Category Archives: Travel Tribulations

CRAZIES’ CLOWN COLLEGE GONE WRONG

shutterstock_105365543 copyLast summer, in a fit of Crazie, I booked a beach house in the Outer Banks with way too many fifteen family members – another nine were in a house down the block.

What could possibly go wrong with that many loud, loving, abominable, affectionate Crazie Town residents in one place?

Number one concern was bedroom placement. Maybe the bedroom off the kitchen should go to the early risers, or maybe it should go to the person who had the most trouble negotiating three flights of stairs, but then again, that person didn’t want any special treatment, so maybe it should go to ???

How do you plan who gets what bedroom for fifteen people and not just people – Crazie Town people? I believe democratic rules work best so the majority agreed to the First Come – First Served statute.

A few weeks after we booked the house, my younger brother, Rick, asked me what flight I was on. Because I’m a gullible sap, I told him. He used that information to book his flight to arrive before mine.

Our son Fineas’ family, driving down from Connecticut, planned to leave at four in the morning in order to be the first ones there.

My nephew Ben bailed on sharing a car with his parents from the airport so that he and his wife, Kate, could arrive first.

This is just the way my family works. We love each other with all our hearts and would give you the shirt off our backs, but there comes a time when First Come First Served wins out.

Vacation day arrived and we piled into the house, alternately shouting curse words and caring remarks to each other. We crowded onto the deck and fought for the best chairs. While we all talked at once with no one listening caught up on each other’s lives, we discovered the house next door was an exact duplicate of ours and also filled with a large family.
shutterstock_105365543 copy Mirror images of ourselves – only perfect.

While we walked around in torn t-shirts and worn out shorts, The Perfects glided from their pool to their house in starched white shirts, sleeves appropriately rolled up two folds. Waves of aftershave and perfume floated our way.

shutterstock_170330840 copyshutterstock_135088358 copyOut on the beach, our sandcastles were six inches tall, made from red solo cups; The Perfects’ reached to the sky with turrets and moats.

We sweated, grumbled and yelled at each other as we set up our Wal-Mart special tarp. Twenty feet away, two uniformed teenagers set up The Perfects’ canvas rental chairs and brightly colored umbrellas.

Our pool was filled with $1.54 plastic rafts while The Perfects’ pool held elaborate floating chairs, complete with cup holders.

Most disturbing to the woman in our group, The Perfects’ older sister paraded out in a white designer two-piece swimsuit. And, although she certainly was a couple sizes larger than a six, she looked amazing. I suppose that comes from not buying your swimsuit from the clearance rack at Target, but I could be wrong.

My family does actually have a few social skills, taught to us by our Evil Grandmother Nellie so as the week progressed we pulled ourselves together and pointed out that someone (not me of course), might find your red beacon of a nose funny; we said in the kindest possible way, “excuse me but that was my drink you just kicked over, you stupid idiot”; and we toned down our loud guffaws to a more seemly quiet chuckle.

Then, BAM! my nephews, Josh and Jordan, started a water balloon fight.  shutterstock_188671901 copy

For the next hour, five little nieces pounded up and down the deck stairs, squealing in delight while the drenched adults shouted out military strategies. When the battle was over it looked like a clown college had thrown up. Our deck, covered in colorful fragments of shattered balloons and laughing residents of Crazie Town.

Next year – fair warning – we are planning our vacation for the Adirondacks. Please accept my apologies in advance if you end up in the house next to us.

FLYING – Part Two – STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Click here for FLYING – Part One – HANG ON DUDE

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

Oh! Here we go! A little bumpy and this freaking hang gliding hammock is swaying around like a tea towel in a tornado, but still, exciting!

Holy Cow! We are going up fast. This wind is really fierce. I hope I don’t loose my glasses. What if a bug hits my teeth?

Ugh. Why is my stomach turning somersaults?

Wow, this is amazing. I wish it lasted more than ten minutes. Ten minutes is nothing. It’s going to be over before it starts.

Urg, my tummy doesn’t feel so good.

NO!  I am not going to hurl on this poor guy’s helmet. I am going to breathe and my gurgling stomach will settle down.

I wonder if I’m sick because we’re being towed by the plane. I’ll bet once Airplane Dude lets us go I’ll be fine.  I wonder how much longer before Airplane Dude lets us go.

What’s that? Hang Gliding Dude is making some sort of signal. Airplane Dude is not paying attention to him. Is that a problem? Are we in trouble?

