we drove past Rhode Island and Boston,
we couldn't help but reminisce of our trip just a few years before.
It was fun laughing about and remembering our experience.
Today we would cross into Canada and spend the night in New
Brunswick. We quickly learned that road signs are similar, but
not quite the same as in the US, so we decided Judy's GPS with
"Sally giving directions" was what we needed. It all went
according to plan and we were so happy to be on the road. We
kept watching ever so carefully in Maine for Moose. Plenty of
Moose crossing signs, but no Moose in sight. We made it across
the border, leaving the USA at nearly midnight. Our hotel was just a
few miles ahead. We went to check-in, only to learn that had
given our rooms to someone else. The same confirmation number
had been given to two parties at the same time. Needless to say at
the hour and after driving about 12 hours or so, we were not in the
mood for it. Well, after Mary exchanged words with the desk
clerk, he quickly phoned the hotel across the street (we are
guessing same owners) and made arrangements for us there. We
found ourselves in more rooms than we would have had, but our
overall costs were less and it once again included breakfast.
The beds in Mary & Elise's room was said to be queen size and yet it
was just a bit larger than a twin. We laughed as we drifted
off to sleep that the Queens must be smaller in Canada. We
survived the night and hit the road for Halifax. So far, our
hotel accommodations had been ok, but at both locations we struggled
with check-in. John was driving and Mary
decided to enter our Halifax hotel address into the GPS so we could
go there from our current location. Unknown to the rest of the
travelers, the hotel address came up "not found". Mary was a
bit nervous, but never told us as she put in a different address on
the same street and hoped for the best. We drove, making all
the right moves with Sally's help... then decided to use the
GPS to locate a family restaurant. We followed Sally's
directions precisely, only to find ourselves at a dead end and her
telling us to go off road into nothing. .. we opted not to do
that and stumbled upon a nice place which was very enjoyable and it
was Sunday just after church time and the parking lot full- always a
good sign. We finished lunch and went on our way.
Following Sally's directions once more, we made it to our
destination. Mary was relieved to see the hotel there, given
that the GPS could not locate it as a street address. It was
too new! Good news!
The hotel was very new, clean and wonderful. Checking in
was going great until the desk clerk says.. can't find you. It
was an Oh no, here we go again moment. We then learned why and
all was well.. whew, that was close. We checked into our
rooms which were wonderful. Elise, john, Mary and Mari had a
suite. It was a small apartment size and would be awesome for the
time of the stay. We unpacked and researched local places for
good food choices as well as prices and set out for a nice dinner.
Over the next few days, we explored downtown Halifax, Peggy's Cove
Lighthouse, went whale watching - but it was foggy and the whales
were not there for us. We did see many seals and enjoyed the
sights, small villages, light houses and simply enjoyed the boat
Tuesday evening, we had tickets for a concert. We had
perfect seats, straight on to the stage and we saw Celtic Woman,
their Songs of the Heart tour. It was a fabulous concert and
we left there so happy, the parking garage attendant thought we
should continue the party as it seemed we had already started.
Wednesday, Mary needed to visit some TOPS field staff meetings
and make her rounds, so the rest of the crew visited the Citadel and
then met up with Mary around lunch time. It was pouring rain
that day, but we made the most of it. Down by the wharf, we
visited the Maritime museum and many shops and artisans, just
enjoying all we saw. Judy and Mary opted to visit the Casino -
responsibly they changed their American money to Canadian and found
their way to a slot machine. When they went it, it was decided
that whoever won would buy dinner. It did not take long, Judy
was our winner and the others were very surprised to see us return
so fast. True to her word, Judy bought us all dinner.
It was enjoyable and once again, we made good selections.
The convention officially started on Thursday, and our lady
travelers went first to the Retreat session. Cynthia Mack and
the entire TOPS retreat staff discussed retreats and we learned so
many things about them. Members in the audience who had
attended retreats shared their stories and successes and personal
experience with us and then it was open for questions and
discussion. We left the session feeling like we wanted to go
to one.. and right now. It was just our luck to learn there is
one close to us in September of 2011 and Cynthia Mack will be the
Retreat Director. John was attending a Men in TOPS
workshop while we were in this one. His retelling of that
experience was great also, and it is awesome to see so many more men
in TOPS participating. There were breaks in between
seminars and we enjoyed the speakers. The TOPS medical
and Obesity research news is always of interest as they bring us up
to date on the latest. TOPS President Barbara Cady was the
keynote speaker for a seminar, she is so delightful and always witty
and engaging. Her talks are always from the heart and give us
cause to stop and think and remember how important we are and how
important our health is.
