The hunt for Red October

scavenger-hunt

Sorry guys, Mr. Pickles is taking a break from blogging this week, he’s busy working on his next career goal.

Since it’s summer I thought I’d share something my family does on vacation.  It started as a random thing I decided to do to beat car trip boredom.  I made a scavenger hunt for the trip.  The first was on our girls + Dawson trip to Charleston and it ended up being pretty fun so I kept making them.

Just looking at the lists makes me laugh at some of the silly things that we’ve seen or done to check off the list.  It also doesn’t help that my family is super competitive and things like my sister and my nieces racing to the Love’s Truck Stop entrance to get a Java Amore coffee cup or everyone forcing my sister to eat gas station roller food, make for fun memories to look back on.

If you’re travelling, and bored or if you just want to have a little fun for the remainder of the summer I present you with the McClark Family Scavenger Hunt lists.

Side Note: No, no one in my family has the last name McClark, but one pre-vacation night at my mom’s we were trying to make an acronym of our last names and couldn’t.  So, we decided on Clark – for Clark W. Griswold.  I don’t remember where the “Mc” came from……. because we’re not Irish. 🙂

 

2013 Charleston Fall “Girls” Trip Scavenger Hunt

  1. Gas Station Attendant who looks like Elvis. 5 points       (8 points if it’s in TN)
  2. Car with 10 or more bumper stickers. 5 points
  3. Gas Station with more coolers full of beer than any other drink . 5 points
  4. Find a sign for a Candy Shop (on the upcoming Exit signs). 10 points
  5. Find a sign for a “Specialty” hamburger restaurant 10 points.     (no fast food chain, Red Robin, Bagger Dave’s etc.. local)
  1. Hurricane Evacuation Route sign. 5 points
  2. Palm Tree with Halloween lights. 8 points
  3. Sign/Advertisement for fresh/local fudge. 5 points
  4. Tunnel Ahead sign. 3 points
  5. People taking pictures of themselves by road sign.  5 points
  6. Sign in the shape of a food item or an animal. 10 points
  7. Sign for a strange roadside attraction (e.g. largest ball of twine).  10 points                    (subtract 5 points each if you use Ruby Falls or Rock City)
  8. Three-tiered fountain. 5 points
  9. The word “brilliant.”   8 points
  10. An ‘at night’ postcard – where the post card is all black. 10 points
  11. A matchbook with a restaurant logo on it. 15 points
  12. A bus schedule. 5 points
  13. Something that describes (team member).  5 points
  14. A historical marker.   2 points
  15. A fortune cookie. 3 points

(extra points if the word “happy” appears in the fortune cookie note)

 

BONUS:    UFO.    100 points

2014 Charleston – Destination wedding scavenger hunt.

 

  1. Item from a gas station/truck stop bathroom vending machine. 10 points
  2. Maps of at least 2 states from a rest area. 10 points
  3. Picture with your team setting off a firework on side of road. 50 points
  4. License plate # from a semi in the mountains. 10 points
  5. A “peopleofwalmart.com” picture. 30 points
  6. A bag of Gilliam Horehound Sanded Candy. 10 points
  7. 1 point for each condiment stolen from Chick-fil-A. unlimited
  8. Picture of a working payphone. 25 points
  9. Fortune Cookie from a Chinese restaurant. 5 points
  10. Bonus points if the fortune in #9 has the word happy in it. 10 points
  11. Weekly store ad from a store that we don’t have in Indiana. 5 points
  12. A Sand dollar (not purchased from a store). 50 points
  13. Get someone named “Sara” or “Teagan” to sing a “Tegan & Sara” song.  5 points
  1. Find a gas station with more coolers of beer than pop. 20 points
  2. Picture of (team member who doesn’t like seafood) eating seafood. 30 points
  3. Best Reason to disqualify someone’s “Slug A Bug.” 15 points **
  4. Matchbook from a restaurant w/ their logo on it. 100 points
  5. A receipt for exactly $4.38. 20 points
  6. Folded napkin art with a fast food napkin. 10 points
  7. A lottery ticket from each state we travel through. 20 points

** You can’t call a slug bug because….. it’s red, it has a bumper sticker etc.. make it up as you go.

2016 #bamafamavacation Scavenger Hunt

  1. Expired Cat Food at a Gas Station. 10 points
  2. Neil Diamond look-alike. 30 points *
  3. Lottery Ticket from any state but IN.  5 points each
  4. Belt Buckle larger than 3.5 inches. 10 points
  5. Carpool Karaoke video. 40 points **
  6. Java Amore coffee mug/cup. 20 points
  7. “Wash Me” written on a car (you can’t write it). 10 points
  8. Picture of local Mexican restaurant (not a chain) that doesn’t have Los or El in the name.  45 points
  9. Dress up a fire hydrant like a celebrity. 30 points
  10. Mystery Item. up to 100 points
  11. Poster, Flyer or Shirt for local festival. 30 points
  12. Bonus if item 11 doesn’t involve fruit or veggie. 15 points
  13. “Cake by the Ocean.” 10 points
  14. An Elvis impersonator. 75 points
  15. Place that serves “World Famous (____).” 15 points
  16. Vehicle with duct tape/plastic window. 10 points
  17. Team member eating “roller food.” 10 points
  18. Unicorns – anything with a unicorn on it. 5 points each
  19. Logo Matchbook from a restaurant. 75 points
  20. Comic Book Hero lunch date. 75 points

* Bonus of 50 points if you can get that person to sing Sweet Caroline

** Bonus of 20 points if props/costumes are used

As you can see we have a fun with our long road trips. Sometimes if no one finds something on a list it goes on next years list.  In 2016 they even made team names (TicTac Chicks, Aunt Eaters and No Ragrets).  I always feel sorry for Teagan because she has to team with her brother and her dad (because I make up the list) and they are less than enthusiastic about playing.

I hope your family has as much fun as mine did with these.  And for my family I already have started the list for October.

If Mr. Pickles would have written this blog the scavenger hunt list would be:

  1. Cookie. 10 points if you give it to me
  2. Dog Food. 10 points if you give it to me
  3. Cookie. 20 points if you give it to me
  4. Dog Food. 20 points if you give it to me
  5. Squirrel. 100 points if you let me say I caught it
  6. Cookie. 30 points if you give it to me
  7. Dog Food. 30 points if you give it to me
  8. Bacon. 50 points if you give it to me
  9. Cookie. 40 points if you give it to me
  10. Dog Food. 40 points if you give it to me

Mr. Pickles is NOT helping me with the Fall Vacation list.

You get 10 points for reading this blog (just to see which family members read it all the way to the end).

 

 

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Travelling – like Mark Twain

missouri-david-liu

If you’ve ever noticed the only quote that appears on my blog is “Write what you know.”- Mark Twain.  I like Mark Twain, but not for the classics like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (collective literary gasp).  What made me like Mark Twain was a short story, A Dog’s Tale.  Even though it’s a sad and tragic tale, it’s written entirely from the prospective of a dog – which I may do from time to time.

I also like Mark Twain because he travelled, and he wrote about his travels.