Man, we are really, really high. Look at that, I can see the bay and the ocean side. That’s a lot of water. Water. Oh boy, I wish I had a drink of water right now.

Oh my god! The plane unhooked us! Ack!

Wait. This is marvelous. I’m soaring like a bird. It’s exactly what I thought it would be. No, it’s one hundred times better than I thought it would be.

Uh oh. Hang Gliding Dude is leaning to the left. I don’t like that so I’m going to lean to the right. Why are we dipping and diving?  Hang Gliding Dude is shouting at me to let him steer the hang glider. Oh.

Hang Gliding Dude says we are going to “hang out” in the clouds for a bit. He’s turning too fast. Too fast! Blech. My stomach doesn’t like clouds.

I hope we head for home soon. Ten minutes is way to long. Breathe, dammit, breathe!

Finally. Out of the clouds and now I see the landing strip. Land Ho! Gosh, I hope I make it down before I throw up. Breathe, you idiot. I can’t! I’m lying face down in a hammock plunging to my death! May Day! MayDay!!

The ground is coming up fast. It’s going to be a hard landing, so I’ll prepare by closing my eyes. That always helps.  What’s happening now?  I could find out if I opened my eyes, but I think the fear of not knowing is slightly less than the fear of knowing. Yep. Shut is better.

Oh. Wow. That wasn’t bad at all.  We landed like a whisper.  Oh, crap.  Now we’re bouncing along the ground.  Bouncing is not good.  In fact, bouncing is the worst.  Don’t throw up, you nerd!

Okay, okay.  We’ve stopped.

Dude. That was awesome.

I wonder if I could do it again and not get sick.

 

I'm Official

I’m Official

 

FLYING – Part One – HANG ON, DUDE

I’ve had a life long dream of flying. I want to float on the air waves (air currents?) like a bird

Not in an airplane.  They’re loud and scary and its taken me years not to puke every time I travel in one.

Skydiving is not an option as:

  1. See above air travel problem and;
  2. NO WAY I would have the stupidity courage to step out of a plane into thin air.

Parasailing is a possibility, but after my husband told the story of a friend of his on a Mexican vacation, who broke his leg on take off and they continued to fly him around with the injured leg swinging in the breeze, I think not.

Hang gliding.  That’s my ticket to soaring through the air along with my feathered friends.

Two years ago, on a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, it took me a week to screw up the courage to call and make an appointment.  By that time, there were no spaces available.  Whew.  Darn.

This year’s trip to the Outer Banks included my daredevil nephew, Josh, who – upon hearing my dream – promptly called the local kite company and booked the two of us for the very next day.  Ack! Yeah!

Husband, in an attempt to get me to change my mind, repeated the parasailing story, adding more graphic detail about the broken leg and it’s position as it flapped away in the air.

“Bah!” I said.  “That was in Mexico!”  We went there once on our honeymoon and  rented a car and (as our local friends had counseled) requested one with seat belts.  The door-less jeep was delivered to the wide flat drive in front of our hotel.  We inspected it, located the seat belts, whereupon the uniformed employees handed us a large rock and disappeared.  We got in the car, pulled the buckles toward each other and felt the straps hang loosely in the air.  Yes, the seat belts came with the car, they just weren’t actually attached to the car. And the large rock? That, we discovered at our first stop as the parked jeep slowly rolled toward the ocean, was the parking brake.

But, I digress.

In the United States of America, where I was planning to hang glide, companies do things with safety in mind, as they know they will be sued otherwise.

In the United States, you pull off the highway toward a sparkling new building.  You then follow the hand written signs, through the freshly paved parking lot to a corn field, where you find a hung-over woman, with her shirt on inside/out, sitting at a folding table outside a dilapidated RV.

The woman informs you that in order to participate in a tandem hang gliding flight you have to have a hang gliding license. But, no worries, the test consists of eight yes/no questions on a tattered piece of paper.  One of which is “Are you aware that the FAA does not certify hang gliders for tandem flights?”

In America, a barefoot young man puts you on a ragged golf cart and careens around corn stalks to take you to the meadow airfield where more barefoot men stand around saying “dude” a lot.

Barefoot Hang Gliding Dude lies down, face first, into a hammock suspended from the A-frame poles of the glider.  Then, Golf Cart Dude straps you into another hammock that dangles over the top of Hang Gliding Dude.  He points out to you two fabric handles attached to the sides of the lower hammock. “Dude, use these if you feel like you need to hang on.  And, Dude, whatever you do, don’t grab any of the poles holding the kite together.”

