Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Acts of God

Oh, great. I just checked the scenic area where we’re heading to in Canada and they’re predicting nothing but showers for a week straight. What, do they have a monsoon season up in Canada? I thought it never rained in California. Doesn’t that apply to Oregon, Washington and British Columbia on the west coast too?

Mother nature and friends have been unsettling of late. Take my son Scott out in Washington DC this past week. He was sitting having lunch and minding his own business on a concrete bench outside the office building where he works when the bench started shaking.

He turned around, thinking maybe one of the area’s homeless folk was messing with him (a very strong homeless person obviously). But then the trees started shaking, the ground started rumbling, car alarms were going off . . . EARTHQUAKE! Though he’s never been in an earthquake previously, Scott knew exactly what was going on. However, other employees inside office buildings who had lived through the 9/11 terror attacks a decade ago weren’t so sure. Definitely more scary for them.

The buildings were all quickly evacuated and for hours employees didn’t know the extent of the situation. Eventually they all were told to go home and call the next day before coming in again. Bummer for Scott since he didn’t have his keys and cell phone. Left in the building which was off limits now. Worse for the daughter of a colleague of mine—her daughter was caught without her cell phone, keys and purse with her money. She waited it out until they gave the all-clear to go inside several hours later.

Then hurricane Irene happened. Scott was told to expect at a minimum to be without power for a few days. He took that warning seriously, however too late. By the time he got to the store to stock up on flashlights, batteries, canned goods and other necessities, the store was cleaned out. Lucky for him, Irene took her wrath elsewhere and spared the part of Maryland where he lived. He wasn’t among the four million plus to lose power.

At least I have some flexibility with my vacation to come. I am locked in with reservations for southwest Canada, rain or shine. But after that we can change plans if necessary. For example, stay away from the rainy coast. Maybe Yosemite. Let me check what’s there. Fire! Highway closed, campers evacuated?

*sigh *

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Planning The Big Trip

I'm in the final planning stages for a two-week road trip that Wendy and I are going to take in a little over a week. We've taken many vacations over the years, but this one is different.

For one, it's going to encompass two whole weeks. We've rarely if ever done a vacation more than a week long. Secondly, we're going to head to the Pacific coast of northwest U.S. and southwest Canada. Wendy's never been. It's been almost 50 years since I've seen a California beach.

So I've been figuring mileage, checking websites, making reservations. Since I like a little adventure with my trips I want to travel through central British Columbia, ending up at a place called Prince Rupert on the coast. Then we'll hop an all-day ferry to Vancouver Island.

My son Greg mapped the route via Google and e-mailed me, "Holy COW! I just Googled from Calgary to Vancouver via Price Rupert. Has mom seen this route?????? Whoa."

What, I thought. Are we likely to get ambushed by Crazy Horse or something? I had to see what Greg was looking at so I stopped by his computer. He showed me how through Google you can get a satellite view of the route, then zoom in for a street view. Quite cool. Yes, it did look like a lot of mountains. And not a lot of people.

That's okay. I've never been that much of a people person anyway. Originally I had planned to throw a mattress in back of our Grand Caravan, figuring that if we couldn't find a hotel, we could just find a primitive campsite or something and sleep in the back. But I tested that idea recently and it wasn't that comfortable.

Me and Wendy and a dog named Boo, traveling and a living off the land wasn't going to work for us. Maybe if we were in our early 20s and driving a VW microbus. Wendy's not too sure even about staying in a permanent tent in Curry Village in Yosemite National Park, our last stop out west before heading east again. "Not if I have to cook and do dishes," she noted.

To be truthful, I don't think Wendy was ever the type to travel and live off the land. Me neither for that matter.

We're just hoping there's a lot of Tim Hortons around where we're going. Even if it is the Canadian version of the Alps.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yea Fellow Bloggers!

First, a shout-out and happy birthday to my son Scott, who turns 26 today. He is living and working in our nation’s capital right now so we can’t celebrate with him in person. This is the first time we haven’t been able to personally celebrate a birthday with either of our sons. Sign of changing times.

Second, a follow-up to a “ramblin’, gamblin’” blog I did about a month ago. That involved a reservation I made with Days Inn, when they promised a partial refund after an on-line reservation snafu. They overcharged me on a reservation I made on-line with them. They would only promise me a refund if I stayed, instead of giving me a discounted price. I could have canceled the whole schmiel and gone somewhere else, but decided to take a chance on their honesty.

Last Friday I got a check for $15.43 from Days Inn. Boo-yeah. So then I wrote a not-so-favorable review of our Days Inn experience and posted it with Tripadvisor for which they rewarded me with a free photobook. Double boo-yeah. That’ll teach Days Inn to mess with me.

I don’t know though. I hope my “don’t mess with me” attitude is not making me curmudgeonly in my older years. My mother thinks my dad should name his fantasy football team “the curmudgeons” this year. Maybe my male lineage is destined to become curmudgeons as we “mature.”

Wonder if that’s the reason my grandson is wary of me. He is! Check out the picture I took. Does that look like a “I’m happy to see my grandpa” look?