So, I was excited to get to travel last weekend to Missouri and visit an old Missouri river town, St Charles, where almost everything is named after Mark Twain (a hobby store, the mall, streets…) except the really weird pizza, which I’ll get to in a minute. Also notice I’m now using the term travelling in place of vacation or holiday – it’s really splitting hairs but travelling sounds more like something Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway would have done.

For those of you who have read some of my previous travel calamities there is good news, no hotels were involved or harmed during this trip!  We were lucky enough to stay with friends who recently relocated to the St. Louis area.  It was like staying in the best ever bed and breakfast imaginable.

Day 1 – We started our day with rain.  Lots and lots and lots of rain.  Dave joked that every time we go to St. Louis it rains – he’s not lying, but we’ve only been there one other time.  I was determined to take my kids to the Gateway Arch, rain be damned.  But I didn’t pre-game the Arch very well – or at all.  It was this passing thought I had when we stopped to get gas and McDonald’s in Illinois.  I have been to the Arch two other times in life, once when I was very little and all I remember is weird jerky tram ride to the top.  The second was with my husband in 1997 when we were on our Honeymoon and there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks he was going to ride to the top.

As we exited the interstate and you could see the Arch I was surprised to hear Dawson say, “I think I might have to go to the top.”  My son. The one who won’t ride Ferris Wheels and go up in Space Needles because he thinks he might be afraid of heights, maybe kind of sorta – but he isn’t sure.  YAY – parenting win!  Here comes the travel tip portion of visiting the Gateway Arch without a game plan:

  1. Parking is at least three or four blocks away in any direction unless you are in a tour bus. Not great when it’s pouring down rain and the umbrella that used to always be in your car for soccer games has mysteriously disappeared and is probably safe and dry in the garage at home.  But it was only $5 to park, which for city parking isn’t bad.
  2. You have to buy your tickets to enter the Arch from this little kiosk outside the entrance, I’m not sure if this is a permanent thing or just while they are remodeling, but also not fun when you don’t have an umbrella and its pouring. And the lady working in the little kiosk had to ask four times how many tickets we needed, and she still didn’t get it right. Luckily the ticket taker didn’t ask why Dawson and Teagan both had CHILD tickets.
  3. You have to go through security and a metal detector. There is ONE metal detector for each entrance.  It is about a 15-20-minute process to get through security depending on the number of people in front of you and their general ability to empty their pockets and walk through a metal detector – you’d be surprised how many people can’t figure out that they can’t keep their car keys and cell phones in their pocket.  Again, mostly outside in the rain up until the last 5 minutes or so when you get under the Arch.
  4. Congratulations! You are inside the Gateway Arch. You may not get in line for the tram until 5 minutes before your ticket time. Your socks and shoes are sloshy, and you are styling the “wet look.”  20 minutes to go… hey look a gift shop!
  5. THREE of us got in line with our tram tickets. Once again Mr. H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks would not go to the top.  He bought a book about the construction of the Arch and a Diet Dr. Pepper and sat at the bottom and waited.
  6. The tram ride to the top is a huge ordeal and process. You have a tram “conductor” who issues you boarding passes, then you watch a video about the 1960’s (when the construction was complete) that has nothing to do with the Arch.  You take the obligatory green screen picture and get a ticket to purchase an overpriced photoshopped picture of your family in front of the Arch.  You then are escorted to the actual boarding area where you see the metal tram “doors” which are smaller than the windows in my living room.  I think Dawson turned green when he saw the doors.
  7. The 4-minute tram ride to the top really isn’t bad, but it’s a little shaky and there’s a window so you can see the metal supports the entire way up. PS don’t look down!  We rode up with two little girls, Nora and Madison, who were 4 and 8, their mom had to split up all the kids because she had 6 kids and only 5 people can ride in one tram – I wasn’t the only mom who didn’t pre-game!  One was scared, the other wasn’t.  Kind of like my kids – who held hands on the way up. 🙂
  8. The top is cool. You can probably see more on a sunny day, but still cool.  Unless you are uncomfortable being crammed into a space that is about 65 feet long, 7 feet wide and 7 feet tall with 80 other people.  Sardines come to mind.  We stayed just long enough to snap pictures from each side and Dawson was done.  3 minutes down – gravity helps I guess.

st louis arch

We then enjoyed a rainy walk back to the car.  And Dave made me walk on a pedestrian bridge made entirely of metal grating.  I don’t like a) bridges and b) metal grates.  Next time he’s riding the damn tram to the top.

We negotiated rush hour traffic to get to the suburbs where our friends live, and we stopped at Wal-Mart to get dry shoes and socks.  It was important to have dry shoes and socks.  Dave didn’t pack extra shoes or socks.  We also located an Imo’s Pizza, which according to Dave’s EMS Chief who is from St. Louis is one of the best places to get St. Louis style pizza.  Again, we’ll get to the pizza later.

The fun thing about navigation systems is they take you what is the most “direct” route to any location.  Jenny Jeep (Elmo’s navigation system) was already on Dave’s last nerve because she kept alerting us to traffic backups on I-70.  Then Jenny Jeep took us what we later learned was the back way to our friend’s house.  We were doing good until we were told to turn on a “road” which looked more like a single lane driveway that went straight up.  No, I’m not exaggerating it went literally straight up – and at the peak I wasn’t sure there was anything on the other side. That’s why it’s the back way, there is a much flatter and easily travelled road that Jenny Jeep wasn’t aware of using Highway MM.  I’m totally behind naming highways after my favorite candy.

Day 2 consisted of antique shops and St. Charles historic riverfront.  I was in Heaven!  There were so many shops with farmhouse decor and handmade soaps and candles and crafts and OMG the fresh-baked cookies!  And I found an old window that I’ve wanted for some time to replace an 80’s design “feature” in my house.  The old window almost didn’t fit in Elmo.  And there were the rocks.  Everyone kept finding painted rocks – except me.  On the back of the rock was a Facebook logo with a name, so I looked it up.  It’s a group of people who paint rocks and leave them all over St Charles for people to find.  Isn’t that cool?