Thursday night's opening session always is upbeat. The
Royalty from all our states, Canada and all its providences take the
stage and illuminate the auditorium with their beauty and grace.
It is always awesome to see them and we yelled and applauded as loud
as we could when our own Maryland Queen, Dawn Williams took the
stage. What an awesome example and wonderful representative
she is for us. The evening closes with entertainment. This
year is was a Celtic Band and Dancers. They were very good,
but perhaps we had been spoiled by the Celtic Woman concert two days
Friday, we enjoyed the uplifting comedy of speaker Eleanor
Wood. She delightfully told us her story of life, real life
made colorful and how attitude can make a difference and if is about
how we see it and live it. She was delightful and we could
have listened to her for a very long time. There were two
others, not as memorable as Eleanor, but very good and each with
excellent points to get us focused and redirected if we had lost our
way. Friday nights session is the time when our KOPS graduate
and illuminate the auditorium with their magical circle of lights.
We could not convince our Elise to register and participate in this,
but we managed to get an official KOPS Light and grab her picture
It was so much fun and we most often chose to sit in the same
location for all sessions, we could see the stage well from there
and liked the seats... they happened to be the exact ones we saw
Celtic Woman from.. so they became our seats. Mari, quickly
made friends with a couple of other children, who were TOPS members
with their parents and they went off trading their state/provincial
traders as the IRD attendees do each year. they checked in
often and were always within site, but it was obvious they were
Saturday was the final session, when the Division Winners were
announced and International Royalty Crowned. Their stories are
written and given with such emotion and they inspire and motivate
us. It is clear they are all just like us. All felt
hopeless at one point, then found TOPS and friendships and support
and were motivated to succeed. Our Maryland Queen was so close
to being an International Winner. Excitement was building for
us as they announced the Queens by weight loss, starting low and
going high. Our Dawn did not come on stage and the longer it
went, the more excited we were for her and the prouder to know her
personally. When it was all done, only 9 others were called
after her. Of all the states and provinces of Canada, only 9
lost more than she did. We were so beautifully and gracefully
The convention ended and we left on a TOPS high, our stuff in
the car and headed for home ready to start again and do our part to
help those within our chapters. We drove out of Canada and
into Maine, where we spent the night. Our hotel was beside and
Applebee's restaurant and they had those 550 calorie meals, so we
opted to eat there. Our waiter kept us in stitches, creating
yet another memorable moment. The next day, we traveled back
to Suffern, NY - returning to the hotel of our first night of the
trip. On the way there, as we were closing in on the NYC area,
Mary asked if anyone wanted to see Ground Zero. Feeling
confident because of our helpful GPS (whom by the way, John and Mary
came to love and explored all it had to offer... even changed the
navigator to a nice man named Jack). We decided with Jack's
help we could pull it off... ad we might have too, if the tall
buildings would not interfere with the satellite signals.
Minor detail - major impact. There was also so much traffic.
Mary did it though and we finally found it, now it was dark and
pitch and construction fence around it so high we could not see it
anyway. It was an experience though and we tongue in cheek
laughed at Jack, our navigator continually recalculating. Mary was
out driving him. Turns out our Judy had a good sense of the
city and we found ourselves finally out of town and made our way to
the hotel. Check in was much smoother this time. It was
a good nights stay and then before leaving in the morning, we
made a special stop for NY comfort items for our Tom, back home...
Suffern was his hometown and he had requested special NY bagels from
the corner bagel establishment. We made our way back to
Hagerstown. Another successful TOPS excursion together.
Another year of shared moments, memories, laughter, hugs and tears
we would not soon forget.
We'd love to share the experience with you sometime.
Perhaps you might join us on our next trip. We're off to
Milwaukee, WI next July. The birthplace of TOPS. Mary
ahs been there before, so we're sure to see the highlights and
explore some unknown territory. Won't you join us for more
Happy Days with TOPS?
2009 IRD - Orlando, FL- Disney World
flew south to the Magic Kingdom of Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Two of our members - Leader (Mary), her 10 year old daughter (Mari)
& Treasurer (Elise) were joined in travels by our TOPS buddy and
leader of TOPS#MD0462, Smithsburg (John). We departed
Hagerstown on Friday evening, spending our first night near Dulles
airport, doing a sleep and fly parking deal. Our airport
adventure was off and running at the security checkpoint, when
John's pen knife set the alarms off. He told us to go ahead,
he would catch-up... so the rest of us kept going. Now it was
time to board and still... John had not arrived. We boarded
our flight which was crowded and no reserved seats. Sometimes
when you travel as cheaply... errr.. inexpensively as we try
to, you take what you get and get what you deserve. Anyway -
While setting all buckled on board, we hear John being paged that
his plane is leaving and they are making last call reminders to him.