I don’t think so. Grandma gets along with Grant just fine. About me, he’s not so sure. I came home the other day to find Wendy babysitting the little guy. He was napping in his playpen, unaware of my presence. I played with his dog Simon a bit, then in passing the playpen saw that Grant was now awake. He was on his back, looking at me wide-eyed with an expression that said, “Oh my god, they left me with this guy??!”

Then he started to cry, so I had to quickly pass him to grandma to get him settled down. Eventually, he came around a little. When his mom and dad returned, they showed us how he could flip himself over, back to front, by himself. So I’d clap and say, “Yea, Grant.” He liked that. Even flashed me a little smile.

Guess maybe then I should be a little more positive and supportive in my attitude.

“Yea, Days’ Inn . . . “

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

My Shadow For A Week

Simon was our houseguest for a week. Simon is a Boston Terrier belonging to my son Greg and his wife Lindsay. They needed someone to watch their dog while they vacationed in upper Michigan last week.

It's been a while since we had a dog around the house for longer than a day. Our beloved Doogie passed away almost three years ago. He followed my wife around the house most of the days of his life.

So it was a little surprising that Simon turned out to be my shadow, lying on the carpet outside the bathroom while I took a shower, occasionally climbing onto my lap, and refusing to go to bed at night until I retired myself.

Loyalty? Maybe. More likely he hoped I would get his ball out so we could play. That's what he craved all week, a game of ball. I would throw it, he'd run and get it, then I'd chase him around the house trying to get it back.

Sometimes I'd hide his ball, but he proved to be pretty good at finding it. One time I thought I had this ball well hidden among some junk mail on an end table. Next thing I knew he had the ball in his mouth as he stood next to my recliner, a particularly devilish look in his eyes as if to say, "Look what I've got."

The object for him was to destroy this ball as he had so many like it. Gnaw on it until it stops squeaking, then tear it to shreds. And eventually by the end of the week, he did.

That didn't stop him from begging to play ball, as in the picture above. He's looking to where the ball is usually kept, sometimes crying to play another round of his favorite game.

I'd tell him, "Simon, you destroyed it. You tore your ball to pieces."

That would get his attention, as in the picture below.

But as Wendy would point out, "You know he only understood the one word."

Yeah. *sigh*

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

To Beat The Heat

I’ve used to wonder why news reports urged people to “check on the elderly” during heat waves. But now that I’m over 55, I can see why. The heat seems to bother me more and more each year.

This past weekend I thought we would catch a break as the wife and I joined another family in heading over to Lake Michigan. Lots of beach, lots of water—the best recipe for beating the heat.

So as temperatures started to cook on Saturday, we made our way to MacWoods Dune Rides by Silver Lake, a stone's throw from Lake Michigan. It was unusually busy that day and they said we would have to wait 40 minutes for our tour, so we walked next door to the ice cream stand. Cooled us off some in the mid-day heat.

I was looking forward to the part of the dune ride where they stop at Lake Michigan and let passengers out to wade into the surf, take pictures, etc. Since we take this ride every year, we know what to expect. They also skim the shoreline with the scooter, spraying passengers with a little bit of lake water. Ahhhhh, couldn’t wait. When we boarded, my brother-in-law made sure to take the seat that would expose him to the great soaking. Smart fellow.

But as soon as we were all strapped in, our tour guide announced that we wouldn’t be going down to Lake Michigan this time because the endangered Piping Plover was nesting there.

WHAT??!!! Piping plover?? Is she making this up? This name sounds made up. Is a piping plover a cousin to the rocking rover?

Instead of getting soaked, we were baked. My brother-in-law in particular got a good sandblasting in his end seat. The driver said to make up for stopping lakeside, we would stop atop the highest sand dune where we could all run down and climb up again. WHAT?? In 90-degree heat? I can see this same cruel tour driver out in the southwest somewhere saying sadistically, “We’re not going down to the Colorado River today, but instead we’re going to head out to Death Valley where we’re all going to participate in some exciting sack races.”

What made it worse was when we made our aforementioned scheduled stop atop razorback dune, it was right above Silver Lake. All right!! Salvation. But our tour guide said we could run down the dune, but couldn’t go in the water. WHAT??!! Are the piping plovers bathing there or something?

What made it even more worse was that after we had taken our tour through the hot, sandy landscape, Wendy and I wanted to head over to Silver Lake State Park where we knew we COULD go in the water. But when we got there, “LOT FULL.” The attendant said to try back again in a couple hours (he had to be a relative of that tour guide).

So we tried the park by the lighthouse right on Lake Michigan. “LOT FULL.” How about the park by the off-road vehicle area? No beach there but at least they had shade. “LOT FULL.” Up to Pentwater where there was another State Park. “LOT FULL.” Finally, up to Ludington where we found an air conditioned restaurant. Afterwards, we passed some excitement as some elderly lady had collapsed from the heat on a downtown sidewalk. A passerby was giving her water.

New law. Only those 55 and over may use state parks when the temperature is above 80 degrees. And dune ride operators must post any variations in their route at the ticket counter.