Ok, it’s time to talk about the pizza.  For dinner we convinced our friends to go to the pizza place we had seen.  When they moved to St. Louis everyone told them the same thing they told us, you must try St. Louis style pizza.  St. Louis style pizza is really all about the cheese even though the crust is also controversial because is thin and they don’t use yeast when they make it.  But the cheese. I had to look it up.  It’s “white processed cheese known as Provel. Provel is a trademark for three cheeses fused to form one (provolone, Swiss, and white Cheddar).” The words fuse and cheese should not be used together ever.  At first it was just “slightly different” and didn’t really taste bad.  To be honest, it doesn’t taste bad at all, it’s the texture that’s impossible to get past.  Its like slicing Velveeta on a pizza.  You should still try it if you go to St. Louis – just fair warning you may not like it.

logo-imos

Day 3 was travelling back home.  Again, in the rain.  What is it with the rain?  We had done so very well this trip without our usual bumps in the road (except our friends had a flat tire).  We found the bump on the way home.  We stopped to eat lunch and everything was going well until the little girl next to us fell off her chair and hit her chin.  It made a horrible crack when she hit and of course she started crying.  What made me jump was the older [than me] gentleman behind us who literally sprung out of his seat and dove toward the little girl bellowing “OH MY GOD IS SHE OK?”  It was a bit of an over reaction especially for a stranger.  That was bad.  What made it worse was that the mom totally under reacted to the situation.  She sighed loudly and asked in a very calm monotone “are you ok?”  Super stranger who had bolted out of his seat was now yelling “SHE’S BLEEDING!!!” Apathetic mom reached for a napkin and was trying to hold the girl steady to wipe the blood while calmly saying, “you have to let me see and wipe the blood away.”  Super stranger was still standing there staring in disbelief at the mom, so she said, “oh she’s ok.  She just had surgery this week that’s why she’s bleeding.”  The man finally went back to his seat where he very loudly relayed the story to his wife including questioning why she had surgery.  I mean his wife had seen and heard the whole incident so I’m not sure why he was telling her the story.  I was amazed Teagan hadn’t started to laugh because she laughs at inappropriate times – it’s a brain injury thing.  The whole thing was just too much, the super overreaction of the man and the completely emotionless and under reacting mom.  And our little happy family was stuck directly in the middle of it all.  I had to go or I was going to be the one laughing at an inappropriate time.

There you have it, a trip with no hotel disasters, only a slight weather problem and one minor people watching bump. It’s our first trip without an epic weather event.  It did snow on April 1st though, but that doesn’t count we were already home.

Finally, for my friend who spent all weekend planning and naming my “shop” to sell all my handicrafts and writings I challenge you to open your own bed and breakfast.  You would be really great at making people feel like home and the place would be incredibly decorated.  Just a thought!

 

Topless burgers and 20 years

burger

In the 20 years we’ve been married my husband and I have enjoyed some unique experiences while dining out.  Well, let me rephrase that, dining out with my husband can be a unique experience.  It all started shortly after we were married.  We took a little weekend get-away to the Mammoth Cave area and at one point during the trip we went to Bowling Green.  We stopped at a Ponderosa to eat, now I know what you’re probably thinking, but keep in mind it was 20 years ago, we were young and mostly broke.  And of course, Ponderosa advertised an “All You Can Eat” steak special which attracts my husband like a moth to a flame.  So one steak down and another on his plate he started steak number two and after one bite his face said it all…. Something was really wrong.  He started desperately searching for his napkin and I’m pretty sure he was turning green.  He spit what was in his mouth into the napkin and reached for his drink that the waitress had just taken away for a refill.  He sprinted to the bathroom.  When he returned he stated his steak was rancid and we were leaving.  I think he told the waitress something was wrong and she offered to bring him a new one but he declined.  After shoving the remainder of my salad into my mouth (I skipped the all you can eat steak) and we left, the entire rancid all you can eat steak still sitting on the plate.

That was where it started.  Prior to that I can’t remember any “gee you should write this down” moments in a restaurant with him.

There have been several since.  Most of which have made it to this blog.  Including most notably the day he took me to lunch at the sushi place.  But there are a few undocumented ones as well, for instance did you know that Bob Evans doesn’t serve corn?  Nope no corn on the menu at Bob Evans.  He’ll tell you the story every time you pass a Bob Evans and sometimes you don’t even have to be near one for him to bring it up.  Or better yet, 20 years later, we still re-live the Ponderosa story at least once a year if we pass a sign for one.

So it should’ve come as no surprise to me when for lunch on our 20th Anniversary get away weekend we had yet another of our somewhat infamous restaurant incidents.  We were just a little hungry, so I suggested a small little sandwich shop since we were going to have a big dinner later that evening.  The sandwich shop is in the basement of a larger restaurant…. I didn’t really think that option through very well.  We were 2nd in line for a table behind “Carmel Dad” and his wife and daughter.  Yes I nicknamed him almost immediately, also probably an indication that this was not going to go well.  Carmel Dad was irritated and wasn’t shy about letting anyone know.  I’m not sure how long he had been waiting but a quick scan of the restaurant and there were a few empty tables, and a few that needed dishes cleared away.  So, I started watching the scene unfolding, there were about 4 waitresses, but not one came over to seat anyone and an older gentleman clearing tables.  Then a line started to form at the cash register.  One of the waitresses came over and asked if the first lady was paying by cash or card, the lady offered her bill and a credit card and the waitress announced she could do that but not cash because her dad had the register key.  Before she could swipe the card, the guy clearing tables swooped in and started checking everyone out.  Apparently that was dad and he had the key.

After making his way through the line of people cashing out, he looked at Carmel Dad and asked how many.  “Still three.”  Was Carmel Dad’s answer.  So instead of taking them to one of the tables he had just cleared, the guy went to another table and cleared it, and then another.  At this point I’m pretty sure I should have found a new place to eat, but neither of us were starving and it was kind of starting to become fun to watch.  PS “Carmel Dad” is a totally unfair stereotypical name based on his daughters Guerin Catholic sweatshirt and his head to toe Callaway attire.  He came back and sat Carmel Dad’s family and then the line picked up at the cash register again so I knew despite the now six cleaned off tables we weren’t going to sit down anytime soon.  Oddly the daughter came over and asked if there was just two of us and we said yes and she took us to a table.

Things were starting to look up.  The menu was mostly sandwiches and burgers, but also had breakfast served all day.  We each teeter tottered between breakfast or burgers, I’m not sure why but the sandwiches didn’t sound great.  We both picked cheeseburgers and potato rounds.  Then my husband decided to go to the bathroom.  This is when it started.  When he returned he informed me that to get to the bathroom you have to go out the back door and up 9 stairs, I wasn’t tracking what his point was because I was pretty sure we had to go down 9 stairs to get to the front door when we came in.  That’s when he told me if something happened, like a kitchen fire, our only means of egress was the getting up those 9 stairs, either in the front or the back.

exit signs

I smiled.  Maybe I sighed.  Despite the flashbacks of the “gas leak” at the sushi place that were flooding my brain I managed to take a quick scan of the surroundings and lay out my plan for escape to satisfy him.  More than likely I would head for the back stairs because they were closer even though they were also closer to the kitchen and the likely source of the “fire.”  And to be quite honest there was only a table of older ladies and a mom with her six-year-old between me and the stairs and I was fairly certain I could beat them all to the back steps.  I know that’s awful, right?  I’m sure I would assist them all before making my way up the stairs.  It didn’t dawn on me at the time because it was a bright sunshiny day, but I should have pointed out we were in the safest place possible for severe weather.