After literally running through Dulles airport trying to resolve the
knife problem, John finally arrived, slightly out of breath, but
smiling, and why not... after all, he was on vacation! Our
friend John is a major Nascar fan, so obviously taking him to
Florida and being only a couple of hours from Daytona without
letting him go there would be torture. We arranged for John a
rental car so he could go explore his Nascar moment... while
we took the Magical Express to our Disney Hotel - Port Orleans
Riverside. We took the boat ride to Downtown Disney, had a
nice dinner and returned to the hotel where our bags had already
been placed in our room for us. John rejoined us MUCH later
that night as the car he happened to rent turned out by luck to be a
brand new Mustang. Needless to say, John was cruising Daytona!
Our Leader (Mary) is a seasoned Disney visitor, so it was like
having a private tour guide with all the inside knowledge. We
booked a package which included all our meals as well, so we didn't
need money for anything other than souvenirs once we landed in
Florida. If you've never been to Disney, you need to go,
no matter how old you think you are. Because we were
going for TOPS and because we knew we would be walking constantly,
Mary decided it would be fun to wear a pedometer during our entire
stay to monitor how far we walked. I'll report on the total at
the end of this journal. We were all like little kids,
we delighted in the adventures, the magic, the shows and especially
in just being "silly" together. We had fun as people attempted
to figure out if Elise was John or Mary's mother... they just
knew we were a family because of the way we acted together.
On occasion and depending on behavior... it was openly
discussed who claimed the others as relatives.
We vacationed like tourists, the food plan allowed us the
luxury of ordering exotic things if we wanted - and we did.
John took photo's of some things just for proof and to show how
pretty the food was. We visited the Animal Kindgom... taking
in the Finding Nemo and Lion King shows and laughed like teenagers
at the reactions to a Bug's Life. We visited MGM - John and
Mary rode Tower of Terror... John's camera was suspended in
mid air and we laughed how our rear ends would leave the seats and
then rejoin it when the ride would drop or rise again... if
you've ever been on it - you'll understand, if not - its' like
bungee jumping in an elevator. The Magic Kingdom was fun
too... we love the shows, the rides, the fireworks, the
Spectromagic Parade and many of the rides as well as the Flag
ceremony whch takes place nightly. We enjoyed a couple of
special dinner shows - the Polynesian Luau and on our last night in
town - the Hoop De Doo Musical Revue. Disney was a blast
- we loved it, even in the 95 degree, 95% humidity weather.
Wednesday through Saturday night, we would entertain ourselves at
our resort hotel - with Bob the piano guy. Bob is an
experience of his own and we enjoyed his light hearted entertainment
and interaction with the crowd. If you ever get to Disney - go
check Bob out.. You'll be glad you did.
Ah yes.. the real reason for being there - TOPS IRD began.
The speakers were awesome, we took notes and learned from them.
We were amazed and inspired by the winners and their stories of
success - listening to the many hardships, trials and struggles
which took place long before they were moved enough to do it once
and for all. This year was especially special.. perhaps it was
the magic of Disney itself, but those stories seemed to light a fire
within us all which is still burning. We made a pact and a
promise to one another for the upcoming year. A promise made
among three friends.. friends who are not related, but family
without a doubt. At this writing, our friend Elise is within
two pounds of her goal and Mary & John are working hard to take off
pounds and it is showing (the trio meet at the park nightly to walk
together, along with John's father and anyone else who shows up).
TOPS is about making a commitment to yourself and to others.
It's about supporting, loving and caring for one another enough to
go that extra mile... or two miles (which we now do every day).
Speaking of extra miles... the pedometer showed we walked 50
miles during our stay in Florida.... and guess what? We
all came back with a very nice loss and memories which are with us
We came home revived, renewed, focused and ready to face the
next year in TOPS. Dedicated to becoming healthier examples
for our chapters, our families and friends. Our bond as
friends was strengthened as we spent hours together. I'm
guessing its' that same feeling others get at a TOPS retreat...
Next year...we're on the road to Canada... Halifax, Nova
Scotia. It'll be quite the trip I'm sure... plan to join us?
2008 IRD - Chicago, IL
had us traveling to
Chicago and getting "All Jazzed Up" for the 60th Anniversary
Celebration of TOPS Club, Inc. Chicago was the site of
the very first International Convention (IRD), making it the perfect
place for the anniversary event. This year our leader
(Mary) was the only one able to make the trip due to family illness
and other obligations. She didn't travel alone though, as she
was accompanied by the leader of TOPS#MD462,Smithsburg (John), the
treasurer of TOPS#MD308,Hagerstown (Lois) and her (Mary's) 9
year old daughter (Mari).
