Tag 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?

I Own a Crack Den for Wasps

No Flip Flops

No Flip Flops

I finally gave up one of my Crazie Town mid-life crisis dreams.  The one where I tour the United States with The Ugly Duckling; the 1955 camper I bought two years ago from the flip-flop-wearing not-a-killer, Ed.

No sitting with her on a beach or on a mountaintop.  No Tin Can Tourist Rally or Sisters on the Fly event for us.  But, she has made it possible to fulfill another mid-life crisis dream.

Before the Vintage Camper vision, I’d dreamed of having a little cabin on our 113 acre family farm.  I’d gotten pretty close, meeting with a shed-building company and designing a 10×10 rustic hut.  A week from installation, they called the county for a building permit and were rejected.  It seems that even though across the road there is a plastic skeleton sitting on a broken toilet and next door they have 12 English mastiffs chained up, I’m not allowed to have a structure without running water.

With a lot of tears a little creative thinking, I realized I already owned the perfect little cabin — on wheels.

Ugly Duckling to the Rescue

Ugly Duckling to the Rescue

I drove  hill and dale looking for the perfect place to park her.

IMG_1125

And finally settled on a knoll overlooking the pond. Before you go, “ahhh” I should tell you that this has got to be the world’s ugliest pond. What ever Bubba my dad hired 30 years ago to screw it up  fix it, managed to make it worse.  It’s not deep enough to sustain anything but a few frogs and an acre of pond scum.  But, it’s water and I’m dreaming of the day the crops produce enough money when I can screw it up fix it.

Maybe it is the OCD in me, but I’ve enjoyed carving out my own, personally-designed campground.

I cleared out piles of cedar branches.

Wrestling with Nature

Wrestling with Nature

I bought a picnic table and, against my straight brothers’ wishes, painted it shocking pink — to the delight of my gay brothers.

LGBT Friendly Campsite

LGBT Friendly Campsite

 

Built a fire ring

PERFECT!  Maybe? Nope.

PERFECT! Maybe? Nope.

and, like the giant sofa the movers place in your house that you decide needs to be six inches to the left, I moved the fire ring and rebuilt it again.

Let There be FIRE

Let There be FIRE

I also discovered that the Ugly Duckling is like a crack den for wasps. Not the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant kind, but the one with wings and a painful sting.  And, shortly after that, I was crushed to discover that in an 8×8 space, you should never use a broom to chase them away.

Wasp-1/Mayor-0

Wasp-1/Mayor-0

 

Evolution of The Writer/Mayor of Crazie Town

1994

1994

I discovered that our movers put three boxes marked “Teresa’s Journals” in my office, instead of the storage room, which is where I’ve kept them for the past twenty years. I opened the first box.

This lovely image assaulted me.

I couldn’t imagine what it was doing in my journal box, and turned back the cover to unearth my first journal entry ever.

I remember taking a class on journaling. The teacher recommended that when you didn’t know what you should write, write the words, “and then…” and see what happened.

JOURNAL ENTRY:  March 5, 1994

I was born On November 24, in Wichita, Kansas and I was a third child
And then, I became an older sister to five brothers
And then, I became a wife
And then, I lost my brother
And then, I gave birth to twin girls
And then, they died
And then, I closed off a place in my heart
And then, I was a mom to a baby boy
And then, I was divorced
And then, I started my life
And then, I lost my way and became what needed to be done
And then, I had a hysterectomy and lost my femininity
And then, I learned I could not control my future, which scared me
And now, I am searching for me. What I want, what I need, balanced with what I should and what I could

2001

2001

JOURNAL ENTRY:  April 7, 2001

I always love starting a new journal, although it is also a bit intimidating.  As if this time I will get it right…whatever right is.

I vow to write neatly and to put important thoughts down on paper, but that is not what my journal is for.  I need to pour out my life, good, bad or boring and journaling has been the way for me to do that best.

Eww! Just picked off three ticks from being at the farm.  Yuck!

2013

2013

JOURNAL ENTRY:  June 19, 2013

I’m breaking so many Teresa rules.  Writing a journal entry in my Writing Notebook is one of them.  It’s sad to say how freaky I can be about this.  My writing should be orderly and confined to the proper paper.

Anyway, I am sitting in a beam of sunlight, on a bench in Central Park.

The Normal:  Tiny brown sparrows bathing in a dish held skyward by a bronze girl.

The Abnormal: A well-dressed elderly man walking by holding two leashes – at the end of which are a pair of dalmatian speckled rabbits.