Did I mention that I spent the entire week before our trip in Emergency Management and Planning classes?  I think I was just on emergency situation overload so mostly my plan for lunch was just … lunch and not Escape Planning 101.  I diverted his attention by having him watch the owner go back and forth between clearing tables and cashing people out and decorations which were all IU.  Mostly Bobby Knight, it was a Bobby Knight shrine actually.  Then he got distracted by Super Loud Guy who was talking a lot and loud enough for everyone to hear.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining either, I was actually enjoying myself.  There was a couple of times I had to stop myself from laughing because I knew if I started it would be that uncontrollable laughter with tears and shaking and snorting.  Super Loud Guy was commenting about his food, Carmel Dad was still grouchy despite having his food, and our waitress kept telling everyone that her dad would check them out at the register because he had the key, which is when my emergency skills kicked in (finally) because I wanted to tell her to stop saying that because if anyone wanted to rob them they would know exactly who has the cash register key.  And this is what it’s like to eat with the Baughn’s.

So with no robbery or fire on the horizon (don’t you feel sorry for our kids?) our food came and the burgers looked good, because we could see them because there was no top bun.  Odd.  Maybe the top bun is under the burger.  Nope… no top bun there.  Neither of us really said anything for about a minute as we were both thinking the same thing and searching under the potatoes for the top bun.

“So, are there no top buns?” he asked.

“Doesn’t look that way does it?  Did they say they were open-faced sandwiches?”

“No.  Well, great I wanted a topless burger for lunch…. Guess we’re low carbing.”

“Um… at least your cheese is normal.”

“True.”

Let me tell you about the cheese.  I ordered hot pepper cheese with the assumption it was just another term for pepper jack.  You know the nice sliced Monterey Jack with a few red and green peppers tossed in?  Nope my burger was topped with half melted shredded cheddar cheese with diced jalapeno.  Which I could clearly see because it was topless.  I wondered if they just ran out of buns, my husband wondered where all the bun tops were.

We ate our burgers which were good, and for me a lot more spicy than planned.  I mean I can’t complain about the food, just a little shocked at their definition of hot pepper cheese and still curious about the buns.  We looked around at the Bobby Knight shrine and when we were done we went to the register, to pay our waitresses dad, because he had the key to the register.  And we made it up the nine stairs to street level to finish our day.

It has been an amazing and adventurous 20 years!  And I’m still not looking for the exit!

Alphabet Vacation

 

A – is for Anita.  Anita is the manager at the Hampton Inn in Prattville, Alabama.  Anita and I had a few conversations on this trip because the Hampton Inn placed holds for over $400 on my checking account for the majority of the trip because they charged me for one room three times at three different rates.  Anita insisted on blaming Amanda for the mess up, but I reminded her that as the manager she is ultimately responsible.  (PS I got the room free of charge using my charm and exceptional people skills … ok maybe I yelled… a little…twice).

 

B – is for Beach.  This is why we went.  Teagan’s B word is #basic which she uses to describe the several groups of Spring Break teenage girls lining up taking photos on the beach, daily.  In their bikinis.  Some parents should really think twice about the bikinis their daughters wear, jus sayin’.

 

C – is for Catching good waves.  Teagan was trying really hard to boogie board and caught a few waves but then got flipped over by some boy who jumped in her way “btw…not cute!”

 

D – is for Dizzy Whizz and Deez Butts BBQ.  These are billboards you see in Louisville, KY.  They are really easy to see when you are travelling at a blistering 3 mph.  Dizzy Whizz is an Old Louisville tradition that is home of the Whizz Burger since 1947.  Deez Butts is actually a food truck that serves butts, chicken and brisket by the pound.

whizzburger<——- Whizzburger

 

E – is for Elephant, the mascot of the University of Alabama.  Next to the dreaded Hampton Inn in Prattville there is a store called Bama Fever Tiger Pride.  Some family members chose dreadful shirts and hats with “A’s” and elephants and I got the coolest shirt ever which has the silhouette of the War Eagle filled in with tiger stripes.  #Auburn.  E is also for Elmo, the little red jeep renegade that isn’t quite large enough for a 12 hour trip.

 

F – is for Friends who do things together, U is for you and me, N is for anywhere and anytime at all down here in the deep blue sea.  Sorry … but once the SpongeBob song got stuck in our heads that’s all we could think of for F. But then we remembered F is also for Fire – the coffee pot in our condo caught on fire one morning.  Good thing I travel with a firefighter.

 

G – is for Grumpy Gill.  Every trip has a Grumpy Gill jar where you are allowed to write down a complaint that is read at the end of the trip.  There was only one written this trip.  It was written on the Hampton Inn stationary – by Dawson, not me.

 

H – is for Henna tattoo.  Teagan got a beautiful mandala henna tattoo.

 

I – is for Icy water.  The ocean and pool were about 70 degrees on a good day.  The kids swam in both, the parents did not.  But the temperature outside was nice enough that you could go sit at the beach without needing a shade umbrella.

 

J – is for Jellyfish.  There were a lot of jellyfish including one that washed up on shore which one lady insisted was a Portuguese man o war – pretty sure it wasn’t but she had an audience and sounded really smart so I just smiled and waved.

jellyfish-marine-sanctuary-140617

K – is for Kitchen.  There was supposed to be a “fully equipped” kitchen in our condo, however there was one small 6 inch skillet, no spatulas and one small saucepan, and a cookie sheet from 1959.  It’s hard to cook bacon – well anything – in a 6 inch skillet.

 

L – is for Long Walks on the beach.  We took several because of where our condo was located it was easier to walk most places than drive.

 

M – is for Mouse.  Specifically the Alabama Beach Mouse which is a federally endangered species that lives along the Alabama coast in the sand dunes.  We found a sign about this at the Gulf Shores Fishing Pier – which freaked out at least one kid who insisted every 5 minutes there was a mouse in the sand.

 

N – is for No Alcohol.  When I stopped at the condo office to get the keys I had to sign a No Alcohol on the beach policy.  It was a new thing this year specifically for Spring Break.  Dawson has a cool picture of two people getting arrested by beach patrol for having alcohol on the beach.

 

O – is for the Orange Beach store.  I had seen people wearing these really cool shirts with an orange that said beach in the middle.  So we drove to the Orange Beach store.   And they had the really cool shirts and they were really proud of them as the prices were a bit much for tees.  I didn’t buy one.

 

P – is for Pancakes.  Before we left we read that Bill’s By the Beach served an awesome brunch including Nutella pancakes.  Teagan was super excited about the Nutella pancakes.  We found out on Monday that Bill’s by the Beach only serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday.  I made Nutella pancakes when we got home.

 

Q – is for Quote of the Day.  One of the quotes I wrote down from dinner was, “Do you think she knows that’s a beach cover and not a dress?”  My guess is that she did not know that it was a beach cover since she was wearing it with wedge heels and jewelry.

 

R – is for the Random girl who yelled “Hi Dawson!” on the beach one day.  There was a group of girls from his school vacationing close by but he didn’t think she was one of them.  And the girls he knew from school were staying several miles down the beach.

 

S – is for Salt Life.  I wanted a Salt Life sticker.  Here’s the Urban Dictionary explanation of why I don’t have one:  Originally a sticker on the back of cars used to denote a surfer, bodyboarder, or general beach bum whose life centered around the ocean or beach.  Unfortunately the trend spread to senior citizens, wanna be hipsters, soccer moms, and other persons wishing to inform the world that yes, they too have visited the beach at some point in life and they have the sticker to prove it

salt life

T – is for Tattoo.  Dawson was determined to get a tattoo on vacation.  He did not get a tattoo however as the tattoo shop recommended by the lady that did Teagan’s henna tattoo was super busy and never called back.  All he wants is roman numerals:   III-XX-MMXV …. It can’t be that hard.