The foursome left on the red eye from Baltimore on Tuesday, which
meant leaving Hagerstown around 2:30 am to make the flight. We
arrived in Chicago by 7:00 am their time, checked in to the
convention hotel by 9 am. After a brief rest and a small but
expensive bite to eat at the hotel, we set out to explore the area.
We were wishing our pedometers were on, but walked to nearby
(meaning approx. 5 blocks) to Navy Pier. It was a gorgeous day
and it seemed there was plenty to do at Navy Pier. Lots of
shopping, food paces, sight seeing tours, etc. going on. We
paused briefly for a Pirate Show in the food court area and took
many pictures while out on the pier. John and Mari played a
round of miniature golf, we all rode the giant Ferris wheel, Mari
did the wave swings numerous times. On our return to the
hotel, we made a stop at the local Walgreens and a market called "Dominicks"
which proved to be our favorite place to make dining affordable.
Our room had a refrigerator and we took advantage of it.
Stopping at the market to purchase a day or two supply of fresh
fruit, cereal, milk and such and we'd often make a run out for soup
for dinner. Being the creative types, we discovered an
inexpensive waffle iron at Walgreens and used it to make homemade
waffles for breakfast (it was better than spending $12 for eggs at
the hotel restaurant). We even used it to make a very
interesting grilled cheese.
Things got moving at the convention as we started running into old
friend and making new ones. We had volunteered to help with
crafts in the hospitality room and Mari spent the better part of an
evening showing her origami skills. John and Mary almost sang
Karaoke. Maryland's Deniece Fisher was to be Gladys Knight and
we were going to be the Pips... but then Deniece disappeared.
Our plan B was to do a Village people song "Macho Man" with others
present from Maryland... but again, Deniece disappeared and
the rest of the village people made themselves scarce. Not
really sure why. I think we would have been great.
Before it was time for sessions to get underway, we did more sight
seeing via a trolley type of bus. It was supposed to be on/off
type, but we found it hard to find one to get back on once off.
We did make a stop at Millennium Park which was beautiful and had a
large bubble looking sculpture. Hard to describe it to you, so
you'll need to ask us to see our pictures. We all
managed to get a free T-shirt and sample bag of popcorn from the
tour though. The architecture and sights were amazing and much
to our delight, the weather was not unbearable.
Did I mention our room was on the 21st floor? The day we
arrived, John and Mary decided that once before the convention ended
they were going to use the stairs going up instead of the elevator.
We huffed and puffed and huffed some more... but we did use the
stairs (Mary will admit it - John went up more flights than she
did). We were partnering up for success - just like Barb Cady
says to do. John and Mary went for daily walks and long ones
around the area as well as participating the Official organized TOPS
Walk at 6:30 AM which was led by one of the guest speakers for the
convention - Robert Sweetgall.
Speaking of guest speakers. Robert Sweetgall opened things up
by sharing with us about his journey. He has walked across
America seven times. Most every direction imaginable and in
all types of weather. His talk was motivational, fun,
informative and inspiring. He stressed to everyone present
that its' not important how much exercise you do or how fast - but
it is most important that you just do it. Get off the couch
and move. He had full audience participation as he opened his
presentation by throwing foam frisbees out the audience. The
point being that we need to make exercise fun and it can be easy.
Funny how much easier it was to exercise when you weren't thinking
of it as work. Because of the numbers of people from all over
the states and Canada present, he asked for a team of about 5 people
form each state present. Each team was given a pedometer,
which the team captain initially wore.
Robert played music and when the music started, the team captain was
to move however he or she wanted and the rest of the team was to
mimic them. When the song changed, the pedometer was passed on
to the next team member and it continued until the pedometer had
been passed through the entire team. A prize was given to the
team which showed the most steps on their pedometer. New York
won and the numbers of steps taken during that short contest was
amazing. Again - it showed how easy it is or can be if you
make it fun. He also promotes using Nordic Walking and
walking sticks. the sticks help relieve some of the stress on
the knees and legs and because you use your arms, you also receive a
full cardio workout. The health benefits are fantastic.
The next speaker was Dr. Nick Yphantides. Dr. Nick was an
extraordinary story. He lost 267 pounds without surgery and
spoke of his weight loss journey. His talk was accompanied by
a slide who of his progress so we could see the transformation.
Dr. Nick took a one year sabbatical from his work as a doctor to
dedicate his time to losing the weight. He toured the United
States, visiting every major league ballpark on his journey.
