Tag Archives: Travel

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.

I Swear, I Don’t Know How These Things Happen to Me

To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite bloggers, Donna Louise, I swear I don’t know how these things happen to me.

Recently, Husband and I talked about downsizing to a home more appropriate for our new lifestyle. Without the responsibility of a house and large yard to take care of, we could walk out the door and travel to the south of France for a month or so.

This House Is Too Big

This House Is Too Big

We have no tickets to travel to the south of France yet, but we imagine if we change houses, we would.

One Friday morning I thought I’d take a step toward that carefree lifestyle and said to Husband, “Hey, let’s put our house on the market today.”

We did. It sold in three days.

Suddenly, we had a little over a month to pack up fifteen years of life and move to…well, that’s just it. We hadn’t decided where we wanted to move.

Time was running out for us to find a new home and then, my favorite aunt fell ill. Within a few days time, I was required to fulfill her end-of-life requests.

Certain if I made a choice on a house in the middle of this, I’d wake up six months from now in a Victorian B&B and wonder how I got there, Husband suggested we try apartment life for a while.

We spent an entire weekend talking with flaxen haired twenty-year-old Kimberlys and Kendalls and being treated as if we were a couple of twenty-year-old deadbeats and then were asked to pay $100 for the privilege of simply filling out an application.

This One is Too Small

This One is Too Small

We settled on a Teeny Tiny Place because it only required a seven month lease. Actually, we chose it because it was one of the few places that allowed our 70 pound  60 pound dog. (We stopped at one place where you could have any number of pets as long as their combined weight didn’t exceed 50 pounds. I didn’t want to think about what that might include.)

Back at our house, I packed and packed and packed some more. I designed an elaborate color-coded labeling system that included where each box went for the apartment move, what’s in the box, and where the box will go when we buy a house.

Moving day arrived and within minutes of getting to the Teeny Tiny Place, I discovered I’d over-estimated the amount of furniture that would fit.

Uh Oh

Uh Oh

We quickly rented another garage — and then a third to hold all the crap treasures I’ve collected over the years.

In our Teeny Tiny Place, we have the privilege of paying $20 per month more for “hardwood” floors, which are actually linoleum printed with a wood image. The walk-in closet is rendered un-walk-inable once clothing is hung on both sides. And, we have the luxury of a master bathroom with floor to ceiling mirrors on three walls – which not only gives me a multi-imaged look at myself in my least attractive position, but also depicted several dozen images of the look of horror on my face as the toilet backed up on it’s first use.

Settled into the Teeny Tiny Place, I got back to looking for a home.

No, wait. That’s not right. Somewhere in there I had a garage sale. We left on a long-ago planned trip to Disney World and from there, a flight to Hartford. And, oh yes, I went gluten-free.

Maybe I Could Stand to Lose a Few?

Maybe I Could Stand to Lose a Few?

Tune in next week to discover if the house we accidentally put an offer on, is now ours.

I swear, I don't know how these things happen to me.

I swear, I don’t know how these things happen to me.

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.

 

Crazie Larry Story – “I’m in a jail cell and…”

Last of the Big Kids is my younger brother, Larry. If you missed the other stories about our fall from the Crazie Tree, click here, here, and here.

Sibling position #4 – two years younger than me.

The One Who Smiles

The One Who Smiles

Two things you need to know about Larry.

1.) He always has a smile on his face.

2.) He never breaks a rule.

This story begins the Christmas after 9/11. I got a call from Larry shortly after I’d dropped him off at the airport.

“I’ve been arrested.” I could hear the laughter in his voice.

I chuckled. “Sure you have.”

“No, really!” By now he’s laughing so hard it was difficult to understand him. “I’m in a jail cell right now and in fact they’re ready to take my pho—”

“Larry?”

No reply.

As I made a U-Turn in the middle of the six lane highway, I called my favorite attorney who just happens to be my husband, John. He called back to tell me, sure enough, Larry had been arrested — for trying to carry a large knife on the plane.  “Please tell me that didn’t happen.” Although he didn’t say it out loud I could hear “You’re family is Crazie.”

“OF COURSE IT DIDN’T HAPPEN!” I explained calmly.

John agreed to drive out to the airport to get it all straightened out.

I waited impatiently in the well-appointed lobby of the airport police station (not my first time in the lobby of a police station, but that’s another story). I knew for certain that my pacifist brother, who didn’t even like to use a letter opener, would not have been carrying a knife onto a plane.

When John arrived, the officer on duty took us to his desk and then brought Larry in from his jail cell. Larry’s smile was slightly lopsided, but still there. The officer asked him to tell us what happened.

“You know Shelly got me that wok I asked for, right?” he said.

“Um. Yes.” I replied

“Well, I decided not to check the box, I thought I’d just carry it on with me. You know, so it wouldn’t get squashed.”

“Okay.”

“I put it on the conveyor belt and I waited on the other side for it to come out. Only it didn’t. I looked up at the agent who’d x-rayed it and he’d called over another agent. Then they called over this police officer. Sorry, what was your name again?”

“Officer Schmidt.”

“That’s right. So, Officer Schmidt and the other two agents are all pointing at the x-ray screen and then over at me.” He giggled.

“All of the sudden, I remembered that a set of knives was included with the wok. So I said ‘Oh, there are knives in there aren’t there?’ And then, everyone that was standing around me took a step back.” Larry paused to get his laughter under control. “Officer Schmidt asked me to move to the holding area where they pat you down and I told him it was just a mistake and that if he’d give me the box I’d check it with my suitcase. No big deal.” He wiped tears of laughter from his eyes.

Husband turned to me with that “Are you kidding me?” look on his face.

“Go on,” I said. “Then what happened.”

“Then, Officer Schmidt explained that it was against the law to carry a knife on the plane and asked me to turn around so he could cuff me.”

“He took it surprisingly well,” Officer Schmidt told us.

Larry said, “I was laughing so hard it was hard for you to put the cuffs on me, right?”

“That’s right.”

“But,” my husband asked. “Why were you laughing?”

“All I could think,” Larry said. “Was, what a great family story this was going to be.”

After several hours of discussion, the police finally agreed to let Larry go, promising him a stiff fine. We drove him back over to the terminal to see if there was any chance he could get on a later flight.

Evidently we looked bedraggled enough that the woman behind the ticket counter felt sorry for us.

“Let’s see what I can do.” Her fingers flew over the keyboard and we stood listening to the clickity-clack, waiting for the magic to happen. “Now, tell me the reason you missed your plane and,” here she leaned across the counter and winked at us. “Make it good.”

I opened my mouth to say he was an important musical conductor and had to get back to Broadway to his next performance but before I could utter a word my ‘never break a rule’ brother Larry said, “I tried to carry a knife onto the plane.”

It was another week before we could find a flight that would take him.