 

U – is for Unsupervised Children.  While eating lunch out on the deck of Sea n Suds we were treated to a group of ladies who apparently forgot they had small children.  While waiting for their food the ladies all drank cocktails and chatted while the kids were getting up walking around and playing monkey in the middle with a stuffed animal.  Then after lunch the kids started running around the deck mostly out of sight of the moms.  The oldest was maybe 7 or 8 and her arm was in a cast – shocker! 

 

V – is for Volleyball.  My kids play soccer on the beach but others play volleyball.  Teagan reminded me of the creepy old guy watching a group of girls play volleyball on the beach – which again leads me to remind parents to think twice about your daughter’s bikini.

 

W – is for People Watching.  My family tends to people watch a little too much on vacation.  It’s just so easy at the beach! Oh yeah and Whataburger… the only place that serves a side of toast with everything.

 

X – is for X-ray.  Luckily Princess didn’t require X-rays or stitches and they were able to glue her wound shut.  She got a few nights of extra love by the kennel staff and some needed break time from her brothers.

 

Y – is for Yellowfin which is a type of tuna.  At Tacky Jacks I got smoked tuna dip and Dave surprised me by eating it with me since he normally doesn’t eat seafood.  I have no idea if it was Yellowfin tuna or not but I needed a Y and T was already taken.

Z – is for Zzzz.  There wasn’t a lot of sleep on this trip because the mattress we had at the condo was made with bricks.  Uneven bricks – because when you would lie down in the bed your feet were higher than your head.  Luckily there were extra pillows in Dawson’s room so I stole several and made my own “pillow top.”

 

Scratchy blankets and getting sick on orange juice

I always say I love to travel.  I have a fuzzy memory of what was likely my first vacation.  I was about 4 or 5 years old and we took a train to Florida.  It may have even been to Walt Disney World, but I don’t remember anything about it except:  I got sick on orange juice on the train and the blanket I had was scratchy.  I think that explains a lot about me – I was destined to write about the calamities of travel.

I thought long and hard about how to document the latest travel adventure and I even tried writing a few times while still on vacation.  I’m going to start on day one, but in reverse order:

1:45 AM Prattville, AL

We are all exhausted and finally tucked in our cozy beds at the Hampton Inn so you would think all you would hear is “zzzzz” – however what you heard was Dave laughing hysterically.  Like uncontrollable hysterical laughter which triggered all of us to start laughing.  When he could finally talk and explain what had got him started laughing it was an earlier conversation about a fart – not even a recent fart or even a fart that occurred on this trip.  I vaguely remember Teagan saying something about “smells like regret and shame,” before I fell asleep.

1:01 AM Prattville, AL

Finally arrived at the Hampton Inn – the one that I chose ahead of time so that we would avoid not being able to find a hotel due to a convention, or sporting event, or that fact that it’s Spring Break and thousands of people are travelling.  The sliding doors are locked, not a good sign.  Ring the bell.  Someone lets me in.  The first sign that there was a problem should have been the stacks of paper lining the welcome desk.  Amanda (she had a name tag) looked nervous, second sign of a looming problem.  Good news – she did see our reservation.  Bad news – she had one computer tied up running some report and the other was doing a virus scan.  There was a lot of scurrying between computers, a lot of lamenting because she was new and by herself and unsure what to do with the computer.  I have since figured out what the problem was, she had already counted us as a “no show” and the computer had cancelled our room.  She did call someone to help her and somehow she got us our room back (fast forward:  she did not – she just booked and charged us for another room).  Another gentleman came in he smelled like alcohol or maybe he just recently sprayed AXE cologne, not sure. He looked familiar-ish.  As she was waiting for the computer to perform some miracle to get me my room she helped him on the other computer and in 2 minutes he had a room.  He recognized our car from travelling (Elmo stands out a bit), he was from Indiana too and we both commented on the terrible traffic in Kentucky.  I think I went to high school with him, his name was unique and I went to high school with someone with that name.  He went out got his kids and suitcases and went to his room.  I’m still standing at the desk.  I looked him up on Facebook while I waited, still not sure if it’s the guy I went to high school with.  Back to Amanda and the check-in debacle.  Before the maybe my high school alum came in I had swiped my credit card.  She then explained it didn’t go though and she had to run it again.  NEVER let anyone at a hotel convince you to do this.  She ran it again and explained the rate was wrong; $25 higher than the room I booked but she was leaving a post it note for the manager to change the rate in the morning before we checked out.  Great …. At this point I’m about to scoot two of the breakfast area chairs together to make a bed, can I please have a room key?  I was nice.  Don’t laugh …. I was.  Frankly I was too exhausted to be anything but nice.  Although my son insists you can see the complete level of irritation by my facial expression.  And it’s not my fault that Amanda was a nervous wreck before I walked in the door, I’m guessing she had done several other things wrong that night – I mean there was a ream of paper in 4 or 5 alternating stacks with post it notes everywhere all over the front desk.  Yay!  Keys to room #208… Success and it only took 34 minutes.

Midnight-ish, Clanton, AL

Stopped to get gas….. Again.  $20 fill ups – yay!  12.7 gallon gas tank – not so yay!  We pulled into a Chevron, because it was the easiest access off the interstate.  There was a guy in a tan colored SUV sort of blocking the front door.  The BMW guy next to us seemed to be having some issues and started to walk toward the door; about that time Dave swiped his credit card to get gas.  The guy in the tan colored SUV in some form of a security guard uniform stopped the BMW guy from going inside and told him the pumps are down and the store is closed.  So … maybe block the entrance to the gas station and stop people before they swipe their card.  Helpful Hank did direct us to the Love’s truck stop on the other side of the overpass where we met up with BMW guy again.  But because Dave’s card was still “open” on the other gas pump when he tried to get gas at this pump it locked his card.  Yay, we can’t fix that until Monday.  We took a trip back to the Chevron to make sure that the pump wasn’t still “open” – Helpful Hank was gone though.  I mean who else would stop to get gas after midnight in middle of nowhere Alabama?

Unknown Time – Nashville, TN

Traffic was ok, but you still have to pay attention to the signs because in Nashville you can take 5 different interstates in 5 different directions and you really have to pay attention to stay on I65 southbound.

Unknown Time – Bowling Green, KY

We gained an hour as we crossed into Central Standard Time.  Oddly it doesn’t seem like it helped us!  We hit stop and go traffic all the way to Bowling Green, after Bowling Green the highway split into two divided lanes and we got behind someone who thought 50 mph was a great speed.

6:42 pm – Lebanon Junction, KY

Traffic had started to pick up but then stalled again.  We opted to get off and go to the best truck stop McDonalds ever.  No, that’s not sarcastic, it’s a great McDonalds.  At this point I realized that it was too late to call the pre-determined hotel in Alabama and cancel because it’s after 6pm.  We were still 6 hours away.  The time change didn’t factor into my brain at that time.