An ancient couple sits on the next bench and he is desperately trying to explain Twitter to her.  She replies, “Yes, I see” at the end of each of his sentences, but clearly, she does not.

A purple flowering shrub, the spikes vibrating with black and yellow bees, frantically trying to grab the nectar before their brother does.

I want to be home – in a real home – sitting in my yard. It will be weeks before that happens and I hate to wish my life away.

Still resisting the urge to sit down and write my blog. It weighs on me, the guilt of not finishing what I started. But, evidently, not enough to move me to action. My brain is everywhere and nowhere all at once.  Is the house we bought the right one?  Is John looking ill? Are the kids okay? How will I ever meet up with Craig in Brooklyn for lunch? What should I do next?

I know, I’ll go back to my brother’s apartment and take a nap.

Th-th-there’s Nothing Out Here That Can Hurt Us, Right?

When we last left our heroine, the mayor of Crazie Town, she was enjoying the bucolic surroundings at a remote farm in eastern Kansas. [Click here  to get caught up.]

Nothing but peace and quiet for miles

Nothing but peace and quiet for miles

I sat dozing in the sun, enjoying the peace and quiet when I was startled awake by the roar of a heavy-duty pickup truck pulling up beside me. My brother, Rick, jumped out and, without a word, fired up a weed-wacker.

HolsteinHeiferChewallTractorA few minutes later, I heard the “putt-putt” of Dad’s ancient tractor and watched  my nephew, Jordan, appear on the horizon behind the wheel.  The rusted red monster limped it’s way toward us with one nearly-flat tire.  Jordan made short work of carving out a grass free zone for us with the attached dilapidated mower, that banged an out-of-balance tune with every turn of the blade.

While they worked, Mary and I opened the box containing the privacy tent I purchased to cover the deluxe port-a-potty I’d purchased. I laid the items out on the ground and dug around in the “it can’t be empty” box looking for directions. Fortunately, Mary had put together her fair share of tents, so I handed her the foreign objects and she assembled them into a….well, not a tent exactly.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said. “There aren’t enough poles and two stakes are missing.”

“No problem,” I said, looking at the short, sagging, expensive privacy tent. “We’ll just pee in that stand of trees over there.”

Jordan and Rick disappeared as quickly as they’d arrived.

Eventually, I got around to opening the box with the grill I’d purchased and ripped open the package of hardwood charcoal I’d purchased for a premium price at the organic grocery store.

Somehow, I managed to cook up a delicious dinner of sautéed salmon with shallots and butter. I decided this camping thing wasn’t so bad after all.

Mary produced a bottle of champagne she’d purchased to celebrate my first camping trip.  Neither one of us had ever opened a bottle of champagne but we’d seen it done on TV enough to know there would be a loud POP! followed by the flow of bubbly alcohol. She pointed the bottle toward the setting sun and wiggled the cork.  We cringed, waiting for the explosion.

“Thump.”

The cork fell to the ground between our feet.

Image 6

“Uh-oh,” Mary said “Isn’t it supposed to have bubbles in it?”

“No problem,”I said and added ice to our glasses. We then christened the camper. Well, not exactly christened. I didn’t want to hit The Ugly Duckling with the bottle of champagne for fear she would collapse.

We relaxed into our camp chairs and watched as nature provided a perfect opera. A triplet of deer pranced by. They paused to gaze curiously at us, and then leapt gracefully off stage, toward the creek. A turkey wandered into camp and, surprised to see us, gobble cursed us as he hurried away, stage left. A meadowlark arrived on the table in front of us and sang the closing aria.

There we were, sitting there, minding our own business, wiping melted marshmallows from our chins, when I heard a loud “HUFF” coming from the tall grass behind us. It  sent the hairs on the back of my neck to stiff attention.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said. “That sounded big.”

“N-n-n-no problem,” I said, quaking in my boots. “Th-th-there’s nothing out here that can hurt us.”

To bolster our courage, we broke out a quart of melted chocolate ice cream and gulped it down.

“HUFF.”

“Uh-oh,” Mary said, jumping into the fire ring next to the coals. “It’s still there.”

“No prob–”

“HUFF!”

shutterstock_125462789

“Problem! Problem!” I shrieked. “Run for the camper!

The next day I looked up the sound on the internet.

It was a MOUNTAIN LION!

Click on the huff and then on “Cougar – Montana” to hear the sound. HUFF!

Then again, it could have been – according to the Parks and Wildlife Game Warden – The long call of a roe deer.  HUFF?

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.