His story was one of true inspiration and sincerity. He
related to the entire audience and all of us to him. His book
"My Big Fat Greek Diet" is awesome and is a good read and full of
helpful information and transformation. His message was one of
the value of human life. Awesome - read the book!
We were humored and uplifted by speaker Greg Risberg, whose message
was "Hope, Humor and Hugs". His message was full of
heartfelt wisdom presented to us in a very humorous way. He
showed us ways to handle stress better and to change our perspective
to be more positive. His session was a lot of fun and many
were crying from laughing so hard. Mr. Risberg closely
resembles the gentleman portrayed on the American Gothic portrait
and used that to his advantage. His slide presentation
and images presented graphically or verbally were priceless.
It was a very good time and a great stress reliever for the entire
audience. Laughter improves your life and lifespan. Put
a little humor in your life and that of those you love.
Ann Ruelle, registered dietitian and co-author of the TOPS'
lifestyle guide, "The Choice is Mine" provided us an in-depth
presentation on artificial sweeteners called "How Sweet It Isn't".
She used a power point presentation and did a great job explaining
everything. It pays to do your homework before choosing which
product to use or making the decision to use regular sugar.
She explored the pros and cons of all, which ones were better or
worse for diabetics and side effects of their usage. When it
comes down to it, be informed, but in the end - "The Choice is
There were two other workshops as well. One for Men in TOPS
(which John attended) and the other for those who are Division 2+
(250 pounds or more). We were unable to make it to that one, as it
conflicted with the Robert Sweetgall session.
So many wonderful speakers and then as if it wasn't enough - we had
entertainment on opening night by "The Kids from Wisconsin" who sang
and danced their way into our hearts for more than an hour.
They covered almost all genres of music and dance. They were
awesome entertainers and left no doubt as to why Mrs. Manz (TOPS
Founder) was so fond of them. The Kids From Wisconsin have
been a long time tradition.
That's all the extra's that come with the convention - but the most
important part of all TOPS conventions are the members themselves.
This year as we celebrated TOPS 60th Anniversary, the KOPS Graduates
wore black. Normally they are all in white and I have to say
the elegance was astounding. Opening night includes a parade
of our state royalty. Dr. Kissebah spoke about the ongoing
Obesity Research and we heard a report on the TOPS Retreat Program.
Field staff members who worked diligently at promoting TOPS were
honored and introduced. We watched in awe as our KOPS in long
standing were recognized and honored, followed by the ever inspiring
Circle of Light formed by all the alumni and new KOPS present at
IRD. This year, all of us were given a light of our own to
shine in the darkness. The IRD Circle of Light always leaves
Saturday and the final
session rolled around. This is the time when once again, all
of our state royalty take the stage and who us that we too can be
successful if we are determined. Our International Division
winners are presented and share their stories. Please take
some time to read them on the
www.tops.org web site. They will move and inspire you in
ways unimaginable. Then comes the moment, when our reigning
International Royalty take the stage to crown the new. You can
feel the emotion in the room. Our new International Queen lost
177.75 pounds to goal and is from California. The King
is from Maine and had a loss to goal of 172 pounds.
The people you meet at an IRD, SRD, ARD, or Rally are one big
extended family. You've known them forever and they you
because when it comes down to it, we are one large family of members
making up this organization called TOPS. We know each
other so well, because our struggles, trials and triumphs are all
the same. We're in this together and it shows.
If you are a TOPS member and you've never treated yourself to a TOPS
convention of any sort or if you are reading this, feeling alone in
your struggle towards better health and an improved lifestyle - I
invite you, my chapter invites you - to join us.
Come with us and see that TOGETHER WE CAN.
2007 IRD - Providence, RI
Well, we did it again! Another IRD as a chapter and a new adventure
for all. This time we we joined by members from two other
local chapters. We set out from Hagerstown in two vehicles on
Saturday, July 7th arriving at our hotel (Extended Stay America-
super!) in East Providence, RI.