6:08 pm – Louisville, just north of the airport

Ring – Ring, hi it’s the kennel (aka all-inclusive puppy dog spa and resort) and Princess has cut her foot and will probably need stitches.  OK.  I knew I checked the health care insurance box for a reason.  They texted me pictures, we decided to bandage her up and wait until the morning to avoid the after hour vet fees.

4:48 pm – Indiana/Kentucky state line

Rush hour in Louisville.  There are no words.  Two lane bumper to bumper traffic, then on the other side of the bridge three lane bumper to bumper traffic.  There was the option of the 264/265 circle around the city but it was backed up too because it’s the way to go around the new Toll bridge.  We were going 2 mph. 

2:48 pm – Plainfield, IN

We’re on the road!  Finally!  Only 2 hours and 18 minutes behind schedule.

2:30 pm – Plainfield, IN

Return from the kennel in Snowbelle and she is completely overheated and leaking antifreeze.  Sigh.  Park her in the garage and deal with it when we get back.

1:15pm – Plainfield, IN

Pack 3 dogs in Snowbelle and pick a child to assist you in taking them to the kennel.  Dawson got the short end of the stick.  At the kennel, I gave him Bam and Pickles and they ran him into a post.  Bam snapped at the girl trying to put his ID tag on.  Not sure why she works at a kennel because she’s not a dog person and turned into a complete bitch and made me put his ID tag on and made Dawson take him back and put him in the kennel and made the other girl that was working do all our paperwork.  He only snaps at mean people he doesn’t like…. OK he just doesn’t like people and snaps at pretty much everyone. Snaps not bites. Pickles escaped briefly but he was contained.  I hesitated, but decided to check the box to agree to pay an extra $10 per dog for insurance in case one of them got injured or sick.

12:30 pm – Plainfield, IN

Elmo’s new roof rack and super expensive luggage cross bars are installed and ready to pack.  Start loading suitcases, and bags and snacks.  All packed up and…. Oh yeah there are three dogs staring at us wondering where they are going to ride.  Crap.

12:00 pm – Plainfield, IN

Officially clocked out and ready to go.  Elmo’s new roof rack was not.  It’s complicated.

10:30 am – Plainfield, IN

Dave went to Westgate Jeep/Chrysler to purchase super expensive Jeep brand luggage rack cross bars that fit Elmo because he’s a Jeep…. And they’re unique.  Of course.

9:30 am – Plainfield, IN

The luggage cross bars that Dave has been struggling with since 8:30 will not fit Elmo.  Begin search to find ones that will fit.  Of course the only thing that fit’s is specially made by Jeep.  Translation $$$$$.

8:00 am – Plainfield, IN

Clock in for 4 hours of work.  Dave purchasing cross bars and roof rack to put on top of Elmo.  And Mickey D’s coffee.  He loves me.

7:30 am – Plainfield, IN

Wake up.  Happy day we’re leaving for vacation!!  Plan for the morning:  Dave is going to purchase and install the cross bars and roof rack needed so we can put luggage on top of Elmo, then take the dogs to the kennel (aka all-inclusive puppy dog resort and spa) in Snowbelle (Dawson renamed her but I don’t remember the name he picked – neither does he).  Pack up and be on the road at 12:30pm and drive 8 hours to Prattville, AL.

 

Here’s to scratchy blankets and getting sick on orange juice.  I love to travel.  I’m almost sure I do.

When you find your old travel journal

Today while looking for a file folder I found my old travel journal.  This was pre-blogging when you actually wrote stuff down on paper with a pen.  It was fun to look back, but luckily my writing skills have improved over the years.  So here is the first entry – the first ever family vacation to Gulf Shores Alabama.  It’s funny how many things don’t change over the years!  I did add a few comments as I was copying the text – they are in orange italics.

travel journal

Friday June 11th, 2004

Packing everyone was entertaining.  Dave had to fix the “turtle” (as we have so affectionately named the car carrier) with 100 mph tape so Kimmie’s undies don’t get wet.  See that sounds weird but there was an earlier trip where the “waterproof” car carrier got soaked along with the suitcase on top which was Kimmies. We all collectively decided that Mom was going down to stay and retire based on the number of clothes and size of the suitcase she packed.  We finally got going abound 5pm and made it to Bowling Green KY around 9:30.  Unfortunately for us, there was a classic car show in town and the NASCAR Busch race was in Nashville, TN.  The first hotel we went to was booked and the desk clerk told us there was only one hotel with rooms left.  But he gave us the wrong directions to it.   Pre-navigation software.  In frustration and hunger we went to the Econolodge, now known as the Grungeolodge.  But adjacent there was a Denny’s, now known as the Angry Denny’s and we went there for dinner. Pancakes good – Service bad!

Saturday June 12th 2004

After very quick showers at the Grungeolodge (if I recall there were bugs in the shower) we were on the road. I started the day off with a head cold and sore throat (before the trip I had just finished antibiotics for strep throat).  We made up a bigger story about mom’s plans for going to Alabama, that she had met a man on the internet named Hans who she was meeting down there.  Later Hans turned into a sheriff.  The tale grew bigger as the state of Alabama grew longer and longer.  But we finally made it to the Gulf Shores!  As everyone was unpacking mom took me to the “ER.”  It says it’s an Emergency Room but it was more like an Immediate Care.  After an hour and a half I was finally triaged.  After 3 hours I was leaving with a prescription and strep throat diagnosis.  While we were gone everyone else discovered our condo was across the street from Hooters.  Yay for Dave and Dawson.  There is a picture of Dawson when he was about 18 months old with a Hooters girl at the Original Hooters in Clearwater Beach Florida which has been the subject of much conversation over the years.

Sunday June 13th, 2004

Everyone got up early (except me) and went for a walk on the beach.  Kim won the “beach walker marathon” award because she went several miles down the beach.  We made a trip to Wal-Mart and I filled my prescription.  Then we went to the beach.  Teagan was not too crazy about the ocean – this didn’t change until 2012 when we went to Pensacola and now she loves the ocean.  She did enjoy playing in the sand, sort of, and we nicknamed her “Sandy” because she had it everywhere.  Everyone else played beach baseball with Dawson – watch 3rd base it’s a doozy!!  Someone had dug one of those massive holes and if you rounded third base too fast you fell in the hole.  Even mom played – see the video!  There was a video?  I need to find that!!  Later that night Teagan got her toenails painted for the first time!  We went to dinner and I got a drink called an Amaretto Orange Blossom – Yummy!  The place we went to dinner that night was destroyed in Hurricane Ivan and no one can ever remember its name. It’s been replaced by the Hangout.

Monday June 14th, 2004

Rain, rain – GO AWAY!!