Airplane Dude, with his grey hair in a pony tail, shouts “Dudes! I’m ready!” and climbs into his ultralight plane. A long black shoestring is attached from the back of his plane to the cross bar on the hang glider.

Hang Gliding Dude, swaying in his hammock, says, “Hang on, dude” and before you know it, you are bumping along, through a narrow patch of grass, in the middle of the a corn field, suspended by a couple of nylon straps, wrapped around a few aluminum pipes, covered in a scrap of nylon fabric.

Awesome, Dude.

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

When in England my friends, look right but always–ALWAYS–stay left!

Good Morning, Residents of Crazie Town.

IMG_0604After a good night’s sleep in our tiny hotel room in Oxford, England, I am sitting in the conservatory (pronounced conservatree) having my morning cup of tea.  I managed to negotiate the non-American breakfast buffet (pronounced with the T as in Warren) and picked some nice poached eggs. I even bravely chose a colorful “meat” link, but avoided a black hockey puck described as “Blood Sausage.”

Ignoring all the gluten free/sugar free promises I made to myself, I quickly abandoned my properly Paleo plate of food and instead snarfed my way through a delicious, crumbly croissant slathered in soft butter.  Yum.

I feel fine, really.

I feel fine, really.

As for that nasty sinus infection I’ve been fighting for two weeks – the antibiotics kicked in the morning of our flight and I made it through just fine.  

In a rare fit of genius, I’d asked the gate agent to see if there were any empty rows on the plane.  He (not so kindly) moved us to a row of three, so I was able to stretch out and get a few hours of sleep on the seven hour flight to London.

Upon arrival, we rented a car and cleverly refused the expensive SatNav (GPS to you Americans) as I’d borrowed my brother’s for the trip.  Off we drove, happy as clams.

I think we were supposed to turn left back there

I think we were supposed to turn left back there

Unfortunately, I could only get the screen to display a wide purple line snaking up north with a little blue car that floated from east to west in no discernable pattern. Turns out, I should have downloaded the “UK Maps” app to the GPS before leaving.  Oops.

Since my husband has the confidence of Paul Bunyan, we drove on, following the highway signs for Oxford.  We arrived in the medieval village, bumped over cobblestone streets and raced around roundabouts for an hour, with me shouting “Stay left! Stay left!” every five minutes.

In order to avoid a head on collision, John took a sharp turn and we ended up in a teeny tiny parking lot with one narrow space available.  Our Vauxhall fit perfectly.  We managed to extract ourselves from the car and walked down the sidewalk to our right. Not really sure what we were looking for or how to find it, two blocks later we turned around and walked four blocks to our left, stopped and walked the two blocks back to where we started.

Passing the Cous Cous Cafe for the fourth time, I grabbed John’s elbow and yanked him inside. “Please,” I begged the guy behind the counter, “can you help us find our hotel.” He told about the time he’d gotten lost in France and how the gentleman he’d asked directions from, drove him to his location.  “So,” he said, “I will do the same for you.”  He left his waitress in charge of his restaurant, got his car and waited while we retrieved ours. Then we followed him through a dozen twists and turns, back out on to the M40 and directly to our hotel.

We have been moving non-stop ever since, interrupting our journey just long enough to stop at every pub my husband deems “real,” where I choke down another order of fish and chips.

My tea is cold and John is ready for our next adventure.  A three hour drive to Wales.  

IMG_0612When in England my friends, look right, but always, ALWAYS, stay left.

Peeping Toms, Ticks and Trouble

Image

Like any good Mid-Life Crisis purchase, the 1955 Aljoa camper I bought has been nothing but problems since the day I brought it home.
[Click here and here and here and here to get caught up.]

Image 1Recently, I was required to pay $300 for steel plates to be welded on the undercarriage that will support the special-ordered stabilizing jacks I needed because I’m a princess and can’t sleep in a crooked bed.

Then, on the way home from the the stabilizing jack installation, I failed to remove the grates off the stove and as I careened around turned a corner, they flew off and shattered into a zillion pieces.  Sigh. Do you know how hard it is to find someone who welds odd pieces of an un-nameable type of metal together?

Ignoring the fact that three windows were without screens and I had no spare tire, I decided Memorial Day weekend would be her maiden voyage. I was as excited as a five-year-old with a new toy.  Husband has not been all that thrilled with my mid-life crisis-itis so I planned the trip with my friend, Mary.