Sunday (July 8th), after breakfast we made our way to Boston, MA for
some sight seeing. We had discovered a "GO Boston Card" prior
to our trip which once paid for included all of our sight seeing in
Boston, Newport, Providence and beyond. It is a great buy for
anyone traveling in that area. Our first stop was to pick up
our "Go Boston Cards" at a placed called "Boston Baked Beans" - how
appropriate! In addition to our cards, we were each given a
souvenir "Baked Bean", very cute. We moved on to find parking
and using our cards, boarded the Bean Town Trolley for a look around
town. The trolley driver shared a bit of history with us as we
rode along and we were free to get on and off as we wanted. We met
TOPS members from Oregon, Minnesota, and a few other places while on
the trolley, so of course we all talked TOPS. We visited the
USS Constitution "Old Ironsides" and some chose to also visit the
the museum there. We finished the two hour trolley tour,
shared a nice dinner together and returned to our hotel for the
Monday (July 9th), we set out for Newport, RI. Newport is home
to the "Newport Mansions", and three of them were included with our
cards we picked up in Boston. It was our lucky day! We
found the visitors center without a problem and then learned it was
"Ozone Awareness Day" in Newport and public transportation was free
for the day. Leaving our cars at the visitors center, we boarded a
trolley like bus and set out for the Mansions. We opted to
visit The Breakers, Rose Cliff and Marble House. The mansions
are spectacular and quite interesting and the landscaping and
grounds are gorgeous. The history associated with the mansions
and those who owned them is quite interesting as well. After
leaving the mansions, we wanted to spend a bit of time at the Cliff
Walk. The Cliff Walk runs along the shoreline behind the
mansions and right along the coast. The view is breathtaking
and if you are so inclined, the Cliff Walk is a 3.5 mile journey.
We did not walk the entire walk as evening was coming on and we
still needed to make a stop at Easton's Beach. We arrived
there at almost dusk and basically closed the beach down, leaving as
the lifeguards were asking everyone to go home. Our youngest
traveler (8.5 year old, Mari) was delighted with the beach and
quickly gathered a bucket of shells to take home. A stop for
dinner and then it was time to return to our hotel.
Tuesday (July 10th), we returned to Boston. Visiting Newport
the previous day allowed us to slow the pace a bit and relax from
the more hurried pace and traffic of the city. Today in
Boston, we "Rode the Ducks", which was an hour and a half tour of
Boston by land and by water. Our tour guide "Howie" was great
fun and the time went by very quickly. Howie pointed out the
great architecture as well as the many historical highlights of
Boston and frequently stopped for us to take pictures of the sights.
At the end of the tour, we drove into the Charles River and saw
Boston and Cambridge from the water. Mari and John both
volunteered to drive the "duck" for Howie and did an excellent job.
If you happen to see one of us out and about, just ask us "How Are
Ya?" and see how we respond. After the Duck Tour, we spent
several hours at Boston's Museum of Science. What a wonderful
and interesting place and so many hands on exhibits for adults and
children alike. TOPS members reading this - One of the
exhibits showed a femur (thigh bone), beside it was a plexi-glass
clear model which had lights inside it and a lever you could take
your hand and apply pressure to it. As the pressure was
applied, the lights inside showed the stress the bone received.
For someone who is overweight, it was scary to see how very little
pressure from our hand on the lever stressed that bone, knowing that
reality is the weight we carry around is so much more than that.
It was an eye opener and another real reminder that the weight must
come off. We closed the museum down and set out for home,
stopping for dinner along the way.
Wednesday (July 11th), we returned to Newport. This time the
group wanted to visit the quaint shops. Yes, we had already
been on the road for 4 days and no one had shopped! So,
we dropped the group off in the heart of shopping and everyone set
out exploring. Our youngest traveler had not received ample
beach time, nor been able to see the beach in the daylight - so
while most were shopping, we set out for the beach. It was
only mid morning, so the shells were plentiful. After a few
hours at the beach, it was back to town to meet the crew for lunch.
We stumbled into a small restaurant and enjoyed the soup/half
sandwich combo. Clam chowder was often the choice soup and
where better to have it than in the New England area. It was
time to return to the hotel, giving everyone an hour or so of
relaxation (or sea shell washing) before setting out again.
Workshops were beginning at the convention and it was time to stop
being tourists and remember why we came. Before making our way
into Providence, we had an early dinner and managed a surprise
birthday party for one of our travelers who was turned 69 years
young while away from home. We drove into Providence and
attended our first workshop/seminar called "Bubblegum on My
Shoes-Getting Unstuck and Moving Forward" with Carrie Myers Smith, a
personal trainer and wellness coach. Carrie explained how to
set SMART goals, based on behavior and action rather than outcomes,
how to deal with obstacles and move towards better health. It
was a good session with lots of audience participation.
We made a stop by the promotion sales room, picking up items for
ourselves and our chapters back home.
Thursday (July 12th), the convention is getting into full swing now
beginning with group exercise at 7 AM. There would be a
variety of workshops throughout the day. TOPS Member and
motivational speaker, Kevin Morrison who shared "YOU have what it
takes to set sail on our ship", John Pelizza, Ph.D., a
motivational speaker with credits in stress management, weight
management, wellness and personal growth shared "It's a Thinking
Thing", and TOPS Board Member/Regional Director, Nancy Marasco who
provided a presentation in dealing with diabetes. The evening
session included our field staff, state royalty and concluded with
an hour of family entertainment, The Hunt Family Fiddlers.