It rained all morning long.  So we decided to go shopping at the outlet mall in Foley.  Very dangerous …. Lots of $$$ spent!  Some of the greatest purchases were Dave’s Wasabi Peas and Mom’s olive tamponade and raspberry sticks from Harry & David, our Livestrong bracelets for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, B’s clothes to wear to Hoosier Girls State and my jammie pants.  We shopped until we DROPPED!!  Then we ate Godfather’s Pizza and went back to the condo and watched Pirates of the Caribbean.  Dawsie – it’s funny we called him that back then, now we just tease him with it quotes of the day:  “Mom, do you want me to drown in the ocean without my floaty?”  “The dolphins are being rude!”  and “You can’t take a dolphin for a walk.”

Tuesday June 15th, 2004

RAIN, RAIN – GO AWAY!!

I got caught in a torrential downpour trying to take pictures of the large waves from the storm.  That caused a new “party foul” rule that if you walk by yourself on the beach you have to take a cell phone.  I did get some awesome pictures in black and white, the difference between now and 2004 is that they are on film and I would have to dig through stacks of pictures to find them to post them.  FINALLY the rain went away, largely due to Dora the Explorer singing “rain, rain go away” on the TV all morning.  We all went to the beach and tried body surfing which due to the storm and super waves turned into body slamming.  Even Momma JR body surfed, although it wasn’t on purpose, a wave just overtook her and I while standing at the shore.  The beach was too rough so we went to the pool, then found out later we were all baked like lobsters.  Dave took Dawsie – ha ha ha – and Sara go karting and everyone else went to Sea n’ Suds for dinner.  We did some souvenir shopping but Mom saw her that her legs were swelling from her sunburn so we went back to the condo where we all made fun of Dave for the faces he made while we put the sunburn ointment on his back.  Kim, Jacque, Dave and I went on a drinking excursion to the Gulf Island Grill – Dave tried a martini and it didn’t go over well.  He pooped out after the martini and us girls went to the Pink Pony Pub.  WOW!  What a place – it was like Red’s (in Bargersville) but on the beach.  We drank out of plastic Dixie cups.  There was a pretty cool band playing.  We watched a lady pass out at the bar, then again on the dance floor, and again on a table.  One family brought their 83ish year old grandma with them and she was so cute with her white polyester Capri pants and a little white handbag we all said we wanted to be her when we were 83 – now known as squad goals.  We literally crawled home on the beach – it was only about 1/8 of a mile but it seemed longer at the time!

Wednesday June 16th, 2004

A sunny day!

After tending to a mild hangover … we all ate breakfast.  Jacque is the ultimate “camp chef” because she has fixed everyone bacon, eggs, sausage and biscuits and gravy almost every morning.  Well her and B.  Everyone but Mom, Dave and Jacque went for an afternoon swim.  After the swim Dave, Kim, Sara, Dawson and I went to Fort Morgan.  It was an interesting Civil War fort that hasn’t been used since World War I.  Dave enjoyed the fort but it was really hot and humid.  Driving back to Gulf Shores from Fort Morgan we saw our first ever off shore oil rig.  Jacque and B made hamburgers, French fries and macaroni and cheese for dinner.  Yummy!

Thursday June 17th, 2004

Kim and Sara went to Denny’s for breakfast and everyone else went to Hazel’s breakfast bar.  It was good food – Teagan was grumpy.  At least once on every vacation I have documented that Teagan was grumpy.  Later, after Dave and Teagan’s marathon nap, we went to Lambert’s Café, the home of the “throwed rolls.”  This place has a line, and you stand in line, first come first serve style no matter how many people are in your group.  I was standing in line, while the majority of the family was either sitting on a bench nearby or in the bathroom.  As we were about to be seated the crabby old hag behind me told us that we had “cut” in front of her.  She was a complete bitch but when the hostess came back to take us to our seats I insisted she seat the lady behind us first.  She told the hostess we had cut in front of her in line – I think her husband wanted to die of embarrassment.  We saw them when we sat down but oddly they got up and left abruptly before they were served.  We decided she owed us all a quarter each for a vacation foul.  We stopped for ice cream on the way back.  We took the kids for a “night” swim in the pool, it was really just dusk.  But Dave got itchy in the pool from his sunburn so we left.  Then we all watched 50 First Dates and had popcorn.

Friday June 18th, 2004

Mom, Kim, B and Sara left for home today! L

So let’s do a side by side comparison of 2004 vacation vs family vacations since:

Epic weather event – check.  Andi gets into a confrontation with rude person – check.  Hotel disaster on the way down – check.  Everyone gets horrible sunburn – check.  Group movie watching – check.  Dawson makes a statement about dolphins – check.  Teagan is grumpy at least one day – check.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minasoda

Ah …. the mini vacation.

Definition: Attempting to cram a full vacation into 3 days or less.

It’s a completely insane idea, however after travelling nearly every weekend in the Spring for soccer tournaments you get the feeling that you have the mini trip mastered.  So with all of our soccer trips securely under our belts we got out our suitcases (still full of mini toiletries from Spring) and loaded up in the trusty Trailblazer and set our GPS to the Mall of America.

The Mall of America was not the original destination.  The original dream was to actually make it to a beach.  However living in the state of Indiana the closest beach is 11 hours and 35 minutes away (by the way if you’re wondering Pensacola Beach, FL is the closest with Folly Beach, SC coming in a close second).  So one day of driving one day of beaching and one day of driving didn’t sound like a good use of time.  After the beach bubble was burst it became impossible for the family to agree on a destination so up until about 4 days before we left I wasn’t sure we were going anywhere.

The only thing I did in advance was book the dogs at the All Inclusive Puppy Dog Vacation Destination (Bam refuses to let me use the word Kennel).  The day we left I pulled up some hotels on the internet and told Dave to make a reservation while Dawson and I took the dogs to the aforementioned destination.  Then after arguing about driving through Chicago versus driving through Illinois via Champaign, IL and Normal, IL we left.

How to play the I-spy game on I-39 in Illinois – “I spy with my little eye something and the color is GREEN.”  You have your choice of grass, tree or corn.  For Finding Nemo fans – it’s like playing I spy with Dory in the ocean.  Then as we were approaching St Joseph I spotted a set of signs.  I can’t remember exactly what the rhyme was but it was something about getting robbed by thugs and ended with using a gun.  Dave, however, didn’t hear me say thugs, he thought I said bugs so when I got to the end about using a gun the look on his face was priceless.  He asked, “did you say BUGS?!?!”  Laughing hysterically I repeated THUGS.  Well we did have fun for the next 20 miles trying to imagine what size bugs required carrying a .40 caliber pistol.

We stopped at a gas station that had a Chester Fried Chicken attached to it – that advertised in its window “Taco Wednesday.”  Beyond the question of why Chester Fried Chicken was having a Taco anything, Teagan asked “Why Wednesday- haven’t they ever heard of Taco Tuesday?”  In my family our lives revolve largely around animated movies and their various components – for those of you not aware of Taco Tuesday it stems from The Lego Movie.  This stop also was where we realized there was not only a full moon but a blue moon.  Teagan also had one of her famous geography faux pas at the gas station where she declared how excited she was to be in Wisconsin to the clerk – we were still in Illinois – by a lot of miles.