Homicidal Maniac

Peeping Tom

I was to arrive at her house by 9:30 so we could fill the water tank and tackle the last project preventing me from camping – installing blinds to keep all the Peeping Toms away. Yes, I’d be parking in the center of 130 acres of remote family farmland, but you never know who might be out there.

I got a bit of a late start because I needed to bring my entire home with me, including the two-year-old cowboy hat that’s never been worn. Everything but the kitchen sink

Then I had to hook up the camper by myself, which is no small feat, let me tell you.

Finally, I arrived on Mary’s doorstep at 10:30 am. I dragged eight roller blinds out of the car and onto the driveway.

“Uh-oh,” she said. “The cordless screwdriver isn’t working.”

“No problem.” I said, too excited to care who’d see me in my wrinkled birthday suit. I tossed the blinds in the back of the car and off we went.

“Uh oh,” Mary said, halfway to our destination.  “We forgot to fill the water tank.”

“No problem.” I laughed and pulled into the Home Depot where my niece, Kim, works.

Gettin' 'er done.She convinced them to let us use their garden hose to fill my little eight gallon tank. A small crowd gathered. We stood around talking and laughing while we waited for the tank to fill.

“Ha, ha,” Kim said. “It sure takes a long time to fill such a little tank.”

“It sure does!” I laughed.

Wait. It doesn’t take that long.

I ran to the other side of the camper where the tank was located. Water cascaded from under the cargo door.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said, handing the hose to Kim.

“No problem.” I hurried back to the side of the camper with the fill cap and snapped it shut. “Let’s just go.”

Mary and I climbed in the car and headed off to the farm. Thirty minutes later, I pulled off the road and onto the grass choked path that leads to a hill overlooking the entire property and miles beyond.

No peeping Toms here.Weirdly, the magic camping fairies had not prepared our camping site, so made an emergency call to brother Rick and nephew Jordan pleading with them to come out and mow a patch of grass for us.

While we waited for them to arrive, I opened the door to the camper. Water ran across the floor and out, onto my shoes.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said.

“No problem?” My confidence wavered.

We examined the source of the water and discovered that there wasn’t a leak. Evidently, back at Home Depot, we’d been overfilling the tank by several gallons and the water shot out a pinhole-sized air vent in the tank – sending water, not just out the cargo door, but all over the floor of the camper.

Grass WhistleFortunately I’m a germaphobe, so had everything packed inside plastic tubs. We dragged the contents of the camper out to the grass, but not before we set up our tick trap. Mary is a bug-aphobe and insisted we lay a white sheet down so we could see the ticks as they marched over to attack us. This would have been easier if the grass weren’t three feet tall, but we managed. We sat around in the sun making grass whistles, flicking creepy black ticks off the white sheet and waiting for the interior to dry.

I closed my eyes, tilted my face toward the bright sunshine and, sighed with contentment, knowing all my problems were behind me.

“Uh-oh,” I could hear Mary say. “This is Crazie Town and problems are never behind you.”

Tune in next week, for the rest of the story.

How did I get my skis in that position and I didn’t know my legs could do that

I’ve written before about my travel adventures and how, just maybe, I’m not the most fun travel companion you’ll ever come across. For example there’s Neckties, Nausea and Nudists and Karma’s a Bitch, Man.

Ski Bunny

Ski Bunny

Last week, Husband and I traveled to the mountains of Colorado for a free ski trip, provided by our daughter, Alison.  Although I’ve only taken one lesson and that was fifteen years ago, I had it it my head that I’d look something like this.

Okay, maybe I didn’t have a matching ski suit like the woman in this picture, but I did manage to pull together something.  A pair of  pants that my husband had outgrown and a jacket that was a hand-me-down from my friend, Mary.

So, instead of looking like a Ski Bunny, I ended up looking like a Ski Lump.

Ski Lump

Ski Lump

But, I was fairly warm and courageously optimistic that things were going to go as planned.

We took the gondola to the top of the mountain. Husband waited with five-year-old granddaughter to begin our swooshing down the slopes, as soon as I’d finished a few practice turns.

Because I’m not a complete idiot, I started out on the bunny slope, along with Alison and our three-year-old grandson. Four trips down the slight decline and up the magic carpet with the other toddlers, and I was ready for my first run.

Husband and five-year-old took off. I studied them as they glided gracefully one direction, then slid into a turn and coasted the other way.

I gave a push with my poles and, full-speed-ahead, skidded out of control — straight for a snow cliff. Everything I knew about stopping, flew right out of my head. I tried helicoptering my arms in backward circles but, oddly, that didn’t work. So, I did what I know best. I fell down.  Not in a graceful way, mind you. But, in a, “how did you get your skis in that position/I didn’t know your legs could do that” kind of way.  A nice snowboarder stopped and released the skis from my boots so I could untie my legs.