They were awesome and our Mari (8.5 yrs old) was able to win one of
their CD's by playing name that tune with them.
Friday (July 13th), Today our group attended the morning general
session - being inspired by the before/after parade and Century Club
award winners. The session was followed by workshops,
including "Moving without Pain", which was presented by physical
therapist, Joseph Pelizza, a Men in TOPS workshop- "Obestity 101",
"Portion Distortion" with Ann Ruelle, dietitian and coauthor of "The
Choice is Mine". The evening session was the KOPS recognition
and the always inspiring "Circle of Light". After the session,
we spent some time "mingling" and dancing in the hospitality room.
John was on cloud nine as one of his fellow "Men in TOPS", presented
him with his Yellow Rose. How awesome is that! We closed
down the hospitality room at midnight and then back to hotel to pack
for home the next day. We would be checking out of the hotel
in the morning and then start the drive home at the close of the
Saturday (July 14th), It's the final morning at the convention.
Today our Royalty would once again take the stage and the
International Royalty would be crowned. Division winners were
honored and their inspirational stories were presented. Seeing
the transformations these individuals have made and the obstacles
they have overcome truly leaves you with a sense of "I CAN DO IT".
Saying "see you next year at IRD" is always bittersweet. We
love meeting new people, sharing our chapter story with them and
swapping ideas to motivate and enrich ourselves and our chapters
is our normal tradition - Members of our travel party enjoy a weight
loss upon return from the convention. The motivation,
determination and inspiration run high.
not meet us in Chicago in 2008 and celebrate TOPS 60th anniversary
2006 IRD - Atlanta, GA
my, we tried something new this time out. Instead of a hotel ,
we rented a house for a week. It was an experience and we
enjoyed fixing our meals and eating as a family. This time on
our journey we had five from our chapter and two from another with
us. A couple of our usual travelers had some family illness
and weren't able to attend.
drove down in two vehicles and spent one day in travel. It was
quite warm in Atlanta and most everything to see was costly, but we
figured we were only going to be there once. We visited the
Aquarium, which really was awesome, took in Coca Cola World and
spent a full day at Stone Mountain Park, arriving in the morning and
staying through the laser show in the evening.
While at Stone Mountain we took a ride on the "Ducks", which was
noisy but fun - some of us are still wandering around with our duck
calls. It was certainly a hot day while we were there, but we
didn't let it get us down. The fireworks were what we
considered to be the best we had ever seen and we were seated in an
excellent location to view them. Having been to Crazy Horse
out in SD in 2005, we found ourselves a bit disappointed in the
laser show at Stone Mountain. We had anticipated the show
telling a story and instead found it to be more of an entertainment
variety type show. It was very good entertainment, but just
not exactly what we had expected.
IRD was fun. Many of us have now been to enough IRD's that we
are meeting our friends from previous years and enjoying our time
2005 - IRD in Rapid City, SD
After hearing the invitation at the 2004 IRD, inviting us to the
2005 IRD in Rapid City, we all started getting excited and making
plans. That excitement grew even more when we learned that our
chapter had the Maryland State King and he would be recognized in
Rapid City. Now it seems flying might be easier for the
distance, but being the adventurous types hat we are and having some
members who simply wouldn't fly - we opted instead to rent two mini
vans. We needed two vans because a trip like that requires
some room for luggage as well as breathing. Six of our
members, along with one from our local Friday night chapter and
another from a Cumberland, MD chapter made the journey.
left on a Friday morning, making our first stop in Danville, IL for
the night. After enjoying breakfast at our hotel, we set out
for Sioux City, SD where we would spent another restful night.
It seemed like a lot of miles to cover in a day and the scenery
didn't change much in all that time, but the conversation was sure
good and the fellowship was awesome. We had planned to cover
most of the miles in the first two days, knowing that a shorter day
to arrive at our destination would simply "feel good".
scenery was flat and unchanging for what seemed a thousand miles.
I don't think any of us will ever forget how breathtaking the view
was as we topped a small ridge and before us was a picturesque
Missouri River. What an awesome and memorable sight and
We're an organized group of travelers and blessed to have excellent
drivers among us. For our one night stops, we each packed an
overnight small bag that we could quickly grab out of the van, no
need to unpack and reload everything each night. We had a pair
of Walkie Talkie's that we used to communicate between vehicles.