The interstate in Wisconsin is a lot more scenic – jus sayin’.  And we decided if we ever need to move to Wisconsin for any reason Beloit is a good choice.  In Beloit first we passed the Frito Lay factory and then the Hormel Chili factory – what more do you need?  I mean other than a Philadelphia Cream Cheese factory – it’s a Sunday Football snack extravaganza wrapped up in one town!  When we went through Wisconsin Dells Dawson decided he was OK just to stop there – from the interstate you can see 3 separate massive indoor water park resorts.

So we made it to Minasoda (Teagan spelling – she actually gets A’s and B’s – maybe not a great testament to our education system) and to our hotel and Dave had done a fabulous job – it was a suite with extra room and each child had a bed.  YAY!!  We could see the Mall from our hotel.  YAY!! Our hotel was conveniently located at the end of runway 35 at Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport.  YIKES!! I mean like 1000 feet from the end of the runway.  It was kinda like being at home, just a lot more intense.  By the time the jets are over my house I can only see the FED EX or Delta – at the hotel I could see the people in the windows.  It was late afternoon so we decided to check out the Mall and take in a movie.

You arrive at this massive complex and turn into a parking garage.  In order not to lose your car you can text “PARK” to 78456 – I made those numbers up but you get the idea.  And then “bing” you get a text telling you that you parked in Wisconsin Orange North Wing Area J-PQ parking spots 452-675.  Yeah that should be helpful if we get turned around inside the Mall.

So inside was pretty intense.  It’s truly one of those things you have to see to believe.  It’s actually almost sensory overload.  There is an aquarium inside – like full on walk through a tunnel filled with sharks and sting ray aquarium.  There are no maps available of the mall – however by Day 2 Dawson had found an app for his phone and could type in a store type and it would tell him where the closest one was.  There are directories here and there but they always had a lot of people around them.

Eventually, after a 4 mile hike and 3 escalator mishaps we found the movie theater.  We watched Vacation – it only seemed fitting as the Griswolds are possibly the only other family in the world with travel mishaps like ours.  After the movie we ate dinner overlooking one of the 3 indoor roller coasters.  Teagan was dying to ride the roller coasters.

Day 2 at the Mall.  We started with the complimentary breakfast from our hotel.  The wonderful fabulous hotel (still conveniently located at the end of runway 35) was losing points rapidly after attempting to eat what they called eggs.  We started our day visiting the aquarium – and paid $7 extra for the “behind the scenes” tour so we got to walk around at the top of the open tanks – tanks holding hammer-head sharks and other miscellaneous killer sea creatures.  It was pretty cool.  And it was Dawson’s request that we do the Aquarium and the Moose Mountain Mini Golf all together as a family.  Teagan wanted to ride the roller coasters.  So we headed to the center of the mall which is a Nickelodeon Themed Amusement Park.

She got an all day wrist band and jumped in line for the 1st coaster she saw.  After that she decided she was ready to ride the big one – The Spongebob Squarepants Rockbottom Plunge.  It literally goes straight up and then straight down – and it scrapes the rafters of the 4th story.  Dawson went to get her at the end of the line and she was holding on to him as she came walking out because her legs were still shaking.  It didn’t really stop her though, although she didn’t get back on that one, she rode the others several times plus some other crazy scary rides.  I rode the swings.  Oh yeah and the ferris wheel.  I live in the fast lane.

IMG_2455

Lunch is nearly impossible inside the Mall.  The line for Chipotle was (no lie) 100 people deep.  After a short wait we did finally get to eat.  At the end of lunch the phone rang – it was our marvelous hotel calling to tell us we had left “some belongings” in the room.  Yes, we left all our belongings in the hotel because we are staying another night.  No – they told us – we had agreed to check out today.  No – we are staying another night.  Why would I have looked at the paperwork to check and make sure they had our check out date correct?  Oh that’s right because I had been in a car forever and my bladder was about to explode.  No problem, just charge us for another night.  No deal, they need that room for tonight.  Seriously???  The hotel with powdered eggs you can still taste the powder in, at the end of a fricking runway where the planes landing gear scrape the roof if they don’t get them up in time is completely booked and we can’t keep our super nice suite?  OK – so we will switch rooms.  Completely booked?  Yeah well you need to find one.  So Dave and Dawson (who had luckily remembered to text the parking location to his phone) went to the hotel to pack (i.e. throw everything in various bags) and switch rooms.  Which we almost didn’t get because one girl was slowly helping Dave and the other girl was selling rooms like an auctioneer in a cow barn.  Odd – originally you started off the conversation with me on the phone saying you had no rooms available.

Dave returned to the mall and we continued our adventures.  Here’s the take-away from the Mall of America.  If you think you have seen everything – you haven’t.  I kept ending up in an area I thought I had been in before but then realized I had not been there.  Oh yeah and there was a “suspicious package” outside the BW3’s at dinner time.  Luckily Mall Security and Bloomington Police had blocked off a section at least 12-15 feet from the suspicious brown paper bag left on a bench while a K9 came and started sniffing.  Pretty sure the dog just wanted some wings cuz he was way more interested in the BW3’s than the sack… but also just a note… had there been a bomb in the bag my guess is at least 300 people would have been injured because if there was a bomb in that size of paper bag the blast radius would have been well over 20 ft.  Yes I find it sad I know that.

Later that night we also found out in addition to the BW3 brown bag incident, there was also a real bomb threat at the Minneapolis St Paul airport with a bag that tested positive for explosive material but contained no actual bomb.  Yep the same airport that was 1000 feet from the super popular hotel with crappy eggs.  Well probably 2500 feet, runway 35 is pretty long.  Yep time to leave, thank God it’s a Mini Vacation.

On return to Indiana we paid the $15 tolls to go through Chicago and save 30 minutes and mind numbing endless cornfields.  However we stopped to see Dave’s sister and brother-in-law and spent about an hour and a half talking.  And my brother-in-laws mom made us some super great BLT’s with some kind of special bacon she bought in Michigan.  And I finally got to take my kids to an Oasis.  If you don’t know what a travel Oasis is, it is a gas station/fast food overpass on a toll road so you don’t have to pay to exit and pay to get back on.  Why I wanted to take my kids to one I don’t know, but I remember that was the big thrill of driving to Minnesota when I was little and I remember stopping with my mom, my grandma and my sister Kim at these – which in the 70’s were smoke-filled and had maybe a McDonald’s if you were lucky – usually a HoJo restaurant.  Now they have 5 different fast food options plus a Starbucks (I know you’re shocked) and you can buy cell phone accessories and there are charging stations for your phones and your cars.  My how things have changed!  Dawson was happy – the Michigan State women’s volleyball team bus also stopped there.

Sigh… we made it through another vacation.  Even a mini one comes with adventure.  I’m realizing that travel is dangerous – but I wouldn’t trade the memories (even the crazy ones) for anything!

PS – Dear Fairfield Inn and Suites in Bloomington MN – you suck!!  And your female manager is rude and oddly went from no rooms available to selling rooms left and right and sticking us in a room with a king bed and sleeper sofa.  Thanks – and you might try mixing the egg powder a little harder.

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