Not to worry. I’m a trooper. I got up and tried again.  And again. When I asked five-year-old how she thought her Mimi was doing, she only frowned and shook her head.

Somewhere along the way, as I crept down the slope in snowplow position, the world began to spin around me, my clothing felt too tight for me to breathe and I was pretty sure I was going to throw up.  I paused at a tiny flat area and told Husband I thought it was time for me to give up.

Here’s the thing about skiing. You can’t just quit in the middle. There’s no way to get off the mountain, except to ski down.

Talking with the ski patrol, we came up with a plan. I’d have to make one more short run toward a ski lift. The open air lift would take us up the mountain, so that we could catch the enclosed gondola, that would take us to the bottom of the mountain.

“Short run” was all I needed to hear. I bent my knees, tucked myself into race position and skied straight down the slope. I then stumbled onto the ski lift where five-year-old suggested to Husband that he  might want to put the safety bar down in case Mimi fell off.

The higher we went, the more the world spun around me and the harder it was to breathe.  I gritted my teeth and made it to the gondola, then managed to make it to ground level without spilling my guts. I struggled the hundred yards from the gondola to the condo and spread out on the bathroom floor.

Twenty minutes later, Husband came in and looked down at me. “Do you think I should take you to the emergency room?”

[Darth Vader Voice] – “Yeeessssss.”

I returned from the emergency room, not with a sexy issue, like a broken leg that would enable me to sit around the fire pit telling and retelling the story about my wild run down a black diamond slope…Ski broken leg

but, with Acute Altitude Sickness.

ski oxygen mask

It required that I walk around with a plastic tube stuck up my nose and toting around a green metal canister on wheels.

I couldn’t even approach the broken leg people to share my story at the fire pit, for fear I’d blow them all up.

 

The Art of Peeing in the Dark

Emergency Room Visit

Emergency Room Visit with the Ugly Duckling tagging along

My theory that putting two Pressgroves together will cause the Universe to spontaneously  explode, has been proved.

A few weeks ago I’d been with little brother, Rick, and ended up in the Great Bend Emergency Room.

This week, I was with older brother, Mike, and we blew the entire electrical grid at The Legends. (You’re probably wondering what this has to do with peeing in the dark – but as Dad would say “Stay in the boat and see where it goes.)

I’d conned my older brother, Mike, into riding with me to the large shopping area to look at camping equipment. Don’t laugh at me. I really am going camping…some day.

One of the things holding me back is the bathroom situation. I have the world’s smallest bladder and I didn’t want to spend my camping evenings stumbling around in the dark trying to find the public outhouse – not to mention the “ewwww” factor of an outhouse.

At the camping store, I planned to purchase my own commode and a privacy tent. I could explain to you what that is, but the internet does a much better job.

“Need an alternative to littering your campsite with poo holes? Check out the Cleanwaste Privacy Tent. This portable outhouse shelters your Cleanwater portable toilet, so you can do your business in private.”

Mike and I put the tent into the shopping cart and headed over to look at flashlights. He cleverly pointed out that a headlamp flashlight would be ideal – hands free.  Thrilled with my purchases, we drove to lunch at a nearby restaurant, where we had a lovely meal.

Because I have the world’s smallest bladder, I headed off to the bathroom.  I’m sitting there, minding my own business when POP! The lights go out.

My first thought was – Dang, I could really use that headlamp right about now.

My second thought was – I wonder if it really is so dark, I can’t see my hand in front of my face. I’m waving my hands in front of my face when I heard whimpering from the stall next door.

A little girl whined “Mom, what’s going on?”

Her equally terrified mother said, in a rising voice of panic. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“Hold on,” I said. “You stay where you are and I’ll wander around until I can find the door.” So there I was, arms straight out in front of me, walking around until I hit a wall. I slid my hands along the wall (trying to ignore my “ewww, bathroom wall!” voice) until I located the door.

Pulling it open, light flooded the room. The mother and daughter ran out, leaving me with the dilemma that I needed to wash my hands.  If I let go of the door I’d be plunged into darkness and, even if I could find the sink, I’d have to run my hands along the wall to find the door, sending me into a lifetime spiral of DARK!…dirty hands…LIGHT!…dirty hands, DARK!…

Even though Husband disagrees, I think this is justification for me wearing the headlamp all the time. Don’t you?