If anyone needed a break or saw something of interest to sight see
or take a picture of, we simply contacted one another and made
the stop. While en route, we spotted a billboard advertisement
for the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. If you've never seen it
or heard about it, you may want to check it out sometime. It
is something to see and the overall theme changes yearly. The
outside of the palace is covered in corn. The corn is grown in
a variety of colors and specifically for the purpose of decorating
the palace. Many murals appear inside as well and all are made
out of corn. There are a variety of gift shops and guided
tours are available as well. If you buy a souvenir inside the
corn palace gift shop, even the shopping bag is made from corn!
arrived in Rapid City, SD late Sunday afternoon. Unpacked, had some
dinner together and talked over our sight seeing plan for the
remainder of the week. Because we had been doing so much
driving, we felt it would be good to relax and let someone else
worry about how to get from here to there, so we had arranged for a
sight seeing tour for Monday.
tour was fun and included lunch ( a pretty good one too!). It
took us to Bear Country, USA where we saw lots of animals and took
what seemed like a million pictures. We fed the baby bears and
of course souvenir shopped. The next stop on the tour
was a ride on the 1880 Steam Train. The train made for great
pictures as well and the train was also one which had appeared in a
recent movie of the old west. The third and final stop of the
day was at Mt. Rushmore. While visiting Mt. Rushmore we had a
group picture taken with our local newspaper in hand for TOPS
publicity for our chapter. It was a great day and we had a
always looking for bargains and inexpensive things to do, we decided
to check out a local free tour of the Black Hills Gold Jewelry
Company. If you aren't familiar with Black Hills Gold, you're
missing out on a beautiful opportunity. The tour was terrific.
It lasted about an hour and we were all fascinated by how the
jewelry is made. There is much to making it and the process is
very meticulously done primarily by hand. We all enjoyed
shopping in the store there as well and because we went on the tour,
we also received a discount and had cut coupons from travel
magazines as well.
of the men in our group are former Air Force, so we all set out for
Ellsworth Air Force Base. We enjoyed having our own personal
tour guides traveling with us. The two of them were very
knowledgeable about the planes they were showing us and we enjoyed
the excitement in their eyes and faces as they relived some good
memories with us. We also toured the museum there and then
most of us were ready to hit the road. Our two Air Force vets,
however had other plans. They wanted a tour of the base
itself. Because we had two vehicles there, we left them to
enjoy the day and spend all the time their hearts desired. The
rest of us then set off to find the hidden best kept secrets of
Rapid City. We enjoyed a quiet visit to the "Chapel in the
Hills", The chapel itself is an exact reproduction of the famous
Borgund Stavkirke of Laerdal, Norway and was built in 1969.
The area was lush and green and a gorgeous place, very serene and
trip to the Rapid City area would not be complete without a trip to
Deadwood. We set out to spend most of a day there, some wanted
to spend some time at the small casinos and try their luck, some
went panning for gold, others just walked around or rode the
trolley. After leaving Deadwood, we traveled to the Crazy
Horse Memorial. Crazy Horse was awesome and we all wished we had
more time to spend there. The evening laser light show was fantastic
and told the story of Crazy Horse with pictures and music.
With all of our sight seeing behind us, it was now time for the IRD
to begin. Two of our travelers, one being our State King, the other
a former Maryland State King both participated in the KOPS Circle of
Light. The convention was inspirational and the speakers for
workshops were terrific. The convention location was
excellent, there wasn't a bad seat in the house and you could hear
everything. The stories of members who have struggled and
accomplished their dreams, the "family" feeling you get being with a
few thousand people all sharing the same drive is astounding.
It creates a feeling that leaves you feeling rejuvenated and hopeful
once again if you have been faltering. The hospitality room
events and activities are fun and welcoming and let us not forget
the "traders". It's fun to see how many different chapters or
states you can collect things from. The best part is making
new friends from everywhere, for there are no strangers in TOPS.
week came to an end and it was time to head for home. We
weren't weary on the drive and kept reliving our experience as we
went. Throughout our journey and our ten days spent together
on the road, we amazed people everywhere in telling them that we
drove to Rapid City and that we spent ten days together and everyone
of us said we would do it again. It's a trip none of us will ever
forget and the bonding we all did as friends and as a chapter are
priceless. It is our hope that each of you reading this will
find that type of fellowship and warmth among your chapters.
If you're not getting it there, take steps to create it and make it
happen or start a new chapter with it being the atmosphere in the
first place. You'll be glad you did.
2004 - IRD in Pittsburgh, PA
We rented a 15 passenger van and headed west.
We found ourselves a deal on a hotel not too far from the convention
site, invited a few other TOPS friends from our local Friday night
chapter to join us and had a terrific time. We did a small
amount of sight seeing. Many of us had been to or through
Pittsburgh before and on this trip we basically only went for the
actual days of the convention itself. It was a truly
inspirational time and our enthusiasm for traveling as a group
really caught on.